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Pump It Up!

If you follow recruiting even casually, you've heard of the Pump brothers,
Dana and David, and their various enterprises. They have raised hackles
over the years with various endeavors, but their latest, offering a
headhunting/consulting service, has some people seriously spooked.

Since they are so thoroughly involved with the high school basketball meat
market scene, and have a lucrative relationship with adidas, a lot of folks are
concerned about the potential for abuse.

But let's look at some of the critics in this
L.A. Times piece:

Nike consultant Jim Calhoun, who scheduled an exhibition game with the AAU
organization that Rudy Gay played for before he signed with UConn, says "[t]he word 'interesting' comes to
mind...It's nothing against Dana and David — I get along with them very well — but it seems to me if I were in an athletic director's position, I think I would have a much better feel for who would fit in my coaching world, my academic world, my social world, the whole culture you have at the institution."

The slippery AAU bit aside, the culture at UConn has come in for some
"interesting" ethical probing. Among other things, Calhoun, the
A.D., Randy Edsall, and women's coach Geno Auriemma have been trading comp cars
for tickets.

It's a slicker way to scalp, essentially - much like another business the
Pumps were in, buying tickets for the Final Four for resale. Although many
believe they bought from coaches and athletic directors, who aren't supposed to
sell them, the Pumps deny that.

One wonders if Calhoun would be as concerned if the Pumps were

Dan Wetzel, who used to work for an And1-owned Web site where he fired off
salvos about the shoe wars and other shoe companies, questions whether it is
appropriate for the Pumps to have a relationship with adidas - that it's a
conflict in interest, in other words.

Somewhat like being employed by a subsidiary of a shoe company and writing
about the shoe wars perhaps?

Is it possible to work for a subsidiary of a shoe company and honestly
criticize other shoe companies? We'd argue yes. It just wasn't the best place to
make the argument, and certainly leaves one open to criticism.

Sonny Vacarro, who basically invented the shoe business as it relates to
basketball, and then the shoe wars by going from Nike to adidas to Reebok, calls
the payment to the Pumps "preposterous."

"Don't tell me Tennessee needed someone to tell them Bruce Pearl was a qualified coach after this guy was the darling of America on
TV," Vacarro told the Times. "Twenty-five thousand? It's like a gift."

Now honestly. Sonny Vacarro has spent at least fifteen years justifying
what he does for a living, arguing at times that he just likes kids and wants to
help out (never mind that the kids he wants most to help are ranked in the Top
10), and at other times making strong arguments that what he does is free
enterprise and that the NCAA shouldn't restrict it.

The fact that the Pumps are adidas-affiliated, and that contracts - and just
as importantly, campers - could move to adidas - well, isn't this just his
argument for free enterprise all over?

Look, we don't have much time for the Pumps, or for many people involved in
the development of young basketball players. The amount of money
involved is simply staggering. AAU teams with hot prospects get huge
deals. Coaches get multi-million dollar deals. LeBron James gets far
more money from his shoe contract than he does from the Cavaliers. The
NCAA funds an enormous amount of the association on the income from the billion
dollars CBS has paid for the rights to the NCAA Tournament.

So if there is any one truth about the current state of basketball, it's
this: money rules.

If Calhoun can swap tickets for cars and schedule an exhibition game (and the
contractual revenue the organization got) with an AAU team starring a kid he was
involved with, and Vacarro can move in on middle school kids with the hopes of
steering talent to Reebok later, why can't the Pumps cash in?

There's really no point in trying to overhaul the system, because there is
too much money and too much competition for same. Reform is pointless,
frankly. It needs to be replaced.

The NCAA, the NBA, the AAU, TV, the shoe companies, and some representation of high schools need to sit down and manage the whole big, stinking mess. Just get everyone their cut of the oink-oink, and then find a logical way to help kids who have real potential develop it, and help those who aren't going to get rich playing basketball get a decent education.