NEW YORK (AP) — The father of a blue-chip college basketball recruit testified Tuesday that an assistant coach at the University of Louisville gave him a secret payment of $1,300 as part of a deal to get the son to sign with the school.
At a criminal trial about corruption in big-time basketball, Brian Bowen Sr. described setting up two meetings with assistant Kenny Johnson via text in 2017 to try to collect cash in violation of school and NCAA rules.
Bowen testified that the first time, Johnson was “shocked” and “flabbergasted” when he told him that defendant Christian Dawkins had promised that the coach would help the father with paying rent. The next time, he said, Johnson handed over $1,300 — reluctantly.
“He made it clear that this was a one-time deal for him,” Bowen said in federal court in Manhattan. “He said Louisville didn’t pay basketball players.”
There was no immediate response Tuesday to a message seeking comment from a lawyer for Johnson, who was never accused of a crime.
Louisville spokesman Kenny Klein said on Tuesday that the university is monitoring the trial, but he declined to comment further.
The testimony about the recruitment of Brian Bowen Jr. came in a case that prompted Louisville to fire both Johnson and its legendary coach, Rick Pitino. Johnson is now an assistant at La Salle.
Dawkins, former amateur coach Merl Code and former Adidas executive James Gatto, have pleaded not guilty to charges they sought to use under-the-table payments of up to $100,000 from Adidas in exchange for commitments from top prospects to Adidas-sponsored programs seen as a path to the pros. Their lawyers haven’t disputed that payments were offered, but they argue that the schools never suffered any harm.
Brian Bowen Sr. took the witness stand in federal court in Manhattan as part of an agreement with the government that will spare him from prosecution. On Tuesday, he testified that he tried to keep quiet about the “money scheme” that he knew broke the rules, even going as far as keeping his son in the dark about it.
“I didn’t want him to get involved in something that was wrong. … And I definitely didn’t want my son to lose his eligibility,” he said.
The former police officer testified that when first confronted by the FBI, he lied to agents by denying he knew about the scheme. He said he later decided he had no choice but to cooperate.
Once the investigation became public, Brian Bowen Jr. left the school after it said it would honor his scholarship but not let him play basketball. He is currently playing professionally in Australia.
During testimony that ended Tuesday, the elder Bowen dropped the names of several major programs besides Louisville that he claimed Dawkins told him were offering similar pay-for-play deals. Bowen also described receiving payouts from youth leagues sponsored by Adidas and other athletic-gear companies after his son, then in his mid-teens, played for them.
He testified that some of those payments came from two former youth coaches now on staff at DePaul. He said another payment of $5,000 came from Ty Streets, a former Michigan football star who worked with one of the amateur teams.
In a statement, DePaul said it’s had no contact with federal prosecutors. Michigan responded it would “continue to monitor this situation.”
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