As we descend the back end of the calendar year, slowly but certainly inching toward cooler weather and the magical return of college basketball, the 24/7/365 behemoth that is Kentucky Basketball continues to play chess while the rest of its competition is playing checkers. John Calipari announced on Tuesday that he plans to offer a first-of-its-kind scouting combine for NBA personnel to assess his boatload of prep All-Americans in a structured environment (and in lieu of endless in-season scouting visits to practice). Several college football programs do something similar for their future professionals, but these so-called “pro days” typically come after the season has completed but before April’s NFL Draft. And if you think there won’t be a recruiting component to this October 10-11 event in Lexington, keep dreaming. Coach Cal continues to think creatively, and his success is to show for it.
The rest of the SEC‘s basketball programs have enough trouble keeping up with the Caliparis on the recruiting trail as it is, but as CBSSports.com’s Gary Parrish notes in this article, a little-known league rule about junior college transfers further limits the SEC’s 13 other schools from attracting local players who could have been good fits. Marquette’s Jae Crowder — originally from Georgia — is his prime example, citing that the Peach State native and 2012 Big East Player of the Year was precluded from enrolling at any SEC school (including the one in Athens) because he had not spent at least three semesters at his junior college prior to matriculation. It’s an exceptionally odd rule — especially in the loosey-goosey SEC — but it is one that limits the talent pool by a sliver and gives other leagues a bit of a competitive advantage in certain instances.
New Jersey governor Chris Christie hasn’t had the best year-plus in his role as the chief executive of the nation’s favorite drive-through state, but he may have turned the corner in many sports fans’ minds with his announcement this week that the Garden State would allow sports gambling in its race tracks and casinos. This is an obvious last-ditch response to the ongoing implosion of the Atlantic City gaming industry, but the timing of this initiative with the NFL and college football getting under way couldn’t be any better from a quick revenue perspective. The NCAA is on record as very much against this, and it’s unclear as to the ultimate legality of the directive, but Christie is willing to take a shot at it. Could Jersey finally be on a path to become the East Coast’s Vegas through sports gambling? Stay tuned on this one over the next few weeks and as we push on toward the start of college hoops in November.
While in the legal realm — hey, it’s the offseason — the plaintiffs in the Ed O’Bannon name and likeness case announced earlier this week that they would not seek an appeal of any part of district court judge Claudia Wilken’s decision that mostly fell in their favor. The NCAA, of course, is appealing the antitrust holding of the decision — the core issue that will require schools to compensate players for the use of their images — so you may be wondering why the winners would even consider an appeal. The reason is because the O’Bannon plaintiffs didn’t get everything they were hoping for, but they got enough. Now on to the appellate court…
Finally, we’d like to once again put out a feeler to any of our readers — long-timers or newbies — who might want to give a shot at writing about college basketball this upcoming season. We need national columnists in addition to knowledgeable writers for each of the major basketball leagues — the ACC, American, Big Ten, Big East, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC, along with the Other 26 — to fill out our roster. We invite anybody with an interest to send us some information about yourself and a writing sample to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for your interest.
Most college sports fans probably aren’t following the day-by-day action in the Ed O’Bannon vs. the NCAA case taking place in Oakland, California, this month, and why would they? First of all, there’s no nifty “doink doink” Law & Order plot mover to let us know we are moving on to a more important part of the proceedings, and secondly, many people probably don’t believe that the outcome will amount to much change in their annual sports viewing habits anyway. Fair points, both, but if you’re interested in summarily catching up through the better part of two weeks of proceedings and following along in the future, SI.com‘s Stewart Mandel and Andy Staples have you covered with their daily updates. The big fish scheduled on the line this week, of course, is NCAA president Mark Emmert, who will be called to testify today and possibly beyond (if necessary). Emmert has been a staunch public supporter of the NCAA’s amateurism model throughout his four-year tenure, and you have to wonder if he will fall victim to fits of hubris while on the stand defending what is widely becoming disparaged as an indefensible system. His testimony could be a key tipping point in the ultimate outcome of this case, so keep an eye on it.
The underlying force driving the O’Bannon case, of course, is money. It’s always money, and specifically, who is getting their grubby little hands on it. To most Americans just getting by, the division of tens of millions of dollars between the NCAA, schools and the television networks doesn’t much move the needle — in their view, it’s just a case of rich people enriching other rich people. But even their fur gets a little raised when a clearly successful business model that can produce a third of a billion dollars (“B”) in a single year doesn’t give a taste of the steady stream of money to those whose backs on which all those dollars were made — the athletes. And yet, the Pac-12, as Dennis Dodd reported this week, produced $334 million in 2012-13 — the most of any conference in college sports history — disseminating around $18.5 million back to each school as a result. Once you start to add ticket sales, bowl games, NCAA Tournament shares and other revenue producers to each school’s athletic pie, you start to see some very large numbers generated at the bottom of the spreadsheet. Good luck with your arguments for amateurism, NCAA.
