Does the NCAA Need Stronger Enforcement Mechanisms? Difficult Times Call For Radical Solutions…

Posted by Chris Johnson on August 20th, 2012

Christopher Johnson is an RTC columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.

The college athletic franchise has long championed itself as a strictly “amateur” system, with financial compensation for athletes standing as one of the cardinal sins behind an elaborate and unwieldy set of rules and regulations. The legislation preventing such illicit activity is diverse and wide-ranging, and several prominent athletic programs have been subjected to its punitive aptitude in the past decade. USC football received heavy sanctions in June 2010 including a two-year postseason ban and severe scholarship reductions as a result of a pay-for-play scandal surrounding former star running back Reggie Bush. Connecticut men’s basketball lost its head coach, Jim Calhoun, for three games last season among other restrictive penalties for recruiting violations committed during the pursuit of highly-touted shooting guard Nate Miles. The list of transgressions in the past few years alone is considerable, but the retributive measures have done little to prevent other programs from repeating previous mistakes and inventing new ways to game the system. College sports’ amateurism label is continually disgraced by programs willing to risk punishment for the end result of competitive advantage, whether that is through recruiting violations, pay-for-play, or some combination therein. And the NCAA, for all its intricately defined policing mechanisms and retributive wherewithal, remains largely impotent in preventing forbidden activity.

As Hargett’s Saga Shows, The NCAA’s Penalty Structure Has Been Problematic Dating Back Many Years

Instances of NCAA rule-breaking are revealed with frequent regularity, but the organization’s monitoring policies have done little to stem the tide of illicit behavior in the world of power conference athletics. The lawless activity has remained a fixture in the seedy underground world of college hoops recruiting, from Michigan’s dealings with booster Ed Martin to USC’s illegal recruitment of O.J. Mayo to UConn’s mishap with Miles. On Saturday, The New York Times‘ Pete Thamel provided another excellent example of the prevalent and deep-rooted iniquity that goes part and parcel with the process of courting the nation’s top high school players. In fact, his story takes us back more than a decade ago and offers up detailed insight for just how pervasive and systematically entrenched the criminal activity has become. Jonathan Hargett, who is now serving a nearly five-year sentence on drug charges after a promising basketball career was derailed by agents, runners, drugs and a number of other regrettable choices, is the subject of focus. According to Hargett, who played one season at West Virginia under coach Gale Catlett, agents approached him seeking to engage in financial-based representation when he was 15 and ultimately steered him toward the Mountaineers. Hargett’s wrongdoing was extensive, so much so that Dan Dakich, hired to replace Catlett (who retired shortly after Hargett’s one season in Morgantown), recounted vividly the specifics of Hargett’s institutionalized payment program: “They [agents] promised me $60,000 and only gave me $20,000,” Hargett told Dakich, according to the now ESPN sportscaster and radio personality. And even as Dakich departed what he called a “culture of dishonesty” after just eight days on the job, the NCAA could not compile a substantial body of evidence to punish West Virginia.

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Michigan Will Not Re-Hang Its Vacated ‘Fab Five’ Final Four Banners: Why It Makes Sense

Posted by EJacoby on May 22nd, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter.

Sports fans worldwide recognize The Michigan ‘Fab Five’ team from 1992 and 1993 as one of the most talented and fascinating teams in college hoops history, but 20 years later, the Ann Arbor university wants no part of the infamy. The Fab Five comprised a starting lineup of all freshmen (before it was in vogue) and became famous in equal parts for its revolutionary style, brashness and incomprehensible talent.  Those two, along with four other Wolverines teams in the 90s, were erased from the NCAA history books thanks to admissions of players accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars from recruiting booster Ed Martin. In addition, Michigan received a 10-year penalty from the NCAA requiring disassociation from the guilty players and teams, leading to the removal of the ’92 and ’93 Final Four banners from the Crisler Center. That ban will end in 2013, but the news from over the weekend is that the university doesn’t plan on doing anything about it. Despite an upswell of support, there are currently no plans to re-hang the Final Four banners or recognize anything from the Fab Five era, a decision that’s clearly irked the former players but one that makes a lot of sense from a publicity standpoint. The stance taken by UM upholds the school’s integrity, and it knows that all sports fans will regardless still remember the Fab Five.

