Adidas' $160 million contract with Louisville could be in jeopardy after FBI bribery investigation

Louisville Basketball CheerleadersGetty ImagesLouisville’s basketball program has been linked to a FBI investigation of bribery.

Louisville is reevaluating its $US160 million sponsorship deal with Adidas after a bribery scandal rocked the university.

After an emergency trustee meeting on Monday, the university’s interim president, Greg Postel, said that the school would “have to look at” the contract, ESPN reported.

Last week, head men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino was placed on indefinite unpaid administrative leave after Louisville’s basketball program was linked to an FBI investigation of bribery in college basketball. The school’s athletic director, Tom Jurich, was also placed on paid administrative leave.

An undercover agent accused an Adidas executive and several other defendants of funelling $US100,000 to the family of a high-school basketball player to persuade the player to sign with an unnamed public research university in Kentucky.

The complaint in which the allegation appeared doesn’t name the university, but it has since been confirmed to be Louisville, which signed a $US160 million sponsorship deal with Adidas in August — one of the most expensive college basketball sponsorship deals in the NCAA.

Postel wrote in a letter addressed to Jurich last week that the athletic director acted improperly in his negotiation of the Adidas deal.

“[Y]our recent negotiation of the terms of the updated sponsorship deal with Adidas was conducted without timely or appropriate consultation with me or members of the Board of Directors of the University of Louisville Athletics Association,” the letter reads.

Jurich has close ties to the sportswear company. His daughter, Hayley Jurich, was hired by Adidas in March as a NCAA brand communications manager.

Postel said that assumptions regarding the school’s future relationship with Adidas were “premature,” according to ESPN. The 10-year deal is slated to go into effect in 2018.

The multimillion-dollar battle for top-tier college basketball teams is hard fought among sportswear giants. The visibility of high-profile teams and players is a valuable marketing opportunity for apparel companies, even though NCAA players themselves cannot be paid to endorse brands.

The Baltimore Sun reported that Nike was the clear leader in the 2017 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, providing uniforms for 40 entrants. Adidas provided outfits for 15 teams, Under Armour outfitted 12 teams, and Russell Athletic outfitted just one.

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