With the college basketball season right around the corner, Oregon finds itself in some of the preseason headlines, and not for the right reasons.
The trial against corruption and bribery in college basketball, which got underway this week, wasted no time in causing tension and speculation all around the sport. Adidas executive James “Jim” Gatto dropped a bombshell on the first day of proceedings, claiming Oregon offered an “astronomical” amount to former five-star recruit Brian Bowen.
Christian Dawkins and Merl Code, two of three people accused of offering players money to attend Adidas-sponsored schools, both claimed that Oregon offered Bowen an “astronomical” amount of money to attend Oregon. The statement was in a recording released to the court Wednesday morning. On the recording, Code says “let me work the phones and get something done” in response to Oregon’s offer to Bowen, who was supposed to attend Oregon.
Jim Gatto's attorney said evidence would show that Oregon offered "an astronomical amount of money" to Bowen in hopes of getting him to sign and play for the Ducks. Gatto’s attorney then said that his client did nothing wrong, and his offer was just to “level the playing field.”
It was expected that Bowen, a one-and-done player, would then sign with Nike after leaving Oregon for the NBA, as part of the offering Oregon game him.
The Ducks came up once again, this time regarding Troy Brown Jr., a former five-star recruit from last year who left Oregon after his freshman season. According to ESPN College Basketball Insider Jeff Borzello, Brown’s name came up on a list of players that Hawkins was “actively involved with.”
Gatto’s attorney also made claims that Arizona allegedly offered Nassir Little $150,000 to play for Wildcats — Little ended up going to North Carolina. He also claimed Under Armour gave Silvio De Sousa $20,000 to Maryland, an Under Armour college — De Sousa chose Kansas in the end.
It should be noted that Oregon is a Nike flagship college, thanks to its close relationship with Nike founder Phil Knight, an Oregon alum.
Even with Oregon’s name being thrown around, there is still no evidence to suggest that the Ducks had any wrongdoing in the case. None of Oregon’s coaches have been implicated in the FBI investigation from a year ago, and until Monday, the Ducks were never mentioned before.
Oregon has not been silent in the matter, releasing a statement: "The university is aware of the claim made by a defense attorney in New York's U.S. District court as part of opening statements in a criminal trial related to college basketball recruiting," Tobin Klinger, Senior Director of Public Affairs Communications at University of Oregon, said. "To date, the University of Oregon has not been contacted by the federal government or any other party involved in these proceedings. We take the claim seriously and will monitor the court proceedings closely for any further details."
Nobody has any idea what’s awaiting during and after the end of the trial but only time will tell if this “pay-to-play” scheme completely ruins college basketball. As for Oregon’s involvement, we’ll have to wait and see.