The Fab Five Will be Remembered Forever, Even if Michigan's Crisler Center Says Otherwise (Detroit Free Press photo)

No vacation of wins, removal of banners, or lack of contact with former players is going to cause college basketball fans to forget about the Fab Five era. Even Wolverine recruits who were not yet born when Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, and company changed the college game in the fall of 1991 are aware of the Fab Five and its legacy. This is something that UM administrators fully understand and can take advantage of when handling the issue of historical recognition. Continuing to withhold association with the Fab Five teams on campus in Ann Arbor sends a strong message, and yet it will never erase the great memories from those teams in the eyes of fans worldwide. “What happened was not good, and I don’t think they’ll ever go back up. I don’t,” said Michigan president Mary Sue Coleman in reference to the vacated banners. And why should she feel any differently?

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NCAA Gets Change Out Of Kentucky, But Will It Go After The Rest?

Posted by jstevrtc on June 17th, 2011

On Thursday, the University of Kentucky issued a statement claiming that it was in error in celebrating John Calipari’s 500th win on February 26 after beating Florida, and that in future media guides and any published material it would depict Calipari’s career win total with the vacated wins from his time at Memphis and Massachusetts subtracted.

Behold, the Statistic In Dispute, From Kentucky's 2010-11 Factbook

Here’s what happened. At the beginning of the 2010-11 season, Kentucky considered Calipari to have logged 480 wins (vacated wins not removed), while the NCAA officially listed him with 438 (42 wins removed). The NCAA evidently considered it to be a slap in the face when Kentucky had its small post-game display to mark what UK considered Cal’s 500th win on February 26, as well as the fact that its media guides and website ignored the NCAA’s removal of the wins from Calipari’s record. It asked UK to change it and alert the media that the celebration of Calipari’s 500th was erroneous. Kentucky’s compliance office responded to the NCAA, but they were unmoved and sent another missive, again  pressing for the change. And the reason the NCAA knew about this and went down this road was…a tip from a fan of a rival program.

[Ed. Note: You can read the correspondence between the NCAA and Kentucky here. It's pretty interesting. And we're not sure how Lexington Herald-Leader sportswriter Jerry Tipton could ever comfortably show his face in Lexington again.]

This was the right move by Kentucky. It wouldn’t make any sense for the program to go out of its way to position itself on the NCAA’s bad side, and 42 wins is simply too small a prize to justify the continued poking of that bear. At some point John Calipari will move on and either coach somewhere else or retire. Kentucky won’t care how many wins John Calipari has then, but we guarantee the NCAA would remember it if Kentucky decided to openly defy them. As we all know, the NCAA is still judge, jury and executioner in this biz, and if anything should come up in the future, you’d rather they have a more favorable opinion of you. Kentucky noted the error, didn’t apologize — one really wasn’t warranted, though it sounds like that’s what the NCAA wanted — but promised to make the adjustment the NCAA asked for. And let’s be honest — if those are the rules everyone has to play by, then justice really was done here.

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NCAA Preview: Michigan Wolverines

Posted by rtmsf on March 17th, 2009

Michigan (#10, South, Kansas City pod)

vs. Clemson (#7)

Thurs. 3/19 @ 7:10pm
Vegas Line:  Michigan +5

General Profile
Location: Ann Arbor, Michigan
Conference: Big 10, at-large
Coach: John Beilein, 30-34
08-09 Record: 20-13, 10-10
Last 12 Games: 6-6
Best Win: vs. Duke, 81-73, 12/06
Worst Loss: @ Iowa, 60-70, 2/22
Off. Efficiency Rating: 111.4, 41st
Def. Efficiency Rating: 95.5, 67th

Nuts ‘n Bolts
Star Player(s): Manny Harris (17/7/4 assts); DeShawn Sims (16/7)
Unsung Hero: The freshmen corps of Laval Lucas-Perry, Zach Novak and Stu Perry
Potential NBA Draft Pick(s): None
Key Injuries: None
Depth: 35.3%, 72nd nationally (Percentage of minutes played by reserves)
Achilles Heel: The really good Beilein teams can shoot it from deep.  This team can’t (33%, 10th in the Big 10).
Will Make a Deep Run if…: Harris and Sims both play well and getting help from their freshman teammates.
Will Make an Early Exit if…: Either of the two has an off game and the threes aren’t dropping.

