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As you’ve probably heard by now, 10 people connected to college basketball were arrested on federal corruption charges yesterday. If you’re looking for a good roundup of the situation, I recommend starting with this news story and then moving on to this FAQ-style explainer piece, both of which are very solid.
This is not just another NCAA show investigation that will result in a slap on the wrist. These are federal charges based on a two-year FBI undercover investigation. If convicted, those charged could go to prison.
At its heart, this is just the latest in a long series of incidents showing that the college sports scene is a cesspool of corruption. In that regard, it’s not so surprising (although it’s still nauseating to see the some of the details spelled out so explicitly), and under normal circumstances it wouldn’t be any concern of Uni Watch.
But this time there’s a uni-related wrinkle: Of the 10 people charged, three of them are connected to Adidas. Those three people are James Gatto, Adidas’s director of global marketing; Merl Code, who was formerly the director of Nike’s elite youth basketball program but more recently worked for Adidas and is listed in the criminal complaint as a “business affiliate” of the sportswear giant; and Jonathan Augustine, program director of the Adidas-sponsored 1 Family AAU program.
Some of the allegations have nothing to do with the uni-verse, but here are uni-related parts, quoting from this article:
[H]igh-ranking Adidas employees worked with others to pay prospective student-athletes’ families to ensure the players signed with Adidas-sponsored schools and then signed [endorsement contracts] with Adidas once they turned pro, the complaint alleges.
. . .
The allegations against the unnamed school in Kentucky [now known to be Louisville, which is outfitted by Adidas — PL] include payments of $100,000 from Adidas to the family of an unnamed player, identified as “Player-10,” to ensure him signing with the school.
According to the complaint, Gatto, Code, Dawkins and Sood worked together to funnel $100,000 to the player’s family in early June, and Dawkins told the others that he did so at the request of a Louisville coach. “Player-10,” who is described in the complaint as a top recruit, is believed to be Brian Bowen, a five-star guard/forward who signed with Louisville on June 5. The FBI said telephone records show Gatto spoke directly with the unnamed coach multiple times in the days before the player publicly committed to play for the Cardinals.
The indictment also says that prior to paying Player-10’s family, the defendants “first needed time to generate a sham purchase order and invoice ostensibly to justify using [Adidas] funds since they could not lawfully pay the family of Player-10 directly and risk that such prohibited payments be revealed.”
. . .
The FBI alleged Gatto, Code, Dawkins and Augustine attempted to broker a deal to send another high school player to Miami, an Adidas-sponsored school, for $150,000. According to the complaint, “the payments from [Adidas] to Player-12 were allegedly requested specifically by a coach at [Miami] (Coach-3), who allegedly called Gatto directly and who, according to Dawkins, Code, and Augustine, ‘knows everything’ and, in particular, ‘knows something’s gotta happen for’ Player-12 to commit to attending University-7.”
In other words, Adidas manipulated children so they could sell more sneakers. Again, that’s not entirely surprising — everyone knows the AAU scene is basically a sub-cesspool to the college sports cesspool — but it’s still pretty depressing.
I hope this goes without saying, but just in case: This is why we shouldn’t have maker’s marks on uniforms; this is why a school shouldn’t be using its outfitter’s slogan as a hashtag; this is why a school’s marching band shouldn’t be forming the logo of the school’s outfitter; and this is why, as I’ve said for years, the uni-verse and the sports world in general would be better off if jerseys weren’t available for sale. Because all of those “branding” factors are part of the larger Big Uni industrial branding complex that results in the kind of corruption shown in yesterday’s allegations.
It’s worth noting, incidentally, that four of the other defendants are assistant coaches at non-Adidas schools: Lamont Evans of Oklahoma State (which is outfitted by Nike); Emanuel Richardson of Arizona (Nike), Tony Bland of USC (Nike), and Chuck Person of Auburn (Under Armour). So far, those defendants have only been charged in connection with payments involving agents and “financial advisers,” not sportswear shenanigans. But with the federal investigation still ongoing, some additional shoes, or sneakers, may yet drop.
By Alex Hider
Baseball News: Some of the umps’ gear went missing prior to last night’s Rangers/Astros game, so plate ump Carlos Torres had to borrow a Rangers mask. … The Padres apparently outsourced some jersey tailoring to a local sporting goods store for a recent community event. You’d think they’d have Majestic do that (from Brady Phelps). … You can currently bid on this old Dodgers cap worn by Jackie Robinson during his rookie year. It includes inner plates that protected against objects thrown at Robinson (from Michael L. Hayden). … Yesterday was National Pancake Day, so the Tigers gave a Twitter shout-out to prospect Joey Pankake (from BSmile). … This is reportedly the first photograph of people playing baseball in California, from 1860 (from Jim Vilk). … Bethlehem Steel company formed a baseball team in the 1910s, and they went with an abbreviated name on the front of their jerseys (from Seth Horowitz). … Lots of uni inconsistencies in this 1954 University of Cincinnati team photo, but every jersey is gorgeous. Also, the guy in the top row, fifth from left, is Sandy Koufax (from Doug Smith).
