Morning Five: 07.20.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 20th, 2012

  1. The Big East may have officially lost some stalwart programs from its lineup this week, but not without taking its commensurate pound of flesh. After agreeing to exit settlements totaling $15 million with Pittsburgh and Syracuse earlier in the week, the league announced on Thursday that it has dropped its lawsuit against here-today, gone-tomorrow program TCU. TCU of course had agreed to become a member of the Big East before reneging on that commitment to accept a better (and more commonsensical) invitation to the Big 12. The Big East had sued the school for its $5 million entry fee, but according to this report, the two parties have agreed to dismiss the case and settle for the disputed sum. If you’re counting at home, that’s a grand total of $20 million that flowed into the coffers of Big East banks this week — that might almost be enough money to buy some future relevance.
  2. When you think of Big East basketball forever more, one of the first images that should come to mind is John Thompson standing on the sideline at Georgetown, towel draped over his shoulder, menacing look on his face, preaching tough-as-nails defense and the togetherness of team. He’s been a radio personality in the Washington, DC, area ever since, and although he has never shied away from making strong statements, he’s rarely been what we would call controversial. As DC Sports Bog‘s Dan Steinberg notes, Thompson may have stepped over that fine line with his comments Wednesday about Penn State’s Joe Paterno. In a number of rambling statements, Thompson ultimately concludes that Paterno was “a damn good man” who made a “terrible mistake.” If you read for the nuance of Thompson’s quotes — discussing  the fallibility of humans and the ‘false gods’ we as a society build up — you see where he was going. But the key question to us is whether anyone who fails to act on knowledge of a known child molester can be a damn good man, and at the end of the day, that’s an equally damn tough argument to make.
  3. We wonder what Big John would think of the Big Ten‘s latest proposal that would give its president Jim Delany “the power to terminate Big Ten coaches for actions that ‘significantly harm the league’s reputation.'” Call it the Paterno Principle if you like, but one thing is for sure — the Big Ten basketball coaches who were interviewed off the record by Gary Parrish are not fans of this proposal. The words “arrogance” and “stupid” were used by his interviewees, and we’re guessing, rather vociferously. While we certainly understand the desire by the Big Ten to protect its own interests, we’re not sure that this idea is in any way legal or even completely rational. Leagues have the ability to punish its member institutions for any number of transgressions, but to interfere with the employer-employee relationship at large state universities (all but one)? It seems like a considerable overreach.
  4. It appears that the decision by Class of 2013 superstar recruit Jabari Parker to shut down his summer activities at the various AAU camps around the country was a good one. His father reported that tests this week show that his right foot is fractured, with no specific timetable for the smooth wing’s return other than sometime before the high school season begins in the fall. Frankly, as Mason Plumlee noted in his quotes in yesterday’s M5, it might not be a terrible thing for a player like Parker to spend some time away from the rankings-obsessed summer circuit in favor of helping his high school team get better next season.
  5. Mike DeCourcy finishes us off this week with his Starting Five column, where presumably Fake Mike DeCourcy asks Mike DeCourcy insightful questions about interesting topics facing the game today. He riffs on Duke without Austin Rivers, Kansas without elite talent, Jabari Parker without summer basketball, Jim Boeheim without the Big East, and Seth Greenberg without the bubble. It’s well worth a read on a beautiful Friday morning.
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Coach K Discusses Penn State’s Mishandling of Joe Paterno on ‘Piers Morgan Tonight’

Posted by EJacoby on June 18th, 2012

Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski is unquestionably one of the great leaders in sports history, perhaps only matched in modern college sports by former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno. ‘Coach K’ and ‘Joe Pa’ taped an ESPN special together last June about ethics and integrity, entitled “Difference Makers: Life Lessons with Paterno and Krzyzewski,” ironically just a few months before the Penn State child molestation scandal broke and resulted in the football coach’s abrupt firing. Paterno then passed away from cancer in January, a mere two months after his dismissal. Krzyzewski appeared Friday night on Piers Morgan’s CNN talk show and discussed in one segment how he felt about the handling of Paterno by his employer. The Duke coach recognized that it was a difficult situation all around, but also said that he was very displeased with how Penn State responded. He thinks that the university should have shown more respect to its head coach of 45 years by discussing a mutual solution rather than throwing him out as the scapegoat. “I thought it was a real mistake by Penn State’s leadership,” he said, intimating that he wished Paterno had gone out on different terms, perhaps stepping down himself. Unlike everyone else in the media who gave an opinion on this issue, Coach K is acutely qualified as one of Paterno’s coaching contemporaries and as someone with just as much power at his university, so his comments speak loudly about how the Penn State crisis was handled.

