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“Boy, the silence that fell in that room,” he recalled recently.“I never will forget it.” Friday, who founded and co-chaired two of the three Knight Foundation sports initiatives over the past 20 years, called Vaccaro “the worst of all” the witnesses ever to come before the panel.
The Knight Foundation, a nonprofit that takes an interest in college athletics as part of its concern with civic life, had tasked them with saving college sports from runaway commercialism as embodied by the likes of Vaccaro, who, since signing his pioneering shoe contract with Michael Jordan in 1984, had built sponsorship empires successively at Nike, Adidas, and Reebok.
A litany of scandals in recent years have made the corruption of college sports constant front-page news.
We profess outrage each time we learn that yet another student-athlete has been taking money under the table.
But what Vaccaro said in 2001 was true then, and it’s true now: corporations offer money so they can profit from the glory of college athletes, and the universities grab it.
In 2010, despite the faltering economy, a single college athletic league, the football-crazed Southeastern Conference (SEC), became the first to crack the billion-dollar barrier in athletic receipts. That money comes from a combination of ticket sales, concession sales, merchandise, licensing fees, and other sources—but the great bulk of it comes from television contracts.