A massive college basketball corruption trial resulted in three former Adidas employees — James Gatto, Christian Dawkins and Merl Code — receiving jail time for making illegal payments to young basketball players’ families in return for picking certain schools and sponsors. Basketball programs like Louisville and Kansas were initially involved, but now, the second of three trials into broader fraud and bribery in college basketball took an unexpected turn onto the gridiron.
When Louis Martin Blazer took the stand as a key witness for the federal government on Tuesday, the former Pittsburgh-based financial advisor testified that he paid college football players thousands of dollars between 2000 and 2014. In return, they would make Blazer their financial consultant when they turned to the NFL.
Blazer claimed that he made cash payments through Western Union to friends, family members or girlfriends of elite football players who played at places like Alabama, Michigan, Northwestern, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Penn State and Pittsburgh.
Yeah. This thing could be huge.
While Blazer didn’t specifically name any players, he hinted at two cases in particular where you can decipher exactly who he’s talking about.
Blazer claimed that a Penn State assistant coach helped him set up a meeting, after which Blazer paid that Nittany Lion football player’s father $10,000 in return for hiring Blazer to handle his money. He added that the player was a first-round pick in the 2009 NFL Draft.
The only former Penn State player drafted that early was defensive end Aaron Maybin, who was drafted No. 11 overall by the Buffalo Bills.
Blazer also testified that he bribed a 2009 first-round pick from North Carolina. That can only be former UNC wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, who played seven NFL seasons and won a Super Bowl with the New York Giants.
The 49-year-old pleaded guilty to federal charges brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission and U.S. Attorney’s Office for misusing money he managed from those very same NFL players from 2010-13. Blazer used their money to fund music and movie projects without his clients’ consent.
Both Christian Dawkins and Merl Code return as defendants in this second trail, and each are charged with four felony counts including bribery, conspiracy to commit bribery, conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud, and Travel Act conspiracy, as reported by ESPN.
Blazer continued his testimony on Wednesday morning in U.S. District Court in New York.
There’s a lot of questions that need answered before any of this can be heralded as facts. But if Blazer’s testimony is found to be true, the NCAA could launch a massive investigation that would cripple some of the game’s biggest programs.
If these college football programs opened their doors to Blazer and allowed him to pay student-athletes, the NCAA is going to have their hands full with over a decade of possible infractions to examine.