The California Interscholastic Federation began an investigation Tuesday to determine whether eight of the state’s top basketball players violated a rule by participating in an all-star tournament sponsored by the Nike shoe company earlier this month.
The invitation-only tournament, held at the company’s headquarters in Beaverton, Ore., Sept. 10-12, showcased 37 of the best high school players in the nation. Other states’ high school associations are also investigating for possible violations.
The CIF, which governs California high school sports, allows athletes to participate in all-star competition only from the end of the season in question until Sept. 1.
The California players who participated were Toby Bailey of Los Angeles Loyola, Cameron Murray of Glendora, Schea Cotton and Jelani Gardner of Bellflower St. John Bosco, Miles Simon of Santa Ana Mater Dei, Rick Price of Gardena Serra, Tim Young of Santa Cruz Harbor and J.R. Henderson of Bakersfield East.
All are seniors except Cotton, who is a freshman. They are also among the state’s most recruited players. Henderson and Bailey have already made oral commitments to UCLA, Murray to USC and Young to Stanford.
Thomas Byrnes, commissioner of the CIF, said he was not prepared to make a ruling Tuesday.
“If there are any violations that we can rule on, the only one I can see now is that this event was held after Sept. 1,” Byrnes said. “We must then determine whether this event was considered an all-star competition.”
Byrnes will present any findings to the CIF Executive Committee, which would ultimately determine any punishments, including a loss of eligibility.
The Nike “Career Developmental Weekend” was designed by the company’s sports-marketing division to showcase the nation’s top players in front of major college coaches. It concluded with a pair of games between the players before 1,800 fans at a local high school. Proceeds totaling $10,000 were donated to the Oregon School Activities Assn.
The selected players received free air fare, lodging and meals. They also got an estimated $500 worth of free equipment and were given $100 gift certificates to use in the company’s store. Additional merchandise was made available at a special low rate.
Byrnes said the free equipment and gift certificates were not CIF violations.
Robert J. Minnix, an NCAA director of enforcement who attended the camp, said Nike officials received clearance from the NCAA’s legislative services office before sponsoring the event.
“Nike screwed up, and not the kids,” said Keith Peters, the company’s public relations director. (We) didn’t call every state where we had participants from. In hindsight, we made a big mistake.”