NCAA Bribery Prosecutors Win Cooperation From Team DirectorBy
T.J. Gassnola pleaded guilty to paying off players’ families
Documents unsealed in case appeared on public docket Friday
The director of an amateur Massachusetts basketball team affiliated with Adidas AG agreed to plead guilty and cooperate with prosecutors investigating an NCAA bribery scandal, according to a copy of the agreement made public Friday.
Thomas "T.J." Gassnola entered the plea on March 30 to federal charges that he made payments to families of high school student-athletes in exchange for their commitment to play for certain universities, according to the filing. The plea and cooperation agreements were sealed by a judge at the request of prosecutors.
“Exposure of the defendant’s cooperation would hinder law-enforcement officials’ ability to continue their investigation of individuals who have not yet been arrested and charges that have not yet been brought,” Assistant U.S. Attorney in Manhattan Eli Mark said in a March 30 court filing.
Yahoo! Sports reported last month that Gassnola was named in a subpoena to North Carolina State University seeking information about its communications with him, Adidas executives and other coaches. NC State signed a six-year sponsorship deal with Adidas in 2015 for nearly $39 million.
U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero in Manhattan ordered the documents unsealed on April 12, although they weren’t posted on the public docket until Friday.
Gassnola’s lawyer Daniel Kelly didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Adidas didn’t have an immediate comment.
Federal prosecutors in New York unveiled charges in September against assistant coaches, managers, financial advisers and sportswear company executives as part of a wide-ranging corruption probe into college athletics, including basketball programs at Oklahoma State University, the University of Arizona, the University of Southern California and the University of South Carolina.
The defendants are accused of making illicit payments to players and their families to secure their commitments to play at certain schools. The case has rocked the sport’s highest levels and led to a wave of suspensions and dismissals. One of the executives charged in September was an executive with Adidas, which has been seeking to make inroads in the lucrative basketball shoe market.
“Adidas is committed to ethical and fair business practices and to full compliance with applicable laws, rules and regulations,” the company said in a statement. “We have cooperated fully with the authorities.”
According to news reports, Gassnola ran an Adidas-affiliated amateur team called the New England Playaz.
"Prior to being charged, the defendant participated in numerous proffer sessions during which he has disclosed his criminal activities and those of others," prosecutors said of Gassnola. "The government anticipates that grand jury subpoenas may be issued based on information provided by the defendant, and that information provided by the defendant may also be presented to a grand jury in this district for purposes of obtaining an indictment."
Gassnola admitted to conspiracy to commit wire fraud from 2015 to 2017. Media outlets have reported that Gassnola and his team have come under suspicion before over his links to talent agency ASM Sports. One of ASM’s employees was charged in the initial indictment, and the firm’s offices were raided by FBI agents. The NCAA in 2012 banned Gassnola’s team from tournament competition because of the relationship.
The case is U.S. v. Gassnola, 18-cr-00252, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
— With assistance by Matthew Townsend