Morning Five: 07.25.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 25th, 2013


  1. Chalk this one up to history repeating itself. When Oklahoma State head coach Travis Ford was still a sharpshooting little guard at Kentucky in the early 1990s, his mentor and head coach Rick Pitino sat his superstar forward Jamal Mashburn down before his junior season and told the smooth forward that he had no choice but to declare he was entering the NBA Draft the following summer (remember, these were the days when top players tended to stay in school quite a bit longer than they do now). It was an unusual move at the time, but it helped both Mashburn and the rest of Ford’s team focus on the matter at hand, which was to remove that recurring question from the press conferences and get the Wildcats back to the Final Four in 1993. Ford may have suggested a similar strategy with his current superstar point guard, Marcus Smart, as the consensus high-lottery pick announced on Wednesday that his upcoming sophomore season will be his last in Stillwater. He’s one of only two collegians at the Team USA Mini-Camp this week, and‘s Andy Glockner caught up with him after practice to get a better understanding of his thinking on that topic and several others.
  2. The AP reported on Wednesday that legendary former UNLV head coach Jerry Tarkanian was released from a San Diego hospital after 11 days there dealing with clogged arteries and installing a pacemaker. The national title-winning head coach, now 82 years old, has suffered failing health in recent years but will be inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame later this fall. Tark the Shark is without question one of the most colorful and controversial figures in the history of the game, but there’s no denying that his program-building ability as well as his basketball contributions (“amoeba defense,” anyone?) far outweigh his irascible, contrarian nature. We wish Tarkanian all the best with his ongoing health battles, but with all the rumblings in college sports circles about Division 4, the O’Bannon case and the possible end of the NCAA as we know it, how much glee would the longtime rabble-rouser get out of seeing the hypocrisy of the NCAA finally brought to bear in a nuclear payload?
  3. Kansas freshman Brannen Greene is going to spend most of next season looking for a way to get people to remember his name. With classmate Andrew Wiggins soaking up all of the local, national and international attention focused on the 2013-14 Jayhawks, Greene will need to get creative to garner some of that oxygen in the room. He’s off to a decent start, as reported on Wednesday that Greene was cited last Wednesday morning for leaving the scene of an accident after a Chevy Trailblazer he was driving struck a parked Mercury Grand Marquis in a driveway. Notwithstanding the fact that it seems that no major college basketball player drives his own vehicle anymore (Greene was driving a car owned by an unnamed 25-year old Lawrence man), it begs the question as to why the 18-year old fled the scene in the first place. KU says that it will handle his punishment internally, which may or may not invoke the PJ Hairston rule. He will present in a Lawrence court on this charge in mid-August.
  4. Speaking of UNC, Hairston and the myriad academic/athletic issues that continue to become exhumed in the never-ending investigation done by Dan Kane at the Raleigh News & Observer, Mike DeCourcy addresses the matter in this week’s Starting Five column. We’ve been on record throughout this saga that UNC has done its very best to uncover the very least while taking accountability for the bare minimum… despite an increasingly clear and sinister connection between its athletic department and certain academic courses dating back two decades. With every new unveiling of information that makes the university look even worse, the school seems to further bury its head in the sand in hopes that nothing will stick. The mantra “nothing to see here” comes to mind, and DeCourcy comes to the same conclusion, but can we put the cards on the table here once and for all? UNC will do anything to protect the legacy of Dean Smith, period.
  5. Some people seemingly can’t catch a break, and while it’s difficult to make such a statement about someone who has gotten a free education at Stanford, we have to feel like Andy Brown is one of those unfortunate ones — at least on the athletic side of the equation. Johnny Dawkins reported on Wednesday that Brown, who has already suffered three ACL tears in his left knee while on The Farm, tore the ACL in his right knee on Tuesday during a workout, effectively ending his basketball career as a member of the Cardinal. Because of the injuries, he only managed to see action in a total of 54 games over the last three years, with 33 of those coming in his only full season in 2012-13. Brown will finish up his master’s degree in communications this year, which means that even though his athletic career didn’t turn out as well as he (or anyone) would have hoped, he’ll still end up with over a quarter-million dollars worth of academic sheepskin to his name. Not terrible.
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UNC Athletic Program’s Woes Deepen With Latest Wrinkle

Posted by BHayes on July 23rd, 2013

Bennet Hayes is an RTC columnist. He can be reached @HoopsTraveler.

