Reported adidas Deal With Andrew Wiggins Sets Precedent Very High

Posted by David Harten on October 17th, 2013

According to various media reports on Tuesday, adidas is already stocking up to make a play on current Kansas star Andrew Wiggins, with the shoe giant ready to the throw a 10-year, $140 to $180 million contract at him when he goes pro after this season. Wiggins is widely touted as the top prospect in the 2014 NBA Draft, so let’s move past any issues or claims of amateurism and instead look at the how and why of this supposed deal. Looking at the immediate future, when Wiggins is selected in the first round of the draft next June, he will get the guaranteed four-year contract that comes with selection as a first round pick, per the NBA’s recent collective bargaining agreement. Breaking it down to a simple annual take of salary ($4 million-plus per year) plus endorsements, Wiggins will make a minimum of $18-$22 million per year beginning next summer, assuming of course that he lives up to the overflowing hype while passing through Lawrence.

Why Is This Man Smiling? Nine Figures Waiting Helps

Why Is This Man Smiling? Nine Figures Waiting For Him Helps

For comparison’s sake, let’s look at some of the more lucrative endorsement deals offered to young professional basketball prospects in the last decade. It’s tough to find a good benchmark, but you have to start with LeBron James’ deal with Nike in 2003, which was reportedly worth over $90 million at the time. In terms of one-year collegiate wonders, Kevin Durant signed a seven-year, $60 million deal with Nike when he came out of Texas, and lest we forget, Derrick Rose signed a monster “lifetime” (actual: 14-year) contract with adidas last year worth $260 million.

And yet, none of those deals are as important as the one that Wiggins could reportedly sign. There are certain number of factors that go into it. First, a company being publicly locked and loaded with such a deal (of course, neither adidas nor Wiggins can confirm it) could set off a behind-the-scenes bidding war and set the stage for preemptive moves like this in the future. Everyone around the game knows that the business of basketball begins when top players are still in the AAU ranks. With the shoe companies having such deep and prolific roots in the summer circuits and associations with the major prep schools, it’s easy to understand how and why many players are predestined for adidas, Nike, Reebok, and so forth from the beginning. Kansas is an adidas school. Wouldn’t it make sense for Wiggins to represent the shoe company on the court this season with such a tremendous payoff waiting for him in the wings? Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA, Dream Vision and adidas all say hello.

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Why the NCAA Could be Taking a Huge Risk in the Ed O’Bannon Suit

Posted by Chris Johnson on September 27th, 2013

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

It wasn’t so long ago that we discussed the possibility of former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon and his group of plaintiffs being granted class certification by U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken in their lawsuit against the NCAA, Electronic Arts and the Collegiate Licensing Company. Thursday’s news forced a revision of that statement. The lawsuit now counts one defendant: that four letter institution we love to hate, the NCAA. Hours after EA announced it would no longer manufacture its popular college football video game, the video game company and CLC announced a settlement of a wide swath of cases brought against them by former players. The settlements, according to reports, will result in between 200,000 and 300,000 players receiving compensation for the previous use of their likenesses. Current players could also be in line to receive compensation, though it is unclear whether accepting money would compromise their eligibility. It is believed EA’s decision to cancel its production of NCAA Football – and thus dissociate itself from its sticky and laughably contrived argument that player likenesses were not modeled after real-life human characteristics (even after SB Nation discovered the use of former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow’s name in virtual playbooks designed by EA for its NCAA Football ’10 game) – was a preemptive move to eliminate the possibility of “damages” against current student-athletes, whose likenesses would have been used in the game.

The settlements reached by EA and CLC makes the O'Bannon case a one-on-one legal battle with the NCAA (AP Photo).

The settlements reached by EA and CLC makes the O’Bannon case a one-on-one legal battle with the NCAA (AP Photo).

That leaves the NCAA – who according to a USA Today report Thursday, is beefing up its legal team with the intention of fighting its case all the way to the Supreme Court – as the lone defendant. If the NCAA is truly bent on embarking on a long, drawn-out, high-profile legal battle, it risks not only having to pay billions of dollars to current and former players. It won’t have any say in when it must make those payments. O’Bannon and his plaintiffs, in other words, could be entitled to massive sums over a compressed time period after the trial. That’s a risk the NCAA appears willing to take, given its reported hiring of powerful attorneys. But is that a wise strategy? Or should the NCAA take EA and CLC’s lead and try to negotiate a settlement? We probably won’t find out until Wilken decides whether to certify O’Bannon’s class – which, according to legal experts, is likely to be the case. What’s interesting about EA and CLC’s decision to settle is the implicit message it sends – that the class is likely to be certified, and that cutting their losses now and reaching a deal before making themselves liable to much, much larger payments in a class action suit was the most prudent move available. It almost seems as if EA and CLC saw the writing on the wall. Another interesting part of this settlement comes from Sports Illustrated legal analyst Michael McCann, who suggests O’Bannon and his plaintiffs are “likely demanding information that would help them advance legal claims against the NCAA. A settlement with EA and CLC, in other words, makes one with the NCAA more likely.”

