09.03.09 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on September 3rd, 2009

On the eve of college football’s start…  let’s get caught up on the news and notes from the last week in roundball.

  • Preaching to the Choir.  Gary Parrish wrote an article that was ostensibly about the A10’s financially-motivated decision to move from its ancestral home of Philadelphia to its Sun Belt environs of Newport News, Virginia, but morphed into a scathing critique of the rapidly increasing revenue gap between the power conferences and the mid-majors.  We liken this a little bit to what has happened in major league baseball over the past twenty years or so.  It’s not an issue of there once being equality where now there is none; it’s more an issue of relative inequality being much larger than it ever has been (and only increasing).  The Yankees and other major market franchises in MLB always had more money to spend on players, marketing, etc., and were summarily rewarded with larger media deals and ticket prices.  This is similarly true for the power conferences in football and basketball.  But in the modern era of 100-million dollar contracts for baseball players and billion-dollar contracts for media rights, what we’re witnessing is an acceleration of the revenue gap between large and small to a future point that is completely unsustainable.  As an example of the disparity, the $2.2B television contract that the SEC has with ESPN is probably worth more than the contracts of every mid-major league in existence has ever had, combined.  Seriously.  As Parrish points out, this sort of exposure leads to recruits, and the cycle starts all over again.  We’re really uncertain as to how the NCAA plans to deal with this over the next decade, but if we know anything about the entity at all, we’re betting that they’ll be completely behind the curve when something happens.        
  • Vegas Watch: Big 12 PreviewWe mentioned this in a previous FBs, but Vegas Watch is leading an exercise previewing each of the six BCS conferences using last year’s Pomeroy rankings, this year’s incoming recruits, and the sharp eye of his respected cronies (Money Line Journal and Sports Investments).  He invited RTC along for the ride this time around, and we tried to provide some value where we could.  Keep an eye out for the remaining installments over the next several weeks.  (note: not even a regression analysis is needed to determine KU is #1 in the Big 12)
  • Get Creative, SEC Schools.  Look, it’s not every year that a player named Nimrod Tishman comes into your league as a freshman, assuming that the NCAA clears his amateur status in the next few weeks.  But Billy Donovan’s Florida Gators picked up the 6’6 Israeli to replace Nick Calathes and you should expect to see his curious name all over the place next season.   So here’s our request of the other 11 SEC schools – get creative.  Come up with some really clever signs and chants for when Florida visits your house this winter.  If we hear a school derisively chanting his first name with no further thought or effort put into it, we’re going to be extremely disappointed.  Come on, UK and UT fans, we know you’ve got something up your sleeves – an opportunity like this only comes around once a decade. 
  • SI’s 25 Things We Miss in Basketball.  This wasn’t exclusively a list of college basketball memories, but the ones chosen by Grant Wahl, Seth Davis and others were exceptional.  It’s not every day we can honestly say we learned something completely new about the modern era of CBB, but the piece about Bo Ellis designing Marquette’s national title year “untucked” jerseys indeed was (image here).  It was so ugly that the NCAA banned it a few years later.  We also enjoyed the pieces on great team nicknames, Len Bias and the SEC in the 80s.  Give it a read.  You won’t regret it.
  • Closing Out Pitino/Sypher.    An awful lot of bandwidth was used writing about the Pitino/Sypher Scandal, and presumably there’s more to this story coming down the road.  But the best piece we read last week was this one on CNNSI by Pablo Torre, who attempts to describe Pitino’s inner circle and how intertwined they all are.  The worst one was this abomination by Jason WhitlockThen there was this hard-hitting interview from WLKY in Louisville… 
  • Comings and GoingsJ’Covan Brown was cleared to play at Texas this season.  Ditto with Mississippi St.’s John Riek, who will sit out the first nine games of the season over extra benefits.  Pitt’s Gilbert Brown, on the other hand, will be sitting out the fall semester due to academic troubles.  South Carolina picked up a heckuva transfer in walk-on Malik Cooke, who averaged 9/5 for Nevada last season.  Darryl “Truck” Bryant’s legal troubles don’t appear to be too burdensome – he’ll face no jail time after leaving the scene of an accident and striking a WVU student with his vehicle in separate incidents this summer.  What’s that get you under Huggins?  A one-game suspension?  Finally, in the let’s-keep-our-fingers-crossed dept., BYU’s Dave Rose got a clean bill of health after his pancreatic cancer surgery earlier this summer.  He’s hopeful that he’ll be back on the court this season (his next scan is in two weeks).
  • Quick HitsJohn Wooden: On death, penises and politicsCalipari: disappointed in Memphis penaltiesNCAA Selective Enforcement: we need as many people writing as many articles about these inconsistencies as possible.  Tom Crean: Marquette HOFerKevin Stallings: forgoes $100k raise for team trip Down UnderGreg Paulusstarting QB at CuseGoodmanimpact transfers for 09-10.  Patrick Christopher: the new JJ RedickEric Bledsoe: better than WallScout: summer all-americans and class of 2011 rankings.   Delaware: looks like NFL parlays or nothing at all, folks.  Arizona: can the Cats scratch their way to 26 in a rowBilly Clyde: the least hirable coach in America?  FIU: caves, will play UNC after all.  Jarvis Varnado: heading home, but what caused his sudden illness?  Ed Davender: ticket scammerBBall Prospectus: careful slurping that class of 09 just yet…  Nebraska: inventing new ways to hold scholarship playersTeddy Dupay: 30 days in jailNCAA Ethics: John Beilein is the head man, and here’s what coaches want to seeBank Robber Recruit: Anthony DiLoreto signs with Utah St. 
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Buzz: Hold Those Betting Sheets, Delaware…

