CRAWFORD | Don't hold your breath waiting for other shoe to drop in college recruiting
The recent decommitment of Antonio Blakeney from the University of Louisville over reported influence of a shoe company has its fans up in arms, but Eric Crawford said the NCAA, its programs and coaches have long sanctioned the involvement of shoe companies in the game.
Tuesday, September 16th 2014, 5:33 PM EDT
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Cue the music, make it the Decommitment Blues, key of gee why can't (insert school here) catch a break?
The latest decommitment stung for University of Louisville coaches and fans. Antonio Blakeney, a five-star shooting guard whom the school had been recruiting for two years, and who committed 12 days ago, says now he will reopen his recruitment.
According to national recruiting reports, and two sources close to Blakeney's recruitment who spoke with WDRB, Blakeney is reconsidering because of the involvement of a major shoe company.
Let's just say that they swooshed in and gave him something to think about. Blakeney, according to Jerry Meyer of 24/7 Sports, now lists his top schools as Kentucky, Missouri, LSU and Oregon. What do all of those have in common? Nike.
Just 11 days prior, Blakeney was so excited to commit to U of L that he Tweeted out the news without even calling the Cardinals' coaching staff first. Then, with one squeak on a gym floor, he was gone. He says he'll still consider U of L. Most recruiting analysts say that's unlikely.
U of L fans, of course, say there's foul play. But there's no rule that prevents a player from decommiting from a school. It's a college choice. Players ought to be able to change their minds if they want to. Most make the mistake of committing too early. It happens. It's why I prefer not to write too many glowing stories about individual recruits until they sign a national letter of intent, which is binding, unless it's a story about a larger trend in a school's recruiting.
Whether or not there's a decommitment angle, this kind of thing happens all the time. And if you think shoe companies aren't major players in where players go to school, you're kidding yourself.
Kentucky and Duke were both hot on the trail of Shabazz Muhammad, but he made a bit of a head-scratcher of a decision to go to a UCLA program in disarray. Adidas got involved, had poured substantial money into sponsoring Muhammad's AAU team, and UCLA is an adidas school. Do the math.
The math, however, doesn't always work. The Harrison Twins, Aaron and Andrew, were two of the top basketball recruits in the nation coming out of San Antonio, Texas. Under Armour, a relative newcomer to the college apparel wars, went all-in on the Harrison twins. It sponsored their AAU team. It got involved with the Harrison family. But John Calipari at Kentucky, with Nike by his side, turned the decision toward the Wildcats.
Nike probably has the most formidable operation. Cross them and you're not going to play in the popular Jordan Brand Classic All-Star Game. But adidas outfits the McDonald's All-Americans, so it's not like it doesn't have a dog in the hunt.
These things are important to high school players. Too important? Maybe. But they're 17 years old. This happens all the time. With all the shoe companies. And if you don't like it, well, too bad. That's how it is.
Twitter blew up with Louisville fans calling for "the media" to get to the bottom of this shoe company nonsense. "No one will even investigate," some guy flamed to me.
Someone already did. None other than Yahoo! writer Dan Wetzel, with Don Yeager, wrote a book, "Sole Influence: Basketball, Corporate Greed, and the Corruption of America's Youth." It laid bare the shoe company involvement in college basketball, from AAU coaches with their hands out to the camps and their role.
What came of all that? Nothing. The NCAA is in business with Nike. Watch after a team wins an NCAA regional championship or the national championship itself. They put on those gray hats with a catchy slogan in front, along with T-shirts. All produced by Nike, available for purchase at
The NCAA got involved with various shoe companies' grass roots programs. It reworked summer recruiting to their liking, and the coaches'.
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.
And you know who else won? Players.
Here's what I don't like when players get bad-mouthed for letting shoe companies and potential future earnings and relationships come into their college decisions.
It's the smart thing to do. It's not against the rules. And it only makes sense. I don't like shoe companies dropping tons of money on these guys as high school players, but what I like or don't like doesn't matter. The NCAA allows it. Play on.
Here's another reason players shouldn't be blamed for considering what shoe companies have to offer.
They're only doing what the coaches do. You know who else is taking millions of dollars from shoe companies? Coaches. Rick Pitino is one of adidas top coaches in terms of endorsements. You can't find one that doesn't have a big shoe deal. Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams, Jim Boeheim, the whole gang.
If the NCAA is doing business with the shoe companies, and schools have large apparel and equipment deals with them, and coaches are under contract to them, you're telling me that players somehow shouldn't be influenced?
Please. That shoe dropped a long time ago.
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