Oklahoma State redshirt senior Michael Cobbinswill miss the Cowboys’ opening three games of the regular season as penance for playing in two non-conference regular season games during his true freshman season. Cobbins played in a combined five minutes against Houston Baptist and Nicholls State during the 2010-11 season, prior to sitting out the remainder of the year as a medical redshirt. Unfortunately for Cobbins, NCAA rules require that a player must sit out two competitions for each game in which he appeared during his redshirt season (excluding scrimmages and exhibition games for freshmen). After Wisconsin’s Duje Dukan was able to count a closed scrimmage and an exhibition game toward his required total in a similar situation, Oklahoma State asked the NCAA to count its exhibition game against Missouri Western as one of the games Cobbins was required to miss. That request was granted late last week, and as a result, Cobbins sat out the Cowboys’ Saturday exhibition. Still, as a result of playing those 300 ticks of the clock some four years ago, the key frontcourt contributor will be unavailable for the Cowboys’ first three games of the 2014-15 campaign.
Cobbins missed the majority of the 2013-14 season with an Achilles injury. (Michael Wyke/Tulsa World)
While the two-for-one rule seems somewhat arbitrary, Oklahoma State is lucky to have Cobbins available at all this season. According to NCAA rules, a single second of action in a regular season game is sufficient to cost a player a full year of eligibility. The requirement is aimed at preventing a coach from using a potential redshirted player in a substantial number of games by requiring the player to miss a substantially larger number of games in the future. This removes the incentive for a coach to burn a good portion of a player’s season of eligibility by effectively trying him out at the beginning of a season to see how he performs — the NCAA is forcing coaches to make redshirt decisions on players sooner than later.
With five full seasons of college basketball’s 20-foot, 9-inch three-point line under our belt (formerly 19’9″), now would seem like a good time to take inventory on the impact of the rule change. There was ample debate back in summer 2008 on just how much of a difference the extra foot would make, but believers, and more importantly, the enforcers (the NCAA) trusted that the new line would promote better offensive spacing, and again make the three-pointer an option for only the finest of shooters. Those on the other side of the debate refused to believe that a measly 12 inches would alter a whole lot, with common refrains ranging from “players will be able to adjust very quickly” to “most three-point attempts came from well beyond the arc anyways.” So which group gets to say “I told you so” now? We have a large enough sample size to draw legitimate conclusions, but if we recall the initial objectives of the rule change – increased floor spacing and a decrease in non-shooters attempting the shot — it’s hard to argue that the evidence shows anything but mixed results.
Former Blue Devil Greg Paulus Was One Of Many Who Preferred The Three-Point Line Back At 19′, 9″ ; After Shooting 42% From Three Point Range As A Junior In 2007-08, Paulus Shot Just 34% From Beyond The Arc As A Senior (Photo Credit: Spokeo.com)
At the simplest level, the new line served its purpose: Three-point shots have been harder to make since 2008-09. In the last decade, the peak of three-point shooting proficiency came in the final year of the 19’9” line, when players shot 35.02% from distance. That number immediately plummeted to 34.18% in the first year with the new line — a significant drop when you consider that the largest shift in percentage in the five years prior was just .21%. Also worth noting is that the overall percentage in each of the last five years is well below even the lowest percentage (34.49%) in the five years before the change. StatSheet has some wonderful visual representations of this data, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that college players are simply not making as many threes as they did when the line was shorter. No PhD necessary to deduce that they are also taking fewer threes – another desired outcome for the rule book authors back in 2008. Total attempts saw a drastic decline between 2007 and 2008, as the average of 38.25 3FGAs per game fell to just 36.73 in the year after the change. That number has experienced a relative flatline in the four years since – a sharp interruption to a decidedly upward trending graph in the years prior.
A Bronx cheer rose up throughout the land on Tuesday as the NCAA approved changes with two of the most confounding rules in college basketball. Perhaps the one that caused the most consternation among pundits and fans on social media last year was the “elbow above the shoulders” rule. Originally intended to cut down on dirty play, the rule mandated that a flagrant foul had to be called in any such instance; this predictably led to numerous situations where not-dirty but standard basketball plays were ruled flagrant fouls simply because a defender stuck his nose too close to the body of his man. The new rule, revealed Tuesday, will allow officials considerably more discretion in making the call, giving them an opportunity to review the video monitor to determine both the blow’s severity and inadvertence, presumably resulting in a much more equitable interpretation of the rule. The rules committee also changed the block/charge rule yet again, now mandating that a defensive player must already be in good position before the offensive player starts his upward motion with the ball. Like the Euro step and jump stop before them, expect an entirely new offensive move to become predicated on starting the ball on its upward trajectory as soon as possible in an effort to catch the defender off balance and earn that elusive whistle.
