MANHATTAN (CN) – An aspiring sports agent accused by federal prosecutors of bribing college coaches to steer NCAA players to his management agency continued Thursday to testify in his own defense, denying he had ever paid the coaches.
Christian Dawkins, 26, maintained throughout his two days of testimony that the alleged scheme to pay coaches for influence was “idiotic” and forced onto him by a clueless investor, Jeff D’Angelo, who was actually an undercover FBI agent working with a government informant who pleaded guilty to securities fraud charges.
Dawkins is on trial in Manhattan federal court along with co-defendant Merl Code, a former Adidas consultant.
The aspiring agent said that D’Angelo, which was the false name used by the agent, made his funding of Dawkins’ nascent sports agency, LOYD Management, contingent on a business model of paying bribes to college-level coaches who could leverage their influence to direct young players to Dawkins’ company for representation once they went pro.
Dawkins testified that he repeatedly objected to paying off coaches as an ineffective business and tried to delicately talk the investor out of that particular model but D’Angelo stubbornly insisted on seeking out coaches to pay bribes.
According to Dawkins, the real legwork of fostering relationships with young players occurs years before the player ever sets foot in college.
“There's no need to pay a college coach because these players are coming into college with agents," Dawkins said on direct testimony Wednesday. "This idea that it's an amateur world is not real."
Throughout the two days of questionings, Dawkins freely admitted to paying players and their families.
"You have to get in as early as you can,” Dawkins said on the importance of recruiters starting relationships with players and their families as early as possible.
“I don’t think anything is wrong with paying players,” he testified Wednesday. “Everybody was paying players.”
Since college players are prohibited by NCAA rules from earning any compensation, Dawkins felt justified paying players, their families and anyone else close to their recruiting process.
“There has to be a third party who can bridge them until they can make real money,” he said.
Drawing from his early career experience as an uncertified recruiter, a so-called “runner” for one of the top NBA agents, Andy Miller, Dawkins said “just paying the coach because he’s a coach doesn’t make common sense to me, still doesn’t now.”
An FBI wiretap phone call between Dawkins and D’Angelo played during direct testimony on Wednesday showed Dawkins trying to talk the investor out of the so-called “coaches model” as an ineffective business practice.
“That’s not a smart investment,” Dawkins told the undercover agent. “We can save the fucking money. Honestly it doesn’t make sense to spend it.”
He added, “If you want to be Santa Claus and just give people money, well, fuck, let’s just take that money and go to the strip club and buy hookers.”
“It doesn’t make sense to me,” Dawkins reiterated on the recording. “Do those coaches really matter?”
On the stand Wednesday, Dawkins stood by the rhetorical strip club invitation.
“If we’re wasting the money, why don’t we put it towards something that’s at least enjoyable to us,” he said, drawing chuckles from the courtroom gallery and jury box.
Dawkins said that D’Angelo lacked enough knowledge about the business side of basketball and characterized him as a “jock-sniffer”, a fan who could be easily dazzled and appeased by a courtside meeting with players and coaches at Madison Square Garden.
Wearing thick-framed glasses, Dawkins confidently glowered with annoyance and incredulity at Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Boone on multiple occasions during cross-examination Thursday morning.
When pressed Thursday morning by Mark Moore, one of the attorneys for his co-defendant, if he thought it was a crime to pay players, Dawkins said, "No. You can't defraud a school. I don't even know how that's possible."
Code, Dawkins’ mentor figure, opted to rest his case without taking the stand.
Closing arguments will begin Friday morning, with the jury is expected to begin deliberations Monday.
Code and Dawkins were already convicted last October in the government’s first NCAA hoops scandal trial.
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