Scheme to pay college players revealed at trial

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NEW YORK (AP) - A cadre of fixers in the world of college basketball conducted covert "black ops" to funnel tens of thousands of dollars in secret cash payments to the families of top prospects like DeAndre Ayton to lure them to major programs, a former Adidas consultant testified Wednesday at a corruption trial.

Asked whose families he brokered deals with, Thomas "T.J." Gassnola ticked off a list of five names, including Ayton, who attended Arizona for his freshman season before being drafted by the Phoenix Suns, and Brian Bowen Jr., who committed to Louisville before departing without playing amid the widening recruitment scandal. Gassnola also named Billy Preston and Silvio De Sousa of Kansas and Dennis Smith Jr. of North Carolina State as the others.

The government cooperator, who's also a former amateur basketball league director, said the he and other fixers referred to the deal-making as "black ops." Asked what he meant, he responded, "It's dark. Underground. You don't want anyone to know about it."

On trial are aspiring sports agent Christian Dawkins, former amateur coach Merl Code and former Adidas executive James Gatto. All have pleaded not guilty to charges that they defrauded basketball programs that passed out scholarships by concealing how they directed funds from Adidas to prospects considering schools sponsored by the sportswear company.

Gassnola has pleaded guilty. He was expected to return to the witness stand Thursday in federal court in Manhattan.

SPORTS GAMBLING

LAS VEGAS (AP) - Major League Baseball and the casino industry are entrenched in their views on a league proposal to get a cut from wagers placed on the sport following the repeal of a federal ban on sports betting earlier this year.

Representatives from both industries vigorously defended their believed right over the money during a panel at the casino industry's top trade show in Las Vegas. The MLB and other pro leagues haves asked for a percentage of the wagers, and casinos have strongly opposed any direct payments.

Kenny Gersh, the league's executive vice president of gaming, told the crowd of casino executives that a proposed 0.25 percent fee - which some have dubbed an "integrity fee" - is essentially a royalty that casino companies should pay if they are going to make money off of the sport. He defended it as a case of "fairness" and partnership with casino operators.

NASCAR

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - There will not be an eighth NASCAR title for Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus.

Hendrick Motorsports will split the driver and crew chief - the longest pairing in NASCAR - at the end of a disappointing season. Johnson has not won a race in 17 months and was knocked out of the playoffs in the first round. Johnson and Knaus won their record-tying seventh championship in 2016 but have slumped in the two years since.

GOLF

The PGA Championship will remain with CBS Sports and pick up a powerful partner in ESPN for weekday rounds as part of an 11-year agreement in which the networks will combine to deliver 175 hours of coverage across broadcast, cable and digital platforms.

Financial terms of the deal announced Wednesday were not disclosed, though it was clear the PGA Championship is more attractive held in May than in August.

The agreement gives CBS and ESPN, which broadcast the Masters, the first two majors of the year.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - Kansas fired offensive coordinator Doug Meacham with six games left in the season, ending the short tenure of what coach David Beaty hailed as a game-changing hire just last year.

Meacham had spent the previous three seasons as the co-offensive coordinator at Big 12 rival TCU when Beaty lured him to the Jayhawks. Meacham was expected to install a variation of the Air Raid offense that would put up the kind of points not seen in Lawrence in a decade.

Instead, the Jayhawks managed just 18.7 points per game last season. That has ticked up to 27.7 this year, but the Jayhawks are averaging just 19 points during three conference losses.

Beaty said he would handle the play-calling with help from the rest of his staff when Kansas (2-4) returns to the field against Texas Tech on Oct. 20.

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