Vaccaro talks to IU students

Sonny Vaccaro, at one time or another, has been involved with Nike, Reebok, Adidas and Under Armour.

He’s been a friend and confidant for more players than you and I can count. He’s also been a one-man PR firm for others.

Now, at the age of 69, he’s fighting against the NCAA and NBA, claiming they’re making millions and trying to claim the moral high ground.

He spoke to a room of 200 or so Indiana students on Tuesday. I was there, and this is what he said. I’ll lead with what I asked him afterwards, about Indiana University, Kelvin Sampson and Tom Crean.


I think the system forces people, good people or bad people intended, to do things they wouldn’t ordinarily do. I hate to think that anyone would start saying, ‘I am going to do something illegal and something wrong.’ I think people wake up and think, ‘I got to win some basketball or football games.’ … Universities want it, and the NCAA wants it. That¹s why the BCS exists. They don’t care if Utah is any good, they want to make sure Florida plays Southern Cal or somebody.”


“Look at what you just did. You just tore about a group of kids’ lives, and they had nothing to do with what Sampson did. Intentionally, or unintentionally, he did something that was wrong. But these kids were moved out, forced to do things that they really had nothing to do with and, in retrospect, Eric Gordon probably dropped five spots in the draft based on his freshman year, simply by playing for Indiana. They ruined everything. They really hurt kids that had nothing to do with it. That was wrong.”


“I think Tommy (Crean) will have them back in two years. Tommy is respected. He’s a hard coach, but you know that going in. But he’ll teach them, and he’ll do it the right way. I’ve never heard anybody tell me, other than Tommy will work his kids hard, that he’ll do something wrong. That won’t ever happen. I would think, for a university like Indiana, where basketball is their god, that they would rebound in two years. Tommy will be in the tournament in two years.”

For his statements during the general speech, read after the jump. On former super agent David Falk, who represented Michael Jordan:

“I think he bullshits a lot. And, without Michael Jordan, David would be doing term papers. But like Sonny Vaccaro, and I am not ashamed to admit it, I say to Michael, ‘He made his agent.'”

On marketing players:

“I said, ‘What I am going to do, is give these kids a platform. I never said I was a coach. I never said I was their savior. I said, to them, ‘I am going to give you the opportunity to put yourself up, so the public can judge you. I am going to give you the opportunity to say yes or say no.’ I said that from day one until the day it was over. … I’ve never backed away from this. Yes, I gave these kids a platform. Yes, I publicized these kids. Yes, yes. And, you know what, it worked out pretty well.”

On the NCAA:

“The billion dollar non-profit charade. This, to me, is where I get sick. Non-profit? Am I nuts? Do I have to show you things? Did not what happened on this campus this year and last year show you the insanity of where people will go, and do? I am in the mouth of the lion. I am not attacking any individual, or any university. Please. I am attacking the system and telling you — just allow it to be what it is. Don’t allow yourselves to be propoganda-ized. I am calling on you, and others like you, to question. What the hell are we talking about? When we pay severance packages to people that we fire, that do wrong. What the hell are we talking about? When the people who hire them, we give severance packages? What are we talking about, when we run an organization which’s main job is to what? Commercialize the very things are not commercialized.”

“It’s all run by two sports, football and basketball, on the intercollegiate level. Has it ever occurred to anybody, here or anywhere else, that the only two groups of people who can’t become professionals at their whim are football and basketball players? … Where is it we get across by saying we are non-profit? The president of the NCAA is paid a hell of a lot of money to what? Bring in money to his universities. And you bring in money by bringing in the eyes.”

“I am not demonizing academics. I am not demonizing scholarships. I am not demonizing the kids who don’t play in the revenue-producing sports. What I am saying is, because of that one percent of the athletes, 90 percent of all the revenue that are doled out to all of the other athletes – there is something wrong. Not that they’re doing that. Because they’re allowed to do that. But they should also these kids, who do it, the freedom of choice. The freedom of choice to either come to school, and be a student-athlete, and not just pretend that they are — and the ones who leave early aren’t. Because there is no intention on their part to stay four years. But to put them under the purvey of three years for football, one year for basketball cuts the very heart out of me. It cuts it out of me.”

