Morning Five: 07.09.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on July 9th, 2014

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  1. Here’s hoping everyone out there is enjoying the summer and had a safe and happy Independence Day holiday weekend. Legitimate college basketball news remains somewhat incorporeal at this time of year (unless you enjoy silly contrivances over which coach is the “best” at his job), but over the last week-plus there have been a few stories that have made their way into the chattering class. The one that probably holds the most interest from a train wreck meets a dumpster fire convergence is the ongoing saga of former North Carolina guard Rashad McCants. At this point, UNC fans no doubt wish that the key cog of the 2005 national championship team would just go away, as his personal media circus in the aftermath of admissions that he was kept eligible from 2002-05 through a series of bogus classes and other academic shenanigans continues to get weirder. On a SiriusXM radio show earlier this week, McCants made reference to both UNC and the NCAA having a deal worth a total of $310 million “in the works” for him, $10 million from the school to repay him for his exploitation and “lack of education received,” and $300 million from the organization to help him “facilitate sports education programs across the country.” Nobody seems to have a clue as to what he is talking about, as UNC claims that it has yet to speak or hear from McCants since a June 6 letter asking him to do so, and the NCAA probably lost his request somewhere down in the mail room.
  2. On a more serious note, however, UNC fans have been quick to character assassinate McCants, who very well may be in some strange way attempting to shake down the school for what he perceives to have been a lack of ongoing support. At the same time, whistleblowers and other informants rarely come without motive or personality flaws, so the question needs to remain focused on whether McCants (and possibly other members of the basketball program) were recipients of the benefits of sham African-American Studies classes at UNC rather than whether he alone is a reliable source. His unofficial transcript – which shows that all of the As and Bs he earned in Chapel Hill were within the beleaguered department — are enough to call into question the integrity of those courses. And that is presumably what the NCAA is doing with the news last week that it has decided to reopen its previously-closed case into academic misconduct at North Carolina. Also keep in mind here that, in light of the undressing over the concept of “student-athletes” that the NCAA suffered last month at the Ed O’Bannon trial, the organization needs a public “win” that supports the notion that it takes academics seriously. Coming down hard on one of the true blue-bloods of one of its primary revenue sports to set an example wouldn’t be outside the realm of possibility in this climate. We’ll all have to wait to see how it shakes out.
  3. To that very point, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation at 2:30 PM later today is expected to tackle the topic of Promoting the Well-Being and Academic Success of College Athletes.” Chaired by Sen. Jay Rockefeller IV (D-W. Va) and supported by Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.), the committee will explore the NCAA’s stated mission to integrate college sports and academics, and whether the commercial enterprise unfairly exploits athletes. Sound familiar? The NCAA is taking hits on all sides, with interested parties from the political to the business to the legal to the educational sectors all clamoring to understand the justifications for a lucrative business model that doesn’t share the wealth with its labor source. If the NCAA is lucky, Mark Emmert won’t be asked to testify if for no other reason than to avoid another jaw-dropping Freudian slip
  4. The reason that everyone is getting so chummy with the NCAA’s operations, of course, is that there’s a ton of money involved. The crazy realignment of a few summers ago has calmed down (for now), but as Boise State‘s recent financial settlement with the AAC illustrates, organizations tend to lose their damn minds when there’s a windfall to be grabbed (even if said windfall never actually materialized because it wasn’t thought through). That’s right, Boise State has agreed to pay a total of $2.3 million to the AAC (formerly the Big East) as a penalty for joining and then leaving a league that none of its teams ever actually played for. The Big West, another league that never suited up a single Broncos team, has already received $1.8 million in exit fees, meaning that the final tally in penalties for never actually leaving the Mountain West is $4.1 million. Congratulations to everyone involved, and let there be a lesson learned somewhere within this.
  5. This has been a fun M5, so let’s end it by continuing the theme of poor behavior with some coaching news. College of Charleston head coach Doug Wojcik hit the news late last week with the release of a 50-page report (on a late afternoon heading into a holiday weekend, no less) summarizing a pattern of verbally abusive behavior levied toward his players. Among the details released were that Wojcik had used a homophobic slur on one of his players and generally made a habit of degrading and humiliating them during practice sessions. CofC’s athletic director, Joe Hull, initially wanted to fire Wojcik for his transgressions, but he was overruled by school president George Benson, who instead decided to give Wojcik a one-month suspension without pay (meaning he will miss July’s key recruiting window) and instituting a zero-tolerance policy for any future abuse. Personalities are difficult to change overnight, especially in such stressful positions, so it’ll be interesting to watch how well Wojcik does under these new constraints.
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Who Won the Week? Hurricanes, Orange, and Not Doug McD…