Kansas basketball got some really interesting news earlier this week when it was announced that Bill Self’s team will represent Team USA in next summer’s 2015 World University Games in Gwangju, South Korea. Typically, the WUG teams have consisted of some of the top rising stars in college basketball, but the all-star model with limited practice time for players to get to know each other has resulted in only one gold and two bronze medals in the last seven events (Team USA won six straight golds from 1989-99, for some perspective). The Jayhawks have another loaded team coming into next year’s college basketball season, but a number of those players such as Cliff Alexander and Wayne Selden, are unlikely to still be in uniform for international competition a year from now. Still, perhaps the knowledge of Self’s system and the resultant familiarity among the remaining players will allow Team USA to improve on its ninth-place finish in 2013. We can only hope.
It wouldn’t be summer without some transfer news, and there were a couple of name-brand players who found new destinations this week. First, LSU guard Anthony Hickey, a solid if not spectacular player whose senior-year scholarship was not “renewed” by head coach Johnny Jones in Baton Rouge, has resurfaced at Oklahoma State and was deemed eligible to play for the Cowboys immediately. This is a major boon for an upcoming year where head coach Travis Ford is in dire need of a reliable point guard after the losses of both Marcus Smart and Stevie Clark from his team. It may not save Ford’s job in Stillwater, but it gives him a fighting chance. In other news, Maryland guard Nick Fausthas decided to finish his career across the country at Long Beach State. Unlike Hickey, who took advantage of the NCAA’s “run-off” rule to become eligible for next season, Faust will have to sit out 2014-15 before playing his senior year with The Beach. We wish both the best of luck in their new environments.
You probably heard about the too-soon passing of the late great baseball Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn earlier this week, and while every American sports fan recognizes the ridiculous batting prowess of the man who hit safely 3,141 times with a .338 average over two decades in the majors, they may not realize that Gwynn was a college hoops star before he ever became one of the friendliest and most beloved faces of Major League Baseball. As SI.com‘s Brian Hamilton explains in this piece, Gwynn to this day remains one of the best point guards to have ever played at San Diego State, a two-time all-WAC selection on the hardwood that featured the best single-season assist average in program history (8.2 APG in the 1979-80 season). We never saw him play hoops, but we have to imagine that he brought the same passion and respect for our game as he did to the baseball diamond. RIP, Tony Gwynn.
If you’re a regular reader, even in the offseason, you may have noticed that we have decided to cut back the national M5s a bit during the long summer months. The objective is to get a couple of them published each week, but we might go for three if we’re feeling a little frisky. The biggest news of the last several days in the college basketball universe was the weekend announcement that the settlement between video game maker EA Sportsand over 100,000 former and current student-athletes for the unauthorized use of their likenesses was finalized. The settlement calls for $40 million to be divided among a huge number of class action members, but even if the individual payouts will be relatively small (the named plaintiffs would top out in the low five figures, while most would be in the hundreds), the notion that players deserve some sort of recompense for the use of their images is clear. Note that this settlement does not impact the impending lawsuit between Ed O’Bannon and others against the NCAA, set to begin Monday in US District Court in San Francisco, although some of the evidence from this settlement will certainly come to bear in that case as well.
From a coaching comings and goings standpoint, several high-profile names remained in the news over the last several days as NBA teams seek to fill their open positions. Guys like UConn’s Kevin Ollie and Iowa State’s Fred Hoiberg appear to the collegiate coaches du jour, but the biggest names are always floating around the periphery of those conversations. Kansas’ Bill Self and Kentucky’s John Calipari said in separate conversations with ESPN.com‘s Andy Katz on Monday that they were both incredibly happy with their current situations and had not been contacted this offseason about any open positions. Cue Mitch Kupchak on line two, coach? In keeping with the theme, Florida’s Billy Donovan last week basically said “never say never,” but as SI.com‘s David Gardner writes, he could probably satisfy his itch to coach the world’s best players by following the Coach K model with the US Men’s Basketball team. There’s certainly something to be said for capstone jobs in all three of their cases, but the competitive drive and instincts that got them there keeps them looking for even better opportunities, hard as they might be to come by.
One current college coach who has had no problem finding a better opportunity just around every turn for the better part of five decades is SMU’s Larry Brown. The 73-year old who has completely rebuilt the Mustangs’ program in Dallas and will be in everyone’s Top 25 next preseason (especially with Xavier transfer Justin Martin en route) is rumored to be in the running for the open Los Angeles Lakers job. A number of other names are also under consideration — including Scott Skiles, Byron Scott, Alvin Gentry, Lionel Hollins and Mike Dunleavy — but Brown is perhaps the most intriguing given that he already has an excellent thing working at SMU in contrast with the train wreck awaiting the next coach in LA. With nine NBA franchises already on his resume as a head coach (but none with the Lakers’ pedigree), the job would no doubt be attractive to him, but would the Lakers really want to hire someone that the franchise could only expect to have on board for a couple more years? Let’s hope the itinerant LB sticks around to see through the job in DFW.
