The University of Maryland's Lefty Driesell and 16 other major-college signed personal-endorsement conbasketball coaches recently have tracts worth up to $10,000 each with the Nike shoe company, it was learned yesterday.
Driesell's contact calls for him to receive approximately $8,000 a year for actively supporting and assisting in what a Nike official called "an aggressive attack" in the college basketball shoe market.
Maryland switched to Nike shoes this year from Adidas. The team is given unlimited free shoes throughout the season. Driesell told The Washington Post that his players chose Nike over two other brands that also were offered for free to the Terrapins.
Other coaches who have become charter members of what Nike calls its "Coaches Clcb" include Bill Foster of Duke, ranked No. 1 in many preseason polls; Jerry Tarkanian of Nevada-Las Vegas and Frank McGuire of South Carolina.
The other 13 schools whose coaches have signed with Nike, the company said, are Southern California, Minnesota, New Mexico, Penn State, Oregon, Georgia, Holy Cross, Pittsburgh, Tennesse State, Idaho State, Oklahoma State, La Salle and Iowa.
Claudia Craig, promotions manager for Nike, said drom the company's Beaverton, Ore., headquarters that the company is in the process of signing other coaches to contracts. She would not divulge individual contract figures, but said $8,000 was above average.
Craig said under the terms of the contract, Driesell is obligated to be "agreeable to promote the shoe within his team to the best of his ability" and "to make two appearances at clinics for which we pay his out-of-pocket expenses."
Nike's approach to marketing, she said, is a grass-roots policy to nurture young athletes with hope they wear Nike if and when they become famous. In basketball, however, Nike started with the pros and just became aggressive at the college level this year.
In what was basically a one-shoe market only five years ago, competition to get college basketball teams to wear - and thus advertise - various shoes with their distinctive logos is now so fierce that coaches are offered contracts and free shoes for their teams if they endorse their shoes.
Coaches, depending on their stature and the visibility of their teams, also receive fringe benefits such as lucrative clinic fees and expenses-paid trips for themselves and their wives.
Five years ago, every major area school used Converse shoes and so did almost every other team in the country. Now, Converse, Adidas, Nike, Pro-Keds, Puma and even newer companies are vying to get their shoes on player's feet.
"I want to know when this is going to end," said George Balanis, former William and Mary basketball coach and now the Pro-Keds sales representative for the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.
"It used to be a coach was happy if he got a free pair of shoes," Balanis said. "Now he wants to get paid . . . It's a big business now. Everybody wears jogging shoes. Even the nonathletes wear them to look like athletes."
Driesell said that he did not get paid for his team to wear Nikes, but for him to endorse them. He said his players were polled by assistant coach Wil Jones as to their preference among the three types of free shoes offered Maryland this year.
Most college athletic directors at major schools consider endorsements part of a coach's overall salary package, along with such things as summer camps and television shows.
Driesell also endorses automobiles and a soft drink.
An NCAA spokesman said that organization places no restrictions on what products a coach may endorse. He said it would be up to each individual college or university to make such a determination.
George Leftwich, former Converse salesman in this region, compares selling shoes to coaches in the same vein as coaches recruiting high-school athletes.
"There's not much difference between the way coaches sell their programs and the way companies try to sell their shoes," Leftwich said. "It's just as competitive. When they try to get a kid, they don't pull out any stops."
Georgetown Coach John Thompson, the only major area coach to remain with Converse, did a clinic, all expenses paid, in Italy last summer for that company. He was given a choice: he could travel first class by himself or tourist class if he wished to bring his wife along. He chose the latter.
George Washington, American and Catholic universities all use Pro-Keds.
However, Balanis said, George Washington probably gets 75-80 free pairs of shoes annually, which would save the school a couple of thousand dollars. American and Catholic universities receive fewer numbers of shoes, and AU Coach Gary Williams and CU Coach Jack Kvancz said they get no clinics through the shoe companies.
Balanis said Pro-Ked's policy is not to pay coaches, on its advisory staff for clinics. None among Bob Tallent, Kvancz and Williams are no pro-Keds advisory staff of coaches. However, Pro-Keds does pay other coaches for appearing at clinics it sponsors, one coach said.
Both Leftwich and Balanis say they had expense accounts to entertain their clients. Balanis on a recent sales trip through this area took coaches from GW, AU and CU, plus two high school coaches, to dinner. He said the bill was $175.
Leftwich, who left Converse 18 months ago and now sells for Champion Co., producers of T-shirts and game uniforms, said he had $8,800 budgeted for his expense account when he want to work for Converse in 1972.
"You'd take coaches and wives out to dinner," Leftiwch said in a recent interview. "Once a year, I'd have a big [WORD ILLEGIBLE] Blackie's for college and high-school coaches . . . Actually, you bought the business."
Yesterday, answering questions about his selection of shoes, Catholic's Kvancz cracked. "If an organization wants to pay me to wear a shoe, tell them to call me."
"I'll tell you I'd switch if somebody offered me $3,000," Tallent said. "Those things sure tell you who you are and where you are."
Area coaches like Driesell, Thompson and Tallent say they are not receiving compensation if their teams wear a certain company's shoe.
"I get money for endorsements," Driesell said. "It's not for wearing the shoe.I let the kids choose the shoe."
After dropping Converse several years ago, because it did not make a shoe that matched his team's uniforms, Driesell switched to Adidas. Maryland stopped wearing Adidas this season, Driesell said, because the company does not provide free shoes.
"It's the first year I've ever done it," said Driesell. "It's the most competitive business there is. Salesmen call on me all the time."
Driesell said he figures that he is saving the school $8,000-$10,000 a year because his players, coaches and managers go through an average of 6-7 pair a year."
Driesell would not disclose exactly how much Nike is paying him. "It's personal," he said. But, when asked if $8,000 was correct he replied, "It's something like that."
The coach said he had checked with his lawyer before agreeing to Nike's personal offer to him.
"What the school gets is free shoes, which is a heck of a savings," Driesell said. "I can't see anything wrong with it if the university is getting free shoes out of it. I heard one guy's getting $25,000 for endorsements and clinics. It's a package. No, I'm not going to tell you who it is."
Thompson said he has stayed with Converse out of loyalty to the company, because he likes the shoes and because it is the only basketball shoes he has worn personally.
"I imagine," he said, "If you tried you could get shoes all the time and those (other) things."
Thompson said that he receives his clinic fees for delivering a service, not for wearing a shoe.
"College athletics is semiamateur," he said. "Is it wrong for a college coach to advertise automobiles? I don't feel it's wrong at all, when you're delivering a service. (Giving clinics is) a service for which I'm entitled to be paid. I'm not getting paid to wear the shoe. I'm getting paid to speak to coaches.
"It is my personal time and my personal service, not that of the kids, the problem is when you get the kids involved in advertising shoes."
Leftwich said that some shoe sales' reps did deal directly with players.
"It depends on the coach," he said. "Some of them won't let you deal with the kids. Others don't care."
Thompson said he does not endorse Converse shoes.
"I don't endorse any shoe. If I endorse it, I'm being cheated. If I did, I deserve a lot more money. But I have no problem in telling people I like the shoe and wear it . . . It's definitely no obligation on my part. I chose their shoe because it's the shoe I like."
Thompson said that Georgetown pays for all its players' shoes and that the coaches receive free shoes, which he called a universal practice.