Last spring, reports came out that the University of Arizona was one of many schools paying athletes in a roundabout way to attend their school. The player named was Suns rookie Deandre Ayton.
Reports were that Ayton or his family may have been paid $100,000 to attend U of A but no further information came out at the time. Coach Sean Miller coached the rest of the season, and Ayton played his way to becoming the No. 1 pick in the draft, taken by the Phoenix Suns.
Around the country, some coaches were fired or suspended based on the allegations, and some “named” players were suspended by their schools from playing basketball. Fellow Suns rookie De’Anthony Melton was a victim of one of those decisions while at USC and missed his entire sophomore season. His stock eventually dropped down to the mid-second round after losing a valuable year of training and game action to refine his skills.
Now, a government witness is testifying that Adidas did indeed pay money to Ayton’s father via the “runner” named in February’s allegations. No dollar amount has been given under oath, but T.J. Glassnola — an Adidas consultant and associate of the accused — acknowledged payments of $25,000 - $90,000 to families of lesser prospects, while so far only giving Ayton’s name as another player.
Gassnola was called as a government witness in its wire fraud case against Adidas executive James Gatto, Adidas consultant Merl Code Jr. and runner Christian Dawkins. The prosecution is expected to continue its direct examination of Gassnola on Thursday, before the defense will cross-examine him.
He may give more details today.
This whole corruption of the NCAA system is fascinating. Since players can’t earn a dime off their celebrity while playing in college due to NCAA rules, many many enterprising companies have tried to fill the gaps with creative ways to remunerate players for making decisions that benefit them.
Once you become a pro, you can get wined and dined all you want. But while an amateur you’re not allowed to accept any money in cash. The school gives you a scholarship that likely covers not only school expenses but also living arrangements (dorm) and cafeteria food (meal plan). But while playing you have no time in your day to work a job, and you’re not allowed to be given money by commercial interests either.
I don’t agree with the system. I can see why players are frustrated. And I don’t hold it against Ayton’s family — or any other athlete’s family — for being enticed by money.
I blame the NCAA for putting them in that position.