One coach that we can’t imagine will be thinking NBA anytime soon, or ever, is Virginia’s Tony Bennett. While a brilliant basketball mind, his system involving shutdown defense and a glacial tempo likely wouldn’t translate very well to the League. Irrespective of that, UVA rewarded its head coach for a #1 seed, 30-win, ACC championship season, with a seven-year extension to his current deal. The new contract locks him into Charlottesville through the 2018-19 season and increases his annual salary to just shy of a couple million dollars per year. Not bad for a guy who was projected to have trouble recruiting ACC-caliber players. Ahem.
This is a neat story from the Chronicle of Higher Education about a young man named Marvin Clark, a Kansas City kid who will be an incoming freshman at Michigan State this fall. The story chronicles the many ups and downs of his year-long recruitment, where he rode a roller coaster of ups and downs as schools from Oregon to Seton Hall and everywhere in-between expressed interest before backing off and picking back up on him again. Raised in a hard-knock situation with no father figure and a mother battling addiction, Clark’s story represents how recruiting can go for many of the kids not rated in the consensus top 25 of the rankings (Clark fell in and out of the top 150), and how perception and relationships can drive as much of the decision-making process as anything else. It’s a good, quality read, and a reminder to most of us readers that, no matter how bad your day might have gone, it probably was better than many of those that Clark faced growing up.
With just over a week remaining before bona fide games tip off, the NCAA is releasing decisions on player eligibility with gusto. Last week it was Georgetown receiving the good (and astonishing) news that former UCLA center Josh Smith would be eligible to play immediately; Oregon got similar news on Friday when the NCAA cleared Houston transfer Joseph Young to play immediately for Dana Altman as well. Young is an exceptional scoring guard who averaged 18.0 PPG last season and brings to Eugene the 26th-best offensive rating in college basketball (124.1 last season). In a now-loaded backcourt featuring Dominic Artis, Damyean Dotson and Young to go along with transfer Mike Moser in the frontcourt, the Ducks are suddenly looking like one of the top two or three teams in the Pac-12 again. Interestingly, transfers Young and Smith will face each other in their first game of the season between the Ducks and Hoyas in South Korea on November 8.
Just a few days after Tim Floyd revealed that Kentucky and UTEP were exploring a 2016 game to celebrate the 50th anniversary of their Brown vs. Board of Education national championship match-up, word came out that John Calipari’s program is seeking to spearhead another Champions Classic-style event involving the nation’s top basketball schools. According to ESPN.com‘s Andy Katz, Kentucky, UCLA, North Carolina and Ohio State are negotiating a three-year event that would mimic the Champions Classic with each team rotating through the others in alternate years. The unnamed event would begin in 2014-15 and would move between Brooklyn, Indianapolis and Las Vegas during the first three-year window. When the Champions Classic was first developed, we wondered if some of the other all-time great basketball schools such as UNC and UCLA would ever have a chance to participate; with this new event now in the pipeline, we’ll just about have it covered. Serious question, though — with a combined 24 national titles among this group, shouldn’t the new event supersede the other for rights to the name “Champions Classic?” And what happened to Indiana (five titles compared with Ohio State’s one)?
The Miami/Nevin Shapiro scandal has come and gone with Frank Haith getting off relatively easy (a five-game suspension) and the Hurricane basketball program moving forward in decent shape. But, as the Miami Herald reports, former assistant coach Jorge Fernandez’s professional life has been destroyed as a result of admitted violations relating to providing free airline tickets to players and later lying to the NCAA about it. The article correctly points out that it is often the low-level assistants in these scandals who suffer the brunt of the punishment, as Fernandez notes that a two-year ‘show cause’ penalty has shut him out of the coaching profession and caused the matter of providing basic needs for his family very difficult. Some coaches around the country have rallied around him throughout his ordeal, but many others have not, and it’s uncertain if or where he will be able to land after his penalty has ended. It’s another one of those stories that makes people shrug their shoulders at the stark inequities built into the NCAA’s byzantine system of enforcement and punishment.
