Apparel companies are heavily involved in elite-level youth basketball, with Nike, Adidas and Under Armour all running their own circuits. The shoe companies also have lucrative sponsorship deals with schools and coaches worth millions of dollars.
When a federal investigation revealed some of the shoe money was being funneled to recruits to influence their choice of schools, the NCAA’s hand was forced: It had to deal with the worst-kept secret in college basketball.
As part of its recommendations to clean up corruption, the Commission on College Basketball called on the boards of apparel companies Wednesday to have greater financial transparency and accountability in their investments in “non-scholastic basketball.”
“The apparel companies that actively sponsor non-scholastic basketball are public companies,” the report said. “It appears, however, that they do not have effective controls in place in their spending in non-scholastic basketball.”
A federal investigation in September revealed hundreds of thousands of dollars in kickbacks and bribes, leading to the arrests of 10 people. Among them were two former Adidas executives, including one who was accused of agreeing to funnel $40,000 through a coach to the father of former North Carolina State player Dennis Smith Jr.
The independent commission, led by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, released a 60-page report on Wednesday, asking for the apparel companies’ help in corralling the corruption.
The commission said it expects the companies will insist their employees provide detailed accountability about expenditures in non-scholastic basketball and cooperate with new NCAA rules out of concern how their money is being spent.
WHY IT COULD WORK: If the NCAA can get the shoe companies to agree, it would allow the organization to have a better handle on benefits future college players are receiving and possibly dissuade corruption.
WHY IT WOULDN’T WORK: The shoe companies may not want to cooperate, leaving the NCAA still in the dark.
WHY IT’S KEY TO THE SCANDAL: The benefits elite youth players receive from shoe companies has always been a blind spot for the NCAA. Getting a glimpse of the expenditures and where those come from could possibly help it prevent future pay-to-play scenarios.