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Coach Cal Couldn't Hire An Assistant Coach Because Phil Knight Didn't Give Him The Approval To Leave Oregon ... Wait, That's Allowed?!?

[The Athletic] - Calipari had long wanted to add Payne to his staff, initially trying to lure him to Memphis from Oregon. But Memphis was an Adidas school, so before Calipari could approach Payne, he had to get the blessing of Nike CEO and Oregon superbooster Phil Knight. 

“You do not have my blessing,” Calipari remembers Knight saying. “So I didn’t hire him.”

But when Oregon changes coaches, Calipari is entering his second season at Kentucky, a Nike flagship program. Calipari wastes little time calling Knight back:  “I said, ‘Phil, you know where I am and Kenny deserves to have this opportunity.’ ” 

If you’re a Kentucky fan or really a college hoops fan you know how important Kenny Payne is to Kentucky. If not, read Kyle’s piece about how ridiculously talented Payne is at recruiting and more importantly developing these stars. I mean don’t believe me? Anthony Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns and Willie Cauley-Stein all say so.

But I couldn’t help but get stuck reading that paragraph above. Cal tried to hire Payne at Memphis – not a Nike school at the time. He wasn’t allowed because Phil Knight wouldn’t give him his blessing. How is that allowed?!? That has to be some sort of violation, I don’t know how, but it just has to be. Can’t Payne make that decision for himself. We’re talking about an assistant coach – granted arguably the best assistant coach in the country, but still.

Really it just shows how powerful these shoe companies are. We’re seeing it now play out in court and with the FBI trial, but it’s always been shoe companies/boosters being this powerful agent in a way. Hell, you can go back to the John Wooden days and say the same with Sam Gilbert.

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Oh and for those that say Kentucky cheats? Think again idiots

“I don’t know the answer,” Payne says, “but I do know this: I try to be a man of integrity and character and faith.” No one has asked about his reputation on the recruiting trail, but Payne alludes to it anyway. “And I’ve never cheated to get a kid.”

Payne is a man of integrity. Never had to cheat to land a kid.