On an ESPN investigation into USC hiring the fathers of basketball players to staff positions, as a “package deal”:

“Was it not a package deal when Bob Knight took Pat Knight to Texas Tech? Not that Bob did anything wrong, because he didn’t.”

On the difference between revenue and non-revenue athletes:

“The kids in the major sports are so far different and isolated from (minor sports) that it’s not even close. But that doesn’t make them bad people. These kids are good people too, which we find out in life. They grow up to be good human beings, but they’re not part of the college experience. The college experience for a semi-professional athlete playing in college, in big-time sports — they don’t do the same things that you guys are doing. It’s impossible for them to do it. They cannot do it, because their commitments are so big.”

On why players should be allowed to leave after high school for the NBA:

“We’re sending kids to Afghanistan. We’re sending kids to wars. We’re going to allow pictures of the bodies coming back home, again. Of 18-year-olds, and 19-year-olds. And we can’t let four or five kids a year, 10 maximum, go professional out of high school, to play a game that they are qualified to play.”

On what the NCAA should do:

“You want to make it a non-profit? Make it a five-year scholarship, and guarantee that these kids can graduate. Restore freshman ineligibility. You want them to be students and go to class, make good grades? You don’t think that they’re ready to handle something, they’ll develop their bodies and their minds. They’ll go to class, because if he doesn’t get through that freshman year, with core credits — and you don’t want to go there, because some of these guys, especially the basketball kids that are one-and-done, far from me to demean any colleges, but some of these classes I could pass.”

On postseason conference tournaments:

“The Big East has 16 teams. They’re all playing. They’re all going to New York on Tuesday, March 10, which means they got to fly in Monday. The winner plays Saturday, March 14, and the losers go home. They tell me about all of these tutorial programs these kids have. … Well, shit, if that’s the case, why don’t we just home-school athletes? We’ll just all come here, once a week, to this office. I don’t get this. I don’t understand this. They’re playing in a tournament, that really means nothing. Except if you’re lucky enough to win it and you’re really not all that good, you go to the NCAA Tournament.”

“It absolutely means nothing, except for money.”


  1. We tore apart kids lives that had nothing to do with what Sampson did? Is he a complete moron? They did not get kicked off of the team because of Sampson’s cheating, they got kicked off because they didn’t think they needed to go to class, did drugs, wouldnt listen to Coach Dakich and whatever else. Nobody would have left involuntarily if they behaved like Indiana Hoosiers should behave. I sure hope somebody called him out on that at the time.

  2. I understand a lot of the points this gentleman is trying to make. He is misguided on some aspects, especially when talking about last years team and the kids who played on it.

    Also, his comment about Bob Knight taking Patrick to Tech in a package deal and comparing that to programs like USC hiring a prospects father or AAU coach to get that prospect into their program as a player is just idiotic. I wouldn’t even expect that stupid of a comment to come from Aruss.

    As I read this, I sense a lot of hostility from him toward professional sports and the NCAA. I definitely understand that when it comes to the NCAA. I don’t understand the hostility toward professional sports for wanting to make a profit, last time I checked, the NBA and NFL doesn’t claim to be, nor do they benefit from being a not-for-profit status.

    The NCAA however is all about the money they can make. Rather that is a profit for them, or for the universities involved, their not-for-profit status as long been a joke to anyone who can open their eyes. One of my all time favorite movies has a quote in it where the NCAA is refereed to as the “N C double a$$holes”.

    His thoughts on what the NCAA should do is great, in theory. The reality is that it would destroy collegiate basketball, and would hurt collegiate football as we know it. In turn, it would hurt or eliminate many non-revenue sports who can’t survive without the money produced by the 2 major sports.

    The reality is the NBA knows who the 1 and done players are, and they bank on those kids to have huge freshman years in the NCAA to bring fans of their collegiate team with them. Unless the NCAA adopted a rule that wouldn’t allow players to enter the league till a certain age, or until they are removed from high school for x amount of years, the NCAA can’t touch their system.

