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Feds Question Nike in College Basketball Scandal

A day after the federal government’s investigation into the “dark underbelly” of college basketball led to the sidelining of Louisville’s coach, Rick Pitino, the feds have turned their sights on another giant in athletics.

ESPN reports that the U.S. Department of Justice investigation into corruption in the college basketball universe has Nike in its sights.

ESPN and ABC News report that the feds served the Oregon-based athletic wear giant with a subpoena for information on its Elite Youth Basketball League (EYBL):

The EYBL is not named in the case, but a former employee who ran it, Merl Code, is one of the defendants.

Code, who left Nike for Adidas more than three years ago, is alleged to have assisted Jim Gatto, Adidas’ director of global sports marketing, in conspiring to pay high school players in a scheme to ensure those players landed at schools Adidas sponsored and, later, sign with Adidas once they turned pro.

ESPN also reports that three of the four assistant coaches named in the probe are from “Nike schools”, which are schools that are paid to use Nike equipment and uniforms:

While Nike doesn’t have a direct connection to the case, three of the four assistant coaches who were alleged to have been paid to bring players to an agent and a financial advisor are from Nike schools — Tony Bland of Southern California, Lamont Evans of Oklahoma State and Emmanuel Richardson of Arizona.

The man is largely credit for the rise of the shoe companies’ dominance in sports, Sonny Vaccaro, told ESPN’s Bob Ley that shoe companies don’t have a lot of power in college sports:

They don’t have too much power. Nobody has too much power when they [the schools] let you have that much power, Bob.

Bob, you’re the Ken Burns of college sports. You tell the story, but I’m going to tell you the truth: Coaches in the schools give permission to the shoe companies to run them. When you take the money, you owe your soul to the soles. It’s not the shoe companies’ fault, it’s the business aspect of it.

Nike has yet to comment on the subpoena concerning its program or former employee.