Money and March Madness

Interview Sonny Vaccaro

Sonny Vaccaro

A former sports marketing executive for Nike, Adidas and Reebok, Vaccaro helped bring hundreds of millions in corporate endorsements to college sports. Prior to that, he was known as the godfather of youth basketball because of his relationships with the country's best young players who attended his summer camps and all-star games. This is the edited transcript of an interview conducted on Nov. 18, 2011.

Nike. You became their shoe man, right?

They didn't have any marketing for me, so I was the shoe man. ... The irony of that story is I don't know a damn thing about selling a shoe. I don't know the different models. I had an idea of one concept of shoes that I presented to [Nike co-founder] Phil [Knight] in 1976 or '77.

“Everybody makes money here except the kids. When the game's over, they have the bad legs, the bad heads ... what do they have?”

... But I honestly had this mind that could think of things that were never done before, and Phil was smart enough to allow me to run with it.

You were integral to the commercialization of sports. What was it like when you started compared to today?

... Everyone in the world knows I signed all those colleges and universities to Nike, but the commercialization started with Michael Jordan.

Prior to that, all we did was sign coaches and universities and colleges for their kids to wear shoes. That was Marketing 101: Put the shoes on the kids and the T-shirts on the kids, and the public will buy.

That was never done before. ... I didn't take a class in that, but being around kids, they were always the driving force.

I used to say that [former University of Maryland and NBA player] Albert King at Fort Hamilton High School in New York City could sell more shoes in a day in the Fort Hamilton area than some NBA guy could sell playing the Celtics against the Knicks, because no one gave a damn about the Celtics and Knicks, but they cared about Fort Hamilton playing [some] major school in New York City. That was what the rivalries wore.

... High school and kids, product sold. That was the key to those colleges wearing it. It was a good business deal for Nike that no one knew. I said, "Let's do it." There was no track record.

What exactly did you do?

I said, "We ought to give the shoes away to the high school teams, and we ought to pay the college coaches." Phil [Knight] and Rob Strasser, [Nike's first head of marketing,] said, "Are you crazy?" And I said, "No."

I used the analogy, they'll be no different than the college coaches getting Dodges, Chryslers or Pontiacs as part of their deal at the local dealership. And then the people in the community would buy a Dodge or a Chrysler or Pontiac. You remember those days?. I used to go to camps. They all had their little car deal.

Well, we had to get shoes. And the games would be on the television. ... So put the shoes on so the public knows you have them. No one was buying commercials then. There wasn't a halftime at the Super Bowl; nobody went to the Super Bowl in the '70s.

Do we understand that the only way you can connect was to get your [athlete's] picture on Sports Illustrated and get that guy to wear your shoe? Ten million people did that. That's how it started.

And it was Michael Jordan who took you over the top?

Michael Jordan was the greatest marketing icon in the history of marketing icons. ... All the kids to come, there will never be a Jordan, because Jordan started at zero.

Jordan and [filmmaker] Spike Lee. When Nike did the commercial with Jordan and Spike, two African American young people selling a product of this beginning company, it was just now starting to make headway, make some serious money, that was great; that was unbelievable. ...

As hard as it has been in the past for the American public to understand this, the African American athlete was the greatest of all the kids in athletics to come through, at least in the sport I was involved with. ... We were the first to understand that, and Michael was the first to do it. High school first, college second, pro third. Marketing 102, 103, 104.

As I understand, you started out also going around and paying college coaches.

You're right. I would run to my car and sign my friends to a contract. I basically gave them my check, which Nike later reimbursed me. ...

You were writing personal checks --

Yeah.

Who was the first person you paid?

I think [former UNLV coach] Jerry Tarkanian. ...

How much did you pay?

I think $10,000.

Happy?

Ecstatic. And we gave him free shoes. We gave the school 120 free shoes, 60 sweat suits, that nature. This is the '70s now, so you have to understand, there was no number. This is the first time they ever got anything, and they weren't making a lot of money.

Now, what happened was we had all these coaches. We were signing all these personal-service things to the coach.

Ten thousand dollars here, $15,000 there?

That number then went from $10,000 to $25,000 to some of the coaches got stock in Nike. ...

You're paying coaches. You're starting out $2,000, $10,000? Over the next 10 years, how much?

Quarter of a million to $500,000, half a million dollars. It went bonkers. ... We created a competitive thing, so all the companies got involved. Our coaches went up. Major six-figure deal was done in the '80s. It was the precursor to major million-dollar deals done in the '90s and 2000s obviously. ...

