The ongoing FBI investigation into amateur basketball — the same one that led to the downfall of Louisville coach Rick Pitino — may have an intriguing new development connected with one of the feel-good stories of the Class of 2018.
When New Albany (Ind.) five-star basketball recruit Romeo Langford committed to Indiana, he was hailed as a hometown loyalist who wanted to bring success back home rather than chase it afar. According to the Washington Post, his commitment may have been connected to Adidas’ sponsorship of the AAU team run by his father. The paper cites extensive interviews with Pitino, who once was a major recruiter of Langford, as well as other sneaker executives connected with Adidas’ youth basketball operations.
“The way they phrased it, it was whoever [shoe company] was going to pay the dad’s AAU program the most money, gets it,” Pitino told the Washington Post.
The Adidas league launched a new team, Twenty Two Vision, with Langford’s father, Tim, as team director and Romeo as point guard.
Then, in April came this Tweet from the team’s account, @twentytwovision:
If that feels a bit fishy, it probably is. For his part, the elder Langford adamantly denied receiving any financial benefit from the arrangement with Adidas — “It wasn’t about money for us. Our son . . . his time will come if he stays blessed and stays healthy,” he told the Post — but he then repeatedly ducked contact from Post reporters.
In fact, a deeper dive makes it appear that Adidas has worked diligently to ensure it was best positioned to land Langford when the time came to choose a college. The brand was the first to offer New Albany a shoe deal, stepping forward in 2016 with Langford was a sophomore.
What the company then went through to keep in front of Langford is nothing short of monumental: secretive meetings with coaches like Pitino, a coveted place in the company’s top spring hoops division for a new team managed by Langford’s father, paying the sponsorship fees for that team to a not-for-profit to keep the Langfords’ name away from the direct revenue (to protect Romeo Langford from additional NCAA oversight).