Michael Vernetti is the RTC correspondent for the West Coast Conference.
The NCAA investigation into Saint Mary’s recruiting that has been hanging over the college’s head for the past year came to a head Friday with the imposition of some strong, although probably not fatal, penalties. Most importantly, the Gaels will lose two scholarships for the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons, head coach Randy Bennett must serve a five-game suspension next season and may not recruit off-campus during next season, the Gaels are prohibited from multi-team tournaments until 2015-16 and on-campus skill instruction is prohibited for the next two years. The college was also placed on four years’ probation. The Gaels’ scheduled appearance in the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii next December is not affected as it had been scheduled before the penalties were announced.
Tough March News For Bennett Today (Photo credit: Jason O. Watson/US Presswire).
The Gaels’ troubles stemmed from the activities of a former assistant coach who was not named in the NCAA report but, according to sources close to the investigation, is Keith Moss. Moss was sanctioned by the NCAA for providing impermissible benefits to a potential recruit who was also not named, along with impermissible contact with two other foreign players. Some media sources had speculated that the infractions centered on Saint Mary’s years-long relationship with Australian players and that a former assistant coach from Australia, David Patrick, was the focus of the investigation. That is not the case, as Moss’ infractions dealt solely with athletes he recruited through former relationships in France.
Bennett’s culpability stemmed from the NCAA’s infamous “failure to monitor” dictum, as the body chastised Bennett for not reining in Moss’ activities even though some of them occurred after Moss left the college’s employ in 2009. Bennett was also criticized for not properly supervising on-campus skill instruction conducted at Saint Mary’s during the summers of 2010 and 2011.
There was a scary moment Tuesday morning in Washington, DC, at a session of The Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics when former Maryland star and current ESPN college basketball analyst Len Elmorecollapsed in his chair during a Q&A session. Luckily, the 6o-year old Harvard Law graduate and resident hoops intellectual was back up on his feet after paramedics arrived and he shortly walked under his own power to his hotel room thereafter. According to the Washington Post, Elmore told SMU president Gerald Turner that this incident was related to a “longstanding health issue” of his and has happened before. We’re glad to hear that Elmore appears to be doing alright, but we sure hope that his ailment is manageable and doesn’t cause him additional and dangerous related problems.
Yesterday the WACannounced two new additions to its basketball-only league — and make sure you’re sitting down when you read that these titans of the sport are joining the once-venerable old conference — Utah Valley and Cal State Bakersfield. After all the recent defections, these two schools will join a ragtag group that now only includes Denver, Seattle, Idaho and New Mexico State. For the next two years, the league will keep its automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament under an exemption that allows it to do so without the requisite minimum of seven schools. For a conference that at one time or another boasted such notable basketball schools as Arizona, BYU, UNLV, San Diego State, Tulsa and Utah, this is a little bit like looking at a former supermodel in her 70s — it ain’t pretty anymore.
The Battle of the Midway has been saved from liquidation, much to the relief of both Syracuse and San Diego State, the two schools set to face off on the retired ship come Veteran’s Day. But if you want to grab a ticket, make sure to bring your American Express platinum card — ducats for this outdoor game will start at $150 a pop and increase up to as much as $500 the closer you get to the court. Novelty plus scarcity is a certain way to increase demand for a product, but we’re not convinced that pricing a game like this in the rarefied neighborhood of courtside seats to an NBA game is the right way to handle it. Honestly, we’d have preferred that some deep-pocketed sponsor pick up the tab and let military personnel make up the entire audience, but nobody asked us.
It’s not very often that we’ll mention a SWAC school in this space, but it’s also unusual that a school is hit by the NCAA with the dreaded “lack of institutional control” penalty. Texas Southernreceived just that news on Tuesday, as the NCAA in a statement said that the school was “responsible for booster involvement in recruiting, academic improprieties, ineligible student-athlete participation and exceeding scholarship limits” over the course of a number of years. As a result, the basketball program, now led by former Indiana and UAB head coach Mike Davis, will be banned from the postseason next season and lose two scholarships for the immediate future. The most surprising punishment is that the school must vacate all of its wins in every sport from 2006-10, one of the most egregious penalties we’ve ever seen the NCAA mete out to a school. Davis was certainly informed that he would be walking into a difficult situation at TSU, but we’re guessing that he’ll spend quite a few days clicking his heels together and hoping that he magically re-appears in Bloomington again.
