Former Nike, Adidas Employee Merl Code Jr. Alleges Both Pay NCAA Athletes

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistFebruary 15, 2019

Former amateur basketball league director Merl Code push a stroller as he leaves federal court in New York, Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018. Code and two other insiders from the high-stakes world of college basketball recruiting were convicted Wednesday in a corruption case that prosecutors said exposed the underbelly of the sport. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
Bebeto Matthews/Associated Press

Although Adidas was the focal point of the recent college basketball corruption trial, former employee Merl Code Jr. says Nike also paid athletes.

"Nike schools pay too," Code said in a conversation recorded by federal investigators in 2017, per Pat Forde, Pete Thamel and Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports. "It’s a corrupt space as it is and cheating is cheating. Whether I give you a dollar, 100,000, or I get your mom and dad jobs, it’s cheating. ... So in some form or fashion, Duke, North Carolina, Syracuse, Kentucky and all of the schools are doing something to help get kids. That’s just a part of the space."

Code, former Adidas executive James Gatto and aspiring agent Christian Dawkins were found guilty in federal court of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud after their involvement in a "pay-for-play" scheme. 

Louisville, an Adidas school, was arguably the most involved in the scandal with the father of top recruit Brian Bowen allegedly agreeing to be paid $100,000 for his son to go to the school.

Code spent 14 years working at Nike before joining Adidas.

Schools like Duke and Kentucky haven't been directly implicated in the scandal, but some of their players were mentioned during the trial.

Per a report by Adam Zagoria of The Charlotte Observer, "Kansas assistant coach Kurtis Townsend discussed financial requests of the family of Duke freshman Zion Williamson during a phone call" with Code. Dawkins wanted to pay future Kentucky guard Ashton Hagans a monthly stipend, according to ESPN.

Former assistants at Arizona, USC and Oklahoma State—all Nike schools—were also charged with bribery before accepting plea deals.