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If The Shoe Fits...

Wetzel has been researching shoe companies and their influence on the game,

and he has a book to plug called Sole Influence. Apparently it's
not a pretty picture. You may have read a suggestion here a while back that the
shoe companies could almost influence basketball from 12 year olds to the
NBA. We wonder why they didn't buy the CBA and start placing high school
kids in it, as a development league. Clearly, though, the most alarming
developments are in AAU ball, where fast money and the ability to hustle players
up is making ex crack dealers powerful king makers. Witness the now-notorious
Myron Piggie and Curtis
Malone, who heads D.C. Assault
, an unfortunate name for a city with a major
crime problem. We didn't realize that Nike now sponsors the AAU.

Malone, to be fair, comes across as a guy riding a conflict but with some
feeling for kids at least, but he's still locked in the system.

While the NCAA is meeting today to discuss the situation, here's a quick and
straightforward solution: working with the coaches assocation and the
President's group, require every shoe contract signed to have a clause which
holds the shoe companies to certain standards. For instance, if they give money
to a felon, or support an AAU team which actively breaks NCAA rules, their NCAA
contracts are null and void and they can't sign with another NCAA team for
a set period of time, say three years.

Certification, in a word. To keep the coaches happy, the contract could
require full payment regardless of length of time.

If a deal like that is in place, it will force the shoe companies to police
the ranks, and allow the NCAA to enforce some common sense rules.

To be fair, the NCAA has to look at how it does business. It's increasingly
hard to say you have a 6 billion dollar contract for amateur athletes with a
straight face. They do have something that nascent rivals like the minor
leagues don't have, at least not in the same way, with a college
education. Somehow the word needs to get out that there are about a
million high school players and only 11 jobs on every NBA team. Education
is the NCAA's ally, but they seem reluctant to really use it at times.
That's a pity.

Anyway, the book sounds like a good read and an important one as well.