Will he or won’t he? On Monday Kentucky’s Kyle Wiltjer and John Calipari both announced in separate UK media posts that the rising junior forward is planning to transfer for the remainder of his collegiate career. It seemed as if he was already out the door, but somewhat peculiarly, neither explicitly said that he was leaving. On Tuesday, his head coach said that he does in fact plan to leave Lexington, but he’d be welcomed back if he ultimately decided to change his mind. ESPN.com is now reporting that the top suitors for the sharp-shooting stretch four are Gonzaga, Portland, Texas, Stanford, Oregon and Oregon State — the heavily-Pacific Northwestern flavor derives, of course, from proximity to Wiltjer’s hometown of Portland, Oregon. With an abundance of high-level talent coming into Lexington next season — not to mention two significant frontcourt returnees in Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein — it makes a lot of sense for Wiltjer to consider a transfer for more playing time. Still, 6’10” players who shoot a legitimate 39 percent from distance are tough to find, so even with all that superstar talent Calipari has at his disposal next season, it wouldn’t hurt to offer Wiltjer a redshirt season to get stronger in 2013-14 and a much bigger role on the following year’s squad.
This news was hinted at in last week’s announcement about Kansas‘ expansion of its third-tier media rights, and yesterday the second part of the deal was unveiled. Depending on whom you ask among Jayhawks faithful in the comments of this Lawrence Journal-World article, this is either a “as bad as I expected” or a complete “travesty.” Although KU officials are lauding its deal to provide 70 live events on ESPN3 as only the second of its kind between a Big 12 school and ESPN (the Longhorn Network being the other), the reality is that only six men’s basketball games will be shown as part of the agreement, and many fans of a nationally-relevant program like Kansas do not belong to a cable network that offers ESPN3 as part of its package. For a decent metric of the temperature of the fan base, take a look at that comment thread (189 and going strong at the time of this writing) — this isn’t a group that suffers fools lightly.
Despite the mood of Jayhawks fans about this newfangled streaming deal with ESPN3, SI.com‘s Andy Staples makes some excellent points in his feature analysis suggesting that such deals may in fact be the tip of the next iceberg that changes how college sports is packaged and sold. Admittedly, we’re still a number of years away from an Internet-dominant model becoming completely mainstream, but as Netflix, Google and Apple continue to redefine how we consume media, and as the non-sports fan public pushed back against astronomical bundled rights fees for cable sports (see: Time Warner’s lawsuit about the Lakers/Dodgers), it’s worth consideration. And as we remarked frequently when the ‘number of local eyeballs’ metric worked to justify nonsensical conclusions such as Rutgers joining the Big Ten, it will eventually come to pass that the a la carte penetration of a market (i.e., the number of people who actually care and watch the games) will matter far more than the overall size of it. Then much of this latest round of conference realignment will look somewhat silly; that is, to everyone who didn’t line their much deeper pockets in the color of green.
How’s that for a prelude? While on the subject of the conference realignment, the new Big East is set to open its doors for business five days from now. Except that there are no doors to actually open. Nor is there an address, a commissioner or even a fancy new logo. As Dana O’Neil writes, the new league is getting directed by its nine university priests and one president, and nobody can seemingly come to an easy decision on anything. Or any decision. Paralysis by analysis, she terms it, and quite unsurprisingly, the athletic departments at Providence, Georgetown, Butler, Creighton and the rest are wondering what exactly they’ve all signed on to here. Hopefully once a commissioner is named — Val Ackerman has been suggested, via Andy Katz and other media reports — but until then, this new basketball-centric league is floating rudderless with a captain. Our email address, in case they need it: email@example.com.
As CBSSports.com‘s Jeff Goodman reported yesterday, the NCAA Rules Committee is meeting in Indianapolis this week and as of now it appears unlikely that the governing body will recommend a change to the 35-second shot clock. Given that scoring has reached its lowest point in over a half-century of college hoops, many have been clamoring for the pace of the game to increase through a shortened clock. What those rabble-rousers of course fail to realize is that because of advanced scouting and technology, defensive strategies are vastly more robust than they were even 10, or certainly 20 or more years ago. The game is also significantly younger than it was when the shot clock was first introduced, which creates a likely devil’s potion of unintended consequences whereby a shortened clock will simply lead to more rushed (read: ugly) possessions that will not at all improve the overall level of play across the game. Good on the NCAA to recognize this and keep the wolves at bay. Some of the other anticipated rules changes are to mimic the NBA’s achievement in using the monitors at the end of games to get possession, time and score calls correct, while also placing a much-needed emphasis on the removal of hand-checking and bumping on cuts through the lane. Hopefully these measures will help to make the game a bit more free-flowing, because the NBA’s product right now in that regard is fantastic and the collegians could stand to learn from it.