The investigative process into the UNC athletic program’s academic scandal may be all the way into year four, but there are still brand new damning details to be found. The latest, and perhaps most damaging, nugget is news that Faculty Council Chairman Jan Boxill offered a last minute rewrite of the council’s report into academic fraud (a report that was sent to the NCAA) in an obvious effort to minimize potential penalties on the athletic program. Email correspondence between other members of the committee revealed a firm disagreement with the final changes submitted by Boxill – alterations that appear to minimize the relationship between those teachers involved in the academic transgressions and the athletic department. While slightly reassuring to know that the rest of the committee was fully committed to fact-finding, this newest revelation is yet another sobering reminder of the lengths some administrators will go to protect their beloved (and lucrative) athletic programs.

There Is More Trouble In Tar Heel Land

There Is More Trouble In Tar Heel Land

After more than three years into the investigation, questions still far outnumber answers. This newest development resonates for a few reasons. As it pertains to UNC, the changes obviously hint at more involvement from the athletic program than we previously suspected. At a time when things were supposed to be winding down with the university making their reparations and finally moving on, it now appears things may be just getting fired up again. Not welcome news for anyone in Chapel Hill. Furthermore, the incompetence of the committee built to figure it all out (most notably the Chairman) certainly does the public image of the school no favors.

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Morning Five: 09.20.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 20th, 2012

  1. Yesterday North Carolina announced that Roy Williams had undergone successful surgery at UNC Hospitals to remove a tumor from his right kidney, the likes of which was discovered last month during a routine physical of the 62-year old head coach. Although Williams’ prognosis is good and he is expected to be back on his feet and ready for the start of practice in just over three weeks, there is the possibility that he may need to undergo a second surgery to remove a different tumor on his left kidney. Although the news release didn’t mention the dreaded “c” word related to Williams’ health, it’s safe to assume that there is at least some cause for concern on that front. The NYT reported Wednesday that the severity of the removed tumor is currently unknown and his test results should be back within a week. Meanwhile, we’re all crossing our fingers for a coach who, as The Dagger reminded us, has spent the better part of his years at UNC pushing philanthropic causes related to fighting cancer. Good luck in this battle, coach.
  2. Former Connecticut head coach Jim Calhoun is no stranger to health issues including cancer (a three-time survivor), so hopefully he won’t have to spend any of his golden years fighting that particular disease again. Now fully settled into retirement his new role as UConn basketball advisor/fund-raiser, he’ll certainly have more free time, and as the Hartford Courant reports, the financial resources by which to truly enjoy himself. Calhoun’s decision to make no decision on his retirement until after the payroll run on September 7 ensured that he would receive a lump sum payment of $1.3 million for speaking engagements and appearances this year, while his negotiation of another lump sum payment in January to $1.15 million and his biweekly salary going through next March means that the three-time national champion will receive in the neighborhood of $2.75 million for not coaching the Huskies this season. He also has an option to receive another lump sum $1 million retirement payment next spring, which would put his golden parachute year into elite territory, for sure.
  3. Kevin Ollie is the new top guy at UConn, and his first regular season game will make history in more ways than one — not only does his hiring represent a new era in Connecticut basketball, but he will stalk the sidelines for the very first time as a Husky some 4,000 miles away as part of the first college basketball game ever played in Europe. The Armed Forces Classic will feature Michigan State and Connecticut lacing them up at midnight local time in an airplane hangar at the Ramstein Air Base in Germany. It will also serve as a nice homecoming game for German-born Huskies Niels Giffey, Enosch Wolf, and Leon Tolksdorf, none of whom probably never imagined they’d get a chance to play NCAA hoops on their home soil. One interesting caveat with this news release is that there are plans to move this event around in the future, potentially opening up the entire world to the beauty of early November college basketball.
  4. The nation’s top player in the Class of 2014, and some say the top player in the world’s prep ranks, Andrew Wiggins of Huntington (WV) Prep, is considering a reclassification (Nerlens Noel-style) into the Class of 2013 instead. According to his high school coach, Wiggins already has taken and passed most of the NCAA’s requisite core classes, meaning that he theoretically has the option if he and his parents feel that’s the best course of action for his development, and ultimately, NBA riches. Huntington is only two hours east of Lexington, and John Calipari has already made waves recruiting Wiggins, so you have to wonder if the Kentucky head coach has his eye set on making the Class of 2013 (including a reclassified Wiggins) his own personal Dream Team. UK is already on the list of every player in the top five of Rivals’ most recent rankings — Calipari might just redefine what college basketball recruiting is all about if he pulls this off.
  5. So… about that Harvard basketball bandwagon? Yeah, many Crimson students aren’t really feeling it much anymore. According to Bill Pennington’s Quad post at the New York Times, the campus euphoria that surrounded the team’s Ivy League championship and long-overdue appearance in the NCAA Tournament last season has largely dissipated in light of the recent academic scandal involving co-captains Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry. Even though the class in question where the cheating is alleged to have occurred (Government 1310: Introduction to Congress) involved over 125 students with varying interests and affiliations, the focus has largely been on the presumed guilt of Tommy Amaker’s players and what it says about the interplay between college athletics and academics as a whole. It’s an interesting read and well worth your time.
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Morning Five: 08.15.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 15th, 2012

