After Indiana fired basketball coach Tom Crean last week, one name has stood out above all the rest in the Hoosiers’ coaching search: Steve Alford.
A former star player at Indiana, Alford is now coaching UCLA, which is a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament. He previously coached New Mexico and Iowa.
Indiana athletic director Fred Glass wants someone with IU ties, and Alford fits the bill. But what will it take to get him to Bloomington? One thing potentially standing in the way is Alford’s $7 million buyout at UCLA. That’s a lot of money, combined with Crean’s $4 million buyout.
But according to the Indianapolis Star’s Gregg Doyel, IU has found a creative way to pay Alford’s UCLA buyout: Adidas could do it.
The Alford-to-IU noise is so loud, coaches around the country are telling me what they’re hearing: They expect Adidas — IU has a $54 million contract with Adidas through 2024 — to pay Alford’s $7.8 million buyout at UCLA. It too was an Adidas school when UCLA hired Alford in 2013, but the Bruins recently left Adidas for a 15-year, $280 million deal with Under Armour. Adidas would love to return the favor and help Alford leave UCLA. That’s what other coaches are hearing, and telling me.
Yes, Adidas might be willing to pay $7 million over a grudge to try to get back at UCLA for moving to Under Armour.
This potential move shows once again the influence that shoe companies have in college sports. Recruits and coaches have long been lured to schools that have contracts with companies with which they’re already tied, either through their own contracts or their AAU team contracts. That feels weird in what is supposedly an “amateur” sport, but if Adidas does pay Alford’s buyout, it will show that there’s no part of this industry that the shoe companies won’t touch to claim a competitive advantage.
Even beyond the buyout issue, it remains to be seen whether Indiana will extend an offer to Alford. While he does have IU ties, Alford protected one of his former players at Iowa after that player was accused of rape, and he tried to cover it up by having the victim and the player attend a prayer counseling session. Mishandling a sexual assault case that badly could (well, should) make him unhireable.
But this is the high-stakes business of college sports, and IU and Adidas just might be willing to go to extraordinary lengths to do whatever it takes to win their respective contests.