The match-ups for the 15th annual ACC/Big Ten Challengewere released yesterday and everyone is giving their takes on which games stand out as the best. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of next year’s event, of course, is that the three new ACC schools — Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and Notre Dame — will be a part of the action next December 3-4. The Orange will take on Indiana in a rematch game from this year’s Sweet Sixteen; the Panthers will host rising program Penn State in a Keystone State battle; and, Notre Dame will travel to Iowa to face another Big Ten team hoping for big things next season. As for longtime ACC teams Wake Forest, Clemson and Virginia Tech? Welcome to your new reality — there are three newer and prettier girls moving to town. For what it’s worth, the Big Ten has won three of the last four events, with last year ending up as a 6-6 tie.
The national runner-up, Michigan, will travel to Cameron Indoor Stadium in the marquee game of the first night of the Challenge, which brings back great memories of the days when Chris Webber, Jalen Rose and the Fab Five would knock antlers with Bobby Hurley, Grant Hill and the rest down in Durham two decades ago. While on the subject of Michigan’s most famous player, Webber’s 10-year ban from association with UM as part of his punishment for taking hundreds of thousands of dollars while in school there, is now over. Technically, this means that if Michigan someday wants to honor him with a jersey retirement ceremony or some other shrine in Crisler Arena, they will be allowed to do so. Whether Webber ultimately wants something like that is open for debate — he’s reportedly remained very cool in his relationship with the university (and some argue that he’s right to be angry) — but it says here that Webber is a sensitive guy who was very hurt by many of the things said about him within the Michigan community, but as evidenced by his attendance at the National Championship game last month, he’ll never stop loving the school that made him famous. He’ll be honored there within the next five years.
By now everyone knows and has an opinion on the mercurial rise of wunderkind head coach Andy Enfield from Florida Gulf Coast to USC. Now that he’s been on the job for a few weeks in Troy, the New York Times caught up with him to see how he’s handling the transition from the low-density glare of Fort Myers, Florida, to the red-hot limelight of Hollywood. No stranger to hard work, Enfield has been putting in 16-hour days getting organized in everything from recruiting strategies to travel plans, all from the relatively comfortable haven of his nearby Raddisson hotel room. As the article notes, the Fighting Enfields are already focusing very hard on dominating the Los Angeles talent scene, a sentiment that is going to be very interesting with Steve Alford just a few miles away in his new digs mapping out the very same plan. USC may not ever become a basketball school, but there’s really no excuse for it to be awful, either. Enfield might just be the guy to make USC basketball relevant again.
SI.com‘s Andy Glockner has been beating this drum for a while now, but we’re not sure he’s ever done so outside the conversation-friendly auspices of Twitter. The idea? A college basketball Champions League arrangement, first espoused by Bylaw Blog‘s John Infante, which would essentially use the non-conference friendly months of November and December to create non-stop excitement by crafting big game after big game between talented teams before heading into the heart of conference season and, ultimately, March Madness. We’re not smart enough with respect to the nuances of the Champions League format to determine whether this sort of thing might be feasible, but if the ultimate goal is to improve the game as a whole through more compelling match-ups when most sports fans are generally only worried about football, then we’re all for it. Glockner does an excellent job explaining how the pairings would work as well as rebutting some of the arguments that are sure to arise — it’s well worth a read and some consideration.