Coach K (right) wishes that Joe Paterno (left) could have gone out on better terms (AP Photo)

Krzyzewski and Paterno only became close during the last year of Paterno’s life, so his defense of the former Penn State coach isn’t necessarily as simple as one man sticking up for a friend. Coach K has clearly thought long and hard about how he would have handled the situation had an (alleged) criminal emerged on his staff. He discussed the proper solution should something like this have occurred at Duke:

“You should deal with it like any team should deal with it. In other words, I’m on the Duke team. If that happened in my area, then I would look to work with my athletic director and my president to have a solution. And if that solution meant that I would step down, I would do it in a way that would be part of the solution, not like you’re just thrown out.”

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Morning Five: 01.23.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on January 23rd, 2012

  1. It was a fall from grace of epic proportions, but no matter where you stand on the culpability of Joe Paterno with respect to what he did or did not do about Jerry Sandusky’s alleged crimes a decade ago, his passing on Sunday morning in State College, Pennsylvania, was met with sadness and reflection among those in the college athletics universe. Even though lung cancer is what ultimately felled him, it’s safe to say that the events of the last few months were instrumental in his death beyond any physical ailment. As Bill Reiter writes in a thoughtfully constructed piece, if it’s possible to die from a broken heart, Paterno probably did. Prior to Sunday afternoon’s basketball game between Penn State and Indiana in Bloomington, both teams observed a moment of silence to remember a man whose life was filled with countless successes but one notable and egregious failure (see the video here).
  2. While on the subject of failure, is the case against former Syracuse assistant coach Bernie Fine for child molestation falling apart? Zach Tomaselli, the person who set the investigation into Fine in motion with his allegations about the coach molesting him on a basketball road trip as a 13-year old, stated over the weekend that he “doctored emails and frequently lied” to try to make his case against Fine sound better. He went on to say that he plans to ask the Syracuse police department to drop the investigation against Fine, and that he will withdraw his civil suit against the ousted coach as soon as this week. Tomaselli was the only accuser whose claims still fell within the statute of limitations, so it may result that without his cooperation, the Syracuse authorities may not have enough evidence to prosecute. Where might that leave the university in terms of exposure to a countersuit from Fine for wrongful termination?
  3. Syracuse was without its sophomore center on Saturday when the Orange visited Notre Dame and it will be without him tonight as well at Cincinnati. Fab Melo, the anchor in the post of Jim Boeheim’s exceptional 2-3 zone, was suspended by the university for academic issues and it’s unclear if or when he will be allowed to return to the team. Andy Katz reported Saturday that SU is hopeful that Melo will be back in time for next weekend’s game at the Carrier Dome against West Virginia, so speculation has run rampant that he’s currently doing some additional course work to satisfy the requirements of whatever class is holding him back. Obviously, Melo has been a pleasant surprise this year, blocking three shots per game and making the Orange zone even more difficult than usual to penetrate. Syracuse will need him to return soon if they are to have any hope of getting to the Final Four again for the first time in nine seasons.
  4. There was some bad ACC injury news over the weekend affecting two of the teams vying for the top of that league. North Carolina shooting guard Dexter Strickland‘s knee injury, suffered on Thursday night in a game against Virginia Tech, was confirmed as an ACL tear on Friday and he will miss the rest of this season. His loss on the offensive end can be absorbed by the bench, but his defensive capabilities at the position as well as the spot duty he provides for point guard Kendall Marshall is more concerning. A couple hundred miles north of Chapel Hill, Virginia starting center Assane Sene will miss the next six weeks of action with a broken bone in his right ankle experienced during Thursday night’s win over Georgia Tech. Sene’s importance to the Cavaliers will also mostly be felt on the defensive end, and if Sunday’s first game without him is any indication — a two-point loss to ACC-winless Virginia Tech in Charlottesville — the Wahoos will need to figure out a way to replace him fast.
  5. In case you missed it, Saturday was one of the wildest days of college basketball we’ve had this year. Three of the top four teams in the AP poll lost, headlined by Notre Dame’s giant-killing defeat of Syracuse in South Bend, Missouri’s impressive display of offensive power at Baylor, and Florida State’s game-winning three at the buzzer to end Duke’s home court winning streak at 45. For some of our thoughts on these games and others, check out our BGTD: Selected Thoughts edition from Saturday evening.
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Big 12 Morning Five: 11.10.11 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on November 10th, 2011

