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Did Reebok deal make Majerus a shoe-in for U.?

While Arizona State University was courting Rick Majerus last month, the Utah basketball coach was also in the midst of negotiations over a shoe deal with Reebok reportedly worth $500,000 or more.

Published reports say the Ree-bok deal may have played a role in Majerus' decision not to take the ASU job, left vacant when coach Bill Frieder resigned under pressure Sept. 9.University of Utah athletic director Chris Hill said Wednesday that as of three weeks ago, when the ASU job was being dangled in front of Majerus, Majerus' Reebok contract was still being completed.

"As of three weeks ago, it was starting to get finalized," said Hill, who also noted, "I don't have that (copy of the deal) completed yet."

Recent stories in the Arizona Republic, and later reports in Sports Illustrated, indicate that Majerus turned down the ASU opening - at least for the coming season - in part because that school couldn't match the amount of money Majerus reportedly will make with his Reebok shoe contract.

Majerus withdrew as a candidate for the ASU job two weeks ago, issuing a statement through the U. that said, in part, "Athletics are an endeavor in which coaches ask players for a commitment. I, in turn, have to reciprocate that commitment."

Majerus has told the Deseret News that he will not discuss the particulars of any job offers and said he wished he made the amounts that are often rumored.

In an earlier story, the Arizona Republic, citing unnamed sources, put the total amount of Majerus' Reebok contract - which the Republic says includes stock options as well as complete outfitting of the Ute team with uniforms, shoes, bags, warmups, etc. - at $500,000 to $700,000. This in addition to his Utah salary (reportedly $375,000 yearly) and other perks from radio and TV shows, speaking engagements, camps, etc.

White was quoted by the Republic as acknowledging Majerus' loyalties to Utah but saying also that, "There were some real dramatic complications that emerged with his current shoe company and us becoming a Nike company."

The Republic says ASU, which was about to sign a deal with Nike to outfit all of its sports teams, would get only $700,000 total from Nike. It also reported that Majerus discussed a possible deal personally with Nike with company founder Phil Knight.

Hill refuses to discuss Majerus' shoe contract, which is a private matter. "I don't ever speak for Rick," he says.

However, Hill said he has heard of coaches with shoe contracts in the range quoted. "There's a lot of money out there," he says. Asked how Majerus' shoe contract could be worth more than a Nike deal for all of ASU sports, Hill said, "Rick is one of the most important Reebok people now." (Shaquille O'Neal of the Los Angeles Lakers is Reebok's top commercial spokesman.) The Republic says Nike's deals with many of the nation's elite college coaches aren't as big as Majerus' with Reebok.

Majerus and ASU athletic director Kevin White - who subsequently named Don Newman interim coach and emphasized the temporary nature of the appointment - may negotiate again next spring, according to the Republic.

Hill said he knows of no plans to resume negotiations.

"Kevin (White) didn't say that to me. I imagine Kevin would call me back if he was going to pursue Rick again." Hill said he wouldn't expect such a call or contact to come until after the coming season ends, although White has indicated he will resume the coaching search in January.

Frieder earned a base salary of $180,000 but supplemented his income with radio and television deals, a camp, speaking engagements and $125,000 from Nike that increased his package to $600,000 to $700,000, said the Republic.