Brian Otskey is a regular contributor for RTC. Every Tuesday during the regular season he’ll be giving his 10 thoughts on the previous week’s action. You can find him on Twitter @botskey
As someone who doesn’t watch one minute of college football but loves college basketball to no end, conference realignment frustrates me to no end as you might imagine. It’s actually quite depressing and I hate talking/writing about it. However, it’s a relevant story and must be discussed because of the far-reaching impacts it will have on the sport I love. I realize this is all about “stability,” TV markets and football. It bothers me like nothing else but I accept it. I’m in the minority when it comes to this and the minority holds very little influence in our country. The consequences (both intended and unintended) of realignment for basketball are distressing. The Big East conference, the pre-eminent college basketball league for the last 25 to 30 years, is on life support. The conference I grew up watching, with the best conference tournament of them all, is all but gone. Yes, Connecticut and Louisville are still in the league, but make no mistake, they’ll bolt at the first opportunity they get as we saw this week with Rutgers going to the Big Ten. Once everything shakes out, I find it hard to believe any Big East football program will remain in the league. It simply makes no sense to do so at this point and they’re looking out for themselves in doing so. I don’t blame them. I blame the greedy conference leadership concerned about how many eyeballs the Big Ten Network can draw in New York and New Jersey, the schools who set this in motion (Syracuse and Pittsburgh), and the Big East as a whole for turning down a massive TV deal that could have given the conference a great deal of security. Once the football schools leave, the Big East will be down to seven Catholic basketball-only schools: DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John’s, Seton Hall and Villanova. As an alumnus and fan of one of those seven schools, this pains me greatly. I could live with Pittsburgh, West Virginia and Notre Dame leaving the league. The real punch to the gut was Syracuse, a Big East founding member, saying it could find long-term stability in the ACC. The final, fatal blow will be Connecticut and/or Louisville bolting, likely in short order. The basketball-only schools have no leverage and must wait and see as everything crashes around them. Hopefully they get together, keep the Big East name and pick up a few other schools like Butler, St. Joe’s and Xavier. That wouldn’t be a bad league and it would get back to the roots of the Big East, basketball and basketball only.
The Big East Needs to Find Its Roots in Basketball
How does realignment affect other schools and conferences? For one, the bottom teams in the ACC may stay there for a very long time. With Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame coming in (and possibly Connecticut/Louisville), how will schools like Wake Forest and Boston College compete? There will be a good five or six programs ahead of them each and every year, plus they have to battle it out with the likes of Clemson, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech just to make it into the middle of the pack. It’s a vicious cycle that will keep programs like these as the bottom of their respective conference for many years to come. They always said it was tough to climb up the Big East ladder but now the ACC is effectively the Big East (six of the ACC’s 14 future members, not including Maryland, will be former Big East schools). It’s going to be extraordinarily tough for schools like Boston College to compete in the revamped ACC. Only the strong shall survive in conference realignment, it seems. As for the Big Ten, the impact isn’t as significant. Penn State, Nebraska and Northwestern will always be among the worst programs in the league but the climb to respectability isn’t as difficult. Look at Northwestern. The Wildcats have never made the NCAA Tournament despite knocking on the door in the last few seasons, showing how it isn’t impossible to climb the conference ladder. Now though, the addition of a similarly starved program at Rutgers and a strong program at Maryland makes it more difficult for Northwestern to make a move. It’s uncertain what Rutgers is getting itself into. The Scarlet Knights haven’t made the NCAA Tournament in 22 seasons but have shown signs of progress under Mike Rice. You have to think it can go either way for Rutgers. The new recruiting avenues can help but the school is already situated in the middle of the talent-rich New York City area. That said, road trips to Wisconsin and Michigan State aren’t as simple as heading over to St. John’s or up to Providence. I’d lean towards Rutgers struggling in the Big Ten. Read the rest of this entry »
We don’t typically spend much time talking about exhibition games in this space, but it was somewhat coincidental that each of the nation’s top three teams were in action last night. Indiana, Louisville, and Kentucky each got some work in against Indiana Wesleyan, Pikeville, and Northwood, respectively, with an average margin of victory of 33.0 points between the three games. The top storylines from each game: #1 Indiana was sluggish at the start but oft-injured Maurice Creek returned with a vengeance (12 points in 15 minutes of action); #2 Louisville hung its 2012 Final Four banner and may have found some instant offense in the form of freshman Montrezl Harrell (19 points, 13 rebounds); #3 Kentucky probably isn’t as “awful” as its head coach lets on, as the Wildcats experimented with 12 different lineups including one with a monster frontcourt of Nerlens Noel, Willie Cauley-Stein, and Kyle Wiltjer. And, of course, as you’re reading this, we’re only one week and change from the first official games.
The Pac-12 held its Media Day in San Francisco yesterday, and as always, the only important part of these events (excepting verbal spats between egomaniacal coaches, of course) is when the media releases its preseason predictions. This year’s race is basically a dead heat between Arizona and UCLA, with the Wildcats receiving one more overall vote than the Bruins and the Bruins receiving one more first-place vote than the Wildcats. Let’s hope so, because this league is at its best only when these two traditional powerhouses are perched atop the league. The Bay Areas schools — California and Stanford — came in third and fourth, while last year’s regular season champion, Washington, and Pac-12 Tournament champion, Colorado, rounded out the top six. We’d expect the league to bounce back with at least four NCAA Tournament invitations this season.