NCAA History
Last Year Invited: 1998, lost 2d round to UCLA 85-82
Streak: 1
Best NCAA Finish: 1989, National Champions
Historical Performance vs. Seed (1985-present): +0.38 Ws per appearance

Other
Six Degrees to Detroit: Umm… other than the fact that Ford Field is only 38 miles away, both Harris and Sims are from the Motor City.
Distance to First Round Site: 751 miles to Kansas City.
School’s Claim to Fame: UM is a world-class academic institution and, of course, the Fab Five.
School Wishes It Could Forget: The whole sordid Ed Martin scandal surrounding the aforementioned F5.
Prediction: Befitting a young team, Michigan has been terrible on the road (3-8); there’s really no reason to believe that they’re going to win a neutral site game against a more experienced team like Clemson.
Major RTC stories: The Fraud Five or Fab 5?

Preview written by Rush the Court

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Top NCAA Performers of the 65 (née 64) Team Era

Posted by rtmsf on June 12th, 2007

GMU Cartoon

Since there’s absolutely nothing going on this week, this is a good a time as any to start rolling out some of the data that we’ve been hoarding. First, a respectful tip of the hat goes to Florida Gator fan Louis Frank, who allowed us unbridled access to the detailed work in his NCAA Tournament database. Over the next week or so, we’re going to be presenting some descriptive statistics on the 64/65 team era of the NCAA Tournament sliced and diced in various ways.

Our first focus will be on individual team performance, viewed through the raw numbers and then with some analytical twists; then we’ll turn our attention to conference performance using the same parameters. The basic question we seek to answer is which teams and conferences tend to over- and underachieve in the NCAA Tournament since it expanded to 64 teams in the 1985 season? The reason we start with that somewhat arbitrary season is because from that point until now every championship team has had to win six games against seeded teams, with no exceptions. It also provides a tidy way of reviewing the data with a substantial sample of seasons – twenty-three – which also happens to coincide perfectly with the rise in popularity of NCAA basketball and the ESPN era.

NCAA Tournament Success (1985-2007)

Notes: the chart is sorted by winning percentage (minimum: 8 appearances) from 1985-2007. The green shaded rows represent schools that have won a national title during this period.

NCAA Tournament 1985-2007 v.3

Inside the Numbers:

Elite Eight. Of the 267 schools that have been invited to the NCAA Tournament during the last 23 years, the 64 listed above are the chronic repeat performers, each having made the Dance on at least eight occasions. Thirty-nine of those sixty-four have winning (> .500) records, but only a handful, eight, are elite (> .700 winning pct.). Suffice it to say that those eight elite programs account for 14 of the 23 (61%) national championships and 39 of the 92 (42%) Final Four teams during this era (programs with a national title are denoted above in green shading). These eight programs are: Duke, Connecticut, UNC, Kentucky, UNLV, Kansas, Florida and Michigan. Incidentally, Georgetown is the only school of the top 13 who did not have a title from 85-07, but dumb luck led to its 1984 title team being omitted from this list – apologies to the Hoyas.

Coach K b/w

You Have to Give the Devil His Due

The Krzyzewski Era. This era also neatly coincides with the rise of Duke as a basketball powerhouse – Coach K’s first Final Four was in 1986, and his string of success particularly from 1988-92 exceeds by itself almost every other school’s performance on this list. Duke has the most #1 seeds, the most Sweet 16 appearances, the most Final Four appearances, the most wins, the best winning percentage and the most national titles during this period. In several of those categories it leads by comfortable margins. We’ve made note that the current era of Duke basketball might be slipping a tad, but with numbers like the above to sustain, that may be an impossible task even for Krzyzewski. By these numbers, you’d have to go with North Carolina in second place and Kentucky a close third. Each has very similar statistics (appearances, #1 seeds, sweet 16s, titles, wins, winning pct.) in all but one category, Final Fours. Given the importance that the college basketball community places on reaching the final weekend, Carolina’s seven F4s to Kentucky’s four must trump, all else being relatively equal.

Traditional Powers. With Duke, UNC and Kentucky taking the top three spots by the raw numbers, how do the other three traditional powers of UCLA, Kansas and Indiana fare? Kansas is closest to the top group. The Jayhawks mirror UNC in many categories (including F4s), but its winning percentage is a little lower and it lacks that second national title that would vault it into the top three. UCLA experienced a couple of down periods during this era, but now appears to be on the rise again with two F4s in the past two seasons. Still, its top ten winning percentage (.667) and its national title in 1995 keep it in the second tier of performers over this era. Indiana has largely struggled since Bob Knight was forced out of Bloomington, but their consistency in making the tournament and winning a game or two (.604 winning pct.) – plus that national title in 1987 – probably keeps it in the second tier as well. There should be no question, though – if any of the traditional six powers were slipping in favor of one or more of the nouveaux riche, Indiana would be the choice here.

