College Basketball Indictments: Adidas, Thy Name Is Banned Booster

Don’t be deceived; Mark Emmert’s recently appointed ‘Condi-Commission’ was not created to preserve some allegedly pure principle of amateurism. It was created because the ten recent indictments of assistant college coaches, Adidas marketing personnel, and financial or other player agent/advisors jeopardize a major source of money flow for top NCAA schools. Here’s why:

Pitino

A booster under NCAA Bylaw 13 is a “representative of the institution’s athletic interest,” which is defined as “an individual, independent agency, corporate entity (e.g. apparel or equipment manufacturer) or other organization that is known (or should have been known) by a member of [the school’s) executive or athletics administration to:

(a) Have participated in or to be a member of an agency or organization promoting [the school’s] intercollegiate athletics program;

(b). Have made financial contributions to the athletics department or to an athletics booster organization of Rutgers;

(d) Be assisting or to have assisted in providing benefits to enrolled student-athletes or their families; or

(e) Have been involved otherwise in promoting [the school’s] athletics program.

Adidas is an ‘apparel and equipment manufacturer,’ which has ‘promoted’ many intercollegiate programs’ – including the one at Louisville, with whom it has a $170 million 10-year contract which qualifies as a ‘financial contribution’.

In addition, according to the recent indictments, Adidas is alleged to have ‘assisted in providing benefits to a student-athlete,’ in the form of a $100,000 payment to recruit Brian Bowen.

Adidas Is Probably a Louisville Booster

Assuming the truth of these allegations, then, Adidas is a Louisville booster under NCAA bylaws. And to the extent Adidas made similar such payments to recruits to induce them to attend other universities, Adidas probably qualifies as a ‘booster’ at other such schools. (Louisville should have already self-reported such a potential violation to the NCAA — and remember, the burden of proof for a NCAA violation is the ‘preponderance of the evidence’ standard, rather than the significantly higher “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard which the U.S. attorney must satisfy in prosecuting the charges he has brought.)

And, according to the NCAA, boosters can be — and almost always are – banned from any further contact with the school, or presence on campus. The ban is imposed upon the school, which has an obligation to enforce it, to ensure that the booster ends all contact. 

NCAA chief Emmert and his big-time members, many of whom depend upon mammoth annual contracts with Adidas, Nike, and UnderArmour, are terrified of this notion that the apparel suppliers might be deemed boosters banned from further contact with the school. (Reports are that the U.S..attorney has subpoenaed documents from Nike, suggesting that there may be other evidence that Nike was engaged in some similar scheme.) If for example, the NCAA found that Adidas was acting as a booster, and must be banned from campus, the school’s contract with Adidas would be over. (Adidas’ actions, as described in the indictment, to pay the recruit $100,000 probably also materially breach the company’s contract with Louisville.) And because NCAA rules hold the institution responsible for all actions of its athletics representatives-boosters, those schools are also worried about the extent to which the apparently illegal booster activity by apparel companies will be imputed to the school, to subject the school to its own significant NCAA sanction.  

The Shoe Contracts are In Jeopardy

The result? Louisville is looking at having to sever its $170 million contract with Adidas. And I will speculate that many other schools are frantically consulting with their lawyers to assess whether their mammoth long-term shoe and apparel contracts are in jeopardy. (Though the individual AD’s and school presidents are probably spending even more time with their criminal lawyers, to plan how best to avoid  personal or institutional indictment on conspiracy or bribery charges.)

Emmert claims to have appointed the Condi-Commission to address the payments which were allegedly made to players. But the Rice Commission’s de facto primary mission is to find some way to preserve the  raging river of shoe and apparel money with which universities and/or coaches have been flooded since 1978. Adidas, thy name is Banned Booster.

 

Copyright William Wilson 2017

About brewonsouthu

Michigan and Big Ten fan, former lawyer, with interest in college sports and NCAA oversight and decisions, and sports generally.
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