Oklahoma State received some excellent news Wednesday in what has been an injury-addled preseason when the NCAA used common sense to rule that talented swingman JP Olukemiwill receive a waiver this year to play the entire season for his team. The issue that Olukemi was inadvertently facing was that he had started his NCAA five-years-to-play-four eligibility clock when his prep school’s basketball team shut down in the middle of the year and he continued taking courses at a local community college afterward. Doing the math, Olukemi’s final semester of eligibility would have been this one — meaning that his collegiate career would have ended at the midseason point (December 31, to be precise). The NCAA takes a lot of heat for how it handles its high profile cases, but there are a number of these mid-level cases where the organization generally gets it right. Kudos to them for realizing that the spirit of the rule wasn’t violated here. Plus, Travis Ford really needs him.
Since it’s Friday we’re going to end the week on a positive couple of notes. First, TSN‘s Ryan Fagan profiles the new and often misunderstood South Carolina head coach, Frank Martin. The piece discusses how everyone’s first impression of the coach derives from his fiery demeanor on the court — not to mention the trademarked glare — but once his new players and colleagues quickly realize that Martin is a go-hard perfectionist who demands their best but also has their back, they don’t walk, they run, into his camp. Martin is a very good coach but he’s not a miracle worker, and South Carolina’s goal this season should simply be to become competitive. This program has been in a seemingly endless down cycle since the Eddie Fogler era of the late 1990s, but there is enough fan support and talent base in the area to field a successful program there — it just takes the right kind of hard-headed man to do it. Perhaps someone like Frank Martin.
Next, CBSSports.com‘s Gary Parrish writes about a 20-year old North Carolina Central freshman basketball player by the name of Rashawn King who had leukemia so off the charts that the first time he was tested the medical staff believed that their machines were broken. After endless tests and treatments eventually got his disease under control and into remission, he became involved in the Make-a-Wish Foundation where he initially asked for an opportunity to meet his hero, LeBron James. Something so self-oriented didn’t feel right to him, though, so he changed his wish to throw a lunch party for his over 2,000 friends and classmates at Raleigh’s Middle Creek HS who had painstakingly supported and encouraged him throughout his fight. Last Tuesday, the Foundation made sure that he got to meet LeBron anyway, arranging for his NCCU head coach to drive him to a Miami-Charlotte exhibition game where he met King James, Pat Riley, Coach K, and a number of other hoops honchos. It’s a great story all-around, and one that’ll bring a bit of a tear to your eye — we need more Rashawn Kings in college basketball and sports in general, that’s for sure.
As we’ve discussed in this space all week long, the Big East has a new negotiating team and a new commissioner, both brought on board with one clear goal in mind — to get the best possible television deal for its member institutions during the upcoming TV negotiation window. Mike Aresco was introduced as the new commish at the New York Athletic Club on Wednesday, and his overarching theme in his opening speech was one of stability and unity. With a ragtag group of schools playing different sports in different leagues all over the country, he certainly has his work cut out for him; but, the good news for Aresco’s vision of conference stability is that there aren’t all that many valuable and poachable schools left in his league. Only two-sport schools Connecticut (ACC) and Louisville (Big 12) could reasonably be expected to receive future offers, and although either would jump at the chance, at least Aresco will have an opportunity to put all the Big East’s financial cards on the table before those offers come to pass.
Julius Peppers has been the topic du jour in the ACC this week, and prominent writers from around the country continue to weigh in on the depth and the breadth of the developing scandal. Mike DeCourcy is the latest to note that UNC absolutely must take the lead in thoroughly investigating and extensively reporting the situation, dating back as far as it needs to go (translation: even before 1998, if the evidence points in that direction). This statement says it all: “It is essential North Carolina commence the sort of comprehensive self-examination Penn State undertook in regards to the Jerry Sandusky scandal. For all the pain and embarrassment that resulted from the Freeh report, Penn State is much closer to recapturing its soul today than Carolina.” And therein lies the rub. Like Penn State before it, UNC has long been quick to tell anyone who will listen that it does things differently. The evidence that we’ve now seen suggests otherwise — Carolina must get its head out of the sand and show that they’re serious about finding the truth here, even if that veracity stains the very premise of sanctity on which the whole house was built.