As those numbers were going up, did anybody at a university, a coach or somebody, say, "Look, you're corrupting the game"?

No one ever stopped us from doing it. In fact, we were paying some of the coaches -- has been duly recorded in the major newspapers across America in the '80s -- more than the schools were. ... They all thanked me. I was the guest of everybody in the '80s -- all the games, all the tournaments, all the media banquets.

Then, in 1985, the greatest thing in the history of marketing happened: The Final Four in Lexington, Ky., was St. John's, Memphis State, Villanova and Georgetown, all four of them Nike schools.

We owned America during Final Four week. You couldn't pay enough money for the exposure that Nike got. ...

Then we signed Jordan -- ''we'' being Nike -- to an endorsement contract. ...

When he was still an amateur?

No, he went pro. He went to [University of] North Carolina. It was his junior year. The Olympic Games were starting in Los Angeles. I met him at Tony Roma's, and he agreed to come aboard with Nike. ...

But you're paying the coaches.

We're paying the coaches, or later, as fate would have it, the universities. We owned the whole university later.

You've said that the deal in, I believe, 1989, with the University of Miami, that was the end --

... They sold the whole university. It wasn't us signing a coach to ask his players to wear [our product]. It was the university, from the president on down, that said: "Come on in, Mr. Nike, Mr. Adidas, Mr. Converse," whoever it was. "You have our school. And for that, we're going to put your logos everywhere: in the gyms, in the swimming pools, on the flagpole."

It befuddles me to sit here this late 2010-2011 basketball season arguing this moot point of the commercialism of sport when they themselves bartered out every student-athlete on their teams to wear the product of the companies that they sold to.

They did it --

The NCAA [National Collegiate Athletic Association] did it. ...

I don't think there's a major school -- and you can do your research on this -- today, a major school, the top 10 BCS [Bowl Championship Series] schools, I bet you they all have our school deal. ...

Just so you understand what I mean, that means that there are individuals and athletes on the tennis team that are getting free shoes. ... Some of these kids aren't even scholarship athletes, but they sold the rights for them to wear that product.

They sold the rights; I didn't sell the rights. I sold the rights to the NCAA, to the universities, "I" being the shoe companies. They accepted it.

I don't get this. When they sit down and they'll arbitrarily throw out people's names and say, "The bastardization of sports," or whatever, and "They did this or did that," all we did was make a business deal that the other side accepted.

When you were paying the coaches or paying the university, they could force the students to wear certain shoes or certain logos?

... You had to wear X percent of the total number of those shoes. There's no question about that.

But in my opinion, the kids would never go against what the school wanted. They're getting free shoes, and you became then a Nike school, an Adidas school, and that was part of your property rights to the athlete.

I always argue that Kobe Bryant, if he would have gone to X school, my argument's always been, why couldn't Kobe sign his own endorsement deal when he went to X school?

That's when they came in with all that goody-two-shoes crap and said, "Well, that violates the amateurism code," when, in fact, they violated their own amateurism code by making a deal with the companies. ...

You're not going to give them money and then the students can say: "I don't want to wear that. I'll take some Converse."

... If they don't sign this, they probably wouldn't be playing for that school. Or if they refused to, they'll probably lose their scholarship. It's a one-sided contract forced on an individual that's forced to remain what they deem amateurism. The question I'm going to ask this program is, why doesn't this make them a professional, since the employer is the school? ...

... Tell me the story of the Final Four.

There's been certain times in my evolution [as] this marketing person that I've felt great. Obviously Michael Jordan was the most euphoric time of my life. But ... the greatest thing that ever happened to a shoe company or any commercial entity was 1985 in the Final Four in Kentucky, where Georgetown, Villanova, Memphis State, and St. John's played in the Final Four. Nike had all four schools, which meant that we had every newscast, every sportscast across America and the world for a week. That generated ... multimillions of dollars' worth of hits. You cannot describe that feeling.

It was also the end of amateur sports.

Yeah, it was over. It was no more, because there's no more defense for amateurism. ...

We owned the product. What was the product? Those kids playing ball on the courts those two nights before the whole world. That was the product: the kids, the games, everybody -- coaches, cheerleaders, band members.

... You're the guy who supplied the money. You're the guy who knew the coaches, had the network of people, had the talent and contacts to get close to the kids. You made it possible, this commercialization.

Yes, I'm proud. I'm honored. I did a good job for my employer, Phil Knight, at that time. Absolutely. We did nothing wrong. ...

Everybody's making money. Nike's making money. ... You're making money off of them and getting paid.

