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Under Armour Story

Hello, this is Eric Prisbell again. I have received some questions from readers and wanted to post this response, which I have been sending to several readers this morning:

Thank you for the e-mail. I respect your opinion and appreciate your comments. I made every attempt to speak to Maryland officials as well as Under Armour officials. I understand that Maryland cannot comment on specifics at this time because it has to investigate the case after I brought several questions to its attention. I would have loved the opportunity to sit down with Under Armour officials so they could answer my specific questions. I still have many questions for Under Armour concerning its relationship with Lance Stephenson.

This is a story that has much more to do with Under Armour than it has to do with Maryland. I never state or imply that anyone at Maryland has committed a violation of any kind. Former Maryland player Bryon Mouton may have committed a secondary violation, but that is neither significant nor linked to the coaching staff. I believe it is fair to explore the relationship between a shoe company and a top high school player when the shoe company’s CEO is a top booster for a college that is also recruiting the player for a different reason. Does Under Armour’s relationship with Lance Stephenson give Maryland a recruiting advantage that is either fair or unfair? I believe it is fair to explore that issue. I feel strongly about this story and that it needed to be written.

I also feel strongly about the need to shine a light on AAU- and shoe company-related issues. These issues are important and are generally under-reported nationally. I plan to do extensive AAU-related coverage this spring and summer and look forward to delving head-first into these issues. I also understand the sentiment: Why Maryland? Gary Williams has been clean for 20 years here, go after another school. Fair point, no question. There is nothing more I would rather do than examine the recruiting practices and AAU-shoe company ties at several other prominent programs across the country. When given that opportunity this spring and summer, I plan to do just that.

If you have any specific questions about this story, I will answer each and every one of them. If you have any suggestions on where I should turn first in the spring and summer, please let me know. Feel free to e-mail me anytime: prisbelle@washpost.com. And thanks again for the feedback on the Under Armour story. My only agenda is to make our coverage as fair and as comprehensive as it can be.

By Eric Prisbell  |  March 2, 2009; 12:10 PM ET
Categories:  Men's basketball  
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Comments

"Former Maryland player Bryon Mouton may have committed a secondary violation, but that is neither significant nor linked to the coaching staff."

If the violation was "neither significant nor linked to to the coaching staff" then what was the reasoning for its inclusion?

Posted by: fushezzi | March 2, 2009 12:21 PM | Report abuse

let me take a stab at what we'll hear from esteemed Terps beat reporters this week:

"We got a lot great feedback from the story we did on possible NCAA violations at Maryland. 99% of the emails from readers that I received were positive. We really felt this story was under-reported and that we presented both sides of the story. I am really happy with the way the story turned out. We spoke with over a million people for this story to get all aspects of how Maryland might have violated NCAA violations. Please wait until you read our follow up story later this week on how Maryland didn't actually commit any rules violations before you judge the entire series. And please, if you have any questions or comments, email me or my partner at prisbelle@washpost.com or YandaS@washpost.com"

Posted by: Barno1 | March 1, 2009 11:46 PM

Posted by: Barno1 | March 2, 2009 12:21 PM | Report abuse

Hmm... "My only agenda is to make our coverage as fair and as comprehensive as it can be." - I'd say that its a safe assessment that "fair" didn't play a part in your excessive coverage of the things that "ail" MD basketball over the past month. Fair would be covering all possible violations, for all local teams equally. To state that you intend to to extensive coverage this spring and summer will NOT undo the damage your reporting has caused to MD basketball and GW. Stick to the game coverage until the Terps are finished the season - that is your responsibility as the beat reporter. We are tired of your "agenda" as it relates to trashing the Terps!

Posted by: TerpGrad | March 2, 2009 12:38 PM | Report abuse

Eric,

You state: "This is a story that has much more to do with Under Armour than it has to do with Maryland. I never state or imply that anyone at Maryland has committed a violation of any kind. Former Maryland player Bryon Mouton may have committed a secondary violation, but that is neither significant nor linked to the coaching staff."

I wonder if the average reader of your story or whether current or prospective Terp recruits came away with that impression after reading your story? It would have been better for you to have made that qualification or clarification as part of your story, not in some follow-up blog that has one-ten-thousandths the readership (if that).

You also state: "I believe it is fair to explore the relationship between a shoe company and a top high school player when the shoe company’s CEO is a top booster for a college that is also recruiting the player for a different reason."

