In August, when Georgia Tech proudly announced its new apparel partnership with Adidas, coaches and athletic Todd Stansbury spoke of the expected benefit that they believed Adidas would have on recruiting.
They likely did not have in mind the advantage that the FBI has alleged that an Adidas executive provided to two of the colleges that it sponsors.
In an FBI investigation into bribery in college basketball, Adidas’ director of global sports marketing, James Gatto, was arrested Tuesday and accused of conspiring with coaches to pay high-school athletes to play for colleges that partner with his company.
Tech does not expect that it will change its partnership with the company, according to a statement to the AJC provided by a school spokesman on behalf of the department:
“Georgia Tech athletics is aware of today’s news regarding charges being brought against an adidas employee. At this time, we do not anticipate it affecting our relationship with adidas. We will continue to monitor the situation and communicate with adidas as more information comes to light.”
Gatto was alleged to have organized payments of $100,000 and $150,000 to high-school prospects to attend schools in Kentucky and Florida, respectively. Court papers contain enough details to identify them as ACC members Louisville and Miami, both Adidas clients.
In a statement, Adidas said the company was unaware of any misconduct and that it would “fully cooperate with authorities to understand more.”
The federal bribery case has shed light on the sport’s underbelly, where shoe companies, coaches at the AAU and college level and street agents, spurred by thousands of dollars, seek to wield influence over high-school and college players in their decisions for college and, upon turning professional, agents.
“I was obviously surprised by it all,” Tech basketball coach Josh Pastner said Tuesday. “Just surprised that the (FBI) is going after people that I know.”
Among those arrested were four college basketball assistant coaches, including one at Arizona, Pastner’s alma mater.
Beyond his reaction, Pastner was not eager to directly answer questions about any aspect of the scandal, whether about his responses to the charges, his awareness of the alleged influence peddling or his school’s new relationship with Adidas. In general, Pastner steers away from any topic hinting of controversy.
“I can only focus on Georgia Tech,” he said, a theme he repeated more than once. “That’s what my focus is on, Georgia Tech and our team and our recruiting.”
Tech and Adidas have joined in a six-year agreement for the company to be the official apparel provider for Yellow Jackets teams. The athletic department will wear Russell Athletic until June 2018.
At the news conference in August to announce the deal, Stansbury said he was drawn to Adidas by the company’s desire to add Tech to its small stable of power-conference schools, its interest in the Atlanta market and its focus on innovation and technology.
Among those supporting Stansbury in the decision to go with Adidas, he said at the news conference, were his counterparts at Louisville and Miami, presumably for reasons different than those alleged by the FBI.