It certainly isn’t a new revelation that Nike runs things in the AAU circles, but Steve Jones of the Courier-Journal broke it down at every angle with fascinating analysis. While the denials from Antonio Blakeney and his coaches won’t dissuade UofL fans from thinking that there are some shady things going on behind the scenes, you see how the Nike stranglehold is all but impossible to break. Starting next year, adidas will pay Louisville nearly $8 million annually – the third most of any school in the nation – but it won’t offset the decided disadvantage when it comes to the basketball recruiting pool.
Pitino said the Cardinals’ recruiting prospect pool shrinks because they’re sponsored by adidas instead of Nike. Asked this month if he thinks college coaches are displeased with the system, Pitino said with a laugh, “I’m sure the Nike coaches don’t feel that way because they’re winning the battle.”
A Courier-Journal review of college signings shows that Pitino might be right in suggesting it is difficult to break amateur affiliations among the highest-rated basketball prospects, even as those athletes say apparel companies have little or no sway on their decisions.
Many of the nation’s elite basketball players are members of Nike-sponsored club teams, and for a variety of reasons, those athletes have proven more likely to sign with a Nike-sponsored college program. Only when they reach the professional ranks — when a player may independently sign a shoe deal — do those connections begin to appear less predictable.