CBSSports.com’s survey of coaches has caused quite a bit of buzz over the past 10 days, but its most recent key question resulted in nearly as many different responses as their were respondents. Well, not really, but asking coaches an open-ended question about what rule they’d like to see changed was certain to produce a great deal of variance. The most popular response was a desire to reduce the 35-second shot clock to something approaching the NBA’s 24-second limit, but eight different answers received at least five percent of the vote. John Infante at the Bylaw Blog broke down each of the prominent responses (our favorite: “No postseason ban for APR: That tells me the penalty is effective.”) but his greater point is that college basketball coaches, unlike other sports, have no consistency in their message because they’re not even sure what they want as a group. He suggests that the NABC should make itself useful by putting together a comprehensive and logically consistent platform about how to regulate the sport of college basketball. It’s a good read, and makes too much sense for it to actually happen.
Have you guys heard that Indiana is back? Apparently the students of IU have gotten the memo, as the Indianapolis Starreported this week that the school has already sold out its entire allotment of student tickets for the 2012-13 season. A total of 12,400 tickets were sold for the largest student section in the country of 7,800 seats, ensuring that every student ticket-holder will be able to attend at least 10 of the Hoosiers’ 16 home games. This is all fine and well, but at a school like Indiana with its extremely rich history and an ingrained statewide basketball culture, it shouldn’t take 10 years for student seats to sell out (the last time was 2002-03). We understand that demand always rises with winning, but the fact that it’s been since before the Iraq War started for the students to fully support their team is just shy of ridiculous. We expect fair-weather that stuff at places like Auburn or USC, not Indiana.
In the 1982-83 and 1983-84 seasons, Jim Boeheim‘s Syracuse Orangemen matched up against Dean Smith’s North Carolina Tar Heels two times, and the results were not pretty. UNC spanked Boeheim’s team twice, coincidentally by the same score, 87-64, each time. A guard by the name of Michael Jordan led the Heels in both games — dropping 18/7/4 stls in the first game (in Charlotte), and 19/5 in the second (in Syracuse). Perhaps Boeheim has never forgiven His Airness for those dual beatdowns, as he recently gave an interview to Colin Cowherd on ESPN Radio where, in light of his experience with Team USA and LeBron James, he dared to say that he’s “not so sure anymore” that Jordan was the best player he’s ever seen. We’re only being silly about Boeheim holding a grudge against MJ 30 years later, but there’s no question that King James has had a fantastic 12 months — the question that needs to be answered, though, is whether he will sustain it.
Christopher Johnson is an RTC columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.
After meting out unprecedented sanctions just over a week ago against Penn State’s football program in response to the Jerry Sandusky child sexual molestation scandal and alleged cover-up of high ranking officials within the program, it appears the NCAA is leading a charge to ramp up the severity of future penalties in keeping with the precedent established in this watershed case. NCAA leaders reached a consensus Thursday on a new proposal endorsing a revised four-tier penalty structure that includes many of the same punitive measures handed down last week against the Nittany Lions, including hefty fines, up to four years’ postseason ban, and suspensions for head coaches. Far more significant is the radical shift in both the process used to interpret violations and the culpability of coaches in either concealing or enabling forbidden activity. Under the new punishment structure — which is expected to be voted into approval at the Board of Directors’ Meeting in October — coaches will be held accountable for any violations committed by members of their staffs, with suspensions awaiting any coach unable to prove innocence in any wrongdoing.
Mark Emmert Seems Serious About Punitive Sanctions, But Will They Stick?
The new guidelines also call for increasing the size of the infractions committee from 10 to 24 members, a modification designed to streamline the enforcement process, which has been widely denounced in recent years for its lumbering proceedings. In the wake of the most heinous and unconscionable scandal in the history of intercollegiate athletics, these changes provide a measure of legitimacy to the NCAA’s handling of the Penn State scandal and pushback for those who criticized the organization for their misplaced priorities throughout the enforcement process. Many chided NCAA president Mark Emmert for overstepping his bounds in bypassing the infractions committee and fast tracking the harsh punitive measures, fearing he was setting a dangerous precedent with the breadth and severity of the sanctions along with the hasty and unprecedented procedure used to deliver those penalties. By legislating a speedier decision in implementing a harsher punitive scale for violations, the new guidelines represent a step forward in support of Emmert’s recent actions. That NCAA leaders were overwhelmingly supportive of similar measures disputes the notion that Emmert operated without the consent and backing of organization members.
