Zion Williamson’s Year in College Was Worth More Than He Got
Zion Williamson shouldn’t have to deal with this.
In case you missed it, Williamson, now one of the NBA’s brightest young stars, made his name appear in a lawsuit between Brian Bowen, a former college basketball rookie, and Adidas. The news was first reported by The Raleigh News & Observer and The Athletic this week.
Before Bowen could play a single college game, the NCAA stripped him of his eligibility after the FBI began investigating a string of below-the-table payouts in college basketball over the past several years.
FBI discovered that an Adidas employee and others conspired to pay Bowen’s father to drive him to Louisville, a school that raises $ 16 million a year to wear the sporting goods giant’s equipment . Bowen, who has never played college basketball, now works in the NBA Development League.
What does this have to do with Williamson, you might ask?
Responding to questions from Bowen’s legal team seeking information on college-linked rookie payments, an Adidas attorney wrote in a court file last month that the former head of the basketball program The company’s base ball “might have transferred $ 3,000 a month to the Williamson family.” For an undetermined time.
Newspapers also show that Adidas representatives gave away $ 5,474 to the junior tour team for which Williamson played and his stepfather coached.
Under NCAA rules, such payments – if it turns out they were meant to win Williamson’s favor to play for an Adidas-sponsored college team or to sign with the shoe company once he turned pro – should have made Williamson ineligible to play in the 2018-19 season at Duke, which is sponsored by Nike.
“This is nothing new,” said Sonny Vaccaro, when we spoke on the phone with Williamson this week. “This sort of thing has been going on forever. “
Vaccaro knows this better than anyone. The shoe company’s former marketing czar signed Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant for their first gigantic sneaker endorsement deals and pioneered industry sponsorship of teams and coaches. He turned on high-profile college sports after seeing it grow into a multi-billion dollar giant where everyone continued to get richer except the gamers. Then he helped advance the lawsuit that pitted former UCLA basketball star Ed O’Bannon against the NCAA, a case that has sparked the current clamor for college sports reform.
“The players who make it all work see everyone around them making tons of money,” added Vaccaro. “Coaches and sports directors with their huge contracts. But when players have tried to improve financially, the NCAA has always stigmatized them.
Note that this is not the first time Williamson has been accused of reaping a windfall before donning a Duke uniform, claims his lawyers and the university have denied.
What’s shocking about this latest news isn’t necessarily that it points again to the dark world of varsity sport. That is, if the claims in the Adidas affair are true and the relatively paltry amounts mentioned are any guide, Zion Williamson has found a job.
Vaccaro estimated that in the open market, Williamson could have signed a shoe deal worth at least $ 2.5 million while he was still in high school – and probably a lot more.
How much money was Williamson just worth to Duke’s basketball program as he helped the Blue Devils win an ACC title?
“About $ 5 million,” said Professor David Berri, sports economist at Southern Utah University, who has developed a formula that uses the income of a varsity team and the estimated wins created by a player. to assess the economic impact.
This ignores the buzz Williamson brought to Duke.
Williamson arrived on campus already shrouded in glory. A few weeks after the start of his season, he was 2.2. million social media followers, more than many NBA stars. His games have become essential visits. Former President Barack Obama and hip-hop impresario Jay-Z attended his prime-time national television games.
So let’s just say Williamson gave Duke a marketing boost that was worth way more than his purse.
As most of those who closely watch varsity sports know, change is in the air.
The Supreme Court will soon rule on a case that could break through the NCAA cartel and open the lid the organization is putting on the benefits its athletes can receive from schools.
Several states have passed laws that allegedly impose changes to outdated restrictions that prohibit players from making money through endorsements or, in today’s world of social media, through sponsored posts.
Congress also took note. It could come up with uniform rules allowing players to monetize their fame while pushing for more player rights.
But even if these changes occur, there will be cracks in the system as long as the NCAA continues to restrict what should be a free enterprise market for its hardworking athletes. Shoe companies and agents, for example, will continue to try to use cash and gifts to attach themselves to football and basketball’s biggest stars in high school and college.
Nothing stops that. Why even try?
Why not take the obvious? Large-scale college sports, namely men’s football and basketball, are not amateurish at all.
The reform allowing athletes to sell themselves to college, still in the works, is an impressive start.
But why not unveil every detail of the industry?
Why not let the schools compete for the best players through compensation? (Just limit the number of great athletic teams, so Alabama doesn’t rack up the top 300 high school rookies.)
Why not allow the best high school players to deal with shoe companies and agents and anyone they think can help them financially? No question asked. No shame and slander.
Let there be light. And more light. And more.
The NCAA could get rid of the false claim that it keeps the holy grail of amateurism.
Coaches and colleges wouldn’t have to lie and say they don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes.
Young athletes like Williamson wouldn’t have to drag their names into court cases to benefit from their talent.
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