With a little over twenty four hours remaining until Maryland and Kentucky fans can breathe a sigh of relief in knowing whether or not their team will retain the service of Andrew and Aaron Harrison, things on the news front have remained silent. It is well known that Mark Turgeon and Bino Ranson are going to make one last visit with the twins this afternoon in Texas, but it isn’t known whether or not we will get any inside scoop on that visit.
Here is what we do know:
A.) There has been no word on John Calipari taking one last visit to the Harrison household, and it’s expected that he probably isn’t going to.
B.) Mark Turgeon is going to be making his closing arguments, and will in all likelihood be the last coach to talk with Andrew, Aaron, and Mr. Harrison.
C.) The Harrison twins reportedly have been contacted by one Under Armor representative, and no one else. Not Kevin Plank, but a senior official in the marketing department.
D.) Nike is not happy with Maryland in any way.
Let me get into C and D a little more, as I really feel like this is an important thing to discuss here. If you haven’t been following Maryland basketball recruiting a lot, then it’s probably news to you that Nike has it out for the University of Maryland. Why? Simple: Maryland bailed on the Nike Elite in favor of hometown company Under Armor. That move was crucial in so many ways, but one of the main reasons is because Nike (and in a smaller sense, Adidas) doesn’t have things like that happen to them. They run the AAU summer circuits, and there is a notion (which Nike has tried to shy away from) that the company steers their top tier AAU players to their top tier Nike affiliated schools. From a business standpoint, that makes complete sense and implies a great deal of brand loyalty and representation at elite levels. Still, it’s something the NCAA will take notice of if it’s too obvious.
That’s why Maryland leaving was so huge; they spurned the biggest and baddest for a smaller competitor, and in doing so may have shifted the tides. Under Armor sponsors the Harrison twins AAU team, and if brand loyalty plays any factor, it could be very obvious why Maryland is still in this race for some of the best prospects to ever come out of high school. Kentucky is a Nike school, and losing out to one of their competitors (and a school that told them to pound sand) is going to rub some higher ups the wrong way. It’s called eating into market share, and from a business standpoint, that ain’t good.
Look no further than comments made by Sonny Vaccaro, former shoe company kingpin,to Evan Daniels, an analyst for Scout.com:
“There is no logical reason for someone to think Maryland competing with Kentucky for two of the best players in this class,” Vaccaro said. “It is illogical. Maryland has not won a game since 1919, since Gary (Williams) won the championship (in 2002). They have had problems. And you are talking about Kentucky? Kentucky. They choose who they want.”
While I don’t take kindly to public bashing of the Terrapins basketball team, and don’t think enough credit is being given to Mark Turgeon and the university in general, this statement has some truth to it. Maryland hasn’t been exactly relevant on the basketball scene from a performance and recruiting standpoint, if we’re being honest. A small victory like this? It has to concern a company who has had very little challenge from other schools/companies. It is something that can signify a paradigm shift; albeit one that will happen slowly, but surely.
So yes, Nike isn’t happy with Mayland. Nike isn’t happy with Under Armor. The ramifications of that remain to be seen. Already, there are ridiculous reports about Harrison Sr. looking for condos in the DC area and getting checks from Under Armor. I’m not suggesting that Nike had anything to do with those reports, but they are pretty baseless and come at a time when Maryland is making a significant push on the recruiting trail. Were Wallace Loh to request that Under Armor and Maryand back off a bit from the pressure, there is a chance that Maryland could lose out on recruits for fear of NCAA investigations that tarnish the Terrapins relatively clean image.
Did anyone at Nike have anything to do with these absurd reports? That’s delving into conspiracy theories, and I’m not about to do that. But I do know this: it’s very well known that Nike essentially hates Maryland, and I have heard from people in the know that, on the recruiting trail, Nike sends their big guns whenever they feel their market share is being encroached upon.
That is the bottom line: Nike can’t help but be mildly concerned about their recruiting being affected by a young but rising in power company like Under Armor. It’s simple business, and the Harrison twins, however wrong it sounds, are definitely a factor in this.