Posted by rtmsf on August 24th, 2009

A three-judge panel at the US Court of Appeals in Philadelphia today heard two hours of oral arguments on the legality of Delaware’s proposed plan to institute sports gambling in time for the opening of football season in two weeks.  Their decision to overturn the lower court’s holding allowing such wagering in Delaware sent ripples through the Northeastern corridor, as gambling savants from Connecticut to Virginia will have to cancel their planned fall weekend trips to Dover.  At issue was the expansion of wagering options that Delaware has proposed, including single-game bets using point spreads in multiple sports.  Under previous interpretation of law, the state is only allowed to offer parlay-style gambling on professional football games – any expansion beyond that is illegal.  Today’s ruling leaves little wiggle room for the state, as an appeal is unlikely to be considered by the Supreme Court.  So… does this mean a Final Four in Wilmington is back on?

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Pitino’s Sex in the Champagne Room

Posted by nvr1983 on August 12th, 2009

As we mentioned in our earlier “Buzz” post about the topic, Louisville head coach Rick Pitino reportedly admitted to local law enforcement officials that he had consensual sex with Karen Sypher at Porky’s Porcini’s, a local restaurant, on August 1, 2003 (perhaps in this private room) and paid $3,000 for Sypher to have an abortion (more on this later). While the fact that a powerful male figure having sex outside of his marriage isn’t that shocking, the way that this story has come about is surprising nonetheless (not unlike the recent Josh Hamilton photos).  The saga, which we first reported to the nation back in April, became a national story when Pitino accused Sypher (the estranged wife of Louisville equipment manager Tim Sypher) of attempting to extort him for cash, cars and college tuition. It simmered for a while as random speculation about an affair (what else could it be?) until Matt Jones over at Kentucky Sports Radio uncovered a photo (below) from Sypher’s indictment day featuring a sign held by one of her sons suggesting Sypher may have had an abortion.

Apparently, the Answer is $3000

Apparently, the Answer is $3000

Then, a series of strange events at Louisville earlier this summer calls into question the validity of some of Pitino’s motives in the interim.  Pitino’s son Richard had been an assistant coach at U of L, and earlier this year he was sent to fill the same position under Billy Donovan at Florida.  Now, Pitino has remarked several times over the years that he never considers “lateral” movements in terms of evaluating potential coaching jobs and he encourages his assistants never to do the same with their careers.  When Richard Pitino made basically a lateral move from Louisville to Florida around the time that all this Karen Sypher stuff started, you heard a few rumblings, wondering why Pitino’s son wouldn’t be subject to the same advice as Pitino’s other proteges. Then of course there was the strange acceptance of Ralph Willard into the fold; among coaching ranks, Willard has always been known as a guy who has the coaching chops to handle the captaincy of even the most elite programs in the sport, but simply kept his spot at Holy Cross because he enjoyed coaching there.  He is more of a contemporary than a protege of Pitino’s, and he’s a longtime member of Rick’s inner circle.  The fact that Willard would suddenly make such a strange move was certainly curious, but the matter was dismissed pretty quickly as the Sypher story developed.  Then things got relatively quiet until the news that Sypher’s sexual assault charge against Pitino had been dropped.  Once those charges were dropped, we expected the story to fade away except on Louisville’s trips to the arenas of their more vocal rivals – can you imagine the taunts that will rain down upon him in Rupp Arena and other tough environs, now?

