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Pitino decries shoe companies such as Nike, adidas having too much influence over AAU programs

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LOUISVILLE, Kentucky — Louisville coach Rick Pitino would like to eliminate the influence of athletic shoe companies in the recruiting process.

Pitino ended a news conference Thursday railing against a system he believes is often driven by shoe companies such as Nike and even adidas sponsoring AAU programs.

The 62-year-old Pitino believes the relationship between shoe companies and AAU programs has become problematic in recent years.

"What I personally don't like (is) I can't recruit a kid because he wears Nike on the AAU circuit," Pitino said. "I had never heard of such a thing and it's happening in our world. Or, he's on the adidas circuit, so the Nike schools don't want him."

The coach added that it is a very tough situation to address "because our pockets are lined with their money."

Louisville and adidas agreed to a $39 million extension this spring to outfit the school's teams.

There's no rule prohibiting an adidas-sponsored school such as Louisville from pursing a recruit whose high school or AAU team is sponsored by another apparel company. Pitino even acknowledged that he has landed some of his best recruiting classes in recent years, and not all played for an adidas-sponsored program.

But the coach — who started the news conference discussing the upcoming season before being asked about guaranteed scholarships as part of the new benefits that Power 5 conferences are considering for student-athletes — lamented a culture in which an AAU coach sponsored by a brand might steer a recruit to a college outfitted by that same company to maintain support for his team.

"In the last five years I've seen tremendous change on this," he said, "and believe me, it's a very competitive thing by these shoe companies to get players. They're going out and recruiting like us in the summertime, 'let's get this kid to the (Nike) EYB, let's get this kid in the adidas Nations and they're competing like we compete for recruits."

Pitino would like the NCAA to run summer camps so that rules are explained to recruits and coaches can watch all prospects. He blamed himself for not knowing enough about the current shoe company-AAU influence, but said it has made him wiser about how he recruits.

"As long as you do your homework, you're fine," Pitino said. "I didn't do my homework. ... We have to make sure we know that it doesn't matter to the kids; and those kids we want to go after."

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