It got lost in the late week news cycle, but some big news relating to the Ed O’Bannon case against the NCAA was released on Friday afternoon. Federal district judge Claudia Wilken denied the NCAA’s motion for dismissal, paving the way for O’Bannon and the other plantiffs to move forward and eventually receive a trial on the merits of the case. The primary issue here was the relevance of language in a 1984 case from former Supreme Court justice John Paul Stevens that, while not part of the holding of that lawsuit, has been relied upon by the NCAA to retain its amateur model: “In order to preserve the character and quality of the [NCAA's] ‘product,’ athletes must not be paid, must be required to attend class, and the like.” Wilken rejected the notion that Stevens’ language represented any particular binding precedent, and in so doing, has removed a major procedural barrier assuring that the plaintiffs will get their day in court. Wilken will next rule on class certification of the case, potentially allowing thousands more plaintiffs to sue the NCAA and correspondingly raising their potential liability well into the billions of dollars.
When you have the facts, pound the facts. When you have the law, pound the law. When you have neither, pound the table. The NCAA would do well to remember this old legal axiom as it enters a dangerous stage of its lawsuit over image and likeness rights collectively known as the Ed O’Bannon case. On Monday of this week, the organization requested a 15-month continuance of the opening date of the trial — currently scheduled for June 9, 2014 — in a shamelessly transparent attempt to solidify its position by distancing itself from one of its most embarrassing gaffes in the past few years. Jay Bilas, anyone? EA sports and Collegiate Licensing Co., co-defendants in the case along with the NCAA, interestingly enough only requested a five-month continuance for the start of the trial. The federal judge overseeing this lawsuit, Claudia Wilken, had requested that the defendants come to a mutual agreement on trial date by Monday, but their inability to come to simple terms on that question may only serve to anger her as she weighs a number of important motions on class certification and other items that will seriously impact the case.
And the hits just keep on coming. Mere days after a social media-fueled firestorm over the NCAA’s initial decision (subsequently reversed) to deny former US Marine Steven Rhodes from walking on to play football this year for Middle Tennessee, another controversy has enveloped the organization over an eligibility question that strains the limits of common sense. As The Star-Ledger‘s Tom Liucciwrites, Iowa State transfer Kerwin Okorowas recently denied a waiver to play for Rutgers in 2013-14 because his medical hardships — Okoro’s father and brother each passed away last winter — are not current. The rule on receiving a medical hardship waiver states that the player must show “medical documentation of a debilitating injury or illness to a student-athlete’s immediate family member that is debilitating and requires ongoing medical care,” technically precluding Okoro from the benefit. But how about some big picture common sense here? While it’s true that Okoro will not be required to care for his now-deceased relatives, there are other compelling reasons involving his family’s overall healing process that should also be considered in such a decision.
We’ve long known that Division I college basketball players are some of the best all-around athletes in the world, what with the core components of elite “athleticism” — speed, agility, strength, flexibility, stamina — all very well-represented in our sport. Several athletes who perhaps weren’t skilled enough for professional basketball found their way into other athletic sports — we’re thinking about NFL tight ends such as Tony Gonzalez or Antonio Gates here — but, as The Dagger‘s Jeff Eisenberg writes, a lesser-known version of football played in Australia is looking at college basketball as a nice pipeline to find its next generation of ruckmen. A what, you say? Well, a ruckman is someone in Australian Rules Football who is tasked with securing possession for his team after dead balls and scores through a modified jump ball situation. Who better than to fit that need for our friends Down Under than undersized big men with explosive hops and a knack for getting their hands on the ball. As the world becomes flatter in economics and sport, we imagine that we’ll start to hear more stories like these as the rest of the planet discovers just how athletic our basketball players — even those outside the NBA — actually are.
One of the most discouraging stories of last offseason has resurfaced in a big way with the news on Wednesday that former Xavier-turned-Maryland guard Dez Wells, he of the rape allegations so absurd that the local prosecutor publicly stated they were “fundamentally unfair,” has decided to sue his old school for damage to his reputation and a good old-fashioned apology. In an environment where seemingly every semi-public figure claims that he will sue to protect his good name after getting blatantly caught telling bold-faced lies, it’s encouraging to see a situation where the justice system will be used to mete out some actual justice. Xavier expelled Wells from its school last summer, citing a decision made by its Conduct Board (and upheld on appeal) that predated the related criminal grand jury investigation; as a result, Wells has since suffered mightily from the school’s rush to judgment. That he’s bringing this case while he’s still playing NCAA basketball is rich with storyline possibilities — could he somehow face his legal adversary in a postseason match-up for the ages between the Terps and Musketeers? We can only hope…
A lot of schedules have been releasing over the past couple of weeks, and the most notable in the last 24 hours were from a couple of conferences. First, the SECreleased its conference-only schedule, featuring a bunch of mediocre teams that nobody pays attention to until February a solid balance of Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday night games with the standard Saturday smorgasbord but lacking the Kentucky-Tennessee battle in Knoxville that has produced so many great contests over the years. A special thank you goes out to Texas A&M and Missouri for that omission. On the other side of the continent, the WCCalso released its conference schedule, which means that the only two games of true importance in this league — Gonzaga vs. Saint Mary’s, Acts I and II — should already be inked into your calendar (January 2 and March 1). Many more of these releases to come in the next few weeks.