Yes, sir, I'm not saying you're wrong. ... But you have to understand, the rules of the kids' own protectors, the NCAA, allow this to happen. In a free-enterprise system, those kids would have had the right to wear whatever they wanted to and even to sell their feet or their T-shirt. That's my point.

Where does the NCAA get off of saying it's not a commercial entity? It's a business. And good for them, it's an unbelievable business.

Somebody out there might say you're like the drug dealer who's saying: "It's your fault. You're using my drugs. I can't help it. I'm going to make money off of it. It's not my fault."

Bad analogy. Drugs are illegal. There's nothing illegal.

I did a business deal with the universities. Protecting those kids was their job -- not mine, not Phil's. They had the obligation not to sell their souls -- not me. I went there like any businessperson, and I represented the people I work for with all the good intentions. At every point it could have been stopped. ...

You were part of a system that encouraged these kids to believe that if they went through university, wore these uniforms, they had a good chance of making it to the pros, right?

Not at all. The numbers are too small. There's 150, 200 schools. There's only 455 guys playing the NBA right now. ...

You've said yourself that the objective effect of this on institutions of higher learning is to turn them into sports machines; that it has nothing really to do with education. In fact, in many cases, these kids who you're close to didn't get an education while they were there.

... What I basically said was, these kids should be a free enterprise unto themselves. What they did with their education was not the obligation of the shoe company.

But you couldn't have made a contract with, let's say, the University of Miami. You couldn't have helped them to sell their soul completely unless they had the kids in line, they had them sign these agreements.

No, I never knew they signed those agreements. Until you presented it to me, I don't know if I ever saw one. ...

What we did at the shoe companies and other entities, whether it's Gatorade or any other people, was made a deal with the university. ... The other party said to me, when they took the money from the shoe companies I represented, that we are delivering our athletes. It wasn't my job to go talk to 90 football players or 15 basketball players. The universities had the obligation. ...

You would agree that the situation today, right here, University of California -- there's Berkeley.edu, and then there's -- it's the sports side of the school that exists almost as a separate entity from the educational side. And that was only possible by this commercialization of college sports, and that [had a] very good effect on the educational side.

... We're not in the business of educating. You are, Mr. University. The public got it wrong here. The corporate entity sells this product to the university to use, whether it's drinking the juices or wearing the apparel. It's their job to educate, to put these kids in classes where they get good degrees.

Give me an example in your life when you became aware that these kids who you're close to were getting not just not paid, but not an education going through the system?

I think I became aware of it more than anything when I did a Nightline show in 1996 or something with Ted Koppel at Howard University. ... On that night, I sat there with this brilliant group of people and the president of the NCAA at that time, and they couldn't get off the fact that I supported kids being able to commercialize themselves or sell their own product.

[University of Michigan star] Chris Webber was on the show, and [he] said ... something that resonated: Why did his parents have to go up to the Michigan bookstore and buy his jersey for $175, and they were selling 1,000, and he couldn't --?

Had to buy the T-shirt because they couldn't get it for free?

No, they couldn't get it. ... And Nike was making the jerseys. We were selling them up there in a bookstore. And it hit me. ...

What hit you?

It hit me that these kids get blamed for everything. They're penalized and really demonized throughout their life as being a guy who took money from a booster who represented the university; a guy that cheated to get in the school, which he was allowed to do by the faculty that admitted him in the first place.

They made up the scores or looked the other way.

The universities have always looked the other way. They never get penalized. The individual does. ...

Every case I've ever seen in my life, there's been two parties: the buyer and the seller. And the buyer, even in the case of commercialism, the buyer is always the university, and we give them a free pass. ...

From the day Miami took everything until the day we live in, the business is booming, and it's so spread out now that some of these companies are multibillion-dollar marketing companies. Do you know that there are companies out there that represent all the schools in the NCAA? They do all their marketing for them. They go around, and they sell the brand of the NCAA.

But you had to have seen and to have talked with players that you knew from the time that they were in junior high school or high school, who finally made it to college to play and didn't get an education.

Yes, sir, and then give them a shoe deal. They didn't get an education because their coach lied, because they were put in classes that were not the right classes. And because they weren't good enough to play on that team, they got kicked out. They force you out.

It can't possibly be any good for a kid to play a game at 12:00 at night anywhere. It's impossible. One team last year, Arkansas Pine Bluff I believe, had 16 away games in a row to start their season. Sixteen. Where are the academics?

