Federal corruption trial continues to shine light on college basketball’s underground economy

Travis Hines
NBC Sports

The federal trial of middleman Christian Dawkins and former shoe company executive Merl Code rolled along Monday, and it continued to be problematic for the sport of college basketball.

The start of the trial’s second week featured wiretaps and testimony that continued to paint the portrait of an underground industry in the sport featuring big-dollar payoffs, monthly retainers and routine violations of NCAA rules.

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Cooperating witness Munish Sood testified that former Arizona assistant Emanuel ‘Book’ Richardson accepted $20,000 in bribes while pushing players toward Dawkins and his associates, according to CBS Sports’ Matt Norlander. Richardson, who pleaded guilty to charges earlier this year, said on a wiretap that LSU coach Will Wade spoke to him about a job as both were recruiting Naz Reid, and that Wade “got $300,000” to facilitate Reid to LSU.

“I said listen, (expletive), give me half that and I’ll make sure he goes there,” Richardson said on the wiretap.

Reid ultimately did attend LSU, and has declared for the NBA draft after one season in Baton Rouge. Wade has been a frequent presence in the federal investigation into college basketball corruption, with Yahoo Sports reporting previously that he was on a wiretap saying he had made a “strong-ass offer” for recruit Javonte Smart as well as discussing a deal for prospect Balsa Koprivica. Wade was suspended to end the  season by LSU, but was recently reinstated by the school. How Monday’s revelations in court might impact his status with the school – and the NCAA – remains to be seen.

Richardson and Sood met in a Las Vegas lounge in 2017 to discuss access to players, Sood testified.

“I believe he was saying if we were helping him to recruit, he was going to deliver one or two players for us,” Sood said Monday.

Sood also testified that Richardson took $15,000 to assist in the recruitment of Jahvon Quinerly, who committed to Arizona before flipping to Villanova after details of the federal investigation became public in the fall of 2017, per CBS Sports.

“I believe payment was for Emmanuel Richardson to recruit a specific player,” Sood testified.

Dawkins says on a wiretap that Richardson was receiving $4,000 a month, “and that makes sense to give him four grand a month because he’s got the No. 1 pick, he’s got — every year they got a top-10 pick,” he said.

The trial continues Tuesday, when it would seem certain even more of the sport’s dirty laundry will be on display.

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