    I would have 2 more questions for Sonny Vaccaro that deal with the same thing. It would go as follows

    “Sonny, in your years involved with Nike, Reebok, Adidas and Under Armour, being a friend and confidant for many players and a “one-man PR firm” for countless others, as well as giving these type of speeches on college campuses all over the country. Tell me Sonny, just exactly how high as your net worth grown? In all of your moral outrage to what the NCAA does, just how profitable has it been for you?”

  3. I would add,

    Have you ever accepted money under the table or have you given money or gifts to young athletes…

    I was surprised IU had this guy speak, I have read about him for years…

  4. I think the HT should edit out profanity. A family paper shouldn’t have words like “bull#$!@” in it!

  5. I have to disagree on editing the profanity.

    When you are dealing with a direct quote from a person, it should be left alone. His use of the term “bullshits” and later the word “shit” gives you a better understanding of his personality.

    This is a blog and not the newspaper, and the guys do a great job of keeping the profanity in check here, and would never allow the people who post comments to the blogs to carry on a profanity laced rant.

  6. Vaccaro is right. We destroyed the lives of the kids from last year’s team by basically displacing and abandoning them and not only that we continue destroying their character as well. All this drug talk is pure garbage to make yourselves feel better about the miserable season we are having. Until Korman, Wilson or someone legit goes on the record with facts, it’s just bitter internet nonsense with a tinge of racism.

    As for the NBA needs the NCAA, who are the 3 best and most popular NBA players today and what do they have in common? Kobe, Lebron and Dwight Howard. What college did they play for? NCAA needs that one year rule A LOT more than the NBA. Get your facts straight for once.

  7. Aruss, didn’t Eric Gordon come out and say that drugs caused a divide amongst the IU players last season?

  8. No, Eric Gordon fell 5 spots in the draft because he was schooled by some clown named Sonny Weems. I was shocked that he was picked in the top 10 taking into consideration his play down the stretch.

    And I’m still shocked that he’s averaging 15 ppg in the NBA. Granted, he goes to the line more frequently than any rookie not named Russell Westbrook.

  9. IU did nothing to destroy the lives of those kids from last years team. Yes there were issues with the coach that was handled poorly. The fact remains the players QUIT going to class, they skipped practice, and then refused to abide by the rules set forth by the person who was put in place as their new COACH!

    That is not IU’s fault. IU didn’t lock them out of the classroom, they didn’t lock them out of practice, and they didn’t tell them they would be ok if they didn’t listen to Coach Dakich.

    Those kids made their own decisions, and are now paying the price for choice they made. Period!

    Why does it have to be Korman or Wilson that has to go on record? I don’t know this for sure, but I am very positive that neither Chris nor Doug sold and/or done drugs with last years team. So anything they go on record with will be nothing more than second hand evidence or an interview from a former player.

    Oh wait, Eric Gordon and Adam Ahlfeld who were both part of the team last year are both on record as saying there was drug use by members of last years team. For you to say this is “bitter internet nonsense with a tinge of racism” is just beyond idiotic!

    Now on to the 1 and done. The 1 year rule has not really done anything to help the NCAA.

    College basketball from 1998 to December 2008 has not changed in popularity, going from 4% popularity in 1998 to a high of 6% in 2004 then dropping to 5% in 2005, the year before the 1 and done rule, and is at a 5% popularity rate as of December of 2008.

    Now go look popularity of the NBA over the last decade. In 1998 they enjoyed the height of their popularity with 13% ranking the NBA as their favorite sport. From 1998 the popularity of the NBA dropped to a low of 4% in 2005. In 2006, the first season that high school players couldn’t jump to the NBA, their popularity jumped up to 7%, as of December 2008 the NBA is at 6% popularity.

    So lets recap, since the NBA has introduced the 1 year rule, their popularity is up 2% compared to the last year prior to the rule, while the NCAA has shown no popularity change over that same time.

    There are your facts Aruss, they can be verified via the Harris Interactive Polls website.

