State champs work secret uniform deal

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by BRETT SHIPP

WFAA

Posted on June 14, 2012 at 11:06 PM

Updated Thursday, Jun 14 at 11:12 PM

DALLAS - News 8 has previously reported on the Kimball High School Knights’ back-to-back state 4A basketball championships and how nearly every player on this year's team had allegedly been illegally recruited. DISD has since opened an internal investigation into New 8’s findings.

Now new questions have arisen.

Stylish new Under Armour uniforms and shoes being worn by Kimball players during the playoffs are much different from those worn at the beginning of the year. So where did they come from?

When News 8 first asked that question on May 17, Dallas ISD officials had no record of any new uniform purchases. One week later, on May 25, an e-mail was written from an Under Armour marketing representative to Kimball head basketball coach Royce Johnson listing $7,500 in uniforms, shoes and other equipment.

According to the e-mail from Under Armour Sports Marketing Manager Chris Hightower, the uniforms were, "donated product," to the Kimball basketball team "to show that we are committed to the program and Royce Johnson."

Hightower later told us, "This isn't an uncommon practice in regards to giving product."

Not included in the list of donated items were the Under Armour polo shirts head coach Royce Johnson and his staff are seen wearing in in one online photograph.

“I don't know as if the district knew about the equipment being donated," said DISD spokesman Jon Dahlander.

According to DISD policy, the district should have known about it.

District policy requires that donations under $25,000 "must be documented... on a donation form." Policy also states that "no acceptance of gifts shall be construed to be a testimonial or endorsement [...] of a product or business enterprise."

Author George Dohrmann said Under Armour is absolutely looking to promote it's product using top athletes amassed at one school.

"This is how you get in,” Dohrmann said. “How you get in is, you find coaches with talented kids."

In his book "Play Their Hearts Out," Dohrmann criticizes shoe company executives for allegedly targeting and exploiting top teen athletes hoping to win brand loyalty.

"You place them on AAU teams that are sponsored, and you make sure you keep hold of them by sponsoring their high school team as well,” Dohrmann said. “It's sort of part of the process."

DISD officials say they see no overt problems with Under Armour quietly brokering a deal to supply Kimball High School with uniforms and shoes.

"Schools receive donations from time to time throughout the school year," Dahlander said. "$4.4 million last year alone."

Kimball Head Coach Royce Johnson declined an on-camera interview, but stands by his decision to accept the donated goods.

“I haven't done anything wrong, and I don't think any of our players have done anything wrong,” Johnson said. “If we have, then we have to learn to deal with it."

DISD investigators have already opened an investigation into allegations of recruiting violations by Kimball's head coach. We are told that investigators will also be checking to see if this quietly brokered uniform and shoe deal was done in violation of District policy.

E-mail bshipp@wfaa.com

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