There was talk of “Sneaker Wars” this week in a federal courtroom in New York, but any thought of one prominent school being implicated in the federal trial against three men accused of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud was eliminated quickly.
Prosecutors say former Adidas executive Jim Gatto, former Adidas employee Merl Code and agent runner and Saginaw native Christian Dawkins defrauded schools such as Kansas, Louisville, Miami and N.C. State, all of which are sponsored by Adidas.
Part of the case surrounds the recruitment of Saginaw native and star basketball player Brian Bowen, who considered Michigan State.
In a story from the Arizona Daily Star, Michigan State was one high-profile program that at least one lawyer said didn’t violate any NCAA rules.
“Michigan State was one of the only schools that was not going to pay Brian Bowen to go there,” said Steve Haney, Dawkins’ attorney.
The Spartans were in stark contrast to other schools mentioned Tuesday, including Arizona and Oregon, who attorneys say were willing to pay up to $150,000 for players.
In 2017, Bowen had a list of finalists that included Michigan State, Oregon, Arizona, Texas and Creighton. Months after it appeared Michigan State had backed away from its recruitment, Bowen surprised many by committing to Louisville in June of 2017.
The FBI investigation alleged Gatto agreed to send $100,000 to Bowen's family for his commitment to Louisville. According to Gatto’s attorney, the deal was extended to compete with an offer from Nike-sponsored University of Oregon.
According to reports, Gatto's attorney said Oregon offered Bowen an "astronomical amount of money" to play basketball for the Ducks.
Bowen ended up signing with Louisville but never played as the FBI investigation began and the university fired coach Rick Pitino. Bowen eventually transferred to South Carolina but did not play. He entered last June’s NBA Draft but withdrew after participating in the NBA Combine.
After the NCAA ruled Bowen would be ineligible if he returned to South Carolina, the former McDonald's All-American signed a professional contract with the Sydney Kings in Australia. He became the first player to be signed to the NBL's Next Stars program, which was launched in March in an effort to provide alternative pathways for NBA prospects who are unable or decide not to play college basketball.