  10. I would also say that if anyone out there wonders why the NFL is the new favorite america past time, it is because they do not have a bunch of snot nosed overpaid 18 and 19 years out there. MLB and NBA are going to need to make some major changes to get their sports back to where they used to be!

  11. Mike P & Korman,

    “Those kids made their own decisions, and are now paying the price for choice they made. Period!” – isn’t part of the the recruiting schtick, you become part of the IU family and we turn you into men? Also, Greenspan was negilent in setting up an awful compliance department then stabbed the coach in the back after supporting him from Nov to the spring until the NCAA (perfect timing as usual) makes an announcement. Then Greenspan stabs the team in the front by naming the team secretary the coach to appease Knight fans instead of the team’s choice. And now we have all these stupid, “I know the players and they did hardcore drugs” posts. As for EJ’s comments, he has since recanted. Until I see a legit news person with official results, it’s all character assassination.

    Your stats are stupid. Graph the NBA’s popularity against Michael Jordan’s career. The NBA markets individuals not school affiliations. Totally different game, totally different demo. No one doubts the IU fan base’s passion for Hoosier basketball but even with IU players in the NBA they are luke warm at best toward the NBA game.

    I accept your apology.

  12. “who are the 3 best and most popular NBA players today and what do they have in common? Kobe, Lebron and Dwight Howard.”

    One last thing, you can’t debate that the best players skipped college with the 1 and done rule now in effect when those players didn’t have to abide by it. Kobe, LeBron and Dwight Howard would be just as good as they are today if they played 1 year in college.

    As for the most popular players in the NBA, the list is as follows based on jersey sales.

    1. Kobe Bryant
    2. Kevin Garnett
    3. LeBron James
    4. Chris Paul
    5. Allen Iverson
    6. Pau Gasol
    7. Paul Pierce
    8. Dwyane Wade
    9. Derrick Rose
    10. Nate Robinson

    Dwight Howard’s name doesn’t appear on that list.

    Besides the fact they were all allowed to jump to the NBA from high school, what else do the top 3 have in common?

    That’s right, they are all NBA All-Stars, considered the 3 best players in the league. Like I said before, they would be the 3 best players in the league REGARDLESS of if they played 1 year in college or not.

  13. “The NBA markets individuals not school affiliations”

    That is exactly what I am talking about. The NBA is counting on fans of the schools to follow a PLAYER to the NBA because of their affiliation with the school.

    “Your stats are stupid. Graph the NBA’s popularity against Michael Jordan’s career.”

    Actually the stats will prove the point. Players like Charles Barkley, Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing, Shaq, David Robinson and other top players of that era all played in the NBA during the height of the NBA’s popularity. What do those players have in common? They are all NBA players who attended college.

    Lets see, when the NBA is full of a bunch of 4 year college players who are the superstars of the league, they enjoyed their highest popularity ratings. Now they are almost at their lowest levels in popularity with a lot more 1 or 2 and done players and a lot more players from Europe. Speaks for itself.

    As for Gordon recanting his statement, when and where? Link an article from a reputable news source like the Associated Press who broke the original story.

  14. “Also, Greenspan was negilent in setting up an awful compliance department then stabbed the coach in the back after supporting him from Nov to the spring until the NCAA (perfect timing as usual) makes an announcement.”

    I guess you didn’t read when I said “Yes there were issues with the coach that was handled poorly”. I agree, they didn’t handle things right with Sampson, starting with actually hiring him to be the coach.

    “Then Greenspan stabs the team in the front by naming the team secretary the coach to appease Knight fans instead of the team’s choice.”

    Last time I checked, Dakich was one of the assistant coaches on last years team when he was selected to replace Senderoff because of the phone violations.

    Also, naming McCallum would have been stupid. McCallum came to IU from Oklahoma following Sampson. Naming a coach with those ties to Sampson would have been worse for the program.

    Oh, and it isn’t up to the players who is the coach and it never should be!

