New Albany’s Romeo Langford chooses Indiana University.
BLOOMINGTON – The perhaps never-ending scandal cutting a path across college basketball grazed Indiana on Tuesday.
A lengthy piece in the Washington Post, published online around lunchtime, detailed a financial relationship between Adidas and Tim Langford, father of McDonald’s All American IU signee Romeo Langford. The basic thrust: The apparel company had, according to former Louisville coach Rick Pitino, funded an AAU program coached by Tim Langford, and that Adidas agreed to do so to maintain its influence with Langford’s NBA-prospect son.
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Cutting through the inevitable hysteria, from Indiana’s perspective, there’s not much there, at least not yet.
That’s not to discredit the Post’s story, which is well-reported and revealing, while also measured and balanced. It makes a case and makes it well — Adidas, in an effort to keep Romeo Langford under its umbrella, agreed to sponsor an AAU team run by his father.
Romeo Langford sat flanked by family during a groundbreaking ceremony in Kevin Hammersmith Park that will feature a basketball court named after the New Albany High standout. 5/11/18 (Photo: Marty Pearl/Special to Courier Journal)
It’s not that that’s not news. It is news. It’s just that, at least in addressing questions about Romeo Langford’s eligibility, his potential college career and the ripple effects on IU, none of it appears to be illegal or against NCAA rules.
Pitino himself, quoted heavily in the Post story, told the Louisville Courier-Journal on Tuesday, “I don’t think they did anything wrong,” referring to Adidas’ decision to sponsor Twenty Two Vision, Langford’s AAU program the summer before his senior year of high school.
An IU spokesman did not respond Tuesday to questions about whether the university athletic department’s compliance wing has gotten involved at this point. No one from Indiana was directly quoted in the Post’s story, although it was pointed out Indiana is — and indeed has been for a decade now — an Adidas-sponsored school.
To suggest Tuesday’s report opened up a can of worms ignores the reality that the can was already open.
Barring some yet-to-be-uncovered misdeeds, the Langford-Adidas relationship does not appear to have broken any laws or NCAA rules.
The NCAA’s decision in a similar eligibility case involving Duke one-and-done star Marvin Bagley III suggests the organization doesn’t see that relationship as running afoul of its bylaws.
The organization declined to comment Tuesday when asked by IndyStar for clarification on the subject.
Tim Langford, father of Romeo Langford, spoke briefly during a ceremony naming the basketball court at Kevin Hammersmith Park after his son. 5/11/18 (Photo: Marty Pearl/Special to Courier Journal)
If you find this morally objectionable, that’s reasonable. You also won’t have to walk a long mile to find someone who finds it equally objectionable that an elite high school basketball player is financially limited by a system that stands to make millions of dollars each year off his talent, and the talent of others like him.
And then we’ll be back where we were when this scandal took off months ago — trying to decide how much of the argument is about legal and ethical wrongdoing, and how much should address a broken system that created the monsters it is now demanding come out from under its bed.
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This isn’t the first time Indiana has been touched by all this.
In late February, on the night of IU’s regular-season finale against Ohio State, Yahoo! Sports reported that ASM Sports agency associate Christian Dawkins — one of the central figures in the FBI’s criminal investigation into college basketball corruption — claimed through internal communication to have had contact with former IU assistant coach Chuck Martin.
Dawkins appeared to suggest to another employee of ASM Sports, the agency employing him, that he was attempting to trade favors with Martin. He would steer elite recruit Brian Bowen to Indiana, in exchange for Indiana steering soon-to-be NBA prospects Thomas Bryant and OG Anunoby to ASM.
Insider Zach Osterman and columnist Gregg Doyel discuss Romeo Langford’s decision to play for Indiana University.
Bowen never visited Indiana, nor was he ever reported as a serious IU target. Neither Bryant, nor Anunoby, signed with representation under ASM’s umbrella. Responding to an open records request from IndyStar, Indiana University said it had no record of contact between any ASM employee and Martin, or any other member of IU’s staff at that time.
Perhaps IU is just lucky. Perhaps there is another twist to come. Perhaps the relationship between shoe companies and college basketball has become so intimate and pervasive that it will be hard for any major program not to be brushed by this.
Tuesday’s Washington Post story, though, didn’t really reveal anything not already either known or presumed.
And the social media reaction, while unsurprising, felt distinctly Casablanca, with Claude Rains telling Humphrey Bogart he’s “shocked” to find gambling going on in Bogart’s café, as a croupier hands him his winnings.
Follow IndyStar reporter Zach Osterman on Twitter: @ZachOsterman.