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Southern Section Targets Big Spenders

Basketball: Large corporate sponsors, especially shoe companies, could have their spending curbed.

April 24, 2002|MIKE BRESNAHAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Southern Section is taking steps to curb the spending power of large corporate sponsors, particularly shoe companies that target high school boys' basketball teams in the Southland.

Commissioner James Staunton said he plans to take a proposal to the section's executive committee, which next meets on June 5.

Nike and Adidas sponsor about 200 high school teams in the nation, 15 of them in the Southland, typically providing two pairs of basketball shoes, an athletic bag and a T-shirt for each player.

Selected teams like Santa Ana Mater Dei and Westchester were fully outfitted, free, last season. Each Westchester player received more than $1,300 in gear, including five pairs of shoes, and the team's trip to a prestigious tournament was paid for by a Nike affiliate.

Shoe companies "have taken this into the stratosphere," Staunton said. "They have plunked down major money that most people would say is not appropriate."

Such donations are legal, although a California Interscholastic Federation bylaw requires teams to report single-source donations of more than $500 to a school administrator, usually a principal or athletic director.

Staunton and others worry that teams that can offer athletes free gear upset the competitive balance of high school athletics.

He said it is important to distinguish among the types of goods donated. He considers items used for a number of years--uniforms or warm-up sweats, for example--more acceptable than shoes.

"If Nike wants to donate shoes to some kids, we would say, politely, no," Staunton said. "If they wanted to donate uniforms, we would do that. Uniforms get passed down from year to year."

Staunton said he would work on the proposal with Anaheim Union School District Athletic Director Tom Danley.

Danley's teams were 618-242 in his 33 seasons as boys' basketball coach at Anaheim Katella before he left to become the district athletic director in 1999.

"Kids aren't supposed to be getting several hundreds of dollars in merchandise and literally being bought off," Danley said. "It's not what interscholastic athletics is all about.

"Somewhere along the line, we've got to say enough is enough. This is not a mini-fracas. This is a major issue."

Danley said it would be important to set corporate funding limits.

"If you have a sugar daddy, you limit them," Danley said. "Maybe we'll say there is a $1,000 maximum a corporation can sponsor.

"We're going to get resentment from elitist teams, but 99% of teams are not in that category."

After the initiative is presented to the executive committee, it probably will be forwarded to the section's 83-member council for a reading at a meeting in October. The proposal then will probably be put to a vote at the next council meeting, expected to take place in January. If the proposal passes, the date of implementation will be decided at that time.

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