If the shoe fits: Are recruits influenced by companies?

Tennessee basketball players wear adidas, left and right. Meanwhile, Vanderbilt's players, center, are outfitted by Nike.

Photo by News Sentinel

Tennessee basketball players wear adidas, left and right. Meanwhile, Vanderbilt's players, center, are outfitted by Nike.

Tennessee men's basketball coach Bruce Pearl tries not to ignore the brand of shoes potential recruits are wearing.

But Pearl, who has flown from one of the biggest recruiting events of the season in Las Vegas to another in Orlando, admits the shoes a high-profile prospect wears could be foretelling.

"When we look at that, unfortunately, it has become a part of the equation, no question,'' Pearl said. "adidas, Nike and Reebok, those three shoe companies dominate the basketball shoe industry and invest in AAU basketball.''

Those shoe companies also sponsor collegiate teams. And while it's not a lock that a high schooler playing for a Nike AAU-sponsored team will choose a Nike school, the influence shoe companies play in recruiting has been called into question more than once.

Most recently, top-10 recruiting prospect Josh Selby, who made a verbal commitment to attend UT in September, de-committed after attending LeBron James Nike camp.

The Vols are sponsored by adidas. Coincidence?

Pearl obviously can not talk about the specifics of any recruit, but he shared his philosophy on what's happening abroad in college basketball.

"The higher the profile of the student-athlete, the greater the attention they are going to be receiving at all levels,'' Pearl said. "It's like an investment (for the shoe companies). They want to make an investment and a year later, get rich.

"What happens is they see the potential for a one-and-done; a young man in college for one year, he's gonna be a millionaire in a very short period of time.''

College football players, facing a three-years rule, don't face that same issue.

"Less risk,'' Pearl said referring to high-profile college basketball prospects, "and great reward.''

The one-and-done phenomenon has enough pitfalls that Pearl said he'd prefer players spend a minimum of two years in college before being eligible for the NBA draft.

"I think two years would be a good compromise,'' Pearl said, adding that he believes the NBA Players Association is responsible for the current eligibility legislation.

Pearl was in the Milk House at Disney's Wide World of Sports for the Orlando tournament, hoping to get some leads for a UT recruiting class of 2010 that could swell to five.

UT has one commitment, shooting guard Jordan McRae out of Liberty County, Ga.

Aaron Craft, like Selby a point guard, de-committed from UT in early May.

Craft, however, said he de-committed to stay closer to home. Sure enough, Ohio State came calling and Craft is on his way to signing with the Buckeyes.

"This is going to be a big class for us, because we're going to graduate one of the best classes in UT basketball history,'' Pearl said. "Tyler Smith, Josh Tabb, Bobby Maze, Wayne Chism and J.P. Prince are the meat and potatoes of our program.

"Basketball had been a different animal than football, in terms of recruiting,'' Pearl said. "Basketball guys had committed and basically maintained their commitments. But that trend is changing.''

Must be the shoes.

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Comments » 36

vols14 writes:

1st

crimsonviper writes:

When i read the headline i was sure this was going to be about text book publishing companies influencing players.I'm getting a little too sensitive i guess.Time for bed.

ETownVol writes:

"It's the SHOES!" - Mars Blackman

oldsmokey67 writes:

guess tennessee needs to wear nike.plastic man is right look at willie kemp.what a flop.

beachvol1 writes:

It is really sad that the NCAA can't step in and do something about this stuff...Calipari has done it for yrs with no penalties..no doubt that WWW is hooked up with Nike and is paid obviously to steer these young men to the schools that sponsor the school...and don't think for one minute that he isn't compensated from the University he is working for plus the NBA, which is a joke...it is a shame that college basketball has lowered to these standards...what happened to the 70's or even the 80's to the sport that was fun to watch...

OrangeMandM writes:

All I know is Nike runs the sports wear world. Adidas just isn't in anymore. Our contract with Adidas ends in 2010 so we need to be giving Nike a call. Do what it takes.....

FWBVol writes:

I like Pearl's idea. I say you could even take it a step further similar to what baseball does, but with a little tweaking for basketball.

Let a kid go to junior college for one or two years before going pro, or if he goes to a 4-year school, after his third year.

That's just my take on that situation.

I do think it seems a lot like the school companies are influencing kids too much. If another "booster" tried to influence a kid in a similar manner the school would end up on probation.