NFL News: The Falcons have unveiled their 2017 uni schedule, and announced they will be wearing their black fauxback unis this Sunday and on Nov. 26 (from Jack Daley). … Reprinted from yesterday’s comments: Tom Bierbaum found a shot of Falcons CB Tom Hayes wearing the white “X” on his helmet in a Week 12 game from 1971, and then Paul Deaver spotted WR Ken Burrow doing likewise. So it appears the the “Brand X” phenomenon was not limited to the team’s home opener. … Ed Sheeran is playing a show in Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium later this year, so he put on a Bucs jersey for some promo photos. He looks thrilled. … The Colts are creating a statue of Peyton Manning, so he struck some poses for them and they outfitted him in an era-appropriate Reebok uniform. Manning wore Reebok for most of his years with the Colts and also briefly wore Puma and Logo Athletic. He never wore Nike. … Fans’ reactions to the players’ anthem protests have led the Ravens’ anthem singer to quit. … Check out this awesome-loking Saints LP record. Great design, if even they did get the helmet stripe wrong (from Patrick Reynolds). … The background image on the Chargers’ website shows RB Melvin Gordon wearing what appears to be mono-navy — a uni combo that the team has never worn with its current uni set (from Austin Ledley).
College Football News: Penn State is wearing fauxbacks this weekend, and will have argyle-patterned end zones to go with them (from William F. Yurasko). … Bowling Green will wear their military appreciation helmets this weekend, which features the names of 111 BGSU students who have died in combat (from Max Seeley). … The Bowling Green helmets also include decals for Hurricane Harvey relief efforts and a salute to teachers. … I can’t think of another team that’s given away produce, but this weekend Fresno State fans can get two free ears of sweet corn with their ticket (from Damon Hirschensohn). … Interesting that the stadium signage got in the way of a Gem Blades ad during a Army/Notre Dame game at Yankee Stadium in 1946 (from Ray Hund).
Hockey News: A couple of Predators were missing the navy piping on their shoulder yokes in Sunday’s game in Columbus (from Mike Engle). … Not only does this local TV ad for the Sharks feature old Reebok jerseys, but they feature two different old Reebok jerseys (from John Furstenthal). … The Orlando Solar Bears of the ECHL will wear sweaters inspired by retro Orlando Magic jerseys in November. … New uniforms for the University of Denver (from Chris Hatfield). … A group of lucky firefighters will be wearing these beauties during beer league hockey this season. … Sharks RW Joel Ward, who is black and wears No. 42 as a tribute to Jackie Robinson, is considering kneeling during the national anthem.
NBA News: Celtics G Terry Rozier will be going RNOB this year. … The Spurs haven’t yet announced a jersey ad patch for the upcoming season, but their courtside mascot will wear an ad patch on his jersey (from Kyle Buckholder). … Dwyane Wade will likely sign with the Cavaliers, and this NBA on TNT graphic predicted he would wear No. 6 with the team. On ESPN’s website, Wade is already listed on the Cavs roster as No. 3 (from Cameron Sparks). … There’s already a market for NBA knockoff Nike jerseys — and they unfortunately include ad patches (from John Pritchard).
College Hoops News: New unis for the Citadel (from @willchitty4). … It looks like American University has switched to Under Armour, though these unis appear to be for practice only (from Eric Wright).
Soccer News: Celtic FC will go ad-less for an upcoming Champions League game in Brussels. Their advertiser, Dafabet, is an online gambling company that does not have a license in Belgium (from Ed Zelaski). … The word “bespoke,” when referring to uniforms, is running rampant in soccer articles (from David Brand).
Grab Bag: Virginia Tech unveiled a new university logo yesterday (from Andrew Cosentino and Paul Gaiser). … The US Presidents’ Cup golf team will not be staging any anthem protests during the tournament. … A Belgian cycling team has instituted a ban on facial hair (from Mike Edgerley). … Megyn Kelly’s new talk show is part of NBC’s Today show and uses half of the Today show sunrise logo — but that makes the whole thing look like the North Face logo, as John Furstenthal points out. … Ray Hund sends along these photos of football, baseball and basketball board games from the 1930s.