On the fourth day of the college basketball corruption trial, the father of an elite basketball recruit testified that before his son committed to Louisville, a family friend told him four other schools, Arizona, Creighton, Oklahoma State and Texas, offered competing bids. Brian Bowen Sr. also discussed details of pay-to-play payments from youth basketball teams.
“Schools would give me money for a top player, like my son, to go to school,” Bowen Sr. said, according to ESPN.
His son, Brian “Tuggs” Bowen Jr. was considered one of the 20-30 best players in the Class of 2017.
The younger Bowen eventually chose Louisville after Jim Gatto, a former Adidas marketing executive, agreed to pay Bowen’s family $100,000. Gatto, former Adidas consultant Merl Code and Christian Dawkins, a long-time family friend of the Bowens and a aspiring sports agent, face charges of fraud and conspiracy to commit fraud.
The three defendants were also reportedly trying to get recruits to attend Kansas, Indiana, N.C. State and Miami. The defendants don’t dispute the payments but contend they violated no law.
In his testimony, Bowen Sr. discussed hearing about several pay-to-play offers:
- Arizona assistant coach Joe Pasternack offered $50,000. Pasternack is now head coach of UC Santa Barbara;
- Former Oklahoma State assistant coach Lamont Evans offered $150,000 cash, $8,000 for a car and additional money to buy a house;
- Texas assistant coach Mike Morrell offered to “help me with housing.” Morrell is now head coach of UNC Asheville;
- Creighton assistant coach Preston Murphy offered $100,000 and a “good job, a lucrative job.”
News of the offers came from Dawkins. As the Oregonian notes, it’s unknown how many offers were legitimately offered or made up by Dawkins to increase the bidding for Bowen Jr.
Bowen Sr. said he did not recall potential payments from Oregon, which earlier in the trial had been identified as offering to make a major payment to recruit Bowen Jr.
The initial offer from Louisville was in the range of $60,000 to $80,000, Dawkins reportedly told Bowen Sr., but went up to $100,000 because Dawkins alleged that Billy Preston, who had chosen to play at Kansas, received $100,000 from Adidas for his commitment. Bowen Jr. never played a game for Louisville after his name was connected to the federal investigation. He’s playing professional basketball in Australia.
At the youth level, Bowen Jr. began his high school career playing for Dawkins’ Dorian’s Pride AAU program, but switched to the Adidas-sponsored Michigan Mustangs after Dawkins negotiated a deal for Bowen Sr. to be paid $25,000 for his son to play for the squad. Bowen Sr. said the money came from Dawkins and Chris Rivers, another former Adidas sports marketing manager who worked closely with Gatto, according to Yahoo.
Bowen Jr. left the Mustangs for the Nike-sponsored Mean Streets program in Chicago after Mean Streets offered Bowen Sr. between $5,000 and $8,000 for Bowen Jr. to play for them, according to Bowen Sr.. Bowen Sr. also rejected an $18,000 offer from Spiece, another Nike-sponsored AAU program out of Indiana.
Bowen Sr. further told the jury that he received $2,000 per month from Shane Heirman for Bowen Jr. to attend La Lumiere School in LaPorte, IN.
Adidas declined comment to the Oregonian beyond its statement: “We have cooperated fully with the authorities during the course of the investigation and will continue to do so.”
The Oregonian said Bowen Sr.’s testimony marked the first detailed allegations in the trial of Nike-sponsored teams paying players’ families. Nike did not return calls to the Oregonian.
Ten people were arrested last September, including four assistant coaches as well as Gatto, Dawkins and Code, following a two-year FBI investigation. The trial restarts on Tuesday.
Photo courtesy Adidas