And you know the other thing that's a crock? All these big schools have [academic] advisers. They travel with them on airplanes. "Oh, we're going to study. We've got our advisers. We made arrangements with the professor."

Arrangements with the professor? What is this? Huxley University with the Marx Brothers [from the movie Horse Feathers]? Am I nuts? This is stupid. ... Spring practice, fall practice, morning practice, afternoon practice, weight practice. Are we nuts here? Practice, practice, practice. Games, games, games. When do they study?

So you became an advocate of players opting out of the system, not going to college.

Between 1993 and 2000, or whatever year that was -- '05 -- the NCAA allowed high school players to go into the pros. ... They had a choice that they could make there, and then they forced them to go to school. ...

So you couldn't play in the NBA unless you went to college for a year?

Yes. ... The rule is still in existence. ... That's legal in the sense that the Players Association and the NBA agreed upon this. On the merits of the thing, it's wrong and everything, but I can't contest that.

What I'm going to contest, though, is the NCAA. The NCAA by their own admission tells you that they'd like to see them stay two years. ... They keep them in because it's good for television. These great players play one year, and they're done.

Dwight Howard was one [who] was a high school guy. Kobe was a high school guy. LeBron [James] was the high school guy. Had nothing to do with college.

But your critics say that forcing kids, in this case kids out of high school, often from poor or disadvantaged backgrounds, at least exposing them to college is an experience for them to mature through. It gives them an opportunity to see a part of the world they may never see again. What's wrong with that?

Experience the college experience? They leave when the season's over. They only are there for a year. It defies the very tenet and basic rule of the NCAA: ... education. It's student first, athlete second. Interesting to me, because "student" has nothing to do with the athlete who leaves after one year. ...

What you're saying is it should be like baseball.

Baseball is the ideal system. How can it be good for one athlete attending a university and not the other ones? Because they don't give a damn about baseball. Baseball don't generate money.

Why isn't the baseball system put in there? Then you would have the kids who would get drafted, would stay and be NBA players like they want to be, and the kids that weren't good enough to get drafted go to college. I never disagreed with that. I've always said, "Give me an opportunity." Then whatever it is, you do. But I should have the opportunity.

So in 1996, you basically get this realization.

The epiphany of Sonny. I said, "I have to speak up." ...

You know something's wrong in the business that you helped create.

I know that the kids aren't treated fairly. There's nothing wrong with the business deal, nothing except one of those pieces of paper you showed me should have a kid's name on it and say, "Mr. Vaccaro, your new company you're working with, I'd like to be employed by, and I will wear the product while I'm playing for, you know, State University." And you should have the right to do it.

I'll play off what you've said. Tobacco industry, that's legal. Use it the way they tell you to use it, and it will kill you.

... No one's killing anybody. ...

The tobacco industry, legislatures wrote their own rules; Nike didn't. We are playing by the NCAA rules; that's the difference here. They give you the contract. You signed it. We put in what we wanted; they put in what they wanted. It was a business deal without representation by the kid.

The kid signed the deal, too, because if he didn't sign that piece of paper, they wouldn't be able to deliver --

Nike didn't handle it, or Adidas or Reebok. That's the point. The NCAA, that piece of paper was NCAA paper. They're the ones that don't want them out there bartering their own deals.

So you retired.

I never retired. I walked away from it.

You decided to go on a college tour. Why?

So the next time I talked to individuals like you, you couldn't look me in the eye and say, "Well, you're still working for Nike, Adidas or Reebok." I had to get rid of that, so I walked away from a very good job from Reebok, two years of personal employment and two years of personal endorsing of all the events I did, which come into a lot of money. And I toured America.

I spoke at the Harvards, the Yales. I never spoke to a basketball team or a football team. No one wants to admit that. I went to the law schools, the business schools, the journalist schools. I went to schools that the kids didn't know who I was, or they had an opinion of me, but they certainly never met me. ...

I pray that one of those kids would have enough guts one day to represent and go after the complete fraud of amateurism within amateur sports in America. ...

You severed your connections with the industry. People think you're nuts?

No one believed me but my wife, Pam. But I had to do it. ... I owed those kids. ... They allowed me to travel the world to do these things that I did. They allowed me to do this. I knew it was wrong, and I had to take a stand. ...

I'm trying to plead so it doesn't happen for the next generation of kids. I don't believe in my deepest of hearts that a group such as the NCAA should control my body and my mind after I'm no longer with them. They don't have the right to own me into infinity. ...