  1.  The one word a college basketball coach never wants to utter is “suspension.” In Lon Kruger’s case, however, the suspension of junior guard Steven Pledger could be much, much worse. Pledger, who averaged 10.9 PPG last season for Oklahoma, will miss just one game after playing in a professional event this summer. If you’re wondering, OU plays Idaho State in its season opener Friday night, a team which finished 9-20 last season and lost three starters. Needless to say, when Pledger returns for the second game of the season against Coppin State on November 18, the damage should be minimal.
  2. The Michael Beasley lawsuit, part of which accuses Kansas State of serious NCAA violations, hasn’t gained much steam in the national media lately. One outlet in Manhattan, Kansas, is covering the story, of course, and this article breaks down the situation pretty coherently. Basically, it all comes down to any knowledge the coaching staff had of Beasley’s allegations. It’s very difficult to prove “knowledge,” though. Just ask Frank Haith, who’s embroiled in the same sort of scandal from his days at Miami. The issue for Haith is whether he knew about a payment to a recruit at UM, and that’s the same question raised in this case.
  3. The resignation of Penn State football coach Joe Paterno made national headlines Wednesday night, and it’s interesting to draw comparisons to the Baylor murder scandal from 2003. Like at PSU, the Bears’ situation also dealt with a cover-up by head coach Dave Bliss, though his role in that scandal was significantly more active. Bliss actually tried to paint the victim — former player Patrick Dennehy – as a drug dealer to hide several violations that had occurred during Dennehy’s career. The two scandals aren’t quite parallel, but they’re both landmark incidents in the continuing stain of college sports.
  4. Basketball prospects signed letters of intent all across the Big 12 on Wednesday, which marked the first day of the early signing period. And although Iowa State didn’t make national headlines with its signings, it did add Mr. Popularity. Georges Niang is already a Twitter sensation, and coach Fred Hoiberg says he’ll be replaced by Niang in terms of popularity “the minute he steps on campus.” And we’re talking about The Mayor here, folks. Here’s to a healthy and productive career for the likeable Niang over in Ames.
  5. Do you dare pick against Kansas in the Big 12 after seven league titles in a row? We didn’t, but Seth Davis has. He tweeted on Wednesday that he thinks Baylor would win the league — “eight is too much,” he said. After losing so much production from last season, it’s an understandable position. But with so many outspoken Jayhawks roaming the social media world nowadays, Davis had better be ready to defend his position.
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After the Buzzer: Lavin Returns on an Otherwise Yucky Night

Posted by rtmsf on November 10th, 2011

Tonight’s Lede. Say It Ain’t So, Joe! On the second night of games of the opening week of college basketball, we’d be completely remiss if we didn’t comment on the insane evening that took over the airwaves while the Coaches vs. Cancer games were going on in the background. The number of stomach-turning things about this entire sordid Penn State affair are too many to count, but the absolutely shameful response by PSU students more concerned with protecting their beloved coach than recognizing the basic simplicity of right from wrong is beyond incomprehensible. Where have we come to as a society when the middle 80% of this great land are only moved to demonstration when our sports heroes are under duress or we’ve killed an enemy of the state? Why not take the streets in outrage over the numerous children whose innocent lives were destroyed by the selfish and criminal actions of a powerful few? That folks would care when it matters, and matter when they care. Mistakes were made at Penn State; it doesn’t mean that Joe Paterno is a horrible person, but it does mean that he has to go.