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Understanding the Key Difference Between Dez Wells’ and Michael Dixon’s Transfer Cases

Posted by Chris Johnson on September 5th, 2013

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

When Dez Wells was cleared to play for Maryland last season after transferring from Xavier without sitting out the customary holdover year, a precedent was set. A player accused of sexual assault and expelled from his former university not only bypassed legal prosecution entirely – he managed to cut through the NCAA’s thorny web of restrictions to earn a waiver and essentially forward his college hoops career without missing a beat, unencumbered by the questionable circumstances surrounding his departure. Wells was painted as the victim of a false accusation; when the NCAA heard his request, it was sympathetic to the impassioned backing of a local prosecutor who publicly blasted Xavier school brass for unfairly bringing down the iron fist on Wells. There was also the suspicion, true or not, that Xavier was using Wells to demonstrate its hardline stance against sexual impropriety on campus, an issue the university had received no small measure of scrutiny for in the months leading up to the Wells incident. The whole saga – which, thanks to Wells recently filing a lawsuit seeking damages for Xavier’s allegedly specious expulsion of him, continues to percolate in the backdrop to the sophomore guard’s burgeoning stardom at Maryland – seemed nebulous and sinister and sketchy. It was a unique case, and it lay the groundwork for yesterday’s news from CBS Sports columnist and Memphis hoops informant Garry Parrish that former Missouri guard Michael Dixon – suspended and dismissed from the Tigers last November after a second allegation of sexual assault – had been granted a waiver to play right away this season.

It's important to understand the differences between Dixon's situation and Wells' (Getty Images).

It’s important to understand the differences between Dixon’s situation and Wells’ (Getty Images).

All summer, as people speculated about Dixon’s chances of being cleared to play, they pointed optimistically to Wells’ case – as if the same logic absolving Wells of potential NCAA punishment would lead to Dixon being granted the final season of college hoops he no doubt wanted to play. That’s how case law, the legal philosophy underpinning the American judicial system, works. A precedent is set and similar cases are adjudicated in a manner compatible with previous decisions. It’s the general idea here, too, but there’s one crucial distinction between Dixon’s and Wells’ cases that everyone seems to be glossing over. Wells, like Dixon, eluded a criminal charge, but he was also defended loudly and bombasitcally by a local prosecutor. Reasoned legal officials were behind him the whole way, blasting Xavier for what looked like school administrators using a high profile student-athlete to prove, once and for all (even if it meant overstretching their punitive reach), that sexual malfeasance would not be tolerated on Xavier’s campus. Wells was defended vehemently and unconvincingly – it was impossible not to get the impression, given the reaction from court officials, that Xavier had overstepped its bounds.  Then there’s Dixon, who – let’s be clear – likewise avoided criminal punishment. Here’s the key point of delineation: After Dixon was kicked off the team in November, Missouri officials did not speak fondly of (and certainly never came to his defense) Dixon’s conduct when interested schools came calling about the possibility of adding Dixon for his senior season. One unnamed Division I head coach, in fact, told ESPN’s Jason King in June that Tigers’ athletic director Mike Alden “shredded him [Dixon] to my AD.” Meanwhile, law enforcement was notably silent on the matter – neither condoning nor speaking out against Missouri’s decision to dismiss Dixon.

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Congressional Bill Could Accelerate Movement For NCAA Change

Posted by Chris Johnson on August 6th, 2013

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

The scent of change lingers thick in NCAA territory these days. Major conference athletic directors have spoken about the possible creation of a new “Division 4” that would allow a subset of larger Division I leagues to operate under a different governance structure than their small-school counterparts. The Ed O’Bannon lawsuit threatens to undercut the NCAA’s decades-old adherence to amateurism. Shady tactics and egregious errors in enforcement made during the NCAA’s high-profile investigation of the Nevin Shapiro scandal at Miami have been laid bare by various publications. Experienced enforcement staffers are leaving in droves. A new lawsuit alleging a lack of accountability for student-athlete concussions in contact sports has inspired a new strain of ethical debate. Put simply, the NCAA is beset on all sides by various philosophical and legal attacks; a breaking point feels imminent. Over the next year or so, something – whether a massive development in the O’Bannon case, a formal establishment of a new NCAA subdivision, or some other major change – is going to happen. The NCAA cannot exist in its current state. This is widely accepted and rarely denied.

