SAGINAW, Mich. – The FBI is taking on college basketball as an investigation continues into allegations of kickbacks and bribes to push young athletes toward certain schools.
Federal officials said a young man from Michigan, named Christian Dawkins, is at the center of the scandal.
Dawkins had a dream of becoming a big-time sports agent, but the FBI said he took shortcuts that have led to one of the biggest investigations into corruption in college sports.
The 24-year-old Saginaw native never went to college and isn't qualified to be a sports agent. He isn't an agent, but the FBI is calling him the key figure in its massive investigation into college sports corruption.
"It's a landmark case," said Steve Haney, Dawkins' attorney. "It's a case I don't think we've ever seen prosecuted in America, so for him, a lot's on the line. There's no question. The stakes are high.
"So now we have a 24-year-old kid who's being represented in federal charging documents as the agent, as the mastermind of the largest corruption scandal in the history of college basketball. It's absolutely ridiculous."
Dawkins grew up in Saginaw as the son of a legendary high school basketball coach. He wasn't a great player, so he chased the entrepreneurial dreams of one day representing great players as an agent. In his late teens and early 20s, he ran Dorian's Pride, an AAU team for which some of the best young players in Michigan competed.
"Anyone who knew Christian knew that he had a future as an entrepreneur," Haney said. "He was a hustler, I mean in the best way."
Dawkins used his relationships with those players to get a job with a major sports agent. He was a runner whose job was to stay close with the best players and convince them to sign with the agency once they turned pro.
"The agents usually are older guys who aren't able to run in the circle and in that world to be able to network and get the clients," Haney said.
According to the FBI, Dawkins decided he would start his own company managing NBA players. He teamed up with a friend who was a financial planner. The criminal complaint said they would get players by getting their parents paid off.
"Those are the allegations," Haney said. "That he was providing money to parents to influence the parents to go to particular universities."
The money for the parents was upwards of $100,000, allegedly to be paid through an executive with the Adidas shoe company who wanted great players to wear Adidas gear. Six college coaches, including Louisville's legendary coach Rick Pitino, have been fired or suspended in the case.
Haney said the FBI is charging Dawkins to make an example of a small fish in an ocean of corruption.
"If they were going to send a message and go get an agent, they probably should have gone and gotten an agent," Haney said. "Not a runner. Not a 24-year-old kid who lives with his mom and dad, who doesn't even have a college degree."
The FBI had an undercover agent get close to Dawkins, wiretap his phones and secretly videotape his meetings. They said they have the king of college sports caught red-handed.
"Go take the kid from Saginaw and make him the example and make him the fall guy and have a press conference and misrepresent who he is and what he is and what his significance is in the industry," Haney said.
Paying to get players to go to a specific college has been going on for decades and has always been handled with school violations. This time, it's a federal crime case, buy Haney questioned if the FBI really was willing to go after the big-time players.
"You could have really gotten some big fish here if you wanted," Haney said. "It's no question, or it's never been a mystery who's engaged in underhanded tactics in terms of representing NBA players."
Haney said they will fight it out at a trial that will truly expose the depth of corruption in college sports.
You can view the charging documents below: