Over the years, the nations’ brightest high school basketball prospects have publicly expressed the factors that go into the ultimate decision of declaring their school of choice. This often includes team history, academics, coaching staff, location and more. Today, which shoe company backs the school has been asserted as a viable influence that has garnered the attention of decorated college basketball coach, Rick Pitino. Pitino recently shared his displeasure at the growing influence of sneaker powerhouses (Pitino’s Louisville is backed by adidas) on the decisions of incoming college recruits. Yesterday, in response to the news that highly coveted recruit Antonio Blakeney (who currently plays for Nike-sponsored E1T1) had retracted his verbal commitment to Louisville, in favor of Kentucky, Missouri and LSU — all of which are sponsored by Nike, Pitino stated the considerable influence that shoe sponsorships have amassed in swaying college-bound athletes. Expressing his frustration Pitino stated, “What I personally don’t like is I can’t recruit a kid because he wears Nike on the AAU circuit… I never thought that shoes would be the reason that you recruit players but it’s a factor.” With Nike, adidas and other brands having a direct role in major school profit through apparel sales, it seems as if coaches and their recruiting staff are going to have to find ways to adjust to the new playing field. Full coverage of Pitino’s interview can be found here. The role of money is always been a contentious issue among collegiate sports, but it appears that there’s even more at stake including the court decision over the summer to allow NCAA players to be paid.
Feel free to share your take on the role of sneaker sponsorships in the world of college athletics in the comments section below.