  15. “Actually the stats will prove the point. Players like Charles Barkley, Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing, Shaq, David Robinson” – LOL

    Auburn, tiny Georgetown, Nike, football loving LSU and the naval academy…ROFL. Just admit defeat; you’re embarrassing yourself…again.

  16. $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

    Let me grab a piece of this rant. Greed over rules Education every darn time.

    The NCAA, Higher Education, and NBA all spew the same value system from their inner workings to the street.

    That will never change.



    j a c k

  17. Aruss,

    As always, you’re grasping at straws and coming up empty handed.

    You make a false statement that the NCAA benefits over the NBA on the 1 and done rule. The fact is that the numbers show the NBA has gained in popularity while the NCAA has not moved since the rule was put in place.

    The NBA was at it’s height in popularity (per the Harris Interactive Polls) when the stars of the league were players who spent 3-4 years PLAYING at the collegiate level first. Regardless of where these players went to school, the numbers are what they are.

  18. Aruss,

    Keep your promise made to the commenter’s on this board, go back to peegs with your wealth of knowledge and never post here again.

    That in itself discounts anything you say. You made a promise to NEVER POST HERE AGAIN! You have broke that promise, that means you have lied to all of us on this board! You have lost all credibility due to your lie.

    Not like you had any to begin with.

  19. Korman gave me permission to post again. He said this place needed more intelligent and objective posts so take it up with him!

  20. Wow, I feel infinitely dumber for having read all that Aruss v. Mike P stuff.

    J Pat is right about Vaccaro. He funneled kids to schools that wore the shoes of his employer and spent years whoring himself to 18 year olds to make a living. Nice.

  21. Where did he ever say “this place needed more intelligent and objective posts”.

    Here is the exchange on you asking to post:

    “Korman – can I start posting here again? I have some things I need to get off my chest about Dumes’ suspension and the football program.” – Aruss



    Though if I were you and I came back to this blog, I would sit in the back seat of every restaurant I go to and have a clear view of the door. Because I’d know that Mike P. was after me.” – Chris Korman

    Oh, just so you know, Korman didn’t have to grant you permission to post again, you were never banned from the site by anyone other than yourself. You banned yourself with a promise to never post again. You have lied!

    Those are the facts Aruss.

  22. Arsus just being the attention whore that he is. Nothing new, move on.

  23. Aruss, since you’re in the know, next time you see Ellis or Crawford again, ask them about swimming with the Blue Dolphin. Or how about if you are ever around the football team ask K. Lewis if he has paid off the rest of his debt yet.

  24. IU did NOT bring Sonny Vaccaro to campus…The Hoosier Sports Business Organization (#1 student organization on campus)brought Sonny Vaccaro to IU!

    Jared S. Casden, President
    Hoosier Sports Business Organization
    Indiana University
    (914) 522-9419

  25. Aruss, the Bill Kristol of the Scoop. He’s never been right about anything.
    He is, indeed, an attention whore. Vaccaro probably isn’t in it for the attention but the result is the same.

  26. Guys, I was there. He is talking about the NCAA in the quote “tearing these kids lives up” not Indiana University.

    While we know a lot of them were “trouble”, it was in reference to how a coach can just leave(and ruin) a program and start coaching again the next year. while these kids have to pay the consequences for it, and then sit out a year if they wish to transfer.

  27. Mike P

    Obviously they would be the best players if they played in college or not, but the fact is if you force these players to play in college, you know how much bank the NCAA makes off these kids? Television games, the respective school they chose. The “marketing”(i know they technically dont, but thats BS), off these kids.

  28. A good point Sonny made in class today was:

    Why is former U. of Arizona recruit Brandon Jennings forced to play overseas at Age 19 while 19 year old Italian player, Danilo Gallinari (6th overall pick by the Knicks) is allowed to come to the NBA?

    Players should be allowed to play in the NBA if they are ready regardless of age. And doesn’t it seem wrong to hinder the ability of our American-born players to make a living that is deserved of their talents while foreign born players are afforded the chance?