We’ve spent too much time on this site in the last five years lamenting a number of initiatives perpetrated against the game of college basketball in the name of dollar-chasing. The shamelessness of college administrators in discussing the welfare of student-athletes in one breath while simultaneously making decisions to further enrich themselves without regard for players and fans who put these folks in their positions of power continues to appall us. Interestingly, others outside our game (and our first cousin, college football) are starting to notice. Two articles published independently over the weekend get at the same point — that those who run college basketball have forgotten what made it so popular in the first place. John Supinie writes that “the integrity and traditions that made the game so great were lost in the money,” while Dick Jerardi says that “when your fans can’t follow what it is you are doing, you are in danger of losing those fans.” Both articles take different tacks but end up in the same place — college hoops cannot thrive if it remains the red-headed stepchild to college football and the NBA, a mere pawn to be tossed around in their pursuit of increasingly greater shares of the pie.
While we’re in the mood for piling on this morning, a recent article about transfers by USA Today informed us that four of every 10 D-I recruits who enter as a freshman will have left that program by the end of his second year. That 40% attrition rate includes only two percent of players who leave halfway through their college careers to the NBA, meaning that fully 38% of incoming players are transferring or simply quitting school altogether by that time. Transfers have been a hot topic this offseason, with over 400 players already moving on to presumably sunnier situations and a couple of public (and thorny) battles between coaches and players over their right to head elsewhere. NCAA president Mark Emmert says that he plans on initiating a task force to study the issue, a step in the right direction, but we’re almost certain that any recommendations will benefit the coaches more than the players.
One of those 400+ transfers is Connecticut’s Michael Bradley, as hard luck a player as you will find. A young man who grew up in an orphanage in Tennessee because he was estranged from his mother never saw action in his two years at UConn. He redshirted his freshman year and suffered an ankle injury that kept him out of Jim Calhoun’s rotation last year. After his grandmother in Chattanooga was recently diagnosed with cancer, Bradley decided to transfer to Western Kentucky to be closer to her, but over the weekend the NCAA denied Bradley’s waiver request to play immediately at WKU. This decision proves once again that the criteria for justified waivers does not appear to be consistently articulable, which would probably cut down on these requests if the NCAA would simply provide clearer guidelines.
Prepare yourselves for three years of Pitino Bowl, as Louisville has agreed to play FIU for the next three seasons (two in Louisville; one in South Florida) now that Richard Pitino has settled in as the new head coach of the Panthers. Father/son matchups are often lopsided because of the superior position within the industry that the elder has over the younger, and this situation should be no different. But it’ll be interesting to see if Richard is more like a Pat Knight (Bob) or Tony Bennett (Dick) in his career, especially given that he’s starting out at a school that not even the coaching phenom Isiah Thomas could make work.
A couple of key ACC players may not lace them up next season, depending on how the rest of the summer shakes out for each. NC State’s Lorenzo Brown, a rising junior who averaged a superb 13/6/5 RPG manning the point guard spot for Mark Gottfried’s surprising Wolfpack team, will have surgery on his right knee this week to determine what is causing him some discomfort. An early report suggested that he had a meniscus problem there, but that has not been confirmed, and there is no timetable for his return to action. On the other side of the Triangle, Duke’s Andre Dawkinsappears to be redshirting next year, his senior season as a Blue Devil. Coach K announced that the redshirt was an official decision as of last Friday, but he also added that Dawkins needs time “to step away,” which might leave open the possibility that things could change if he chooses not to take that step. Dawkins contributed 8.4 PPG last season as a key member of Duke’s backcourt, but he disappeared down the stretch as Duke did likewise in the last several games of the season.
You’re probably reading this post approximately 8-12 hours after textapocalypsewent into effect in college basketball last night. As the midnight bell tolled, a new NCAA rule went into effect allowing coaches to bombard high school sophomores and above with as many phone calls and text messages that they can muster. You might recall that one of the very first posts on this venerable site back in 2007 suggested that the NCAA’s decision to ban text messages in light of news that Billy Gillispie (then at Kentucky) was knocking out 8,000 messages a month was a good idea. Even in those short five years, how people communicate with one another has changed significantly (texting has essentially replaced phone calls between young people), but that doesn’t mean that middle-aged coaches will do any better with it now than they did then. One thing is certain — with social media like Twitter and Facebook today existing side-by-side texts on everyone’s smart phone, there’s bound to be lots of texting hilarity that will ensue from just the auto-correct function alone.
Cincinnati and Xavier decided on Thursday that all the on-court fun the players have had at the Crosstown Shootout (now re-branded as the Crosstown Classic – lolz) in recent years shouldn’t be limited to the student-athletes punching each other on the floor. With the choice to move the game to a neutral site downtown and tickets split down the middle, this two-year move will allow fans to get in zip each other up while enjoying the game from the stands. Look, we understand the logic behind moving the game away from home sites where the vitriol heaved upon the visiting team produces a volatile situation, but is college basketball turning into a sport where only games at neutral sites are those worth having? Between the Kentucky-Indiana ridiculousness and now this, we have to wonder if the sport is losing one of the very things that makes it special (home-and-home rivalry games). What’s next — Duke and Carolina on a Charlotte/Greensboro/Raleigh rotation?
