College basketball scandal: Louisville appears to be ‘University-6’

Louisville basketball is again in the news for the wrong reasons after apparent ties to a bombshell FBI investigation were uncovered Tuesday. The program, which was already on probation with the NCAA, now appears to be one of the schools involved with a federal investigation that alleges bribery for steering recruits towards certain institutions.

Louisville isn’t named explicitly in the document, and the FBI is not coming after the program with charges. But there are enough clues in the document to surmise that Louisville is “University-6” in the report and Adidas is the apparel company in question:

Jim Gatto, the head of global sports marketing for Adidas, is expressly named in the report. He has been charged and arrested. Louisville signed a $160 million sponsorship deal with Adidas earlier this year.

The FBI is alleging that “University-6” agreed to pay a recruit $100K that was paid through Adidas and also discussed a payment to another future recruit in order to secure his commitment. The initial recruit in question appears to be Brian Bowen, a five-star shooting guard and McDonald’s All-American who was one of the last elite recruits to announce his college decision in the class of 2017.

Just because the FBI isn’t coming after Louisville doesn’t mean the NCAA won’t. Here’s what we know so far:

Bowen’s commitment to Louisville was a shock at the time

Bowen’s recruitment was long thought to be led by Michigan State and Arizona, with Oregon, Texas, and DePaul getting involved late. Louisville essentially came out of nowhere to land him.

As the story goes, Bowen’s camp reportedly reached out to Louisville in May after a scholarship was originally offered in 2014. Bowen visited the school and committed shortly after. Here’s what Pitino said at the time:

“We got lucky on this one,” Pitino told Terry Meiners of News Radio 840. “I had an AAU director call me and ask me if I’d be interested in a player (Bowen). I saw him against another great player from Indiana. I said ‘Yeah, I’d be really interested.’ They had to come in unofficially, pay for their hotel, pay for their meals. We spent zero dollars recruiting a five-star athlete who I loved when I saw him play. In my 40 years of coaching this is the luckiest I’ve been.”

The irony of that quote is now overwhelming.

The federal document released on Tuesday appears to be alleging the payment was set up by Adidas, with an initial $25K paid to Bowen’s father. There was a delay in securing the money while Gatto tried to conceal what the payment was really for. Christian Dawkins, a former sports agent and “runner,” and Jonathan Brad Augustine, who helps run an AAU team sponsored by Adidas, were allegedly the men who helped set up the transaction.

A coach believed to be on the Louisville staff was caught on tape talking about paying another recruit

Here’s a section from the indictment:

It appears a Louisville coach discussed a payment for a 2019 recruit with Dawkins and Augustine, but noted the program needed to be “very low key” because it was already on probation.

Dawkins would help funnel the payments to Augustine, who would in turn distribute them to the recruit and his family. The plan was to pay the recruit for his commitment to Louisville.

“All my kids will be (Adidas) kids,” Augustine said.

The timing of this for Louisville is totally damning:

Louisville was already in big trouble with the NCAA

Louisville basketball was placed on four years of probation with the NCAA in June following a long investigation into allegations made by Katrina Powell in 2015. Powell alleged Louisville offered recruits escorts and strippers during official visits to campus.

For that, Pitino was suspended for the first five games of ACC play this season and ordered to forfeit victories. The Cardinals’ 2013 national championship banner was already in jeopardy of coming down.

How many scandals can Rick Pitino survive?

Pitino has been one of college basketball’s most enduring coaches to this point. He survived an extortion case in 2009 and kept his job through Louisville’s 2015 sex scandal as well.

With criminal investigation ongoing and the NCAA yet to weigh in on the matter, it remains to be seen if Pitino can outlast another scandal involving his program.