Because all good news comes just before 9pm on a Friday night, ESPN’s Darren Rovell and Nick DePaula published a story stemming out of the story earlier in the week that North Carolina football had suspended players for selling shoes given to them as student athletes. As you can guess since you’re reading this here and/or you already saw the headline on the page, Marquette has launched an investigation into the sales of shoes issued to players.
North Carolina didn’t suspend their players until after an internal investigation, and because the Tar Heels are nice and because everyone knows the NCAA likes self-reporting, here’s what happened, according to ESPN:
A source told ESPN that the retailer told UNC it had bought shoes from other schools, including Michigan, Marquette and California. Officials from all three schools acknowledged, through athletic department spokesmen, that they were contacted by North Carolina and are in the process of investigating the claims.
So that’s fun.
Let me go ahead and throw a Lake Michigan sized cup of cold water on this, though, thanks to this statement from Marquette as of 9:41pm CT:
#mubb statement - "We became aware of the situation Aug. 3 via an email from the North Carolina athletic compliance department. We immediately looked into the claim & determined there isn’t any indication a current member of the team is involved with selling team-issued shoes." https://t.co/b4XKFM71S0— MarquetteMBB (@MarquetteMBB) August 11, 2018
The Marquette Wire’s John Steppe got a little bit more information, which helps clarify why UNC came running to Marquette in the first place.
#mubb says there was no wrongdoing. Team spokesperson says the team never had one of the two shoes on the retailer's website. https://t.co/BgcHMIUQfL— John Steppe (@JSteppe1) August 11, 2018
Presuming that the retailer in question is StockX, the site that’s mentioned repeatedly in the ESPN story, the shoe that’s listed that MU never had is this Jordan 4, as the other one is the Jordan XXX that were made available by Nike to the general public as well and thus are essentially worthless as exclusive items on the resale market.
ESPN also got a comment from Marquette Deputy Athletic Director Mike Broeker, relative to what MU will be doing going forward, since “current member” sounds an awful lot like “former member” definitely did sell some shoes, regardless of what the university’s statement may or may not have said:
Marquette spokesman Mike Broeker said the school now will stipulate that players wear the shoes multiple times, which should decrease their value on the open market and make it less tempting to sell them. Marquette is also stitching player numbers into the shoes.
While that’s not a confirmation that any Marquette shoes were actually sold, it is a remarkably unnecessary level of detail and organization that is probably necessary at this point if for no other reason that it’s annoying that MU had to deal with this at all.
All of this is a potential problem because players receiving monetary renumeration for their athletic abilities in any fashion is an NCAA violation. Athletic departments are allowed to give their student-athletes a large quantity of gear in the name of practice, playing in games, and, in the case of schools in snowy climates like Marquette, merely living where they attend school. In a lot of cases, in particular the practice gear, the clothing gets heavily worn and has no resale value. However, in the case of basketball shoes, once you have a pair that you feel comfortable playing and practicing in, you don’t really need another pair, but the free shoe train still keeps on rolling.
It’s not that hard to make the leap from “the hell do I do with these shoes issued to me that I don’t want” to “y’know, I bet someone would pay a decent chunk of change for these super exclusive shoes only available to me and my 12 friends.” It’s especially easy to make that leap if, say, your mom could stand to do with an extra $1,000.
Yeah, it’s against the rules. I also don’t care about this enough to be upset at any student-athlete from any school that opted to cash in. I definitely don’t care about this enough to demand that Marquette issue harsh penalties against themselves or any current student-athletes as a result of any sales that end up coming to light in the future. While I understand that MU has to do these investigations because of how much the NCAA loves to see self-reporting of violations, I would prefer to see the MU admin to explain what, if anything, actually happened, and then drop it on the NCAA to decide to do something about it. FOR EXAMPLE, NOT ACCUSING ANYONE OF ANYTHING: “Yeah. Deonte Burton needed to pay a bill for his family after his mom died from cancer and sold a pair of shoes. Go ahead. Punish someone. Dare you.”
Anyway, it appears that this is all noise over essentially nothing, at least in terms of Marquette’s end of things. Please enjoy the rest of your weekend.