Posted by rtmsf on January 25th, 2013

wonweekWho Won the Week? is a regular column that will outline and discuss three winners and losers from the previous week. The author of this column is Kenny Ocker (@KennyOcker), an Oregon-based sportswriter best known for his willingness to drive (or bike!) anywhere to watch a basketball game.

WINNER: Miami (FL)

Miami Fans RTC'd the Blue Devils After Last Night's Destruction (credit: WaPo)

Miami Fans RTC’d the Blue Devils Wednesday Night (credit: WaPo)

Jim Larranaga’s Hurricanes, by extension the subject of an NCAA inquiry regarding the alleged payment of former player DeQuan Jones, had one of the best weeks on and off the court of any school this season. First, the NCAA botched its investigation so much that it has to investigate its own investigators, according to CBS Sports. Then the ‘Canes went off and destroyed No. 1 Duke by the score of 90-63 on Wednesday, putting the third-worst beating ever onto an AP top-ranked team. Wednesday’s game also marked the return of gargantuan center Reggie Johnson (listed at 6’10”, 292 lbs.), who scored two points and grabbed five rebounds in his first game back from a broken thumb that was supposed to leave him out for up to another month. Miami now has a two-game lead on the rest of the ACC, although a return trip to Duke does remain. You know you had a good week when knocking off the top team in the country isn’t even the best thing that happened to you.

(Related winners: Miami guards Shane Larkin and Durand Scott, who combined to shoot 17-of-28 from the field on their way to 37 total points. Related losers: Duke guards Quinn Cook, Seth Curry and Tyler Thornton, who combined to go 1-of-29 from the field on their way to six total points; the NCAA – see below.)

LOSER: The NCAA

This was all set to be Frank Haith’s spot, as his Missouri team got shellacked by Florida 83-52 on Saturday, barely escaped at home Tuesday against South Carolina, and then news broke that Haith could face unethical conduct charges from the NCAA relating to the aforementioned DeQuan Jones issue. But instead, the NCAA now must review its own investigators’ conduct, particularly related to the release of Haith’s supposed looming punishments. So Haith is safe for now, and all of a sudden NCAA President Mark Emmert has another public relations maelstrom on his hands. Bummer.

(Related winners: Florida, because it still shellacked Mizzou. Related losers: Ethics.)

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Tristan Thompson: Kabongo Trip Was Legal

Posted by KoryCarpenter on October 16th, 2012

The NCAA can be as unpredictable as midwestern weather when it comes to its investigations, so it’s hard to tell Texas fans to rest easy today. But if the most recent news coming out of the Myck Kabongo story is indeed true, it doesn’t seem likely that the Longhorns will be without the talented point guard this season.

Myck Kabongo might be in the clear with the NCAA.

Kabongo flew to Cleveland this summer for a private workout with childhood friend, former Texas teammate, and current Cleveland Cavalier Tristan Thompson. How Kabongo financed the trip is the reason behind the NCAA’s questioning. Yahoo! Sports originally reported that the trip was paid for by Thompson’s agent, Rich Paul, a clear violation of NCAA guidelines that could potentially have resulted in Kabongo ineligible to play this season. FoxSportsOhio is now reporting that Thompson paid for the trip rather than Paul. Because Thompson and Kabongo’s relationship goes back to their childhood, it appears unlikely that sanctions will come down on Kabongo or Texas.

