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Opening Arguments Appear to Distance Miami from College Hoops Corruption Investigation

Miami seems to have been unfairly named in the year long FBI investigation into college basketball

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NCAA Basketball: ACC Conference Tournament-Miami vs North Carolina Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

More than a year after the initial indictments were released, the first trial stemming from the Federal investigation into alleged corruption in college basketball began last week in the Southern District of New York. With witnesses detailing largess and extensive violations, one vital piece of information that may be relevant to the University of Miami slipped mention in the press. After drawing significant attention in the original indictments, Miami’s alleged cooperation was largely downplayed in subsequent revisions.

Now, it is possible that both the government and the defense attorneys admit that the theory of the case – that the schools are being “defrauded” by the illicit activities – may actually best apply to Miami. Both parties seem to indicate that discussions regarding recruit Nassir Little were actually part of a conspiracy by various parties to secure a payment that would never make its way to the family.

The defense for former Adidas executive Jim Gatto argued in opening statements that the attempt to secure money from Adidas was a scam perpetrated by a Florida AAU coach, Brad Augustine, designed to line his own pockets. Gatto’s attorney stated:

“The best example of this government’s charge is that Christian Dawkins and Merl Code and Brad Augustine conspired to defraud the University of Miami, when the evidence will show the government got this completely wrong. The government’s charge alleges that Christian Dawkins and Merl Code conspired with a Florida AAU coach named Brad Augustine to pay $150,000 to the family of a top prospect named Nassir Little, in exchange for his commitment to go to the University of Miami. And in doing so, such agreement would have compromised Nassir Little’s eligibility and defrauded thereby the University of Miami.

But, in actuality, that wasn’t even close to what was going on. The evidence will show that Brad Augustine was actually trying to con Adidas out of money. There was nothing he nor my client, Christian Dawkins, ever did, would, or could have done that ever would have affected the eligibility of Nassir Little. There was no NCAA rule violation. There was no plan to violate any NCAA rule. In fact, nobody ever had a single conversation or dialogue with the family of Nassir Little, and never had a single intention of giving Nassir Little or his family money in exchange for a commitment to the University of Miami. You are not going to hear any evidence of that because it doesn’t exist.”

The federal prosecutors seem simpatico to this perspective, charging Gatto with activity that would have facilitated such an arrangement in their opening statement:

“Finally, you will hear evidence that in the summer of 2017 Gatto was discussing plans to approve yet another one of these illicit payments. Up to $150,000 to the family of another high school athlete in exchange for a commitment to play at the University of Miami, which was also an Adidas-sponsored school. Now, you will hear that this payment was actually a little bit different. This time Code and Dawkins never actually intended to funnel that money through to the player. They planned to pocket, at least a portion of it, themselves. But Gatto didn’t know that.”

While neither party has, to this point, explicitly stated that the University of Miami and Jim Larrañaga were entirely un-involved in the proceedings, it seems that both have stated similar facts – that Nassir Little would not have received any payments to attend school in Coral Gables. It follows logically that neither the recruit nor the school would have encouraged or participated in a scheme that broke both NCAA rules and arguably, federal laws, if neither was to benefit in any way. In a world where federal prosecutors rarely openly exonerate and apologize to victims of collateral damage, this admission may be as close as Coach L and the Hurricanes get.

With the November early signing period rapidly approaching and Miami in the mix for several highly-ranked recruits, it may be just in time.