That the American public, only because of the love of sport, would allow this to happen is beyond my comprehension. The only chance we have is in courts, and you pray that the courts will see the right thing to do would be to free these kids and allow them to voice their hereafter life, when they're no longer in college, and share in the bounty that they reaped. That's all I'm asking.

... How did you come up with the idea of suing?

... I knew that the only way that we could win, that these kids could win, would be in court. You can't win it by public opinion, and half the media is lackeys for the NCAA. They just bend. They make the tour; they want to go to the games.

I'm not saying stop the games. I'm saying stop the way these kids are treated once they quit playing the games.

To me, a perfect world would be that we get to a court, it finds an end result, whatever it is they want to abide by, and somebody finds deep inside of them that this commercial entity, the NCAA, and this noncommercial entity, the individuals, 17-, 18- and 19-year-old kids, by your own admission, are struggling, didn't have the proper education, may not have got the right grades.

Now we're finding out about injuries. [They] have a long life ahead of them that they may not be able to cope with financially and physically. ...

[I'm] looking for the motivation. Did someone call you, someone advise you, "It's time to file a lawsuit"?

I swear to God almighty, no. I honestly thought it would be one of those kids I talked to. ...

I made a point over my lifetime of 71 years to understand that if there's an injustice, you feel someone's got to make a step. This was my step. But it wasn't me. It's going to be these lawyers and these kids who stand up.

... It's getting huge as I sit here. There's going to be thousands of kids going to sign up. We only need a few plaintiffs to start the case. I get calls every day from kids who are household names who didn't get their degree, don't have a good job, big this Player of the Year, big that Player of the Year, all-tournament team, Final Four, the guys on the covers of these magazines. It didn't always turn out right. ...

You've got to get a decision here. It's amateurism or it isn't. It's a very clear definition here. Say yes or say no.

If it's yes, then take care of the kids. If it's no, then the kids should be free to do what they want. Shouldn't have to sign scholarship papers. Why would you want me to sign a scholarship paper if it's all in your favor? There's not an equal there.

... The critics say, "Here's Sonny Vaccaro, smart businessman; he doesn't do things for free." What's in it for you?

Obviously there's nothing for me now. Maybe someone watching this program will offer me a job. I haven't worked in three years. I've got to take care of my wife.

Come on.

I'm being honest. ... This is payback. I had to do it. I had to do it. I owed those kids.

The [O'Bannon v. NCAA] case where you're suing ESPN, the NCAA and Electronic Arts [Inc. (EA Sports)], you're not a plaintiff?

I'm an unpaid consultant, not a plaintiff. I get no money. And every place I've gone, I've paid my own way. ...

... As of now, just as part of the lawsuit that involved Electronic Arts, ... the list of people signing up on both sides, you've got the whole media industry and beyond that involved.

We definitely created a battlefield, haven't we? We have the people working for the workers, and we have the people that are defending the First Amendment rights, and somewhere in between here, we've got to get past both of those statements and defend these kids.

I don't disagree with the First Amendment. I understand what the media's saying, and I understand what the labor unions are saying also. ...

The only problem with the law, until we have a rendering in this case, is the law as it's written, the First Amendment and the workers' rights should not allow an entity to control me without representation, without guarantee of scholarship, without guarantee of insurance, without guarantee of education. ...

Do they have the right to use me forever? It's not a First Amendment thing. They're using me forever. I didn't sign that. My scholarship paper never signed, "You own me in perpetuity."

What I'm saying is, these kids deserve a piece of the pie when they're no longer there.

As I understand, the argument is when you sign that paper, you're also not allowed to talk to an attorney about it. You're not allowed to have any representation.

No.

And NCAA claims that they own your rights in perpetuity.

Yes, and the rest of your existence, I guess, into cyberspace, right? ... Because they're texting things now. They're selling them on iPhones. There's 100 more ways to make money off of these kids. Why should this group of individuals control all this? Why should individuals profit by the games?

I'm not saying they shouldn't profit. I'm not against bowl games or NCAA tournaments. I'm a fan. ... Why can't everyone come to an understanding here that the kids deserve something after they're done playing? That's all I want. ...

But the NCAA, in their own unrealistic way, they say to you: "The presidents run everything. We abide by the presidents of the universities." Really? Then I want you to go to the president of these so-called great academic universities that happen to have good football or basketball teams, and I want them to tell me, with their educated minds, ... that these kids don't deserve anything. ...

Everybody makes money here except the kids. When the game's over and they have the bad legs and the bad heads and some of them die, what do they have? Nothing but the school. ...

Now, when you testified before the Nike Commission, you talked about a student. ... Tell us the story.

