Rick Pitino in 2014: 'We need to get the shoe companies out of the lives of young athletes'
Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino previously criticized the role of shoe companies in recruiting, remarks that are now tinged with irony in light of the federal investigation implicating a U of L assistant coach along with Adidas officials in a "pay-for-play" scheme involving highly prized recruits.
In 2014, Pitino told the Courier-Journal he believed the Cardinals' recruiting prospect pool shrinks because they're sponsored by Adidas instead of Nike.
Asked if he thought college coaches were displeased with the system, Pitino said with a laugh, "I'm sure the Nike coaches don't feel that way because they're winning the battle."
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Pitino's comments came shortly after guard Antonio Blakeney, who played for a Nike-sponsored AAU team, withdrew an 11-day commitment to U of L.
Two Adidas employees, including head of global sports marketing James Gatto, were among those indicted Tuesday in an FBI investigation centered around fraud and bribery in college basketball.
The FBI investigation into NCAA basketball corruption alleges that an Adidas executive conspired to pay $100,000 to the family of a top-ranked national recruit to play at U of L and to represent Adidas, described as "Company-1," when he turned pro. A U of L assistant coach was present at meetings discussing the payments, according to court papers.
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Adidas has a sponsorship deal with the University of Louisville and recently reached a $160 million, 10-year extension with the university.
Gatto has been put on administrative leave while Adidas hires outside counsel to investigate, a company spokeswoman told the Courier-Journal. Adidas did not address the employment status of Merl Code, another employee charged in the federal complaint.
No University of Louisville employees have been charged in the ongoing investigation, but the criminal complaint lists an unnamed U of L assistant coach referred to as "University-6 coach."
The assistant coach met with defendants Christian Dawkins and Jonathan Brad Augustine in a Las Vegas hotel room on July 27 to discuss the arrangements, according to court papers. The FBI had bugged the room and has video of the meeting.
Augustine and Dawkins exchanged an envelope containing $12,700 in cash in the presence of the University-6 coach.
Dawkins stated during the meeting that since “University-6 was already on probation with the NCAA,” they would have to be careful is passing money to "Player-11" and the assistant coach in attendance agreed that 'we gotta be very low key,'” according to the criminal complaint.
Sports enterprise reporter Danielle Lerner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 502-502-4042