University of Kansas

Former Adidas executive sentenced to 9 months for payments to families of KU recruits

Three men have received prison sentences in the widespread college basketball recruiting scandal that has tainted two dozen schools.

Former Adidas executive James Gatto, business manager Christian Dawkins and amateur league director Merl Code were convicted of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in October for funneling illegal payments to families of recruits to Louisville, Kansas and North Carolina State.

On Tuesday, Gatto got nine months in prison. Dawkins and Code got six months each.

“I deeply regret my actions,” said Gatto, who was linked to payments made to the families of KU recruits Silvio De Sousa and Billy Preston.

Dawkins referenced “social dysfunction” in college basketball and said his actions were “clouded” by a “system that takes advantage of kids.”

“I realize now more than ever none of this was worth it,” Dawkins said.

Code said he also regretted his actions but added, “Some things really got to be changed about college basketball.”

NCAA President Mark Emmert has said an independent enforcement body to adjudicate major infractions cases could be in place by August.

On Feb. 12, Gatto’s attorneys argued for leniency, saying their client should serve no prison time. Gatto’s sentencing memorandum said KU coach Bill Self and assistant coach Kurtis Townsend “actually expected Mr. Gassnola to violate NCAA recruiting rules in order to help recruit players, just as Nike does for the teams it sponsors.”

Judge Lewis A. Kaplan said he sympathized with the argument that the defendants were being punished when others who did similar things were not being prosecuted. Nonetheless, he said, “These defendants all knew what they were doing was wrong.”

The judge added that he wanted to send “a great big warning light to the basketball world.”

The NCAA has filed a motion to intervene in the case. Up to 4,000 wiretapped phone calls have been sealed since the trial’s completion, but the NCAA motion under consideration by Kaplan is “for the limited purpose of obtaining” 24 trial exhibits and an unredacted copy of Gatto’s sentencing memo, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal.

The University of Kansas is seeking more than $1 million in restitution from Gatto, claiming the school has suffered financial harm as a “victim of Mr. Gatto’s and his co-conspirators crimes” involving payments to basketball recruits.

Gatto’s former associate T.J. Gassnola testified he paid the family of former KU player Preston $89,000 and the guardian of current Jayhawks player De Sousa $2,500.

Preston never played for KU while his eligibility was investigated. De Sousa has been ruled ineligible by the NCAA for the next two seasons. KU is planning to appeal the NCAA’s ruling on De Sousa.

In total, KU is seeking an award of $1,136,424.52. Louisville requested $31,922.75, while N.C. State asked for $258,585.

Gatto’s sentencing memo said De Sousa’s scholarship in the 2017-18 academic year was worth $20,539, a year in which KU won its record-setting 14th consecutive Big 12 title and advanced to the Final Four, “an achievement directly traceable to four points scored by De Sousa in the Elite Eight” because KU defeated Duke by four points in that game. KU basketball made $18.8 million in revenue that season.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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