It was at my ABCD [Academic Betterment and Career Development] Camp. That was the camp that I invited, under Nike's banner when we first started, the best basketball players in America to spend a week -- at that time it was at Princeton University -- to come in.

We brought them in, "we" being Nike, and gave them uniforms and practice, and we had academics for them. We had academics in the morning, and they played afternoon and night.

These are high schools?

All high school kids. The oldest you could be was a senior; you couldn't be graduated. So we brought these kids in, and arguably one of the top 10 kids in America that year was a kid that I knew very well. ... He was in the locker room, so I go down to the locker room. As God is my judge, I looked at him, and he was crying, a big hunk of a young man. I said, "What is wrong?"

He said to me, "Mr. Vaccaro," he said, "'Mr. Dubois,'" who was our academic adviser at the time, "just told me I had a third-grade reading level. I'm going to be a senior next year. How could I only be reading at third grade?" And he was accepted into these universities already. He was mad because it was a trick. It was a fraud; it was a farce. He understood it, this kid who was misled academically all the way through high school, this fraud about the high schools getting you ready.

... Unfortunately, there's been many of those kids, but never one so poignant and so articulate. And the kid went to a major school and played and eventually quit and went pro. I think it was two years.

But he said: "How could they have let me be this? How could I only be reading [at] the third grade?" True story.

Is that why you say you owe them?

That and the other stories.

One time -- many times, but one time in particular -- I had a great player call me. High school. ... I knew the daddy; I knew the kid. Good people. Didn't have anything. Dad calls me on the phone. ... He said: "Sonny, Mr. Vaccaro, can you help me? ... We're coming down to two schools, and they both offered us a lot of money." ...

One offered him X thousands of dollars, and the other one X thousand, but not thousands, but the one that offered the less amount was closer to where he lived, and the other one was away. They were both national schools, both highly recommended, and both coaches were on the board of directors of the Coaches Association staff. ...

When this man told me about his son, what was I supposed to tell him when I knew that the numbers that this guy quoted me was the kind of money I was being paid from Nike that year? It was serious.

Serious money. From a college?

There's no question. And those two coaches were reputable.

I called a major coach that I was friends with. I've never done this before or after, because I quit doing it. That's why they always say, "Well, Vaccaro knows where the bodies are buried," and all that crap. And I do, but I would never go.

I called this coach, and I asked this coach for advice. ... He said, "Don't tell me the names, and do what you think is best." I never forgot that. That's the logic of the protection of the clan, I call it.

Protection of the clan?

The coaching clan. No one talks about each other, because maybe the majority of them could be that other guy. I have no idea.

I'm not going to say who or what, but I never forgot that either. Here's a guy who I believed at that time was powerful enough to put a stop to it. A very call by people like him, in even today's world, could change the landscape of everything.

But have you ever noticed very few coaches ever stand up and defend the kids? Even in the [Ed] O'Bannon case, no one stood up and said, "He's right."

What you're saying is, everybody in the coaching profession in major schools knows what's going on?

... I'm saying everyone in the coaching profession, a major school, has an idea what's going on, not "knows." ... That doesn't infer [sic] that all of them do it; that infers that some of them do it. But the ones that could stop the one from doing it don't stop them. This could be stopped. ...

They don't do it because --

It's the code. I don't know. I have no idea why.

You won't do it?

... Let me tell you why I can't do it and I won't do it: because if I do that, then I've also violated the kid.

I didn't have the right to make the decision for that parent, but these coaches have a right to decide whether these kids, or these schools who offer these kids this kind of money, should be allowed to practice their games. I can't. ...

Who am I to say you shouldn't take the money? I'm not going to tell on you either. That's why they trust me. ...

... Coaches at public universities are paying money under the table to players?

I say that the people representing these universities are paying. I don't think any head coach worth his salt ever makes the payment, but I would not say that.

Boosters?

Boosters, payers. ...

You have to go back to the main commodity here. It's the individual, the player. When the things hit the fan, who gets hit? The kid. ... But I'm saying to you, it wasn't my decision to make. It was his decision to make and that school's decision to make. They asked me for advice; I gave them advice.

What did you tell them?

I'll tell you exactly what I told them: You'd better make sure that whatever one you do, [whichever] you do it with, you get the money up front -- that's exactly what I told them -- because once you sign, you're their property. ... There will be a lot of amnesia cases once you're there. You're only a valuable commodity when they want you. When they've got you, you're not valuable anymore.

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Posted March 29, 2011

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