August is without question the slowest month in the college basketball calendar, but a couple of key releases of information on Wednesday allowed for some pizzazz in an otherwise dry landscape. First and foremost, ESPN’s 2013-14 Gameday schedule was announced, and the early returns on the eight-game slate are quite favorable. In fact, a reasonable argument could be made that the schedule contains the best (on paper) games in the ACC, AAC, Big Ten, Big 12 and SEC this year. The “mid-major” game between Memphis and Gonzaga is certainly no slouch, and the second ACC game (depending on which between Syracuse-Duke and UNC-Duke is “the best”) is another great match-up. Even the Pac-12 either/or battle between Arizona-Colorado and UCLA-Stanford has promise. We don’t have the entire history of Gamedays in front of us at the moment, but there’s little doubt that we’ve enjoyed a group of games that (again, on paper) has had the star power and quality of these eight. Absolutely. Cannot. Wait.
The other promising news that came out of Wednesday was also of a scheduling variety, although not related to the upcoming season. The Champions Classic, a fantastic event that pits blue-blooded powerhouses Kentucky, Duke, Kansas and Michigan State against each other on a round robin three-year basis, is set to extend its contract for another three seasons (2014-16, according to Tom Izzo). As one commenter notes below that revelatory tweet, it would be great if the organizers of the event continued to spread the love around the country so that places other than New York, Atlanta and Chicago would have an opportunity to host the proceedings. Roger Kuznia at TSNbelieves that the event should open itself up to more schools (such as UNC, UCLA, Indiana, Syracuse, Louisville and Arizona) so that one of the marquee nights of the early season doesn’t begin to lose its luster, and it’s a fair point. We’d like to see a two-night, eight-team event where schools rotate through (avoiding conference foes, of course), with perhaps an opportunity to earn their way into or out of future events based on their performances. Either way, we’re still glad to see the existing format headed to another rendition.
The NCAA also released its attendance figures for the 2012-13 season on Wednesday, and as always, the aggregate numbers only get you so far to a real understanding of the topic. We hope to have more analysis on this later today, but for now, The Dagger‘s Jeff Eisenberg does a pretty good job breaking down some of the key stats. That a school like Creighton outdrew a school like USC by more than four times the number of fans per game is a testament to how whacked the BCS system is when it comes to college basketball. The Mountain West also outdrew the Pac-12 by more than a thousand fans per game, and you have to once again address the chicken/egg argument of what drives what when it comes to on-court success. Do fans who demand success at the best programs foster the overarching pressure to win from their teams; or do the teams that win boil up interest by virtue of people’s willingness and desire to associate with winners? It’s obviously a combination of both factors, but we have to believe there’s a pretty strong correlation between fans actually caring (and showing up regardless) and success on the hardwood. The NCAA should do that analysis.
Asking a group of college coaches to name the best current coach in the sport would no doubt result in a plurality of names ranging from Mike Krzyzewski to Bill Self to Rick Pitino to several others. But asking a group of college coaches (or anyone, really) to name the best current recruiter in the sport leaves no room for debate — we’re honestly surprised that the numbers taken by CBSSports.com‘s crew didn’t approach 100 percent in favor of Kentucky’s John Calipari. In fact, the man who has inked 15 of the last 50 recruits ranked in the RSCI top 10 (think about that for a second…) didn’t even receive a majority of the votes (49 percent). Still, nobody else was close, as Kansas’ Bill Self (8 percent), Duke’s Coach K (6 percent), Florida’s Billy Donovan (5 percent) and Marquette’s Buzz Williams (5 percent) filled in the other blanks. It’s somewhat interesting that North Carolina’s Roy Williams didn’t receive a single vote — it wasn’t all that long ago that he was considered the best in the business in this regard.