Bob Knight IU

IU is Showing post-Knight Slippage

Nouveaux Riche. Of the elites, Connecticut and Florida are clearly the party-crashers. Prior to 1985, UConn had four wins and Florida zero wins in the NCAA Tournament. Each now has two national titles and a winning percentage of greater than .700. The question is whether these programs will be sustainable whenever Calhoun and Donovan decide to move on (Calhoun, to retirement; Donovan, as Christine’s full-time house-b*tch). The 64/65 team era is already littered with similar riches-to-rags stories such as UNLV, which fell hard when Tarkanian was indicted retired; and, Michigan, who also dropped out of the college basketball landscape once the gravy train of athlete peddler Ed Martin ended. Arkansas is yet another example – all three programs have a national title and multiple F4s to its credit, but long periods of poor teams and inconsistency places them in the second tier of the era.

Others in Second Tier. Several programs were consistenty excellent over this era, but their numbers weren’t as eye-popping as some of the above schools. Syracuse, Michigan State, Maryland and Louisville all claim a title to go with multiple F4s. Who knew other than Orange fans that Jim Boeheim’s squad never claimed a #1 seed during this era – that seems hard to believe. True, though – Syracuse’s best seeds were five #2s – during the glory days of Pearl Washington, DC, Billy Owens and company – 1986, 1987, 1989, 1990, and 1991. It looked like Michigan State was ready to become a top tier program 6-8 years ago, and they still are an excellent one, but its winning percentage needs to improve a little more to reach that level.

Lute Olson

The Silver Fox has had his Ups and Downs

Whither Arizona? Arizona is the only school that was invited to the NCAA Tournament each year of this era. Yet Arizona’s success in the postseason leaves something to be desired for a program of its stature – multiple F4s and a title, but near the bottom of the championship-level schools in winning percentage. The Wildcats are a team to keep a watchful eye on when we present our over- and under-acheivers list later this week.

Rising Stars. Several programs to observe closely as we go deeper into this era are rising stars Georgetown, Ohio St., Memphis, Texas and Gonzaga. None yet has a title during this era, but each except Gonzaga has been to a F4, and all five are knocking on the door. These programs have the facilities and coaching in place to continue to rise up this list in the coming years.

Disappointments. Again, basing these observations on nothing more than raw numbers, you’d have to say that Oklahoma, Illinois, Purdue and Stanford have been the biggest disappointments. Collectively, these schools have had fourteen #1 seeds with only five F4s to show for it (obviously, zero titles as well). Although most of these programs have been consistently invited to the NCAA Tournament during this era, none has a winning percentage topping .600.

Quin Snyder Norm Stewart

What did these two do to Missouri?

Embarrassments. We’ll leave the mid-majors like Xavier alone here, but we wanted to save special mention for some of the BCS schools who have managed to get invited multiple times, but really didn’t do much when they got there. Georgia‘s one sweet sixteen in eight appearances and its .333 winning percentage doesn’t say much for a program that always seems to be rebuilding; Bob Knight’s Texas Tech doesn’t fare much better (two sweet sixteens). But the real winner of the most pathetic NCAA-caliber program award, in our estimation, has to belong to Missouri. The Tigers have been to the tournament fourteen different times during this era, even once as a #1 seed, and have only managed three sweet sixteen appearances, two elite eights and an overall losing record (.462). Serious congrats are in order for Norm Stewart and Quin Snyder. Mike Anderson has his work cut out for him. The saddest part is that Mizzou traditionally likens itself as a basketball school!

Ivy Sadness. The last word goes to Ivy stalwarts Penn and Princeton, two schools who show up every year (21 of the last 23 NCAA Tournaments) at the right time and venue, battle hard for about thirty minutes against a superior athletic opponent, then go back home and lick their wounds for another year after inevitably wearing down to the size and strength of its opponent. They may be a collective 3-21 (.125) in the Dance, but who will forget when they pull the big upsets, like Princeton 43, UCLA 41 (1996), or Penn 90, Nebraska 80 (1994). Ok, maybe beating Nebraska isn’t a big upset after all, but we still love the UCLA upset.

Coming Next: now that we’ve analyzed the raw numbers of the 64/65 team era of the NCAA Tournament, we’ll next be taking a look at the over- and under-achievers during the same period. After seeing the above, can you project who the best and worst will be? You might be surprised at some of the results.  View Overachievers and Underachievers here.

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