USCJohn1999 writes:

Although Nike makes the best shoe, I don't think the maker of equipment should be the deciding factor in where a recruit should play. In regards to the "one and doner", I think the only way colleges can compete with that is if they have a strong tradition going for them. UNC, Duke, Indiana, UCLA and teams of those caliber can afford to "re-load" such talent because they are who they are. It's harder for Tennessee, Texas, Washington, and others because they really haven't proved anything on a consistent basis. It really hurts universities when they have these "O.J. Mayo-types" who only go to college just to say that they went to college for the one year needed to declare themselves for the NBA Draft. If they're going to leave early, the NCAA should make them pay the university the tuition wasted on them for the years they have left. For example, in O.J. Mayo's case, when he left SC after his freshman year, he should pay USC the cost of the 3 years he had left of tuition. Not only would this help universities compete with other schools by adding to their athletic facilities, but it could also make the kids who decide to leave early reconsider the benefits of a college education.
Thants my 2 cents.
What do you guys think?

OrangeMandM writes:

in response to USCJohn1999:

Although Nike makes the best shoe, I don't think the maker of equipment should be the deciding factor in where a recruit should play. In regards to the "one and doner", I think the only way colleges can compete with that is if they have a strong tradition going for them. UNC, Duke, Indiana, UCLA and teams of those caliber can afford to "re-load" such talent because they are who they are. It's harder for Tennessee, Texas, Washington, and others because they really haven't proved anything on a consistent basis. It really hurts universities when they have these "O.J. Mayo-types" who only go to college just to say that they went to college for the one year needed to declare themselves for the NBA Draft. If they're going to leave early, the NCAA should make them pay the university the tuition wasted on them for the years they have left. For example, in O.J. Mayo's case, when he left SC after his freshman year, he should pay USC the cost of the 3 years he had left of tuition. Not only would this help universities compete with other schools by adding to their athletic facilities, but it could also make the kids who decide to leave early reconsider the benefits of a college education.
Thants my 2 cents.
What do you guys think?

I agree 100%. The brand of equipment shouldn't matter, but it does. Nike is the dog everybody else is chasing. If it takes a Nike contract to get blue chippers in here then we should do it. If we don't, somebody will. I bet if you look at the NC in football and basketball the past 10 years or so, almost all of them are sponsered by Nike. Not saying Nike makes you play better or anything but we all would "wanna be like Mike"..lol. As for paying tuition... You d@mn right! I kinda wish they would make a kid at least go 3 years of college before he jets off. JMO

VolNWA writes:

in response to OrangeMandM:

I agree 100%. The brand of equipment shouldn't matter, but it does. Nike is the dog everybody else is chasing. If it takes a Nike contract to get blue chippers in here then we should do it. If we don't, somebody will. I bet if you look at the NC in football and basketball the past 10 years or so, almost all of them are sponsered by Nike. Not saying Nike makes you play better or anything but we all would "wanna be like Mike"..lol. As for paying tuition... You d@mn right! I kinda wish they would make a kid at least go 3 years of college before he jets off. JMO

Quick check over the past 12 years or so, first the NCs in Football:

97-Michigan: Nike
97-Nebraska: Adidas
98-Tennessee: Adidas
99-Florida State: Nike
00-Oklahoma: Nike
01-Miami: Nike
02-Ohio State: Nike
03-LSU: Nike
03-USC: Nike
04-USC: Nike
05-Texas: Nike
06-Florida
07-LSU: Nike
08-Florida

Men's Basketball:
95-UCLA: Addidas
96-Kentucky: Nike
97-Arizona: Nike
98-Kentucky: Nike
99-Connecticut: Nike
00-Michigan State: Nike
01-Duke:
02-Maryland: Under Armour (Currently--Nike then)

03-Syracuse: Nike
04-Connecticut: Nike
05-UNC: Nike
06-Florida: Nike
07-Florida: Nike
08-Kansas: Adidas
09-UNC: Nike

Volgrad777 writes:

duke us nike along with Florida too, thats pretty crazy.

Jillelumpkins writes:

in response to vols14:

1st

You're the first idiot. I hate you.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to USCJohn1999:

Although Nike makes the best shoe, I don't think the maker of equipment should be the deciding factor in where a recruit should play. In regards to the "one and doner", I think the only way colleges can compete with that is if they have a strong tradition going for them. UNC, Duke, Indiana, UCLA and teams of those caliber can afford to "re-load" such talent because they are who they are. It's harder for Tennessee, Texas, Washington, and others because they really haven't proved anything on a consistent basis. It really hurts universities when they have these "O.J. Mayo-types" who only go to college just to say that they went to college for the one year needed to declare themselves for the NBA Draft. If they're going to leave early, the NCAA should make them pay the university the tuition wasted on them for the years they have left. For example, in O.J. Mayo's case, when he left SC after his freshman year, he should pay USC the cost of the 3 years he had left of tuition. Not only would this help universities compete with other schools by adding to their athletic facilities, but it could also make the kids who decide to leave early reconsider the benefits of a college education.
Thants my 2 cents.
What do you guys think?