It’s called subsequent remedial measures (SRMs) in the legal realm, but what it essentially amounts to are actions made by an entity to mitigate future liability based on an alleged previous wrong (already under litigation). The idea is that SRMs cannot be used to “prove” that the responsible party is guilty of any previous wrongdoing based on those later actions, and it makes sense from an evidentiary sense (the case needs to be proven by intent used at the time of the infraction). But it sure as heck looks bad from a public relations perspective, and that’s exactly what both the NCAA and several of the major BCS conferences are doing now that the Ed O’Bannon/EA Sports case is taking on a life of its own. The SEC, Big Ten and Pac-12 announced this week that it will follow the NCAA’s lead and no longer allow EA to use its trademarks in its college football video game. It’s not all that important with respect to the O’Bannon case, but it’s very important in terms of
Last year’s Armed Forces Classic between Connecticut and Michigan State on an air base in Germany may not have brought the same razzle-dazzle that the original aircraft carrier game in 2011 did, but it was easily the most compelling opening night game last season for any number of reasons. The weird midnight local time tip, the aircraft hangar setting, the wild military crowd in attendance, Kevin Ollie’s first game as a head coach, the start of UConn’s “lost season,” a Jim Calhoun appearance, and yeah, even a pretty good game. Next year’s event seeks to do us one better, as Andy Katz reportedon Tuesday that the 2013 version will be held at US Army base Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, resulting in the first college basketball game to be played in Asia since Ralph Sampson’s Virginia group was about to lose to Chaminade. The participants will be Georgetown and Oregon, with both teams expected to be good next season and hoping to get an early non-conference quality win. Georgetown certainly hopes this trip goes a little better than the last time it visited Asia, while Oregon’s representation continues the Pac-12’s ongoing push to marketing its products on to the other side of the Pacific Rim. We can’t wait.
Speaking of Pac-12 schools in the Beaver State, Oregon’s rival could be coming apart at the seams. Already on the hot seat for a middling 77-88 (31-59 P12) record in five years in Corvallis, Craig Robinson was hoping to have his most talented and experienced team returning intact next season. With the news released on Tuesday that starting frontcourt mates Devon Collier (13/6) and Eric Moreland (9/10) were suspended indefinitely for undisclosed team violations, there is valid reason for concern that the Beavers are facing a meltdown 2013-14 campaign. The good news is that the pair will be allowed to continue their strength and conditioning training as well as summer workouts, so perhaps these suspensions are merely of the ‘send a message’ variety. There’s one thing we can bank on, though. If Robinson doesn’t have Collier and Moreland at his disposal next season, he’d best polish off that financial services resume for a pending move back east.
How about some better news? The National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fameannounced its Class of 2013 earlier this week, and the names include some of the all-time greats in our sport. The headliners are 1968 NPOY Elvin Hayes (Houston) and 1975 NPOY Marques Johnson (UCLA), along with six-time NCOY Gene Keady (Purdue) and Villanova national championship head coach Rollie Massimino. Wichita State superstar Xavier “X-Man” McDaniel was also selected, in addition to Tom McMillen (Maryland), Bob Hopkins (Grambling), and a unique team inclusion: the entire 1963 Loyola (Chicago) national champions. That team was notable in that it started four black players on its title team, some three years before the more-ballyhooed Texas Western squad won its Brown vs. Board of Education game against all-white Kentucky. Former Washington State and USC head coach and Nike representative George Raveling was also chosen to the Hall for his work with the shoe company (a “contributor,” they call it). The ceremony will occur as part of the CBE Classic in Kansas City on the Sunday before Thanksgiving. A deserving group.
Among the latte-sipping class, you’ve pretty much arrived if you’re mentioned in The Economist. The high-brow publication from the United Kingdom has long been considered one of the most cogent analytical voices on international economic matters in the world, and particularly so among US policy-makers and business leaders. Rarely do sports, especially college sports, find space on the magazine’s pages, but last week the rest of the world was introduced to Ed O’Bannon and his lawsuit against the NCAA. Many people reading this kind of material are likely clueless about the history and importance of the NCAA, but the tone of the piece again shows how, as a matter of public perception, the organization has already lost the coasts. People all across America still love college sports — the eastern and western edges of the continent included — but the growing consensus among the educated and wealthy concentrated in those areas is that the NCAA is exploiting 18-22 year olds for its unjust enrichment. The O’Bannon case has a long way to go still, but don’t think that the judge and principals involved didn’t notice The Economist’s wandering eye.
Every once in a while Deadspin comes up with some sort of analysis that doesn’t involve genitalia jokes or athletes (and their wives, sorry, WAGs) doing dumb things on Twitter. Last week Patrick Burns wrote up a comprehensive analysis of watching an entire year (2012) of the 11 PM ESPN Sportscenter to see which sports, teams and personalities received the most coverage. There were no surprises at the top of the list, of course, with the NFL (23.3% of all available minutes) and NBA (19.2%) in dominant positions, followed by MLB (16.8%) and college football (7.7%). But perhaps surprisingly given how pigskin drives all the money-making decisions at the school and conference level, Sportscenter spent nearly as much time talking about college hoops (6.8%) as it did on the gridiron. The most talked-about team, as you can imagine that year, was Kentucky (0.9% of all minutes). True, Sportscenter is but a single proxy for the importance of American sports culture, but it’s an important one nonetheless.