Congress's involvement could force the NCAA's hand on a number of resisted structural revisions

Now Congress wants a say in the matter. Last Thursday, House members Charles Dent and Joyce Beatty introduced The National Collegiate Athletics Accountability Act. The act contains a number of powerful regulations, but the main points can be pared down to the following four: 1) a guarantee of four-year scholarships in contact sports (which, per the legislation’s definition, include the following: boxing, field hockey, ice hockey, football, lacrosse, soccer, martial arts, wrestling and rodeo), eliminating the potential for schools to revoke one-year, renewable grants-in-aid on the basis of injury, skill, or sheer whim (i.e., no more runoffs) – a practice more than one third of the nation’s most powerful athletic programs have yet to abolish, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education; 2) permission for schools to extend cost-of-living stipends to student-athletes; 3) requiring concussion tests for all sports, both contact and limited-contact; 4) formalizing “due process” guidelines for schools and players found to have violated NCAA rules, including an appeals process and administrative hearings. A failure to meet any of these requirements would result in a loss of Title IX funding, which provides institutions with billions of dollars annually.

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College Basketball Players’ Non-participation in the O’Bannon Case Makes Sense

Posted by Chris Johnson on July 22nd, 2013

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

At a June class action hearing, federal judge Claudia Wilken instructed plaintiffs in the Ed O’Bannon lawsuit against the NCAA to amend their complaint to include one or multiple current student-athletes. The thinking was that by adding a current student-athlete, Wilken would be more inclined to grant class certification to include both former and current players. This is a crucial distinction. If Wilken certifies the class to include only former athletes, the prosecution’s case turns into a smaller and less-damaging suit about the uncompensated use of likenesses in video games. Including current-athletes would broaden the issue to an argument of whether student-athletes are entitled to a cut of the massive broadcast rights revenues generated by athletic conferences and their constituent member institutions. Last week, six current athletes added their names to the 16 former athletes arguing O’Bannon’s case, and all of them, curiously enough, were college football players. College basketball players were mysteriously absent.

The absence of college basketball players could hurt the plaintiffs' cause.

The absence of college basketball players could hurt the plaintiffs’ cause.

That was the first impression after hearing the names of the six student-athletes who, in standing up to the organization that governs (and disputably so) their athletic performance, volunteered to publicly voice their discontent with college sports’ status quo. If football players were willing to challenge the NCAA, why weren’t basketball players eager to make the same stand? Were there not enough players willing to risk denigration and public ridicule for the sake of fair compensation in collegiate athletics? Was the realization of near-term legal responsibility and distant financial reward too weak an incentive to incite participation? Was the fear – even after the NCAA’s written promise against it– of retribution so unnerving? According to Sports Illustrated legal analyst Michael McCann, all of the above is probably the best explanation.

According to a source close to O’Bannon’s legal team, several college basketball players communicated interest in joining the suit. After some consideration, however, the players thought otherwise. Parents of those players, in particular, expressed concerns about the potential for retribution by the NCAA, specifically that negative information might surface that might impact the player’s draft status and corresponding rookie NBA contract.


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The EA-NCAA Split is Small But Telling News

Posted by Chris Johnson on July 19th, 2013

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

The NCAA is scared. No really, it is. Wouldn’t you feel the same way if, say, a massive class-action lawsuit with the potential to utterly shatter the fundamental method by which you govern and profit off college sports was knocking at the door? There’d be some fear in there, I’m fairly certain. That doomsday scenario is exactly the situation the NCAA could face as soon as this summer, when U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken is expected to grant class certification to a group of plaintiffs accusing the NCAA of not only price-fixing amateur athletes’ free-market oriented, competitive economic entitlements, but withholding the millions of dollars in TV and video game revenue schools, conferences and the organization itself reaps in each and every year. A storm is coming, and the NCAA is beginning to feel the heat. That’s probably an understatement. “Preparing for life without amateurism,” the utter silliness and dubious origin and antiquated nature of which is a different column for a different day, is probably closer to what the NCAA is thinking right now.

The end of EA and the NCAA's lucrative video game partnership is only half of the story.

The end of a lucrative video game partnership is only half of the story.