With what we know now, can we say that these moves were just coincidences?  That Richard Pitino simply wanted to get out from under his father’s shadow and stake his own claim?  That Ralph Willard wanted less responsibility as a coach, was ready to leave a place he loved, and just wanted the chance to coach with his old friend again?  Or were these moves representative of a head coach and a father who was getting a few affairs in order?  Was Pitino getting his son Richard out of the media maelstrom he knew was probably coming, asking an old friend and protege in Billy Donovan to take care of his son and let him continue his coaching education in case these personal matters took a bad turn?  Was Pitino bringing in a high-quality coach and old friend like Willard to be his lead assistant and possibly take over Pitino’s Cardinal program in case the Sypher situation started to blow up and Pitino needed to leave the spotlight for a while?  Knowing what a calculating man that Rick Pitino is, it’s hard — in fact, next to impossible — for me to think that these moves were simply coincidental.  No, from our view – Rick Pitino knew this thing was percolating and likely to explode, and he was making sure certain valuables were protected.

Now that we have details to support (?) Sypher’s claims, we have to wonder how this story ever got so big (outside of the obvious salacious details that came out today). Reading Sypher’s account of the incident(s) [both the “confirmed” sex at Porcini’s and the alleged sex at her eventual husband’s apartment] it is pretty clear that her story is a little hole-y.

We'll Be Seeing More of Her (Credit: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg News)

We'll Be Seeing More of Her (Credit: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg News)

Key Questions

  • Why would Sypher marry a man (Tim Sypher) who was present for the rape by Pitino that she claims happened at his apartment?
  • How and why would she trouble herself to find out that she was pregnant almost 2 weeks after their first encounter (possible, but has the strong scent of Gold Diggerism)?
  • Was she even pregnant? While the reported dates of all the exams/tests are possible, they border on the edge of being so early that one could reasonably question whether she was actually pregnant.

Given how ridiculous the entire story is one would expect that Pitino should come out of this relatively unscathed (professionally-speaking – we’re sure that Mrs. Pitino, on the other hand, has tightened that leash significantly). One might also expect the release of this information to be enough to kill any potential civil suit that Sypher has, but judging by her reported history in the article we’re guessing this isn’t that last we will hear of her. If this story and the Ben Roethlisberger story have taught guys out there anything (other than ESPN reports what it wants when it wants), it is this:  if she looks or acts a little crazy and you’re a celebrity worth millions, just walk away because there are plenty of other women out there who won’t make your life a living hell after one encounter.

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Buzz: Pitino Admits to Affair With His (Alleged) Extortionist

Posted by rtmsf on August 11th, 2009

Blockbuster news out of Louisville tonight, as the Courier-Journal is reporting that Rick Pitino admitted to police that he had consensual sex with Karen Sypher, the woman who allegedly tried to extort him for houses, cars and money.  The police reports show that Pitino had sex in a restaurant (all class, Rick!) with Sypher on August 1, 2003, and later gave her $3000 for an abortion as a result of that tryst.  Sypher has since alleged that Pitino raped her on that occasion as well as one other time, but prosecutors have to date resisted bringing charges on the matter, citing issues of Sypher’s credibility.  While the federal extortion charges remain against Sypher, we wonder whether this revelation might swing public opinion in Louisville more in favor of Sypher.  Probably not – after all, Pitino has two straight Elite Eights under his belt.

Follow-up Post: Pitino’s Sex in the Champagne Room

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Majerus So Desperate He’s Now Recruiting Bank Robbers…

Posted by rtmsf on July 27th, 2009

Two years ago former Utah coach Rick Majerus came out of retirement to take over the reins at St. Louis University.  We wrote at the time of his hiring that one of the key attributes of his teams throughout his career was that they tend to overachieve.  His teams at Utah were locks to win 20+ games and make the NCAA Tournament despite a relative paucity of elite talent (Keith Van Horn excepted).  We expected a quick turnaround at SLU, but it’s been a little slower going than expected – the Billikens have posted back-to-back mediocre seasons (16-15 and 18-14) and the only newsworthy event in Majerus’ two years there was from this particular 20-point abomination.  So he needs some recruits, right?  His first class was strong with several three-star players (including top 150 player Brett Thompson), but his second class fell off considerably (only one three-star), so Majerus might be feeling more pressure to sign players by any means necessary.

