Nike’s grassroots basketball division, the Elite Youth Basketball League (EYBL), has been served with a subpoena as part of the federal investigation into alleged corruption in college basketball, according to numerous media reports.
The EYBL is not named in the case. However, Merl Code, who left Nike three years ago and had run the program, is one of the defendants. Code joined Adidas in 2014.
Code, a former Clemson basketball star, has been accused of assisting Jim Gatto, Adidas’ director of global sports marketing, in helping bribe high school recruits to attend certain colleges and sign with agents and financial advisers. Under the scheme, the players agreed to be sponsored by Adidas when they turned pro. According to the indictment, Code “participated in organizing of the payments” made by Adidas to players and their families.
Nike has no commented on the news around the subpoena.
After the federal investigation broke on Tuesday, Nike in a statement concurred that Code left the company three years ago and was no longer a Nike employee. The company further said, “Nike believes in fair and ethical play both in business and sports and strongly opposes any form of manipulation.”
Nike’s Elite Youth Basketball League has become one of the nation’s premier travel programs for high school-aged players and younger since it debuted in 2010 and it’s a major focus of recruiting for Division I basketball programs.
At least one recruit, Brian Bowen, involved in the investigation played in the EYBL The family of Bowen, a McDonald’s All-American shooting guard, allegedly received $100,000 to attend Adidas-sponsored Louisville. Bowen played for the Meanstreets program on the EYBL.
Nike has not been named in the scheme although three NCAA assistant basketball coaches who have been charged worked for Nike-sponsored schools. They are Lamont Evans of Oklahoma State University; Tony Bland, University of Southern California; and Emanuel Richardson, University of Arizona.
One other assistant coach, Chuck Person of Auburn University, was charged. Auburn is sponsored by Under Armour and sources told ESPN that Under Armour is not under investigation at this time.
The FBI has said its investigation is ongoing and set up a hotline for tips on information relevant to the investigation.
“We have your playbook,” New York FBI assistant director in charge Bill Sweeney said Tuesday in New York. “Our investigation is ongoing, and we are conducting additional interviews as we speak.”
The FBI’s New York field office and the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York since Tuesday have declined to comment further on the investigation.
On Wednesday, Louisville’s legendary basketball coach Rick Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich were placed on unpaid and paid administrative leave, respectively, in connection to the FBI investigation.
CBS News reported on Thursday morning Pitino was identified as “Coach-2” in the federal complaint.
On Wednesday evening, Alabama announced director of basketball operations Kobie Baker resigned after the school conducted an internal investigation following the initial federal report released. Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne released a statement that Baker did not resign because of any NCAA or SEC rules violations.
Photo courtesy Nike EYBL