How do I know the NCAA is scared? Because when it does things like disassociate itself from one of the stickiest points of the massive lawsuit holding its head in the proverbial guillotine, you just know. That is, in essence, is what the NCAA did Wednesday night, when it announced it would no longer sponsor EA Sports’ famous NCAA Football video games. The move makes intuitive sense. Ed O’Bannon’s eponymous legal atom bomb began as a suit against the NCAA and EA Sports challenging the uncompensated use of student-athletes’ likenesses in video games. The case has since evolved to include current and former athletes who want a share of not only the revenue generated by video games, but also – as mentioned above – the conference realignment-driving, bank account-defying, laughably-defended TV contracts negotiated with member schools and conferences. The NCAA can’t afford to cut loose with the meatier part of the suit – the massive media rights revenues to be seized and, depending on your idea of what a new college sports world order could look like, distributed (at least in part) to the student-athletes who make those revenues possible in the first place. That part of the suit is in Wilken’s hands. The dispute over the properly compensated use of likenesses is baked in there, too, but the NCAA – up until Wednesday night – could (and did) at least make the prudent move to divorce itself from its longtime video game partner, lose a few dollars in the exchange and emerge fiscally solvent on the back end provided the other finer points of the lawsuit – namely, the class action dagger threatening to puncture amateurism’s aortic valve – fall short of unraveling the organization’s overarching economic model.

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The Next Step Of The Ed O’Bannon NCAA Trial Is Upon Us

Posted by Chris Johnson on June 20th, 2013

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

The anatomic framework of college sports as we know it hangs in the balance Thursday, June 20, in the much-anticipated class-action hearing of the landmark Ed O’Bannon trial. Sports trials rarely come this big, or this potentially transformative, and by the time we’re all through here – we’ve still got a long ways to go, mind you – amateur athletics could bear zero resemblance, or very little, to the way it operates today. There is a lot on the line. Thursday’s courtroom meeting, wherein plaintiffs arguing on O’Bannon’s behalf will attempt to have their suit class-action certified by Judge Claudia Wilken, probably won’t render a conclusive verdict. The back-and-forth arguments will merely serve as pieces of evidence in the larger evolution of the case, and if one side’s platform is strong enough at Thursday’s gathering, Wilken could issue a ruling. But she probably won’t, which means we still have time to discuss the pawns involved, what’s at stake, the philosophical and legal implications at hand, and the likelihood college athletics could be completely made over sometime within the next few years.

Getting Wilken to rule in favor of class-certification would put O'Bannon and his plaintiffs in the driver's seat in this critical case (Getty).

Getting Wilken to rule in favor of class-certification would put O’Bannon and his plaintiffs in the driver’s seat in this critical case (Getty).

Before we get started, I’d be remiss if I didn’t throw out one probably unpopular but incredibly important fact: The NCAA isn’t about to vanish into thin air. Mark Emmert’s opaquely tangled amazon of rules and bylaws is here to stay for at least a couple more years. College sports needs a governing body, and the NCAA, for all its flaws, has fulfilled that basic function, with different degrees of success, throughout its existence. More important is whether the NCAA can continue to exist in the same way it always has. O’Bannon and his partners say nay. They believe athletes deserve a slice of the broadcast rights money shared between the NCAA and its members – the same money that pushed the turnstiles of conference realignment, blew the old Big East to smithereens and forced us all to reconsider the concept of athletic conferences in college sports. O’Bannon sees school and conference administrators and the NCAA getting fat off multi-million dollar TV contracts, the athletes whose competitions make those agreements possible in the first place receiving no financial compensation beyond room and board, the archaic notion of amateurism and its dubious historical origins – and he wants something to change. A lot of things, actually.

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Michael Dixon Leaves Missouri

Posted by nvr1983 on November 29th, 2012

Missouri‘s chances of replicating the (regular season) magic it had last year took a big hit this afternoon when it was revealed that senior guard Michael Dixon would no longer be part of the team. We still aren’t sure if Dixon or the school made the decision or if it was the always popular “mutual decision,” but Dixon, who has been battling an allegation of sexual assault, reportedly texted a friend the following message:

Dixon’s Departure Leaves A Lot Of Questions At Missouri (Credit: Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Yea I’m done here bro I’m not gonna be here anymore another girl my freshman year pulled this … on me now it’s coming out and everyone is gonna think it’s real so I’m thru bro I appreciate you tho just let as many (people) as u can know

Dixon followed that with this message:

I have never harmed anyone

Dixon is apparently referencing not only a current investigation by the school’s student council into a sexual assault charge that local prosecutors determined did not have enough evidence to press charges against him, but also apparently an accusation of forcible rape against him from January 2010. The other incident is explained in fairly graphic detail in the story at the link above, but the woman from 2010 reportedly did not press charges because she did not want her family to know about it and didn’t want to deal with the public fallout of accusing a basketball player of rape. According to an anonymous source (are there any other kind?), former Missouri coach Mike Anderson was aware of the accusation and suspended Dixon for “first few games because it wasn’t in the real season, and they needed him to play during the actual games.”