So the possibility of undue influence CAN mean some unseemly influence, but this unseemly influence has not been demonstrated to be there, according to your own words in your blog comments (but not in the story). So why hint so strongly that it IS there? Is Stephenson unique among talented kids in talking with shoe companies, and do shoe companies have relationships with universities? The answer is no and yes. Anyway, if Under Armour is such a great recruiting tool for the Terps, why haven't the Terps' football and basketball recruiting classes been ranked more highly in recent years?

Finally, with the recruit's father saying that the Under Armour basketball shoe "sucked," doesn't that tell you that Under Armour has not gotten into the pockets of the recruit?

Posted by: EdDC | March 2, 2009 12:55 PM | Report abuse

Why don't you ask Byron Mouton as a follow up? He was at the Duke game on Wednesday, oh that's right you're too busy finding things wrong with this team than seeking out those who can correct your erroneous stories.

How about you clearly describe Stephenson's relationship with Under Armour, and how exactly that violates NCAA rules. Under Armour's relationship with Maryland is somewhat similar to Nike's with Oregon (Oregon is on a completely different level with Nike though), so explain how Oregon can recruit guys who play on teams sponsored by Nike or with relationships with Nike.

This whole nonsense just SCREAMS of a story the Post is trying to write out of thin air!

Posted by: Russtinator | March 2, 2009 12:56 PM | Report abuse

JT III and Nike scoff at your stupid player recruiting/shoe company story ;o)

Posted by: virtueandvice | March 2, 2009 1:02 PM | Report abuse

I will preface this by stating that I attended UM when Gary first started there and I was at games during their TV blackout year. It was amazing that he could get a team to be competitive with the likes of Matt Roe, Cedrick Lewis, and Garfield Smith. I had been a big Gary supporter up until the last couple of years when the program seemed to have hit a rut with recruiting and NCAA performance. Initially,I was interested to read items posed by Prisbell in regards to Gary and his job security and recruiting deficiencies. However, reading the 3 part story and the latest Under Armor thing and I have now become an even bigger supporter of Gary. The interview with Gary that was posted in the blog answered a lot of questions and made it clear that the 3 part story was not the full truth. And now, the biggest story about UM is what columnists like Bowswell and Wise have written about--that is a determined under maned team on the brink of a NCAA berth. It is amazing--before the season i thought they would be lucky to be .500 and now Gary has them close to the tournament. So if Prisbell and company want to continue taking shots at MD then so be it--maybe the Post will wise up and put them back in line but if not then they will only serve to galvanize the UM fan base to even stronger support of Gary and the program, when before the stories, it may have been wavering.

Posted by: mzanman | March 2, 2009 1:12 PM | Report abuse

Form letters are for Bamas

Posted by: Lee26 | March 2, 2009 1:28 PM | Report abuse

What exactly, was the nature of Mouton's secondary violation? If I missed an expalantion, I apologize.

I sense that most commenters are upset that there is no 'there' there with regards to UA & Stephenson.

In my opinion, this falls under an appearance of impropriety. I can't even see it being unethical, at least as on the face of it.

I did like the first three-part series; very educational and eye-opening. Certain commenters may not have liked the answers that came out of it, but I for one firmly believe that the questions needed to be asked, and will still need to be asked. Not because we doubt, but because we care.

If you invested money in a company and only looked at what the dividends were the last five years, you have no excuse when you find out that the company has been scamming you blind and shovelling paper gains to gloss over real losses. On the other hand, if you looked at the inner workings and you addressed the flaws as a serious shareholder, both the company and your future benefits have a better footing to face future challenges. So ask the questions, ask away. Because as an alumnus and a fan, I have every right to know that the team I support is genuine article.

The UA-Stephenson-Plank-BoT connections is a valid question. Unless you know something else; the answers that came out of the story didn't lead anywhere. And unanswered questions shouldn't lead to a news story.

Posted by: mabkhar | March 2, 2009 1:31 PM | Report abuse

Too later Mr Prisbell, subscription already canceled!!! Boycott the Post!!!

Posted by: dewey69 | March 2, 2009 1:33 PM | Report abuse

Nice try, but I too cancelled my comPost subscription and have recommended to many others that they do the same. Go talk to USF about Gilchrist and his trainer who now has a job there, ask why they left MD. Write a story about that for the 10 subcribers that are left. PRINT IS DEAD!

Posted by: shrshot | March 2, 2009 1:52 PM | Report abuse

Just seemed one sided against maryland, given the team is probably one of the few with the least benefit from the system you report on. Your comments acknowledged but per usual with stories, the damage is done as only the sensational headline travels circles. The one with the greatest influence recruiting has been you, as he is unlikely to attend now. I know you probably don't, but out of curiosity who checks to see you don't have an agenda or conflict of interest, or relationship with another university recruiting him,or company with issues with Under Armour... ? Is there a system set up for that at the Post?

