TJ Gassnola, a former consultant for Adidas, testified on Wednesday that the shoe company paid the family of Deandre Ayton, a former basketball player for the University of Arizona and the first selection in the most recent NBA draft, before or during his collegiate career. Gassnola’s testimony comes during the opening week of the first trial to emerge from the FBI’s investigation into malpractice in college basketball.
Although the underlying trial pertains to two Adidas officials charged with wire fraud, Gassnola’s testimony is the latest bombshell that has sent shockwaves through the college sports world. The Justice Department has been investigating corruption in college basketball for over two years, raising the threat that consequences may extend beyond the NCAA sanctions that have been levied for similar violations in the past. As the trial proceeds, the network of schools and athletes implicated is likely to grow, bringing long-suspected dubious recruiting practices out of the shadows and casting a bright light on systemic problems with the NCAA’s current structure.
The investigation, which has resulted in ten arrests thus far and remains ongoing, has the potential not only to reshape recruiting practices in college basketball, but also spark fundamental changes across college sports. With the NCAA unlikely to change its rules on its own volition, the investigation is the most likely means of stymieing the financial incentives for schools, players, and apparel companies to engage in behind-closed-doors transactions. It’s possible, however, that the investigation will unite these parties against the NCAA, and prompt the most powerful call for change yet.
Mike Klain is a Sports Highlight Contributor for the Harvard Journal of Sports and Entertainment Law and a current first year student at Harvard Law School (Class of 2021).
Image: “31026 UVA Men’s Basketball vs South Carolina State” by Bill McChesney is licensed under CC BY 2.0.