On April 19, 2019, U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos ruled that two high profile NCAA men’s basketball coaches, accused of corrupt recruiting practices, are not likely to testify in an upcoming federal corruption trial.
As we have previously reported, in February 2019, reports began circulating that Sean Miller, head coach at the University of Arizona, and Will Wade, head coach at Louisiana State University, were subpoenaed to testify in an upcoming trail. The trial focuses on alleged bribes paid to assistant coaches at Arizona, Oklahoma State, and Southern California in exchange for steering college basketball players toward particular agents and financial managers once they reached the NBA. According to Judge Ramos, any potential wrongdoing by Miller or Wade was “irrelevant” to the pending criminal case; however, Judge Ramos reserved the right to compel any potential testimony by the coaches.
The current trial is essentially a spin-off of a major NCAA corruption scandal. In October 2019, a Manhattan federal jury convicted former Adidas executive James Gatto, business manager and aspiring sports agent Christian Dawkins, and former Adidas consultant Merl Code of fraud charges arising out of a college basketball pay-for-play scandal. Throughout the course of trial, several NCAA coaches’ names emerged as a result of the FBI’s investigation, including Miller and Wade.
Throughout the course of the FBI’s investigation, the University of Arizona and Louisiana State University were extensively linked to the scandal. Previously, Miller’s former assistant, Emmanuel “Book” Richardson, plead guilty to a federal bribery charge after he was accused of accepting as much as $20,000 in bribes. Similarly, the FBI secretly recorded several phone conversations between Wade and Dawkins. In one conversation, believed to be regarding current LSU guard Javonte Smart, Wade mentioned a “strong-ass offer,” but complained about trouble closing the deal because a middleman wanted a bigger “piece of the pie.” In another conversation, Wade and Dawkins discussed the then highly regarded 18-year-old Serbian center Balsa Koprivica. In the call, Dawkins told Wade about Koprivica and referred to him as “a 2019 kid I wanted to recruit” and that Wade “would have funded” the deal. However, Wade told Dawkins, “I have got to shut the door … Here’s my thing. I can get you what you need, but it’s got to work.”