Adidas remains right choice for Louisville basketball

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.

Antonio Blakeney so excited and committed when he announced, only to turn a cold shoulder 11 days later.3nikevsadidas

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.

Blakeney turns from Louisville, looks to Nike schools

Antonio Blakeney
Antonio Blakeney

Ten days ago Antonio Blakeney, one of the top guards in the 2015 recruiting class, tweeted that he was going to play college basketball at the University of Louisville.

Proclaiming to the world that all his hard work had paid off with an offer to great school, telling Coach Rick Pitino he was on his way.

“I knew I wanted to commit to Louisville two or three months ago, but I’ve just been kind of holding it off to see what other schools had to offer just comparing it, and nothing was better,” he told the Courier-Journal shortly afterward.

Pretty succinct, except for the part about comparing what other schools had to offer. He had thought about it, come to a firm decision and wanted to play at Louisvlle. That decision obviously set up a flurry of activity behind the scenes by individuals and entities with ties to other schools. By Monday of this week, Blakeney tweeted that while he still liked UofL, he was reopening his recruitment and wanted to visit other schools.

The one thing that his reported final four schools — Kentucky, LSU, Missouri and Oregon — have in common is that they are all schools with Nike contracts. Louisville is associated with Adidas.

Pitino should have seen this coming, having seen several highly-prized recruits with sudden changes of mind. The UofL coach has stated a couple of times that he doesn’t like to recruit against the Lexington school. No further explanation was necessary. Marquis Teague, who had committed to UofL a couple of years earlier, comes to mind.

More and more, the process seems to evolve into a business decision for top 20 recruits, with some factor causing them to override their original choice. What’s different about this one is that Pitino appeared to have won the recruiting battle despite the NIKE connections.. Blakeney may have surprised them, causing them to shift into high gear.

The NCAA isn’t about to put the clamps on shoe company, thus far avoiding any effective policy to discourage the interaction. Nike, as a corporation, may have a corporate responsibility mission on the boardroom wall, but it means nothing to their people connecting with high school recruits.