You know what tomorrow is, right? Yeah, October. Us too.
Scare at Tennessee. A very frightening story out of Knoxville earlier this week was that Vol sophomore forward Emmanuel Negeducollapsed while lifting weights on Monday and reportedly had to be revived by UT medical staff prior to his transport to the hospital. He’s spent the last two nights there under watch, and doctors continue to perform tests on him to make sure that he’s not suffering from something deadly. We all know the stories over the years, from Len Bias to Hank Gathers to Reggie Lewis, and these are always scary incidents. RTC wishes Negedu the best of luck and wishes for a full recovery.
Cleaning up at Binghamton... Two ugly incidents put an early stain on the 2009-10 season, as we discussed in separate posts when they happened last week. Both were stories capable of sending shock waves through college basketball this week, though, as Binghamton yesterday fired an adjunct lecturer who claimed in a NYT article last February that basketball players were receiving preferential treatment in the classroom (grade changing, independent study, and the like). The Binghamton program is now in shambles on the court, but we continue to be shocked and amazed that Kevin Broadus, the recruiter of all the problem children who ended up dismissed (and arrested), is skating on this one. Seriously, think about this – Binghamton cans the whistleblowing prof but not the coach who orchestrated the entire mess? How is this possible? Isn’t the SUNY chancellor now the same woman who stood on the library steps and shouted “no more” to the Cincinnati faithful when she 86ed Bob Huggins four years ago? And yet she’s curiously silent (along with BU’s president, Lois B. DeFleur, for the most part). Something’s not right here, and we figure there’s more to come. If there is, we can rest assured the NYT’s Pete Thamel will figure it out. EDITED TO ADD: Yep, the AD is gone, can Broadus be far behind?
…and Kansas. Perhaps the uglier incident last week was the three fights between members of the KU basketball and football teams. Much was written about how embarrassing this was to the university, the athletic department, the coaches and players involved, and Thursday’s public, formal apologies did little to defuse the PR hit that Bill Self’s program took last week. The word is that players were fighting over (what else?) girls and rep, but KU football players shouldn’t be fooled into thinking that just because they’ve had a nice run in that program the last few years that Kansas will ever be anything but a basketball school. The question now is what will Bill Self do to punish the guilty parties? We already know that Tyshawn Taylor was involved due to his dislocated finger that’ll hold him out of workouts for around a month. We also know that one of the Morris twins pushed a football player down the stairs, a very dangerous act of battery (this would be Markieff’s second, btw) that was mitigated by another player catching the falling player as he made his way downward. News outlets all report that there were some other hoops players involved as well. We think that, for the sake of his program, Bill Self has to take a very serious stand on this one. You simply cannot have the players on a preseason #1 team running around campus fighting indiscriminately with players from the football team. Not only can your own players get hurt, but with so many big bodies involved, run-of-the-mill students can also get hurt. Luckily, that didn’t happen here, but Self needs to show that he’s totally in charge of his program. Anything less than a several-game suspension for all of the players involved would reveal that early-season Ws are more important to him than discipline. If it were us, we’d sit the Morris who threw the player down the stairs for ten games and the others for five each. No questions asked. If Kansas loses an early game or two versus Memphis and/or UCLA because of it, well, too bad. The good will that Self engenders as a no-nonsense coach will provide far greater benefits over time in terms of recruiting and public reputation than it will by letting these players off easy.