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Was Nate Miles’ Restraining Order the Best Thing That Could Have Happened to UConn?

Posted by rtmsf on March 25th, 2009

As it stands today, the #1 West seed UConn mens’ basketball team  is sitting in Glendale, Arizona, awaiting its Sweet Sixteen matchup against Purdue on Friday night, having obliterated its sub-regional opponents by roughly 1000 points in two blowout wins.  It’s still relatively early, but the Huskies appear to be the favorite going into the rest of the Tournament, with their scoring threats at every position and their game-changing defensive presence in the middle known as Hasheem Thabeet.  Scarily, UConn isn’t even at full strength, as two players who were on the roster at the beginning of the school year are no longer playing for the Huskies - we all know about Jerome Dyson’s injury, but what about the other guy… Nate Miles? 

You remember Miles, right?  Jim Calhoun brought the troubled-but-talented 6’7 wing player in from Toledo as a freshman, but he was expelled from UConn in early October for violating a restraining order based on an accusation that he assaulted a female student.   Sixteen minutes after the restraining order was issued, mind you.  He then re-surfaced at a JuCo in Idaho, where he dropped in 19 ppg this season.  So why is this all relevant now? 

A Yahoo Sports investigation led by Dan Wetzel and Adrian Wojnarowski issued a comprehensive report today outlining the sordid tale of how Miles was ‘delivered’ to UConn by a former team manager turned agent named Josh Nochimson, and how current and former UConn coaches (including Jim Calhoun) may have pulled a Kelvin Sampson and egregiously violated the recruiting contact provisions with Miles throughout 2006 and 2007.   From the report:

The University of Connecticut violated NCAA rules in the recruitment of former guard Nate Miles, a six-month investigation by Yahoo! Sports has found.  Miles was provided with lodging, transportation, restaurant meals and representation by Josh Nochimson – a professional sports agent and former UConn student manager – between 2006 and 2008, according to multiple sources. As a representative of UConn’s athletic interests, Nochimson was prohibited by NCAA rules from having contact with Miles and from providing him with anything of value.  The UConn basketball staff was in constant contact with Nochimson during a nearly two-year period up to and after Miles’ recruitment. Five different UConn coaches traded at least 1,565 phone and text communications with Nochimson, including 16 from head coach Jim Calhoun.  UConn may have committed major recruiting violations by exceeding NCAA limits on phone calls to Miles and those closest to him, records show. The NCAA allows a single phone call per month to a prospect or his family in a player’s junior year of high school. That limit was exceeded over several months from late 2006 into 2007.

This makes the Kelvin Sampson and Rob Senderoff thing at Indiana look tame by comparison. 

UConn released a statement that doesn’t really say much, but what they should be saying (at least privately) is THANK THE F#%&ING LORD!  Consider…  the Huskies may well be on their way to their third national title in the last eleven seasons.  At worst, they appear a strong contender for another F4 appearance.  If Miles was still on this team, suddenly the entire house of cards could have come crumbling down.  Even if UConn ultimately won the 2009 championship, there would be a strong likelihood that much of their season would be later vacated, Chris Webber-style

Ironically, Miles' Restraining Order May Have Saved UConn's Season

Ironically, Miles' Restraining Order May Have Saved UConn's Season (Unlike C-Webb's Michigan Teams)

Not now.  Now any punishment that UConn will take over this admittedly serious set of violations will be prospective, and it should not affect this year’s Husky team (unless the NCAA digs up some other violations impacting current players).  We don’t mean to be callous, but in a tradeoff, wouldn’t most UConn fans take that deal?  You can win the 2009 title, but you’ll have to face a 1-year postseason ban and scholarship reductions at some future point.  Yeah, thought so.   So congratulations, Connecticut fans, there is a silver lining in what was otherwise not your best day. 

Final thought here: it’s nice to see that Yahoo Sports took it upon itself to do the NCAA’s work here.  A simple FOIA request – that’s all it took?  You’d think that the NCAA’s army of investigators could figure out that one by themselves.  Easy, low-hanging fruit at these public universities.  Or, maybe not. 