  1. In what seems to be a summer rite of passage involving several of the top recruits entering college basketball, UCLA’s Shabazz Muhammad is the latest and greatest elite prospect whose eligibility the NCAA is investigating. According to the LA Times — and unlike the inquiry into NC State’s Rodney Purvis (the organization is reviewing the credibility of his high school) — the NCAA ” is reportedly investigating financial dealings between Muhammad’s family and friends,” specifically involving Muhammad’s former high school assistant coach, Geoff Lincoln, and his brother, Benjamin Lincoln. Of course, an investigation like this wouldn’t be any fun without an AAU connection, so the NCAA is obliging by also looking into the funding of Muhammad’s summer team by a New York financial planner named Ken Kavanagh. What does all this mean? Probably not much — the financial dealings likely involved trips that Muhammad made to visit North Carolina and Duke during his recruitment (worst case: he repays the cost of the trips), and good luck getting anything concrete out of the financial planner. Still, it means that UCLA has chosen to hold Muhammad out of its upcoming trip to China, costing the Bruins valuable preseason time to get to know each other and build team chemistry. At least one commentator believes that Ben Howland might be cursed.
  2. From one piece of great news to another, the UNC academic scandal that not may or may not include former two-sport star Julius Peppers is getting uglier. And given what we’ve seen over and over and over again in this peculiar industry, it’s likely to get downright hideous. As an administrator you know that things are not going well when’s Gregg Doyel focuses on your program, and his article on Tuesday blows up the entire athletic department with his description of UNC’s negligence as perhaps “the ugliest academic scandal in NCAA history,” and even suggests that the 200o Final Four banner should come down. Like Dana O’Neil before him, he also takes the NCAA to task for dragging its feet on a thorough investigation — perhaps they, like Doyel and most of the media, think that the revered Dean Smith is still running things in Chapel Hill? What we know is this: Public pressure is building on North Carolina to come clean with a comprehensive review of the entire department — basketball included — and as we’ve seen with the Peppers transcript (as bizarre a flub as we’ve ever seen), that means actually removing the veil of secrecy surrounding the program and allowing independent investigators to assess exactly what happened there. Louis Freeh is probably available.
  3. One day after announcing its partnership with Bevilacqua Helfant Ventures to handle its upcoming television negotiations, the Big East announced the hiring of CBS Sports executive Mike Aresco as its new commissioner heading into those talks. Conference realignment across the board has fostered an alarmingly shortsighted arms race environment where every actor involved seems to believe that pursuit of the almighty dollar is without question the only thing that matters. The Big East, with its recent loss of West Virginia and the pending exits of Syracuse and Pittsburgh, hopes that by highlighting its numerous large markets and continent-wide footprint, it will enable the league to secure a massive television deal that will rival other major conferences and provide some much-needed stability. Perhaps it will work, but we have to believe that eventually someone is going to figure out that market penetration — how many people are actually watching the games? — is far more important than the total size of it. Right?
  4. If you’re an unemployed head coach out there still fretting about the coaching carousel not holding a chair for you last spring, dust off that resume — Eastern Michigan’s position appears to be open as its head coach, Rob Murphy, is reportedly taking an assistant coaching job with the Orlando Magic. The 2012 MAC Coach of the Year led EMU to a 9-7 conference record in his only season, and with a couple of good transfers joining a strong returning core, bigger things were expected next season. No official sources have been cited, but Lehigh’s Brett Reed, Michigan State assistant Dane Fife, and former Utah head coach Jim Boylen were mentioned in the article as possible selections with Michigan ties.
  5. Two players who were not expected to play college basketball in 2012-13 appear to be heading back to school after all. BYU sophomore guard Damarcus Harrison was expected to begin his two-year Mormon mission this fall, but instead he has decided to transfer closer to home at Clemson. The 6’5″ guard had a solid freshman campaign in Dave Rose’s lineup, averaging 3/1 in nine minutes per game, but he contributed 14 points and five boards in two NCAA Tournament games and showed considerable promise. American University picked up some great news when former all-Patriot League forward Stephen Lumpkins announced that he was returning to school for a senior season after spending last year playing minor league baseball in the Royals organization. In his sophomore and junior seasons, Lumpkins averaged 13/8 and shot a healthy percentage from the field — the talented big man will be able to slide into a starting lineup that returns three key contributors from a team that contended for the PL title last season.
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Morning Five: 08.14.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 14th, 2012