Posted by: mickyrckt | March 2, 2009 1:53 PM | Report abuse

this so called sports writer prisbell must be a duke fan, cause he sure doesnot sound like a terp. just write the facts.

Posted by: nsumduw4 | March 2, 2009 1:55 PM | Report abuse

What BS.

This is nothing but got-you gonzo journalism. There is nothing fair in your writings. You are out to try to make a name for yourself. Is it a job at ESPN like Kornhieser and Wilbon that you're after? I suspect so. They pay well.

What you've done in effect is go after a coach - sure to be hall of fame and try to bring down his program. Gary has been a fine example of what coaching should be in college basketball for 30 years. And here comes Eric Prisball the prescient beat writer/reporter that is going to enlighten everyone with your astute detective work slamming Gary Williams and the UofM. Where do you get off??

This is grossly unfair, unwarranted, and absolutely slanderous. No facts, no real story, no nothing but an attempt to bring down Gary Williams and his program in order for you to gain some sort of notoriety.

And you may well have cost Gary his top recruit. Is the Post going to make the UofM well from your slanderous behavior, I wonder?

Where in the hell do you get off??

Posted by: Jaymand | March 2, 2009 2:02 PM | Report abuse

After reading both the 3-parter and the UA tripe, I'm behind GW 100%. If this is what it takes to be a top recruiter, to land the big boys, then an investigation needs to be made about Duke, UConn, Kansas, and any other big recruiter because that's what college basketball has become, unfortunately.

And don't tell me they're clean either. Most of these kids are exploited by their parents, agents, AAU coaches (who act more like pimps), and Madison Ave suits who try to drain every plug nickel out of these kids (most of whom don't see a dime). It sickens me that this is what Div. 1 b-ball has come down to: show me the money. I'm glad that GW doesn't back down on his ethics when it comes to recruiting. At least he can sleep at night, rather than Coach K or RW or Calhoun who have to sell their souls just to get to the final four.

As for Lance, whom everybody is now touting as the Second Coming of Christ, if the only way to get him to College Park is to bend a few rules, then let him go to Kansas or Duke where they have have the best teams money can buy. He's one and done anyway. I don't care if can shoot threes out of his butt; any school knows that their school is a stepping stone for the NBA with him. Be a team player or beat it!


Posted by: ecglotfelty | March 2, 2009 2:09 PM | Report abuse

The series of articles by Eric Prisbell and Steve Yanda seem to be an attempt to smear the Maryland basketball program - especially Gary Williams. You say you are trying to be fair in this latest article with respect to Under Armour but you fail to mention similar relationships by rival ACC teams.

It's well documented that Duke Coach, Mike Krzyzewski, received a "million-dollar signing bonus, a $375,000-to $400,000-per-annum multiyear contract and lots of Nike stock options" for switching from Adidas to Nike in 1993. The University of North Carolina webpage reports that the school receives $28.34 million from Nike in cash and equipment for a 8 year deal signed with Nike in 2002. So should Nike be banned from any contact with potential Duke or UNC recruits?

In his blog, Glenn Clark reports that Steve Yanda is "a very young man (21, and just graduated from college in 2008), and his previous writing was for the Marquette Tribune." That would mean that Yanda wasn't even born when Len Bias died sending the Maryland program into a tailspin. Gary Williams is the person who single handedly resurrected the Terps basketball program. There is even a documentary about this turnaround called "Tragedy to Triumph: The Maryland Terrapin Odyssey".

If any good has come out of this smear campaign it seems to be that Greivis Vazquez has been forced to mature and realize that his actions and performance have a deep impact on the University as a whole and on Gary in particular. The team seems to have drawn inspiration from the attacks on their coach. I'm sure this wasn't the intent of the WaPo articles, but Maryland is a tough and gritty school. We are fighters. I don't think you knew what you were getting into when you decided to take on Gary and the Terrapin fans. It's time for Eric Prisbell and Steve Yanda to FEAR THE TURTLE!

Posted by: terpfanboi | March 2, 2009 2:24 PM | Report abuse

Lance's AAU team is outfitted by Adidas, who also happen to be the official outfitter for Kansas. Hey Eric, how about a story about that?

