The latest recruiting fiasco in which a basketball recruit chooses the University of Louisville only to quickly change his mind may have some administrators and fans wondering if UofL made a mistake in renewing their apparel and shoe contract with Adidas.
Back in April, UofL and Adidas agreed to a five-year deal valued at almost $40 million, placing Louisville among the top five athletic departments nationally in footwear and apparel rights among all brands. Tom Jurich said Adidas was the only company he had considered. Whether Nike would have wanted to be the provider will probably never be known, but the deal did not go unnoticed by Nike.
Nike is to tennis shoes what Marlboro is to cigarettes, the dominant market leader, with the inherent ability to set the rules and control the marketplace. Only in this case, Nike apparently is able to exert its control even further, imposing its will on players, coaches, schools, amateur leagues and fans. Without any repercussions from the NCAA.
WDRB analyst Eric Crawford writes: “If you’re looking to fight the war of shoe company involvement in college sports, you missed it. It’s over. The shoe companies won.” Then he goes on to suggest that it’s a good thing for players since coaches and schools receive millions of dollars from shoe companies.
While one may respect Crawford, he’s off base on this one, considering that college players aren’t supposed to be receiving extra benefits from anyone. Why not just go ahead and let the boosters fill the players’ pockets because they also donate millions to schools and athletic programs? Open it up for everybody.
While it may require a major sea change and considerable time, Nike’s pervasive influence in collegiate athletics can’t be allowed to go unchallenged. It makes a mockery of the amateur system, rewarding only those who perpetuate the deception.
If the ultimate objective is to preserve the integrity of college athletics, Louisville made the right decision in going with Adidas. If it’s anything else, everybody loses.