  1. After making numerous people mad over the weekend with its ‘top perceived cheater’ query of a sample of the nation’s college basketball coaches, kept the hits coming on Monday with its follow-up question asking those same coaches whether everyone’s favorite Team USA head honcho, Mike Krzyzewski, has “earned a recruiting advantage” by virtue of his association with the star-studded Olympic squad. Note for the record that the group of writers did not ask if Coach K has a perceived recruiting advantage here — nope, they wanted to know if this is an actual, real-deal, verified by Visa advantage. Accordingly, 71 percent of the respondents affirmed that there is a definite recruiting advantage as a result of Coach K’s association with the Olympic team. On its face, in terms of name recognition and marketing/branding of the Coach K/Duke product with the best basketball players on the planet, the answer should have been 100% — this part is without question. But in terms of actual production on the recruiting trail, Coach K’s last top-rated class (as calculated by RSCI) was in 2002 (Shelden Williams, JJ Redick); prior to that it was in 1999 (Jason Williams, Mike Dunleavy, Carlos Boozer); and before that in 1997 (Shane Battier, Elton Brand, William Avery, Chris Burgess). Since 2006, the first full recruiting year after Krzyewski took over for Team USA, his recruiting classes have been good to great (#3, #3, #11, #8, #9, #2, #10), but none have matched the pinnacle that the Duke head coach was regularly signing a little over a decade ago. So, does Team USA give Krzyzewski an actual recruiting advantage? The intuitive answer is assuredly yes, but the counter-intuitive one — that it makes no difference, or egads, could be a bit of a detriment — certainly has evidence supporting it as well.
  2. The Big East may be on shaky legs as a BCS league these days, but its announcement of its engagement with Bevilacqua Helfant Ventures, a sports media business that most recently negotiated a $3 billion multi-platform deal for the Pac-12, shows that the league doesn’t see it that way. Starting on September 1, the conference will retain an exclusive 60-day negotiating window with ESPN, and after that, it can field offers from other networks. Clearly the league believes that its new and unprecedented bi-coastal setup will be valuable to somebody — they’re already touting the fact that the new conference footprint resides in 13 of the 50 largest television markets holding a population base of 32 million people (reportedly twice that of any other league). Of course, there’s no mention made of penetration into those markets (does anyone in Orlando really care about UCF?), or if anyone will care to watch a San Diego State – Rutgers game, but that’s why the expensive firm was brought in — to deflect those questions. One thing is certain: The bubble of collegiate sports properties is still blowing up, so don’t be surprised if a few months from now we’re all sitting around scratching our heads wondering how the Big East is worth more than the ACC.