Posted by: Mariolucasforthree | March 2, 2009 2:38 PM | Report abuse

Eric, trying to relive your glory days from the Fresno Bee? --

"Former Sports reporter Eric Prisbell received an honorable mention in breaking news from APSE for a story about Fresno State basketball practice rules violations under coach Ray Lopes."

Why don't you try reporting on the team you are covering instead of investigating them? Too bad for you, Maryland is the cleanest program around.

Posted by: Steve96 | March 2, 2009 3:11 PM | Report abuse

It seems to me that Eric's intentions were to raise questions and conversations not just in the spectrum of UMD but all around college basketball in regard to recruiting. This last article about UA seems to unveil a larger aspect of college athletics that seems to be going unnoticed throughout the country, whether with NIKE and Oregon or adidas and Kansas or even UA with UMD. By writing such articles, conversations are raised and truth can be separated from rumor. I think that Eric has done an excellent job in bring about this conversation, which in turn has shown Gary Williams to be an absolute ethical coach.

Posted by: jlu3 | March 2, 2009 4:11 PM | Report abuse

I agree with what jlu3 said.

Posted by: Lindemann777 | March 2, 2009 4:17 PM | Report abuse

Meh... Washington Post will be Bankrupt in another year or so, Prisbell can take his "investigative journalism" somewhere where I'm sure it will be more appreciated.... like North Carolina or Florida.

Obviously MD Basktetball is the only school that doesn't run a clean program...
evidenced by the other three articles noting our lack of recruiting.

I guess since there is nothing (positive) to write about Georgetown or Virginia, this is the best Prisbell can do right now to justify taking up the ever shrinking cubicle space at the Post.

GL Eric. Thanks for your support!

Posted by: theal2000 | March 2, 2009 5:33 PM | Report abuse

Under Armour has made several changes on it's Sports Marketing side over the past year. Their SR. VP left as well as several other longtime employees within in that group. The guy that replaced the longtime SM VP was an attorney friend of K Planks. That guy signed Hawaii to an awful longterm deal and he also alientated the Colts Bob Sanders to the point he quit the Company. The attorney lasted a bit more than a year and has now been replaced. How bad are things? Plank has now taken on the responsibility of running Sports Marketing. Which means he spreads himself very thin. The point? It seems that UA is trying to play in the Big Leagues with inexperienced people. It seems like it has caught up to them in a real bad way down at MD.

Posted by: StanSmith37 | March 2, 2009 9:01 PM | Report abuse

Eric,

I'm tired of hearing what your "intentions" are, and what you plan on doing this summer. I'm beginning to believe you'll be getting to work on this once the semester ends and your Journalism 101 finals are over. Youre reporting is lackluster in that it is devoid of facts, and is reflective of the overall poor state of journalism at all levels in our country. A reporter's job is to report the facts and not impart their personal bias and opinion on their story.

Posted by: asnis715 | March 2, 2009 11:15 PM | Report abuse

why did'nt you print this follow up story 1st? i read some where in this mess the last few days that "we" had a million peple researching this,but no one asked MOUTON anything. 99% positive feedback? i guess you learned math at the same college you learned to be a writer.from all i've read,you don't have many supporters. hopefully your bosses will are'nt on the 99% side.so if your looking for things to do this spring and summer i suggest you send out your resume!

Posted by: curtsterps | March 3, 2009 5:35 AM | Report abuse

I don't know Stan UA is doing pretty well business wise for a company that is 10 years old. They have gotten farther in the last 5 years as far as making Nike sweat (the Stephenson All-Star game snub is a perfect example)than Addidas or Reebok have in 20...

Posted by: Lee26 | March 3, 2009 8:47 AM | Report abuse

I get it that the reason you are looking into the potential impropriety is because it involves a local team, but if you want to sink your teeth into exactly how shady recruiting has become, then look no further than Georgetown and its non-stop AAU pipeline -- that's the much bigger story that also has much more widespread national appeal.
Anyway, let's not mince words, big time boosters are how things get done at every major university in this country, and the vast majority of them know very well how to cover their tracks -- they didn't acquire their positions of wealth and influence by being stupid.
And it may look like Stephenson chose MD because of his relationship with UA, but proving it is a whole other ball of wax, and unless you can get one of the major principles (not 3rd party) to flat out tell you that the deal was put together so that Lance would go to MD, then you have absolutely nothing.
Yes, MD may in fact have an advantage in the recruiting world with UA, but that is how the cookie crumbles sometimes. Every school would like to have such an advantage.

Posted by: MDMAN1 | March 3, 2009 12:41 PM | Report abuse

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