Two former Adidas employees and a sports agent were found guilty of fraud in federal court on Wednesday afternoon for violating NCAA code.

Former Adidas head of global basketball marketing James Gatto, former Adidas employee Merl Code, and sports agent Christian Dawkins are the offenders in this scandal. They were involved in a scheme that paid money to the families of top college basketball recruits so that the players would attend schools that Adidas sponsored (Louisville, Kansas, Miami, and North Carolina State) and eventually take an Adidas sponsorship once they reached the NBA. Perhaps the most prominent example of this was when the trio worked to send $100,000 to the father of Brian Bowen II, a Louisville commit at the time.

However, the Bowen case was a violation of NCAA code and one of the incidents that led to Louisville head coach Rick Pitino being fired. This court ruling backs the NCAA’s policy up and, as Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports points out, strengthened their stronghold on amateurism.


Once again, this ruling is just another reminder of the imbalance of power between the NCAA athletes, who generate massive amounts of revenue for the organization, and the NCAA itself, which benefits immensely and suppresses its athletes’ earning potential.

Despite the NCAA reeling in more than $1 billion per year now in revenue, Division 1 schools are only allowed to cover a scholarship athlete's basic needs (food, housing, and expenses with small stipends) — it is not an opportunity for elite athletes to earn the lucrative salary they are truly worth. For many athletes, especially those in non-revenue sports, that’s fine, because they’re not bankable stars. They have a choice as to whether or not they want to play a college sport.

However, football and basketball stars (the two biggest NCAA sports) cannot be drafted into the NFL and NBA out of high school. The NFL requires that players be three years removed from high school in order to be drafted and NBA players must have one year away from high school. This means that many top stars are stuck playing college level athletics without financial compensation in hopes of being drafted into the pros.

There’s nothing wrong with the NCAA wanting to exploit this and making as much money as possible (like any other business). But the NFL and NBA definitely need to look at their own rules, because they are limiting themselves from having the best competition possible. After all, in the 1971 Supreme Court case Haywood v. National Basketball Association, the court ruled 7-2 that the NBA’s old requirement that players be four years removed from high school (which benefited the NCAA), was unconstitutional. With that in mind, what's the point of the league limiting itself at all?

At this point, it appears the NCAA is fine not compensating their players and absurdly restricting players from profiting from their own likeness — like when they suspended former Heisman trophy winner Johnny Manziel for the first half of his team’s opener in 2013 because he was alleged to have been paid to sign autographs (although the NCAA ultimately acknowledged there was no evidence he accepted the money).

It’s clear the NCAA is money hungry and does not care all that much about their players or their futures beyond the NCAA. Even if they did not want to pay the players themselves, an Olympic model, where athletes can be sponsored and profit from their notoriety, seems appropriate. However, the NCAA would not allow it because it could cut into their massive revenue stream.

Last week, the NBA announced a plan that would allow select 18-year-olds to play in its developmental league (NBA G League) out of high school for money instead of playing college ball starting with the 2019-2020 season. This, at least, seems to be a step in the proper direction against the NCAA — as would letting anyone good enough to play in the league compete regardless of age.

Regardless, perhaps the NFL will follow suit in the future by creating a developmental league. There is great potential for a market-based solution to the NCAA problem, since it is evident these top athletes can generate revenue.

Tom Joyce (@TomJoyceSports) is a freelance writer who has been published with USA Today, the Boston Globe, Newsday, ESPN, the Detroit Free Press, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, The Federalist, and a number of other media outlets.