You make some good points, and I agree with your sentiments, but your idea about kids paying tuition for "the years they have left" ignores the fact that all scholarships are year-to-year, and can be, and often are, canceled by the school virtually at will. Although I would LOVE to see a rule where if a kid signs with a college, he has to stay three years, forcing him to pay tuition for future years he is not in attendance is an unreasonable penalty for leaving early, not to mention probably illegal.

OrangeMandM writes:

in response to VolNWA:

Quick check over the past 12 years or so, first the NCs in Football:

97-Michigan: Nike
97-Nebraska: Adidas
98-Tennessee: Adidas
99-Florida State: Nike
00-Oklahoma: Nike
01-Miami: Nike
02-Ohio State: Nike
03-LSU: Nike
03-USC: Nike
04-USC: Nike
05-Texas: Nike
06-Florida
07-LSU: Nike
08-Florida

Men's Basketball:
95-UCLA: Addidas
96-Kentucky: Nike
97-Arizona: Nike
98-Kentucky: Nike
99-Connecticut: Nike
00-Michigan State: Nike
01-Duke:
02-Maryland: Under Armour (Currently--Nike then)

03-Syracuse: Nike
04-Connecticut: Nike
05-UNC: Nike
06-Florida: Nike
07-Florida: Nike
08-Kansas: Adidas
09-UNC: Nike

Nice research. Like I said. Just look at all them swoosh symbols. Come June of 2010, look for UT to be signing with Nike... jmo

shoalcreekvol writes:

in response to beachvol1:

It is really sad that the NCAA can't step in and do something about this stuff...Calipari has done it for yrs with no penalties..no doubt that WWW is hooked up with Nike and is paid obviously to steer these young men to the schools that sponsor the school...and don't think for one minute that he isn't compensated from the University he is working for plus the NBA, which is a joke...it is a shame that college basketball has lowered to these standards...what happened to the 70's or even the 80's to the sport that was fun to watch...

Not "can't"....WON'T!

johnlg00 writes:

in response to shoalcreekvol:

Not "can't"....WON'T!

Exactly! Nike has the NCAA so deep in their pockets that I almost literally can't imagine what Nike would have to do for the NCAA to crack down on them in any way. With many of the other traditional advertisers of college sports hurting from the recession, Nike's total share of NCAA advertising revenue has probably gone through the roof. Like I said in an earlier post, Nike is the Microsoft of the sports apparel industry, too big in the sports world to be disciplined in any meaningful way.

OrangeMandM writes:

in response to johnlg00:

Exactly! Nike has the NCAA so deep in their pockets that I almost literally can't imagine what Nike would have to do for the NCAA to crack down on them in any way. With many of the other traditional advertisers of college sports hurting from the recession, Nike's total share of NCAA advertising revenue has probably gone through the roof. Like I said in an earlier post, Nike is the Microsoft of the sports apparel industry, too big in the sports world to be disciplined in any meaningful way.

And all this is why we need them on our side...

murrayvol writes:

in response to VolNWA:

Quick check over the past 12 years or so, first the NCs in Football:

97-Michigan: Nike
97-Nebraska: Adidas
98-Tennessee: Adidas
99-Florida State: Nike
00-Oklahoma: Nike
01-Miami: Nike
02-Ohio State: Nike
03-LSU: Nike
03-USC: Nike
04-USC: Nike
05-Texas: Nike
06-Florida
07-LSU: Nike
08-Florida

Men's Basketball:
95-UCLA: Addidas
96-Kentucky: Nike
97-Arizona: Nike
98-Kentucky: Nike
99-Connecticut: Nike
00-Michigan State: Nike
01-Duke:
02-Maryland: Under Armour (Currently--Nike then)

03-Syracuse: Nike
04-Connecticut: Nike
05-UNC: Nike
06-Florida: Nike
07-Florida: Nike
08-Kansas: Adidas
09-UNC: Nike

Did the UF football team not wear shoes in 06' and 08'? Looks like the nod goes to Nike over Addidas.....with a swoosh.

