MADISON, WIS. Allegations of special treatment for University of Wisconsin athletes at a shoe store that are now being investigated by the school first came to UW's attention last year, a school official says.
The Wisconsin State Journal said Sunday that Badger athletes have received substantial unadvertised discounts at The Shoe Box in Black Earth since at least the mid-1990s and received special credit arrangements.
The newspaper said its two-month investigation determined those who received discounts include 14 members of the Badgers' Rose Bowl-winning team, including Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne, and eight members of its NCAA Final Four basketball team.
Tim Bald, UW's director of NCAA compliance, said he made an unannounced visit to the shoe store Nov. 5 in response to persistent rumors about discounts and met with owner Steve Schmitt.
"He said he likes to help out our kids, like he does any students," Bald said. "That's when I said, 'If you think you're helping out, it's going to have the exact opposite effect.' "
Melany Newby, UW vice chancellor for legal and executive affairs, and athletic director Pat Richter said they saw no problem with the way UW handled the situation. Schmitt called the rule violation allegations "stupidly false."
"There's absolutely nothing to it," he said.
"We have 7,000 to 10,000 pairs of shoes on sale for half price. Everybody gets discounts here, everything is reduced."