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If You Ain’t Cheatin’, You Ain’t Tryin’…

Posted by rtmsf on October 1st, 2008

Seems Sir Charles was right after all.  Somehow this wonderfully crafted piece by Dan Wetzel at YahooSports got past us for nearly a week before we found it.  Wetzel essentially fires a Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US shot across the bow of the Good Ship NCAA, led by Capt. Myles Brand, for its notably lax invisible investigation and enforcement of NCAA rules among its two revenue cash cow sports, football and basketball.

Doing some solid investigative work himself, Wetzel concludes that it’s been nearly two years since a major college basketball program was hit with a significant violation (Kansas with Ol’ Roy’s largesse in Oct 2006), which is the longest such drought in almost a half-century.  Similarly, it’s been fifteen clean months in college football since the last major violation (Oklahoma in July 2007).  So the reasonable conclusion here is that the NCAA has cleaned up its high-profile sports to the point where schools are by and large playing by the rules, right?  Right?

Wetzel has a slightly different take:

The NCAA has expanded its staff of investigators (its cops) to an all-time high of 20. It now has its infractions committee (its judge and jury) meet as often as seven times per year. Still, it hasn’t been this feeble at catching crooks since a 16-month stretch ending in 1962. Back then, it had one investigator. [...] It never has been so obvious the NCAA is protecting its big-time programs and television money.  It’s gotten to the point where Jerry Tarkanian’s legendary line about the NCAA’s selective enforcement habits – “the NCAA was so mad at Kentucky, it gave Cleveland State two more years of probation” – has become outdated.  These days the NCAA doesn’t even get mad at Kentucky.

Wetzel goes on to describe just how toothless the NCAA investigations staff has become in recent years despite its recent expansion.  Apparently they’re still quite excellent at catching small-school hopscotch coaches who have the audacity to text recruits outside of the mandated contact periods (check the below list from 2008).  But when it comes to the power conference schools who have big money, big boosters, big media and drive the whole ship into port for the NCAA coffers, the investigators are largely missing. 

What a joke.  We harkened back to this problem when the OJ Mayo allegations came out last spring.  With a notorious character like Rodney Guillory hanging around the USC program, how could the NCAA and the LA media have so completely missed it?  We’ll buy the fact that newspapers don’t have the proper resources to perform comprehensive investigative journalism while entire newsrooms are shuttering, but the NCAA still has no excuse.  Especially when we look at the above list and see what those twenty investigators have been so diligently working on for the past nine months.

We made reference yesterday to coaches like Billy Gillispie finding the grey areas of the NCAA rulebook and making those in charge make decisions.  With what Wetzel has shown us, we ask, why even bother with the gray areas?  Why not just start funnelling booster money directly to recruits instead of worrying about impressing them with big extravaganza weekends?  Make it truly an arms race where the most-moneyed always win.  Then at least we can all walk away from the stench without lying to ourselves as to what’s causing it. 

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08.08.08 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on August 8th, 2008

So who’ve ya got beating the Redeem Team this time around?  Spain?  Greece?  Argentina?

  • Arkanasas head coach John Pelphrey got a nice raise to just south of $800k per annum and extended his contract one year until 2013.   Maybe he can now afford a courtside seat to the games ($10k per season). 
  • The 2008 Maui Brackets are set – uber-#1 UNC will play Chaminade, Texas v. St. Joe’s, Oregon v. Alabama, and Indiana v. Notre Dame in an interesting Hoosier State matchup.  We’d expect to see UNC v. Alabama and Notre Dame v. Texas in the semis, with UNC v. Notre Dame (who is already practicing in prep for a trip to Ireland) in the finals. 
  • Bill Self gettin’ PAID.  His national title earned him a new 10-year contract worth $30M.  Still think he could have gotten more from Boone. 
  • The NCAA in its eternal wisdom tacked another allegation onto Indiana’s menu (“failure to monitor”), which the school said it will respond to in writing. 
  • Alcohol and college sports?  No way!
  • Get ready for the next OJ Mayo agent/runner scandal now. 
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