As a result of massive sponsorship deals between apparel companies and universities, there is no universal game ball in college basketball during the regular season. Play on Oregon’s home court and you’ll use a Nike basketball, play at a school sponsored by Adidas and you’ll use an Adidas ball, and so forth.
In August, Under Armour signed a 10-year contract extension with the University of Maryland that will pay the university $33 million in cash and gear. As a result, the Maryland basketball team uses an Under Armour basketball during games at Xfinity Center College Park, their home court.
Over the course of the season, many opposing players have complained about Maryland’s Under Armour basketballs. One Iowa player said that they were too heavy, and felt like street balls.
“It feels different,” Hawkeyes junior guard Peter Jok said. “It’s heavy like a street ball, like an outside ball. No excuses. It does feel weird.”
Wisconsin’s Nigel Hayes took things one step further. While discussing the Under Armour basketball controversy, Hayes lambasted the NCAA. Said Hayes:
It’s definitely different. Personally, we don’t like it too much. I don’t like the Under Armour ball whatsoever. But that’s the way this amateur sports league is set up. We’re supposed to be having fun, but all the money is in these basketballs that colleges play with. But it’s an amateur sport, we’re just here for fun. It’s not really that serious. So I guess any ball should be OK.
Maybe we should have a universal ball like the NBA. You don’t go to the Clippers’ stadium and play with a Nike and then go to Golden State and play with a Rawlings. But in this amateur sport of college, where money isn’t the goal — it’s the student education and experience that you get — we play with a million different basketballs.
Hayes is clearly being sarcastic when he calls the NCAA an amateur sports league that emphasises fun. And there are, of course, more glaring problems with the way the NCAA treats its athletes than making them use different brands of basketballs and different stadiums (like the fact that athletes have complained about being hungry, to name one).
Still, it’s rare to hear an athlete bash the NCAA so overtly, especially while still in college.
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