The news that Kyle Wiltjer is transferring probably should not be that much of a surprise given the high expectations for him coming out of high school and his relatively paltry output, which was due in large part due to be stuck behind more talented players at Kentucky. With next year’s class of NBA Lottery picks coming through Kentucky, Wiltjer decided enough was enough and announced that he is looking at transferring to “play a more significant role”. With the announcement coming as Wiltjer is playing internationally for Canada now some will speculate that someone got in his ear and told him that he could showcase his skills more prominently at another school. Without trying to rile up Big Blue Nation that would probably be true. The speculation we have seen for where Wiltjer is headed seems to suggest Gonzaga as a likely destination, but Wiltjer has not named his top choices although we suspect he will have his choice in where he wants to go.
With more and more coaches utilizing social media John Templon decided to take a look at the tweeting habits of major college basketball coaches. Some of the numbers are not too surprising like the fact that John Calipari has 10 times the number of followers as any other coach (to be fair the average Kentucky fan probably has multiple accounts to yell at the Jeff Goodmans of the world), but the some of the analysis like the most commonly used words is amusing and shows how inane most coaches Twitter accounts are. We would love to see a similar analysis of players although we would assume the most common words/phrases would involve retweeting who said that a retweet would be the best thing that ever happened to them.
We can all get our fill of coach-speak on Twitter, but very few of us will ever be privy to the sales pitch that coaches use in the family rooms of recruits. As Dana O’Neil points out those conversations have changed significantly over the years to the point where coaches have to be careful about how they mention a player getting a college degree because some parties feel that staying in school to get a college degree is not the point of going to college as they are looking for a route to the NBA. This might be true in some cases, but the vast majority will never play in the NBA as the NCAA says they will “go pro in something other than sports”. We would be interested in hearing how parents who had been recruited years ago feel about the way that their sons are being pitched by the same coaches using very different approaches.
One of the interesting aspects of getting to go to games is picking the brains of NBA scouts who often times are seated fairly close to us. Some of the scouts are fairly knowledgeable and seem to have a grasp of the best college players with an understanding of what they do and do not bring to the table. On the other hand we have all seen the scouts that are just there for an easy paycheck and the ability to sit courtside at games for free. Our personal favorite was one who we sat next to at a fairly big game a few years ago on New Year’s Eve and spent the entire game on his phone texting his friends about going to a club in New York City that night and then proceeded to tell us all about his plans. Seth Davis appears to have found a few of the former and put together an interesting breakdown of some of the top prospects in this year’s NBA Draft. The comments are pretty direct as you would expect from someone speaking anonymously, but for the most part they seem to be in line with what we would say.
We have discussed the Ed O’Bannon case much more than we ever wanted to, but we never expected it to affect the NCAA’s credit rating. However that appears to be the case as Moody’s revised the NCAA’s credit outlook to negative in light of its ongoing litigation. It should be noted that the credit rating agencies are a lot less well-respected than they were before the financial crisis. Having said that if the NCAA “only” is taking out $40 million in debt to finance ongoing operations we don’t expect a downgrade would have a material impact on the sustainability of the NCAA as a financial entity.
For the NCAA, the Ed O’Bannon likeness case is the gift that keeps on taking. The latest procedural twist in the case — which will not even go to trial until 18 months from now — is that the players will have the right to make a legal claim against the billions in television revenue that the NCAA earns through the broadcasting of its football and basketball games. The plaintiffs are hoping to become certified as a class-action representation, which would allow every former and current NCAA athlete a slice of the pie if the case is eventually won on the merits. There’s a long way to go before that outcome, but by and large, the case has thus far been more favorable to the O’Bannon team than the suits in Indy.
We may never get the original Magic Eight as its creator Grant Wahl abandoned us to write books about male underwear models, but there have been a number of individuals who have tried to fill the void including Luke Winn who received the Magic Eight ball in a care package from Grant two years ago. Peter Tiernan is trying to follow in those footsteps with his own formula for picking a champion. Looking back at data from the last 12 champions, he claims to have found eight key criteria a champion must have. Using his formula he has found eight teams that as of Tuesday morning meet those guidelines. Obviously the numbers from each of these teams can change over the next 45 days until we get to Selection Sunday (or is it technically the last Monday of the season?), but this could provide you with a good thing to keep in mind when you are filling out your brackets in March.
We usually have to report injuries here so we enjoy being able to report that players are coming back from injuries. The biggest positive news on that front comes from Missouri where Laurence Bowers is expected to return to play possibly as early as tonight against LSU. Bowers has been out since January 8 with a sprained MCL and the Tigers have struggled in his absence going 3-2 including an embarrassing loss at Florida where it seemed like the entire team forgot to get on the plane to Gainesville. Missouri will need Bowers to be back at 100% if they are going to challenge Florida’s control in the SEC this season. Fortunately the Tigers have a relatively easy stretch (ok, you could say that about the entire SEC schedule) to get Bowers back to form before they get another shot at the Gators on February 19 in Mizzou Arena.