Lavin Returned Early From Medical Leave and Led His Team to a Victory (NYDN/A. Theodorakis)

Your Watercooler MomentLavin Returns, Surprises His Team.  How about some good news in an emotionally rough night? St. John’s head coach Steve Lavin, not someone we would characterize as a man content with sitting around at home, made an early return from his recent prostate cancer surgery and surprised his young team so much that they forgot to play the first half. Truthfully, despite a surfeit of talented parts, St. John’s is going to have evenings when the Red Storm will fall behind by 16 points in the opening stanza because players are still figuring out how to play with each other. But, as Lavin’s interchangeable pieces learn to synergize and feed off one another as they did for the game-changing run in the second half against Lehigh, the ceiling for his team this year appears fluid. And we referred to this angle the other night, but it bears repeating — cancer is an insidious disease, so we love the fact that Lavin was able to make his season debut during one of the Coaches vs. Cancer games. Even before his own diagnosis of prostate cancer, Lavin was a vocal supporter of the various anti-cancer charities related to college basketball. We wish him nothing but the best on his road to complete recovery (having a God’s Gift on hand doesn’t hurt!).

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Calhoun’s Return: Comparing Him to Other Senior Citizen Coaches

Posted by rtmsf on September 1st, 2011

Jim Calhoun‘s non-announcement announcement that he plans to return to the Connecticut sidelines for the 2011-12 season was no shocker to anybody.  If it wasn’t the interminable wait for a ‘final’ decision that tipped you off, it was the well-placed leaks from key recruits and their families; if you still weren’t convinced, surely the announcement that superstar center Andre Drummond had chosen to reclassify to the Class of 2011 and play for the Huskies this coming season clinched it.  Regardless of when you believed he’d be back,  Calhoun will coach his team this season at the rather ripe age of 69 years old (he turns 70 next May) and, despite some health issues in the past, he shows few signs of slowing down.  And, in fact, his team will be on the short list of contenders after North Carolina and Kentucky most likely to cut the nets down next April in New Orleans.

Why Would Calhoun Give This Up?

We know that with his third national title last season, the curmudgeonly coach passed Kansas’ Phog Allen (66) as the oldest coach to win a college basketball national title, but with a stacked team returning and a few more gray hairs on top of his head, it got us wondering who his senior citizen peers are within the other sports.  Here’s the list of oldest coaches to have won a title in each of the major team sports:

  • MLB – Jack McKeon (2003), 72 years old
  • NCAA Football – Bobby Bowden (1999), 69 years old
  • NCAA Basketball – Jim Calhoun (2011), 68 years old
  • NFL – George Halas (1963), 68 years old
  • NHL – Scotty Bowman (2002),  68 years old
  • NBA – Phil Jackson (2010), 64 years old
Calhoun’s championship last season falls right into the middle of that list, but if he were to win another one next spring a mere five weeks shy of his 70th birthday, he’d trail only the inimitable Jack McKeon as the oldest head coach to win a major title in American team sports. All due respect to McKeon and our friends in Major League Baseball, but Calhoun’s hands-on approach in teaching 18-21 year-old players is a completely different job than delegating those duties to a coaching staff to train older professionals — from our viewpoint, the daily demands on Calhoun’s energy are considerably more.
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Morning Five: 05.25.11 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on May 25th, 2011

  1. Could have sworn there was a thunderclap after we first read this one. Jim Calhoun’s prediction for the Big East is that “I think you’ll see a separation” of the conference along the fault line of those BE schools that play football and those that play everything but football. Also interesting is that he thinks it’ll happen “within the next couple of years, four or five years down the road,” and adds, “I don’t think I’ll see this.” Calhoun leaving Connecticut in that time frame wouldn’t surprise anyone, but it’s still odd to conceptualize.
  2. A day after Ed DeChellis said adios to Penn state, PSU athletic director Tim Curley began the (not at all expected) search for a new head coach. For you speculating Nittany Lion backers, put names like Brad and Shaka out of your minds. Fran Dunphy would be a total coup and ain’t gonna happen, either. Curley says DeChellis left the program in an “excellent state,” but there’s no doubting he needs a name, here, or at the very least a young shark to get the student body excited. So, place your bets: Pat Flannery? Bruiser Flint? Ron Everhart? Joe Paterno?
  3. Mark Titus became a pretty famous guy a few years ago with the website Club Trillion, his blog about his adventures as a last-man-on-the-pine walk-on on the Ohio State basketball team. Regarding the recent allegations involving the football team and Jim Tressel, Titus recently posted on his site that he noticed how cars driven by football players were always nicer than those driven by basketball players, leading him to deduce that either the football players were awarded larger stipends, were better at managing money, came from wealthier families, or “received discounted and/or free cars.” The OSU faithful, many of whom were probably once Titus’ biggest fans, aren’t happy, as evidenced by the comments section [h/t: Lost Lettermen].
  4. Arik Armstead is the #1 high school football player in the country, according to Scout.com. He’s verbally committed to play at USC. So why is he making a visit to the University of Nevada with an eye toward playing college basketball? Well, he says he’d rather play hoops, and ESPN.com says he’s the 33rd best power forward in the country. And his father is good friends with Wolf Pack head coach David Carter. USC says he can also play basketball for them if he wants, and having the Song Girls cheer for you in two sports is a preposterously enticing deal, but Armstead throws in a quote at the end that makes us think he may actually be considering the roundball.
  5. Gentlemen of Villanova, get your passports ready. Jay Wright’s going all Clark W. Griswold on us and taking his team on a ten day European vacation in August. Because Wright has only two starters returning next season, it’s a good chance for the Wildcats to bond while playing some quality clubs just ahead of their 2011-12 campaign and after two straight years of disappointing NCAA Tournament results. Make sure to look both ways twice when crossing those streets, fellas.
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A Closer Look At Big Ten Expansion

