Sonny Vaccaro saw it all during his years working for Nike, Adidas and Reebok and said he can believe college basketball players who say they have never met the agents and shoe companies their names are now tied to.
Too often, the retired shoe company executive said, people close to the athletes were cutting deals behind their backs.
In the two decades that he was involved with signing athletes to apparel deals, most athletes had no clue that deals were being cut behind their backs, Vaccaro told Courier Journal in a deeply reported story detailing the ways agents and shoe companies have teamed up for years to exploit college basketball players.
“Really? Most of the time if the parent was involved, I would get a ‘Well, Mr. Vaccaro, we really didn’t have a lot. And we didn’t think anything was wrong with that because Coach took care of me when I got there,’ or something like that.”
Bowen is the former Louisville player at the center of the FBI’s investigation into corruption in college basketball after Adidas employees and advisors allegedly conspired to bribe his family.
Ayton’s name became attached to the scandal when an ESPN report described a wiretapped conversation between Arizona head coach Sean Miller and agent Christian Dawkins discussing a similar plan to bribe the athlete.
And dozens of other college basketball players were linked to documents reportedly obtained by the FBI in a raid of the ASM Sports offices in September.
With agents and shoe companies standing to profit and colleges in the middle thanks to a one-and-done rule that “brought every sin of college basketball to the forefront,” the universities have become co-conspirators in these schemes, said Vaccaro, who signed Michael Jordan to Nike in the 1980s and started the ABCD camp that set the stage for today’s top-flight AAU tournaments and all-star events sponsored by shoe companies.
“The universities are now co-conspirators to everything that happens,” Vaccaro said. “… It’s a willing co-conspiracy. The shoe company wants to sell shoes. The university wants to win games so they get more money from the shoe company.”