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K’ Knows Shoe Deals And EthicsDavid Teel

April 23, 1993By DAVID TEEL Daily Press

Nike made “Just Do It” and “Bo Knows” part of our language. It hired Spike Lee and Bugs Bunny as pitchman for “Air Jordans.” Such salesmanship is unsurpassed in the $3 billion a year athletic shoe industry.

Mike Krzyzewski made the Final Four the private domain of Duke’s basketball program. His team advanced to five consecutive Final Fours and won back to back championships. Such success is unmatched among active coaches.

But Nike and Krzyzewski pay a price for their status: They are convenient targets, as evidenced by the sanctimonious and irrational chidings each has heard regarding a proposed contract whereby Nike will pay Krzyzewski unprecedented sums to outfit his team in a certain brand of attire.

Krzyzewski has long been affiliated with adidas. But in an effort to lure Krzyzewski away, Nike offered him a one time bonus of approximately $1 million, in addition to approximately $400,000 annually, stock options and a retirement package. Krzyzewski,
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who is not commenting, reportedly has agreed to the deal, which would become official in the fall.

Six figure shoe contracts have been around college basketball since the late 1970s, when Nike gave Sonny Vaccaro remember that name virtually a blank check and told him to sign marquee coaches to endorsement contracts. But a million dollar bonus is unique, and when that figure hit the streets at the Final Four in New Orleans last month, folks were dumbfounded.

Krzyzewski is just like the rest of his greedy colleagues, critics said. He’s making a mint off his players,
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who won’t see a dime of it. This is yet another example of college athletics spiraling out of control.

But logical analysis leads to different conclusions.

For starters, all of Krzyzewski’s outside income sources are approved by Duke president Keith Brodie, who did not object to this deal. Certainly Brodie understands Krzyzewski’s almost mythical standing in the Duke community and isn’t eager to alienate him. But it’s difficult to imagine Brodie signing off on an embarrassing arrangement.

Also, we do not know what Krzyzewski will do with the money. He is wealthy and charitable, and it would be out of character for him to hoard this cash.

Remember, too, that Nike pays Michael Jordan and Bo Jackson much more than it will pay Krzyzewski. They’re athletes,
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you say. Krzyzewski’s only a coach.

But Krzyzewski has built a program steeped in academic and recruiting integrity. He is an equal, if not superior, role model for kids.

Then there’s Vaccaro, the roguish operator who negotiated many Nike endorsement contracts and also ran Nike’s summer basketball camp, where he allegedly directed many top high school players to Nike affiliated coaches. Krzyzewski is not a Vaccaro fan, and adidas recently hired Vaccaro.

Pure coincidence that Krzyzewski leaves as Vaccaro arrives?

That is just one question Krzyzewski should answer once his Nike contract is official. He also should reveal exact terms of the deal and how he envisions disbursing the money.

Ironically, Krzyzewski should be subjected to such uncomfortable scrutiny because he is viewed as a principled man. He has been a leader in the National Association of Basketball Coaches’ attempts to mend relations with the NCAA and university presidents. He has been a voice of reason among the babble in the debate over reform.
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