The father of a top college basketball recruit testified in federal court Tuesday that he does not remember receiving $3,000 cash from Oregon assistant basketball coach Tony Stubblefield during an unofficial visit to Eugene in May 2017.
That testimony, involving Brian Bowen Sr., marked the first time in the ongoing criminal case that a coach at Oregon has been linked to any alleged NCAA recruiting violation. It also may have contradicted previous statements made by Bowen Sr. to the FBI outlining Oregon’s alleged payment.
Bowen Sr.’s testimony came during the fifth day of a weeks-long trial exposing corruption among college basketball assistant coaches and shoe company representatives. New on Tuesday were references to Bowen Sr.’s use of a second cell phone, dubbed his “bat phone,” which he used to conduct shady business with a baby-faced deal-maker named Christian Dawkins – and the revelation that Bowen Sr. destroyed that phone when he learned about the FBI’s investigation.
The trial has shined a light on the seedy side of college basketball and the influential role played by sneaker makers. Companies like Adidas and Nike spend millions for the right to put their logo on the feet of the best players, and securing that talent is a competition all its own.
Bowen Sr. ultimately cut a deal last year that sent his son to the University of Louisville, an Adidas-sponsored school, in exchange for $100,000 from Adidas. Bowen Sr. testified in detail last week about the long list of competing financial incentives he believed had been offered from other universities recruiting his son, including $150,000 from Oklahoma State. But Bowen Sr. told a prosecutor that he could not remember anything specific about Oregon’s offer.
On Tuesday, during cross-examination, Bowen Sr.’s memory continued to falter.
A defense attorney asked Bowen Sr. if he remembered meeting with Stubblefield during his son’s unofficial visit to Oregon last year.
“He was there, yeah,” Bowen Sr. said.
Bowen Sr. was then asked if he was given $3,000 cash from Stubblefield.
“I don’t recall that,” Bowen Sr. responded.
Bowen Sr. was then shown a transcript of previous statements he made to the FBI. Those statements were not publicly disclosed. It’s not clear what Bowen Sr. may have told investigators.
Asked if reading his past statements refreshed his memory, Bowen Sr. said, “No, it doesn’t.”
The defense attorney for Dawkins sought clarity. Attorney Steve Haney asked Bowen Sr. if that meant he had never received any cash from anyone at Oregon.
“I just don’t recall,” Bowen Sr. testified.
The University of Oregon on Tuesday declined to address the new details revealed in court. A spokesman referred to a statement released last Thursday, which stated that basketball coaches and staff had been interviewed twice by university officials and no wrongdoing was uncovered.
Bowen Sr.’s testimony dominated Tuesday’s trial, held inside a wood-paneled courtroom on the 26th floor of the federal courthouse in Lower Manhattan. Testimony, originally scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m., was delayed by nearly an hour because at least one juror failed to arrive on time.
Bowen Sr. testified that Jim Gatto, the former Adidas executive facing fraud charges, had agreed to pay $100,000 because “my son was a top prospect and he wanted him to go to an Adidas school.” But Bowen Sr. said he told his son “nothing” about the deal.
“I wouldn’t want him to be involved with something that’s wrong,” Bowen Sr. said.
Bowen Sr. said his son ultimately was responsible for selecting a school.
“Whatever he does, I’m sure I influence him,” he said, later adding that his son is a “victim.”
Bowen Sr. agreed to testify at trial in exchange for immunity from prosecution.
On Tuesday, Bowen Sr. acknowledged twice lying to FBI agents, which is a crime. The first time he said he lied was in September 2017, when federal officials publicly announced their investigation, and then later during a phone call he initiated.
Bowen Sr. also acknowledged that he is not being prosecuted for his participation in an unrelated food-stamps scheme. Bowen Sr. said he previously bought food stamps from recipients at a discounted rate in his home state of Michigan.
And Bowen Sr. admitted destroying his second cell phone, which he used to conduct illicit business with Dawkins, after learning about the investigation. Bowen Sr. said he used a second cell phone to shield his dealings from possible scrutiny.
“If you’re doing something wrong, you don’t want it connected to your name,” he said.
Attorneys for Dawkins and Merl Code, a former Adidas consultant also charged in the case, questioned Bowen Sr.’s integrity. Dawkins’ attorney grilled Bowen Sr. about why he has yet to file taxes for the past three years. Code’s attorney charged that the father was “pimping” his name sake.
Testimony and tape recordings revealed that Bowen Sr. felt financial pain in 2017 and leaned heavily on Dawkins, who worked as a runner lining up potential NBA-caliber talent for a licensed agent.
Bowen Sr. said he was told by Dawkins that Louisville assistant coach Kenny Johnson would pay him $2,000 a month, on top of the $100,000 from Adidas. But after moving to Louisville last year, Bowen Sr. said he asked Johnson about the money and was rebuffed.
“He was flabbergasted,” Bowen Sr. testified about Johnson’s reaction. “He was shocked.”
Bowen Sr. said Johnson told him Louisville didn’t need to pay for players. But Johnson ultimately gave Bowen Sr. $1,300, making clear it was a “one-time deal,” Bowen Sr. testified.
Still feeling a financial pinch, Bowen Sr. soon received more welcome news. Dawkins told Bowen Sr. he’d secured a second installment of $25,000 from Adidas’ $100,000 bounty, according to court records.
“It should be Christmas like next week or the week after,” Dawkins told him Sept. 22, 2017.
“Christmas early huh?” responded Bowen Sr., a former police officer, who collects $3,700 a month in pension payments.
Four days later, FBI agents began making arrests.