Our nationwide focus on the NCAA’s hypocrisy and a home team using balls to their advantage may have found a happy medium in the latest narrative spinning its way through the sports press. The University of Maryland and Under Armour are at the center of the frame, but the NCAA is yet again the primary target.
Opposing players have lodged complaints about Under Armour’s basketballs, which are used at the Xfinity Center due to the Terps’ deal with UA. Iowa players complained that the balls were heavy after losing to Maryland a couple of weeks ago, and Wisconsin’s Nigel Hayes kept the idea going before the two schools played, saying “I don’t like the Under Armour ball whatsoever.”
While the University of Maryland’s deal with Under Armour factors in, it’s not the only case. In the NCAA, Maryland isn’t the only school that makes teams adjust to a different ball on the road. The bigger problem appears to be that the NCAA doesn’t have a standard ball that they require every team to use.
“You don’t go to the Clippers’ stadium and play with a Nike and then go to Golden State and play with a Rawlings,” Hayes said before offering up an NCAA dig. “But in this amateur sport of college, where money isn’t the goal—it’s the student education and experience that you get—we play with a million different basketballs.”
That’s essentially the defense Terps coach Mark Turgeon used, albeit without the sarcasm.
“It’s the way the game is set up,” he told the Washington Post. “Until someone says we’re all going to play with the same ball … I just think people are making more out of it then they should.”
So what’s the balance between big-money sponsorship for schools and regulated equipment? Writing in Bloomberg View, Kavitha Davidson comes down on the side of a standard ball, but perhaps some specialized equipment in other sports.
“Schools should be allowed to negotiate their own sponsorship deals, but if equipment is becoming a determining factor in wins and losses, it’s time to re-evaluate things,” she wrote. “It’s one thing if the equipment is individualized, like a bat, but it’s a whole other story when you’re talking about something like a basketball or football, which has to be used by everyone in the game.”
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