March Madness: How the shoe company influence has been neutralized


For about 40 years Nike and Adidas ran college basketball. They sponsored the teams. They paid the coaches. They stocked the rosters … via everything from running vast grassroots systems in order to identify and control recruits to flat out paying players to sign with their preferred “blue blood” programs.

Their top teams, not surprisingly, dominated the game in general and March Madness in particular.

The last couple Final Fours suggest Nike’s and Adidas’ influence over the on-court results may be waning, at least to the extremes of the past.

A year after a Final Four with three first-time participants (Florida Atlantic, Miami, San Diego State) here comes three more who either have never been (Alabama), or are ending lengthy drought that date to 1983 (North Carolina State) and 1980 (Purdue). Each of them were constructed in ways that wouldn’t have made sense even five years ago.

Connecticut, meanwhile, is back and looking for consecutive national champions, but despite a Nike deal, it has never had the shoe company lean in heavily to do its recruiting. Under Dan Hurley, like Jim Calhoun before him, the Huskies are a product of intense coaching and culture as much as anything.

It begs a question, did the confluence of NIL, the FBI and the transfer portal combine to finally break the decades-long stronghold Nike and Adidas had on college basketball?

“It’s nothing like it was,” said one connected basketball middle man. “The shoe companies have become second fiddle to NIL thinking.”

“Way less influence than pre-NIL,” said one college coach.

Nike and Adidas have spent millions in an effort to funnel talent to its preferred college basketball programs, including a reported 10-year, $160 million deal between Adidas and Louisville in 2017. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)

Establishing the pipeline

In 1977, a Nike consultant named Sonny Vaccaro offered then UNLV coach Jerry Tarkanian free sneakers and a $2,000 contract if he would make sure his teams wore the…

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Author : Yahoo Sports

Publish date : 2024-04-02 15:56:35

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