Former Clemson Basketball Player Charged In Bribery Scheme

A former Clemson basketball player is among 10 people, including four coaches, arrested on charges of fraud and corruption in college basketball, according to Joe Galbraith, Clemson’s Assistant Athletic Director for Communications and court papers.

Merl Code, an Adidas employee, is accused of working alongside Jim Gatto, the head of sports marketing at Adidas, to pay recruits to sign with Adidas-sponsored schools and then sign with Adidas once they turned professional, according to the Washington Post.

Code played at Clemson University from 1993 to 1997, Galbraith said. Galbraith said Code went to work for Nike after he graduated and then went to work at Adidas.

Among allegations in court papers are wclaims that Gatto and others made and concealed bribe payments to 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 universities not identified in court papers.

Investigators said the deals caused universities to provide athletic scholarships to students who should have been ineligible because of the bribes.

In one instance, the complaint said, Gatto and others funneled $100,000 to the family of a high school basketball player to gain his commitment to play at a Division I school whose athletic programs are sponsored by Adidas and to sign with Adidas once he became a professional. It said they paid another high school athlete $150,000 for a similar commitment.

No students were identified in court papers by name.

Adidas said it was unaware of any misconduct by an employee and vowed to fully cooperate with authorities.

A report said Code and Gatto were arrested Tuesday along with nine others, including four assistant basketball coaches from Arizona, Auburn, the University of Southern California and Oklahoma State.

Authorities said the coaches received thousands of dollars in bribes, enabling the agents and others to get a slice of the millions of dollars the athletes could eventually make in the NBA.

“The picture of college basketball painted by the charges is not a pretty one,” said acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim at a news conference. “Coaches at some of the nation’s top programs taking cash bribes, managers and advisers circling blue-chip prospects like coyotes, and employees of a global sportswear company funneling cash to families of high school recruits.”

Since 2015, the FBI has been investigating the criminal influence of money on coaches and players in the NCAA, federal authorities said.

“For the 10 charged men, the madness of college basketball went well beyond the Big Dance in March,” Kim said. “Month after month, the defendants exploited the hoop dreams of student-athletes around the country, allegedly treating them as little more than opportunities to enrich themselves through bribery and fraud schemes.”

Investigators said the coaches have “enormous influence” over their players and how they select their agents and other advisers when they leave college and enter the NBA.

“The investigation has revealed several instances in which coaches have exercised that influence by steering players and their families to retain particular advisers, not because of the merits of those advisers, but because the coaches were being bribed by the advisers to do so,” the papers said.

The official Clemson University Alumni Directory shows that Code graduated from the College of Business in December of 1998.

Code was the starting point guard for the Clemson basketball team his senior year of eligibility, and was on the team that played in the Sweet 16 tournament under Coach Rick Barnes in 1997, sources with the Clemson Athletic Department said.

Code was released on a signature $100,000 bond.   Code faces a list of charges including several counts of wire fraud, conspiracy to commit bribery and solicitation of bribes, Ashmore said.

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