  3. The UNC football academic scandal appears to have finally crossed over to the basketball program, at least tangentially. Former two-sport star Julius Peppers‘ academic transcript was (mistakenly?) published on the school’s website Sunday night, where some enterprising NC State fans found it and passed it around like wildfire on the Internet. The transcript is no longer on the site, but assuming it is a legitimate document, it appears that Peppers would not have been eligible to play football or basketball during much of the three academic years when he suited up at UNC. Many of the courses that made him eligible were in the now-infamous African-American Studies major which has been the focus of NCAA investigators. The question that is on everyone’s minds — and frankly it has not yet been satisfactorily answered — is whether the holy grail of Tar Heel basketball was substantially involved in these academic shenanigans (apparently dating back over a decade), and if UNC’s obstinance in thoroughly (and publicly) reviewing this problem represents willful obstruction to protect the program or something much less sinister. Whatever the case, if Peppers turns out to have been an academically ineligible player from 1999-2002, would that mean UNC’s 2000 Final Four (of which Peppers was a key contributor) would be vacated? We’re certain that NC State and Duke fans in the Triangle will stop at nothing to make that happen.
  4. With more schools taking international trips during the summer to build team cohesiveness combined with the ubiquity of worldwide media access and coverage, we should expect to hear increasingly more bizarre stories like the one involving Missouri in The Netherlands over the weekend. According to a school release, during the third quarter of a physical game against the Dutch National Team on Saturday, Frank Haith was ejected for arguing with a referee on what he perceived to be a no-call elbow to the head of freshman Stefan Jankovic. Fearful “for the safety of his players,” and perhaps overreacting a bit, Haith decided to pull his team off the court and call the game over at that point. The Dutch head coach was diplomatic in his response, stating that he “understood” why Haith stopped the game because his technical foul “so suddenly came out of the blue” during game action. As a new league entrant to the SEC next season, we hope that Haith realizes that he’s unlikely to get a single favorable call from January to March 2013 — so he’d probably do well to get used to it.
  5. Jumping to news that will please Missouri fans a little more, Bill Self’s Kansas team just finished its European exhibition tour and to say it went poorly might be putting it a bit too mildly. The Jayhawks finished the trip by losing its last two games to a French professional team, but the second game was interesting in that Self chose to “rest” his upperclassmen for the game’s entirety. This gave his remaining extremely young group of players, led by Perry Ellis’ 16/12, to take center stage, but we also wonder if Self wasn’t using the opportunity to send his veterans — Jeff Withey, Elijah Johnson, and Travis Releford — a clear message that he expects more from them in this, their senior, seasons. As he states in the linked interview, he was willing to live with the second short-handed loss, but he felt that the first loss was “inexcusable” and that his team is “not any good right now.” If we know anything about Self, he’s probably right; but he’s also without a doubt going to have the Jayhawks whipped into shape by January so that they’ll be right at the top of the Big 12 standings once again.
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