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Dez Wells Saga Reveals Misplaced Priorities of Xavier Disciplinary Process

Posted by Chris Johnson on August 30th, 2012

Chris Johnson is an RTC columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.

When Xavier announced earlier this month the expulsion of star guard Dezmine Wells, the move seemed rash and awfully premature. At the outset, the school was reticent to release any specific details and we were left to assume Wells’ dismissal was completely within bounds, that his actions were heinous and severe enough to warrant such decisive punishment. XU termed Wells’ transgression a “severe violation of the Code of Student Conduct”, but claimed “federal privacy law restrictions” prevented a more thorough explanation.’s Jeff Goodman reported the incident involved sexual misconduct, which put Wells – who, in the immediate aftermath of the allegations coming to light, didn’t respond to the school’s actions – in a particularly bad light. As XU’s best returning player, Wells’ actions damaged not only his own reputation but his former school’s prospects on the court next season. Several developments over the past week and change have shifted the tenor of that narrative.

The specious allegations against Wells gave XU all the evidence it needed to expel him (Photo credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images).

An Ohio grand jury exposed the XU conduct board for its hasty litigation process, essentially claiming that the suit was improperly adjudicated in a way that violated the basic tenets of the American judicial system. Hamilton County prosecutor Joe Deters officially denounced the XU’s criminal charges and called its disciplinary process “seriously flawed.” XU in response held firm to its protocol and refused to back down after the grand jury’s ruling. The school reiterated its stance on Wells’ actions under the contention that its ethical and disciplinary standards differ from those of the American justice system, and thus covered itself against criticism from the suspicious eyes of nuanced legal officials like Deters. In a statement released to’s Dana O’Neil, XU justified its retributive protocol:

The process used by the Xavier University Conduct Board is the standard used in American universities. The XU Conduct Board heard evidence that may or may not have been heard by the grand jury. After the Conduct Board reached its decision, the matter was considered and upheld by an appeal board of members of the student body, faculty and staff and is final.

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NCAA Legislation Proposing New Recruiting Freedoms Will Create More Inequality

Posted by Chris Johnson on August 28th, 2012

Chris Johnson is an RTC columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

Every year the NCAA spends copious amounts of time monitoring secondary recruiting violations and doling out corresponding punishments to guilty programs. There are so many menial rule specifications within the organization’s 400-page rulebook and so many different ways to violate those specifications that recruiting has become a walking-on-eggshells process for most programs, with the fear of breaching protocol clouding every conversation, letter and official visit. This is a huge burden for coaches who, more than anything else, are just trying to run their teams in the most successful way possible without getting hung up in minor NCAA rule violations. When basic conversation between coach and prospect carries punitive repercussions, the formula needs wholesale upgrading. The angst and dismay over minor violations isn’t just a coach-player phenomenon. It affects the NCAA and the considerable investigatory work it must do to ensure its legislative scruples are enforced properly. There is a constant game played between coaches unwittingly violating protocol and the NCAA staff policing and dispensing punishment for those violations. Neither side is happy with their current state and yet the cumbersome violation-punishment cycle continues undeterred.

The proposed rule could radically alter the way major programs recruit players, particularly in football and men’s basketball (Photo credit: Darron Cummings/AP Photo).

The violations come in different forms, from impermissible contact with prospects to an overflow of text messages to providing bagels with cream cheese. Chief among NCAA recruiting no-no’s is the illegal use of program personnel outside of the designated coaching circle to contact prospective recruits. Only head coaches and assistant coaches can seek out, evaluate, and contact prospects. It’s a hard-line rule with severe implications: Very few members of each team’s staff are legally permitted to participate in the year-round recruiting process. As the distinction between coach and staff blurs with growing program personnel groups and the recruiting process demands a larger base of scouting resources, monitoring these sorts of violations has become an extremely frustrating process. The NCAA is downright exhausted, and it’s not hard to see why. A rule change is in the works to relieve the violation police work, according to Steve Yanda of the Washington Post, who on Saturday reported that the NCAA Rules Working Group has endorsed legislation that would eliminate the rule limiting recruiting matters to head and assistant coaches. The rule – which, if voted into approval, could go into effect as early as August 2013 – would allow “staff members now known as directors of operations or directors of player personnel to watch film of a prospect or to contact a prospect’s coach or guardian.” The man-to-man aspect of recruiting – official and unofficial campus visits, attending tournaments and events, and so on – would still be off-limits to anyone not considered by job title a head or assistant coach.

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