Non-BCS Schools Receive Harsher Penalties Than BCS Schools – No Way!! This jewel made it into our inbox last week from the Orlando Sentinel. The Michael Buckner Law Firm performed an analysis that showed that the average years of probation meted out to non-BCS programs was longer than those handed out to BCS programs over a 4+ year period in the late 2000s. The average amount of probation time for a non-BCS program was 2.74 years versus 2.58 years for BCS programs. There’s no accounting for whether the difference is simple error or actual bias, but what is more damning from this study is the finding that the HBCU schools (historically black colleges and universities) were given 3.83 years of probation versus the aforementioned 2.58 for BCS schools. That seems a little ridiculous to us. Of course, the NCAA predictably dismissed the study on statistical grounds, and we understand their complaint. So here’s our suggestion to the NCAA: hire an independent researcher to examine your enforcement policies and practices for consistency and bias, and get back to us. Something tells us we’ll be waiting on that for quite some time.
Indiana & Kelvin Sanctions (cont.). The big news of the day was of course that Indiana managed to avoid postseason sanctions even though they’ll formally be on probation for the next three seasons. Kelvin Sampson, to his credit, took responsibility for the complete lack of oversight at Indiana ‘while on his watch,’ but at least once Tom Crean gets this program moving in the right direction again, the Hoosiers won’t also be burdened by the crimson scarlet letter of postseason sanctions. Recruits can still be sold on the basis of playing in the postseason at Indiana (although admittedly, that seems farfetched at this point, even within three years). Sampson is now working for the Milwaukee Bucks as an assistant, but he’s now effectively barred from coaching in the NCAA for the next five years as part of a ‘show cause’ restriction (a school would have to show cause for the NCAA to allow it to hire him). Frankly, this seems to us like a penalty that was ‘easy’ for the NCAA to prove, but one that doesn’t necessarily fit when we know of so many other obvious recruiting violations that are simply untidy for prosecution and therefore ignored.
Games of the Night. We had two great games today, for the first time all season.
Notre Dame 81, Texas 80. This game was nearly everything we expected, and a little more (featured by Justin Mason, below). Notre Dame was led by Luke Harangody’s 29/13 and a 40-footer at the shot clock expiration to what seemed like a solid win with a minute to go, up 79-71. Then the bricks started – Tory Jackson missed two from the line; Zach Hillesland missed two from the line; then Harongody missed both with five seconds left, leaving the door open for Texas to win the game with a two (ND was only up 81-80 at that time). Luckily for Notre Dame, AJ Abrams’ 60-footer at the buzzer was just a bit short (but right online). Good performances abound – ND’s Kyle McAlarney had 19/5 including five threes, and Texas’ was led by AJ Abrams’ 23/5 and Damion James 11/12. Both of these teams are top ten worthy, in our opinion, and we expect Notre Dame to give Carolina all they want tomorrow evening.
Syracuse 89, Kansas 81 (OT). This was a phenomenal game with enough eye-popping plays to cause Beetlejuice to take notice. Kansas appeared as if they were going to blow the game open in the mid-second half until Jim Boeheim changed his trapping defense up and seemingly stole the ball a dozen straight times for dunks and layups. This 13-2 run led to a tight game down the stretch which was capped by Jonny Flynn’s (25/5 assts) dagger three with 6.4 seconds remaining (see below) to effectively send the game to overtime. Cuse continued its hot shooting in the OT – Andy Rautins and Eric Devendorf combined for six threes in the game – and KU appeared to lose its confidence in the extra period. KU’s Cole Aldrich (15/14) and SU’s Arinze Onuaku (19/12) both showed a strong skill set in the post as each tried to one-up the other during the game. Both of these teams are going to be very good this season.
What’s Wrong with Steph Curry?Davidson 78, Loyola (MD) 48. Nothing, that’s what. As in Steph Curry put up a donut tonight in the points column (get a good look below because we doubt you’ll ever see it again). The word is that Loyola head man Jimmy Patsos strategized to take Curry completely out of the game by double-teaming him on every offensive possession, anywhere he went on the court. Curry, happy to let his teammates play every possession 4-on-3, stood in the corner and watched as they got open look after open look (14 threes went down). Remember, Jimmy Patsos is the coach who decided to leave the bench last week during a game to sit in the stands. We’re starting to seriously worry that he could be losing his mind. We’re not sure if a player averaging over 35ppg has ever had a scoreless game, but jeez, Steph, what happened on the three shots you missed?