And Reebok has work to do.

murrayvol writes:

in response to johnlg00:

Exactly! Nike has the NCAA so deep in their pockets that I almost literally can't imagine what Nike would have to do for the NCAA to crack down on them in any way. With many of the other traditional advertisers of college sports hurting from the recession, Nike's total share of NCAA advertising revenue has probably gone through the roof. Like I said in an earlier post, Nike is the Microsoft of the sports apparel industry, too big in the sports world to be disciplined in any meaningful way.

Too big to "flail"?

VolunteerLifer writes:

The idea that shoe brands make a difference on where a player goes to school is idiotic. If the NCAA can't step in and end these practices, then what good is having an NCAA?

oldsmokey67 writes:

voice of treason you are a joke.calimari dip and bruce pearl are even in head to head matchups.pearl is 2-2 against him.with pearl having the more lopsided win.

oldsmokey67 writes:

figures turdheel the memphis loser is here.

oldsmokey67 writes:

anyone that bases success on how many five star players a team gets is a idiot.how many five stars did billy d have in his title years.5-6 maybe.and he only beat pearl 1 time.how pathetic.we will sweep his sorry team again this year.yeah he hung 2 banners.he could'nt beat the vols.still can't.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to murrayvol:

Too big to "flail"?

Good one, MV!

johnlg00 writes:

in response to VolunteerLifer:

The idea that shoe brands make a difference on where a player goes to school is idiotic. If the NCAA can't step in and end these practices, then what good is having an NCAA?

Why is it idiotic? Shoe companies invite guys to their camps where all the top coaches can see them, pay their expenses to attend, and at least lead them to believe--with a wink-and-a-nod, if not more overtly--that they will get a huge endorsement contract after their one-season visit to the college of, er, the shoe company's choice. The shoe companies probably don't tell kids that they must go a particular school, but you can bet they strongly suggest that it would be in the kid's interest to go to a school the company sponsors. In the light of all the above, I really can't answer your question about what the NCAA is good for these days!

oldsmokey67 writes:

Plus Selby is a point Guard.The only way he see's the court is if John Wall is hurt or needs a rest.Two point guards with ego's.that will be fun to watch.I just don't see them two getting along in kentucky.

VolNWA writes:

in response to murrayvol:

Did the UF football team not wear shoes in 06' and 08'? Looks like the nod goes to Nike over Addidas.....with a swoosh.

And Reebok has work to do.

My bad. Florida wears the evil Nike swoosh in football too.

vol88 writes:

Canvas hightop Converse All-Stars, Chuck Taylor Autograph.

Nuff said, lol.

Colliervol writes:

in response to A_VOICE_OF_REASON:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

And your hero has landed where? Ah yes, Appy State at last count. Maybe you should move to Boone and set up a shrine.

The last I checked it took Calipari five years at Memphis to get to the same point Pearl did in about two. How about let's judge Pearl after he's had 8 or 9 years (same as the smarmy one had at Memphis) before we make a fair judgement. Personally, the only thing Calipari has shown me is that he's the first coach with the "character" to get not one but TWO programs stripped of a Final Four appearance.

To try to show Calipari as a saint in this cesspool of a mess is an absolute joke and all it shows is your bias and agenda about Bruce Pearl. Give it a rest, nobody cares anymore. When BP starts losing, we'll worry. Till then, not so much. End of discussion.

Colliervol writes:

in response to TarHeelRules:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

"Father figure". Surely you jest. Typical half-hearted try at an insult when you have nothing else to go on.

This is simple really. You have presented NOTHING that shows that Bruce Pearl is not the coach that has turned the UT program from a doormat and annual also-ran into a viable competitor to be in the SEC title chase and the NCAA tournament every year. And, at UT, that's all we are going to ask. UT is a football school and always will be. But it has shown it will support a basketball program that plays with excitement and wins more than it loses. Some of you dummies expect BP to put up John Wooden numbers or he just isn't a good coach. Sorry, I hate to clue you in but it doesn't work that way anymore. He's done a good job turning this program around and that's all a long time Vol fan gives a darn about.

Colliervol writes:

in response to A_VOICE_OF_REASON:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Never agreed with you on much of anything but on this one, we absolutely do. Like the old O'Jay's song: "MONEY, MONEY, MONEY, MONEY"..... The Mean Green. And if you worship NCAA basketball in it's current format, that is a sad commentary on your belief system. Just look deeper at what's going on. You'll figure it out.

