NEW YORK — In one of the biggest crackdowns on the corrupting role of money in college basketball, 10 men — including a top Adidas executive and four assistant coaches — were charged Tuesday with using hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to influence star athletes' choice of schools, shoe sponsors, agents, even tailors.
Some of the most explosive allegations appeared to involve Louisville, one of college basketball's biggest powerhouses.
Court papers say at least three top high school recruits were promised payments of as much as $150,000 — using money supplied by Adidas — to attend two universities sponsored by the athletic clothing company. Court papers didn't name the schools but contained enough details to identify them as Louisville and Miami.
"The picture of college basketball painted by the charges is not a pretty one," said acting U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim, adding that the defendants were "circling blue-chip prospects like coyotes" and "exploited the hoop dreams of student-athletes around the country" to enrich themselves.
Federal prosecutors said that while some of the bribe money went straight to athletes and their families, some of it went to coaches, to get them to use their influence over their potentially NBA-bound players.
The coaches charged are Chuck Person of Auburn, Emanuel Richardson of Arizona, Tony Bland of Southern California and Lamont Evans of Oklahoma State. Person and Evans were immediately suspended.
Those charged also include James Gatto, director of global sports marketing for basketball at Adidas; Rashan Michel, a maker of custom suits for some of the NBA's biggest stars; and various financial advisers and managers.
NCAA President Mark Emmert condemned the alleged misconduct, saying in a statement, "Coaches hold a unique position of trust with student-athletes and their families, and these bribery allegations, if true, suggest an extraordinary and despicable breach of that trust."
Since 2015, the FBI has been investigating the influence of money on coaches and players in the NCAA. Kim noted that a special FBI hotline has been set up and invited anyone aware of additional corruption to come forward.
Prosecutors said the coaches took bribes to use their "enormous influence" to steer players toward certain financial advisers and agents.
Most if not all of the 10 defendants were under arrest. Lawyers for Gatto, Person and Richardson did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Adidas said it was unaware of any misconduct by an employee and vowed to fully cooperate with authorities.
Among other things, Gatto and others were accused of bribing high school athletes and their families at least three times this year in exchange for a commitment by the players to play basketball for two Adidas-sponsored universities.
In one case, Gatto and others funneled $100,000 to the family of a high school athlete to gain his commitment to play at Louisville, and to sign with Adidas once he became a professional.
The player's name was not released, but details in the criminal complaint, including references to news coverage of his signing, make it clear investigators were referring to Brian Bowen. Bowen did not immediately return messages seeking comment, and Louisville declined to make coach Rick Pitino available.
The development comes as Louisville is appealing NCAA sanctions handed out in June following an escort scandal that unfolded nearly two years ago. The scandal could cost the school its 2013 national championship.
Louisville interim President Gregory Postel confirmed the university has been informed it is part of the investigation and said it will cooperate fully. "Any violations will not be tolerated," he said.