The Adidas trial got interesting on Wednesday when Thomas Gassnola, who worked for Adidas before this all blew up, testified about funneling money to player’s families.
He specifically named Arizona’s DeAndre Ayton, Billy Preston and Silvio DeSousa of Kansas, Louisville’s Brian Bowen and NC State’s Dennis Smith, Jr.
What’s intriguing to us about the way things seem to be developing is that, contrary to what we expected, it seems entirely plausible that the head coaches may not have known this happened (particular interesting in this sense is Rick Pitino, who was dismissed at Louisville, and Arizona’s Sean Miller, who ESPN reported had been wiretapped discussing paying Ayton. At some point that has to be addressed even if it’s just to officially refute it).
The heart of the case is that the universities were defrauded, apparently by getting them superior players.
It’s harder now to argue that the universities were defrauded but what has happened to the head coaches is much more interesting.
Prior to the trial’s revelations we would never have thought that major money could flow through a program without a head coach knowing it. Now though it seems clear that it has.
And consider this: the NCAA has clung to its idea of amateurism, arguing that despite enormous revenues from the NCAA tournament and the college football playoffs, there isn’t enough money to fund every sport a university offers.
There is so much money flowing through the sport now that it has simply bypassed the NCAA and until this all came up, it had no idea it had competition.
And how could it not? You can argue about many things. Only a fraction of NCAA players will be professionals, even overseas. A college education is a profoundly valuable thing, particularly for someone who grew up in poverty. All that’s true.
It’s also true that you can’t shut down or ignore markets. Americans learned this in the Prohibition era and again during the War on Drugs.
You can offer different kinds of compensation, but when the market is offering $100,000 just for the chance to sign a kid to a shoe contract, eventually, in some way, you will have to compete.
And by the way, it’s not just the NCAA that will have to compete.