Colliervol writes:

Last comment and have to go. Note to the KNS:

Congratulations on turning this site into one that is infested with biased dimwits, trolls, and illiterate know-nothings. (Some folks qualify in all three categories.) Your lack of policing the rants has run off just about all the good, old time posters and I don't get on here as much as I used to because the comments turn into the same old drivel every single time. Don't even have to read them to know what's going to be said by the same old goofy residents. I've been on here since its inception and have never gone anyplace else for discussion. That is about to change. (Just had a little surgery and have some time to play.) I am going to find a place where Vol fans can go to intelligently agree and disagree about this program and not have to put up with a bunch of trolls and off-topic, hate-spewing, agenda-laced tripe. Sad what you've turned this site into. It was pretty good when it was a pay site but you screwed that up royally when you allowed all the lunch buckets that couldn't afford $4.00 a month to come in here. Been fun but all good things must come to an end. Changing to the Ignore Comments mode as we speak.

samvol writes:

its insane to think that an NBA scout is going to pass up a good player because of the type of shoe he is wearing or which college they attended. The SEC is a national forum and each player will have an equal opprunity to prove themselves to be good enough to play at the next level. and i highly doubt that any player will pass up any endorsement deal, addids, nike, reebok or koolaid for that matter. Let Shelby go.....

Slystone writes:

Anyone know why Pearl is not recruiting Casey Prathers out of Jackson,Tn area? Check out this short piece on him:

After averaging just more than 20 points per game in the adidas Super 64 event, four-star forward Casey Prather picked up an offer from Florida to go along with offers from Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Memphis, Michigan, Minnesota, Ole Miss, Vanderbilt, Virginia and Wake Forest. Ahhh... no offer from UT? The schools offering appear to be fairly good schools with excellent basketball programs.

Vol_Jokes writes:

I hear the Vols are close to signing an agreement with Payless Shoe Source.

CollieVol still up to trying hard to find comparisons between a great team the last 5 years (Memphis) and ...the vols. His top line is that Pearl won more in his first 2 seasons that Cal did. Give me a break. If that's the best you can come up with, that's sad.
What has Pearl done for you lately other than drain UT's bank account?
Why don't you add up the wins that Cal had vs the number of wins Pearl has at UT for the same number of years. It seems all you can compare the vols to are the early years when we were still developing on the way to being one of the best teams. Those are the only years the vols can compare to. If you want to continue that argument Pearl better have some great years in the next 3 or 4 years. You think he's gonna win an NIT, 3 elite 8's, final 4, championship game......?

johnlg00 writes:

in response to Vol_Jokes:

I hear the Vols are close to signing an agreement with Payless Shoe Source.

CollieVol still up to trying hard to find comparisons between a great team the last 5 years (Memphis) and ...the vols. His top line is that Pearl won more in his first 2 seasons that Cal did. Give me a break. If that's the best you can come up with, that's sad.
What has Pearl done for you lately other than drain UT's bank account?
Why don't you add up the wins that Cal had vs the number of wins Pearl has at UT for the same number of years. It seems all you can compare the vols to are the early years when we were still developing on the way to being one of the best teams. Those are the only years the vols can compare to. If you want to continue that argument Pearl better have some great years in the next 3 or 4 years. You think he's gonna win an NIT, 3 elite 8's, final 4, championship game......?

Tiresome as it is to read your stuff and respond to you, I really can't let this one go. You don't really mean "add up the number of wins Cal has had vs the number of wins Pearl has at UT FOR THE SAME NUMBER OF YEARS[emphasis added]", you mean compare the records over the LAST FOUR YEARS, when Calapari was in his, what, sixth through tenth year, and Pearl was in his FIRST FOUR. Because if you mean to compare what EACH did in his first four years, you are simply wrong if you think Calapari was better. UM didn't even get INTO the NCAA in Calapari's first four years.

Why is it not valid to compare Pearl's record in his first four years at UT to Calapari's record in HIS first four years at UM? Would you argue that UT's program was further advanced when Pearl arrived than UM's was when Calapari arrived? If so, on what basis? UM had already had a couple of eras in which it had more success than any UT has reached so far. Besides, even with the SEC being down the last couple of years, surely not even you would argue that Conference-USA was a better conference. (Oh, wait; deluded as you are, you really MIGHT think that(;-P)!)

I surely agree that Pearl has some way to go to get UT to the same heights UM reached under Calapari but Pearl's story hasn't been fully told yet. We'll see if his record over the NEXT four years continues to improve. It may well not; I for one am still not completely sold on Pearl getting us to that "next level" but he has done fairly well so far--better by any measure than Calapari did in HIS first four years at UM. Either way, you will still be a ignorant troll whose favorite team's best days are behind it.

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