DiLoreto and Accomplice in Disguise

DiLoreto and Accomplice in Disguise

Gary Parrish today reported that 6’11 prep center Anthony DiLoreto has been offered a scholarship by Majerus and SLU, which wouldn’t otherwise register a blip on the national radar except for the fact that DiLoreto is facing two felonies for taking part in a bank robbery last year in Wisconsin.  Yeah, a bank robbery – as in, he drove the getaway car and provided the sawed-off shotgun that his 16-year old associate used to enter the Bremer Bank and steal the money.  Not only that, but DiLoreto broke longstanding ‘villain code’ by leaving his companion behind when the po-po rolled up for a nearby unrelated accident.  Showing Darwin-Award brilliance, DiLoreto then drove home and waited there until he was arrested several hours later.  He had originally committed to Cal Poly, but the school dropped his recruitment in light of these allegations.  (ed. note: this story would be much better if DiLoreto was from New Jersey)

Not Majerus and St. Louis, though.  And according to Parrish, not several other coaches either (from the Big 10, Big 12, Pac-10, A10, WAC, MWC and WCC), all of whom now consider DiLoreto a mid- to high-major prospect.  DiLoreto hasn’t yet overcome his legal problems, but he’s been working toward a plea bargain settlement that would presumably allow him to play ball again soon.  With an opportunity to grab an improving seven-footer, coaches are lining up to take a chance on him, proving once again that unless a player is actually in prison, someone will give him a schollie if he can occasionally throw a ball through a hoop.

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Why Ed O’Bannon is Our New Favorite Likeness

Posted by rtmsf on July 22nd, 2009

It takes some doing to keep your name in the news some 14 years after winning a national title and some 12 years after ‘retiring’ from the NBA, but former NPOY and UCLA national champion Ed O’Bannon is doing his best this summer.  First came the Washington Post article in June that showed how, instead of cashing mega-checks like his contemporaries KG, Stack and Sheed from the 1995 draft, Eddie O. is now selling cars in the hot Vegas desert; that was followed by media exposure of the Lil Wayne song “Cannon,” where the lyric “listen close I got duct tape and rope, I’ll leave you missin’ like the (expletive) O’Bannons” was roundly ridiculed in the blogosphere.  Perhaps striking while the iron is hot, O’Bannon today sued the NCAA and its brand manager, Collegiate Licensing Company, in a federal class action suit claiming that the two entities illegally use player likenesses and images to reap millions of dollars in profit while former players see nothing in return.  Pete Thamel from the NYT writes:

ed o'bannon ucla

A lawsuit that [O’Bannon’s] lawyers filed on Tuesday could change that answer and affect other issues surrounding the use of the likenesses and images of former college football and basketball players.  The lawsuit is for an undisclosed amount of money, but will bring into greater focus the N.C.A.A.’s $4 billion licensing industry. The lawsuit says that former athletes should be compensated by the N.C.A.A. for the use of their images and likenesses in such things as television advertisements, video games and apparel.

According to O’Bannon, he got the idea for this suit when a co-worker saw a UCLA game of his on ESPN Classic the night before.  When the colleague asked whether he received residuals for the showing of that game, he said no.  Whether or not this half-baked vignette is truly the reason behind the suit (it’s not), the general feeling is that this could be a major, major problem for the NCAA.  The fundamental question that a court will have to decide comes down to whether the existing NCAA policy that requires its student-athletes to sign away their rights to their likenesses in exchange as a condition for playing collegiate sports is legal.  O’Bannon’s argument is that such a policy is exploitative at its core, and Michael McCann from Sports Law Blog believes there could be merit to his argument.

The stakes of O’Bannon v. NCAA are enormous. If O’Bannon and former student-athletes prevail or receive a favorable settlement, the NCAA, along with its member conferences and schools, could be required to pay tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions, of dollars in damages — particularly since damages are trebled under federal antitrust law.

Frankly, it’s about effin’ time.  As Dan Wetzel poignantly notes in his article breaking the story today, the players are painted into a (legally unrepresented) corner at 17 or 18 years old when all they’re really worried about is getting their eligibility to play college sports.  We understand why the NCAA doesn’t want its current players profiting off of their likenesses while an amateur, but why does the NCAA retain 100% of those rights for the rest of those players’ lives?  Why does Texas Western profit off of 1966 jerseys of #14 Bobby Joe Hill, but not the player (or the estate in Hill’s case) some 40+ years later?  Same thing with Jerry Rice’s MVSU #88 jersey?  Or, as O’Bannon stated in his complaint, why doesn’t he see a dime for an EA Sports video game licensed by the NCAA that clearly shows his silky smooth left-handed collegiate “self” running around making shots and ripping down rebounds as a 1995 UCLA Bruin?  It’s absolutely ludicrous, and we’d really like to see the NCAA take it on the chin this time around.

Epilogue: guess who is making this happen as an ‘unpaid consultant’… none other than the top NCAA gadfly himself, Sonny Vaccaro.  Call him the Highlander Folk School and Ed O’Bannon the Rosa Parks of NCAA reform…

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