Michigan also got some good news yesterday when it was announced that Jordan Morgan had a sprained ankle after x-rays on his right ankle did not reveal any fractures. This is obviously big news for the Wolverines with their showdown in Bloomington on Saturday night looming. Morgan will be particularly important against the Hoosiers because he would be matched up against Tyler Zeller, who would be a tough match-up even if he has had a relatively disappointing sophomore season. Before that game, the Wolverines play against Northwestern tonight, but we don’t have much information coming out of Ann Arbor except for this insightful analysis: “If he can play, he’ll play. But if he’s still hurt, he won’t.”
The news for Louisville was more mixed as they announced that Wayne Blackshearwill be returning from a shoulder injury to play against Marquette on Sunday, but Kevin Ware will “not be coming back anytime soon” from his suspension. We still are not sure why Ware has been suspended and schools are so secretive with this information that it could be pretty much anything. Blackshear’s return is more important for a team that has been more offensively challenged that usual in the past week, but it would be short-sighted to dismiss the contributions of Ware who has played 15.3 minutes per game. At this point Louisville could use all the help it can get to right their sinking ship.
Is former Duke forward Lance Thomas destined to become the next Corey Maggette, or worse? For those of you not familiar with the one-and-done freak of an athlete who came off the bench for the 1998-99 national runner-up Blue Devils, Maggette admitted under oath in 2000 as part of a federal grand jury proceeding that he took cash payments in high school from an agent named Myron Piggie, (theoretically) putting his amateur eligibility at considerable risk. The NCAA chose to not vacate Duke’s 37 wins from that season nor did it ask the program to remove its banner — ever since then, Duke haters have pointed to this decision as Exhibit A of the NCAA’s selective enforcement process. Well. Get ready for part two. With the news Tuesday that Thomas had come to a settlement agreement with the New York City jeweler who floated him a $67,800 loan nearly three years ago, the NCAA will need a Deep Throat (or at least a James Carter, IV) if it has any inclination of properly investigating this case. The strong likelihood is that nobody — not Thomas, not the jeweler, not anyone who had a red hand in this transaction — will say anything to to governing body… which begs the question: Will the NCAA make a prima facie case against Thomas to rule him retroactively ineligible (see: Rose, Derrick); or, will they suffer the howling of the masses for what will appear to be Duke getting away with special treatment a second time around (see: Maggette, Corey). Gonna be interesting.
Senior forward Julius Randle is the top player in the Class of 2013, depending on whom you consult with, and he’s gotten a lot of attention this week for taking an official visit to Kentucky (where he was photographed with Drake) and giving a review of each of his in-home visits with Eric Bossi at Rivals.com. The tea leaves with respect to Randle are all over the place at this point, as he still plans on doing another round of in-home visits with a number of other schools and plans on waiting until spring to make his final decision. Clearly this kid likes the attention. Still, with John Calipari, Mike Krzyzewski, Bill Self, and Roy Williams all vying for Randle’s services, this is already one of the most power-packed recruitments we’ve seen in some time. And it promises to only get better.
While on the subject of recruiting elite players, SI.com‘s Luke Winn reported yesterday that surprise Rice transfer Arsalan Kazemi plans on requesting a waiver from the NCAA so that he has an opportunity to play right away in the 2012-13 season. He didn’t give Winn additional detail on the basis of that waiver request, but it is notable that Oregon is the only school on his current list that hasn’t started classes for the fall term yet (September 24). He plans on making a final decision by the end of this week, and not coincidentally, Dana Altman’s program in addition to everybody’s possible destination, Kentucky, appear to be his “early leaders.”
The Ed O’Bannon class action lawsuit against the NCAA for the use of his and other student-athletes’ likenesses continues to churn on in a federal courtroom in San Francisco, and a series of recently unsealed emails and depositions from the organization clearly reveals that school administrators and NCAA senior management have had serious and frank discussions about the legality of their strategies. One of the more interesting memoranda showed that a senior policy advisor at the NCAA suggested to incoming president Mark Emmert in 2010 that the organization ditch the term “student-athlete,” which if you recall from last fall’s The Atlantic piece from Taylor Branch, was an invention by former NCAA head honcho Walter Byers in the 1950s to explain away the notion that scholarships, room, and board were payment in kind. The article from ESPN.com cited above is worth the read, as there are a number of interesting quotes and anecdotes buried within it relating to how the NCAA does business.
We didn’t have space for this one yesterday but it’s something we wanted to make sure we got up on the M5 this week anyway. Marquette is back in action with what’s becoming an annual tradition around those parts — a karaoke-inspired mash-up of clips from various Golden Eagles singing (or whatever you want to call it) pop tunes that will be used as timeout fodder during next season’s MU home games. If you can bear listening to the whole thing, you’re one step ahead of us…