    It seems unfair. But then again, the NBA is obviously a business looking to make profit. They feel their product is better when players have a year between amateur and professional sports. Also, the NBA for years has been all about increasing marketablity overseas. Affording foreigners the chance to play in the NBA at 19 while barring American players seems wrong, but does look to be in line with the financially motivated goals of the NBA.

    Sonny was a fantastic guest speaker. Although he has represented giant corporations like Nike and Adidas, it was clear to me that Sonny has always been on the side of basketball’s young and upcoming players. It is admirable for him to repeatedly take the side of these young kids instead of big business (as evident when he quit Adidas because he thought they shortchanged LeBron) and to advocate Players Rights above anything else.

    Adam Nieder
    Hoosier Sports Business Organization

    A great espn article about Vaccaro written by Ric Bucher:

  29. Bun B.,

    Read what was wrote above by the reporter. What he said about last years team was asked after the talk you heard in an interview with the reporter. He may have talked about the system in general to you, but he talked in specifics about last years team to Hugh.

    As for the money being made, I don’t deny the the NCAA makes lots of money off of TV contracts. That is not the argument here.

    The argument is who is benefiting more from the rule being in placed. The numbers show that the NBA has grown in popularity while the NCAA has neither grown nor decreased in popularity.

    Growth in popularity translate into a growth in revenue above and beyond the advertising growth.

  30. I don’t have time to pour through all of these great comments, but I agree with Mike P in wishing Aruss would live up to his word.

    Vacarro makes some good points, but is somewhat of a walking contradiction as well. Either way, he has an interesting story and I’m looking forward to listening to him tomorrow evening.

  31. Man Aruss, be a man of your word. Please…

    I do think that it is a bit hypocritical for a guy of this background to speak up against the NCAA and NBA. I agree with him, the NCAA is such a greedy institution, but the business is so profitable, that I can understand why these people are so greedy.

    By the way, I am really tired of you constantly insulting the Compliance Department. Let’s think about something. This very same department you criticize hasn’t had a major infraction in DECADES. Indiana has been a paragon for following the rules and always playing the game right. To say that the department is awful over one incident where you really have no proof that it is their fault is really shortsighted.

  32. After reading some of the comments people have posted it is clear that most of you don’t really understand the world beneath the world of sports. Yes, to the average fan some of Sonn’y commenst may seem silly or even downright stupid but to those who truly understand the culture of sports the make perfect sense. I am also getting the feeling that most of if not everyone who has spoken out against Sonny did not attend his speech. Had you been there you may have gotten a better understanding of what was being said. Taking a handful of quotes from a 90 minute speech will give you a general idea of what he was saying but actually being there will allow you to see the whole picture even if you are closed minded. So to everyone who wants to try to shred things that he said last night without having really heard the man out, just shut up. Because to every educated person who attended last night’s speech we all have a better understanding of what was being said whether we agreed with it or not.

  33. Yes, be proud of yourself Jared. President of the “Sports Business Club” and you drop out of Sport Marketing (a class where 24/30 students got a “B” or better).

    It was funny when you started whining about ‘how people didn’t think you were smart’ in front of the lecture hall in Z302. Keep doing the “big things” you were talking about, ROFLMAO!

    That’s the #1 thing I absolutely hated about Indiana, let in far too many dumb kids. It absolutely ruined my educational experience there. That and the fact that their Sports Marketing program makes you believe you can actually get paid to work in sports without doing commission-based sales.

  34. Bettor

    Well you obviously do not know Jared very well if you are going to attack him over dropping a class.

    People drop classes for a myriad of reasons, many times it has nothing to do with meeting the course requirements.

    Instead of using this message board to be annoyance and bash Jared, a dear friend of mine, why dont you go out and do “big things”.

    Jared has more responsibility right now in his life than you probably ever will. Not only does he oversee the HSBO, he runs his own clothing company (Panda Rhand llc), but he also is involved with promotion of Jakes Night Club, specifically bringing rap sensation “The Game” to IU so people like you, Bettor, can enjoy the night life.

    I believe Jared is to classy of a guy to get on here and respond to such unthoughtful to comments. Get your damn facts straight then start talking.

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