Posted by nvr1983 on December 17th, 2009

The news that the Big Ten was looking to expand from 11 teams (yeah I know 11 > 10) to 12 teams (yeah I know there is already a Big 12) set the college sports world abuzz with speculation about who the 12th team would be. And that set off a chain reaction of questions about who would fill in the spot in the conference that the Big Ten’s 12th member would leave vacant and so on. We will leave the latter for another post if and when the Big Ten finally commits to expansion and selects a school. Right now the schools I have heard mentioned most often are Cincinnati, Connecticut, Iowa State, Louisville, Missouri, Notre Dame, Rutgers, Syracuse, Texas, and West Virginia. I’ll go ahead and make this simple for everybody. Despite what Mike DeCourcy says Texas is not going to the Big Ten. The prospect of Texas leaving the Big 12 is too disastrous for the Big 12 officials to let happen. He can argue about TV revenues and how Texas is a much bigger TV draw than any of its Big 12 competitors, but he is missing a key element here. Unfortunately for Mike, geography destroys his grand scheme of having the Longhorns leave the Big 12 for the Big Ten. As the graphic clearly illustrates, Austin, Texas, is very far away from the members of the Big Ten. In fact the closest school would be Illinois, which is just a short 1,004 mile trip away from Austin (or 3 Mike DeCourcy Sporting News glamour shots).

That's a lot of gas money even in a Civic.
That’s a lot of gas money even in a Civic.

While I understand a college team expects to have its fans outnumbered in road games, I can’t imagine that they would want to have a scenario where none of their students could go to a road game and none of the opposing team’s fans could watch games in Austin. So in my mind that pretty clearly eliminates Texas from consideration in the Big Ten. You can use this same argument when Mike suggests that UCLA join the Big East after the Big Ten poaches one of their programs for this round of expansion.

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NIT Finals: Penn St. Defeats Baylor (aka We’re #66!)

Posted by rtmsf on April 3rd, 2009

Ray Floriani of College Chalktalk is the RTC correspondent for the MAAC and NEC conferences.  He occasionally finds himself at various other venues throughout the Northeast, including the NIT Finals on Thursday night.

NEW YORK CITY – They started about 5:15. A sea of blue and mostly white. They chanted ‘we are, Penn State’. They headed to Madison Square Garden for the NIT championship. The Baylor team filed in the player’s entrance. Politely focusing on the task and graciously acknowledging ‘good luck’ and well wishers.

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The Garden was filling with white, a white out game one fan said. Mike and Rachel, two Penn State undergrads, report 35 buses made the trip from Happy Valley. For twenty dollars you had round trip fare and admission. A steal and 15 dollars less than I paid to park.

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Baylor drew first blood with a four point halftime lead. The first few minutes of the second half, Jamelle Cornley establishes a paint presence and Penn State is tied. Three straight threes, two by Danny Morrissey, give the Nittany Lions a nine point lead midway through the second half. A lead they won’t surrender en route to a 69-63 NIT title. Their first.

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