Reports: AAU director linked to NCAA bribery case, KU families pleads guilty

A University of Kansas-branded Adidas basketball is pictured in March 2018.

A University of Kansas-branded Adidas basketball is pictured in March 2018.

Originally published April 27, 2018 at 9:06 p.m., updated April 28, 2018 at 7:32 a.m.

An AAU basketball director from Massachusetts accused of working with Adidas officials to bribe family members of prospects and direct them to specific college basketball programs, including Kansas, has pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with investigators.

According to Bloomberg, ESPN and other media outlets, Thomas “T.J.” Gassnola, who oversaw the New England Playaz AAU program affiliated with Adidas, entered the plea on March 30, but it was sealed by a judge at the prosecution’s request. Though unsealed on April 12, the documents didn’t publish to the public docket until Friday.

Gassnola pled guilty to one felony count of wire fraud conspiracy.

Multiple media outlets report that the indictment makes clear that Gassnola has provided federal prosecutors with additional information that likely will be used to obtain indictments against people who have not yet been charged in the case. From Bloomberg:

"Prior to being charged, the defendant participated in numerous proffer sessions during which he has disclosed his criminal activities and those of others," prosecutors said of Gassnola. "The government anticipates that grand jury subpoenas may be issued based on information provided by the defendant, and that information provided by the defendant may also be presented to a grand jury in this district for purposes of obtaining an indictment."

Gassnola was identified by various media outlets after the fact as “co-conspirator-3” in the federal indictment that alleged Adidas executive Jim Gatto and two associates conspired to illegally pay family members and guardians of Kansas basketball players.

In the case of the first KU player referenced, whose family was alleged to have received $90,000, the indictment states the agreement to pay the family was made in or around October 2016 “shortly after the student-athlete, who was considered one of the top recruits in his class, unofficially committed to attend the University of Kansas.” On Oct. 1, prized recruit Billy Preston attended KU’s Late Night in the Phog event. He then officially committed to KU in November.

In the case of the second player, whose guardian allegedly received at least a $20,000 payment through Gatto, the indictment states the player announced on Aug. 30, 2017 that he had decided to attend the University of Kansas. Current KU basketball player Silvio De Sousa announced his commitment to KU on Aug. 30, 2017. Unlike Preston, De Sousa played in multiple games for KU this season.

Gassnola has a criminal history and also has had at least one significant run in with the NCAA. In 2012, Gassnola's teams were temporarily banned from NCAA sanctioned events due to alleged connections Gassnola had with an NBA agent. Gassnola, however, remained employed as a consultant by Adidas. He was a consultant for Adidas during the time of the alleged payments to the families of KU players, according to the indictment. KU currently is considering a multiyear, $192 million contract extension with Adidas. KU previously committed to the deal in principle but has not yet signed the agreement. It has been unclear why Adidas continued to keep Gassnola as a consultant after the allegations that he was connected to an NBA agent. KU leaders have said they are monitoring the situation, and said they expect to have additional conversations with Adidas.