It didn’t take long for former Nebraska head coach Doc Sadler to find a landing spot. Kansas announced on Thursday that Sadler, who has a 149-107 record as a Division I head coach, would take over as the Jayhawks’ Director of Basketball Operations. He replaces Barry Hinson, who left KU after the season to become the new head coach at Southern Illinois. Sadler continues a trend of high-major college coaches keeping their name fresh in the industry by taking assistant positions when they come available. For example, former Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey is currently an assistant at Florida, biding his time until another choice job comes available and an AD is willing to take another chance on him.
Speaking of the Gator program, Florida fans received some excellent news on Thursday when Virginia Tech forward Dorian Finney-Smithannounced that he would transfer to Gainesville in light of Seth Greenberg’s firing. Finney-Smith joins Damontre Harris as transfers heading south to play for Billy Donovan, giving the two-time national champion head coach a leg up already on his 2013-14 roster. The 6’8″ player averaged 7/7 last year in 30 minutes per game for Virginia Tech, but he clearly needs to spend the off year working on shot selection (33.2%) and bulking up. Finney-Smith is already an elite per-minute rebounder, but with another 30 pounds on his frame he could easily average double figure boards in two years for the Gators.
The biggest knock on Bruce Weber at Illinois was his recruiting (or lack thereof), especially in the talent-rich Chicago area. As the new head coach at Kansas State, he faces a more difficult recruiting situation in that the nearest major city is Kansas City, a town not exactly known for its prep basketball talent in the same sense as the Windy City. As a result, Weber went on record Thursday stating that he plans to branch out to more places, even as many as all places. Well, except the West Coast. Weber said during a Big 12 coaches’ teleconference that he wants to recruit the Midwest, Texas, the East Coast, and of course, Chicago. All we can think is that Illinois fans must be snickering in their cereal this morning.
That’s Debatable is back for another year of expert opinions, ridiculous assertions and general know-it-all-itude. Remember, kids, there are no stupid answers, just stupid people. We’ll try to do one of these each week during the season. We’re fairly discerning around here, but if you want to be included, send us an email with your take telling us why at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This Week’s Topic: The NCAA has taken a lot of flak in the last week for its seeming inconsistency in recent rulings involving Cam Newton, the Ohio State football players and Enes Kanter, among others. Give us your ideas on how the NCAA should handle an increasingly complex environment involving the eligibility issues of its student-athletes. Can it be consistent?
Andrew Murawa, RTC contributor
If the NCAA can at least be consistent in attempting to look out for the best interests of student-athletes, while maintaining as near a level playing field as possible for all schools to compete upon, that should be enough. In the Kanter case, it seemed to me that Kanter didn’t do anything inherently “wrong.” He accepted money from a Turkish professional team above and beyond expenses for housing, education and the like, but Kanter never showed any real interest in becoming a professional. If he had wanted to be a professional, he could have been pulling a salary overseas for years now, but he made the commitment to come to the United States and try to compete at the college level. If the NCAA was going to rule with the best interests of the student-athlete in mind, Kanter would have been eligible at some point, after an appropriate penalty and his repayment of whatever additional funds he received. The NCAA is never going to be able to come up with a one-size-fits-all solution to these types of amateurism cases, and comparing the circumstances and motives behind each individual case will never be exact, but if they can consistently rule in a manner protective of its student-athletes – while still protecting the goal of amateurism – they’ll at least be serving their mission.
Tom Wolfmeyer, RTC contributor
Transparency, transparency, transparency. The NCAA’s biggest problem in my eyes is that nobody seems to be able to predict how rules will be interpreted or penalties handed out in a given case. And then when the organization is questioned, they have trouble articulating the nuance and distinguishing between decisions. The only way to combat this is with complete transparency in how their enforcement system works and the decision-making matrix that the NCAA uses to establish guidelines for punishment. If Cam Newton’s situation is indeed different than Enes Kanter’s, and his is different than Derrick Rose’s, et al., then the NCAA needs to inform us as to the specific criteria used to make decisions and then follow those same guidelines in future, similar cases. The way it stands now is entirely too ambiguous, which ultimately creates an appearance of the NCAA enforcement folks playing favorites and impropriety. And isn’t that the exact thing that the NCAA purports to be working for — a level playing field with a fair and just system?
Brian Otskey, RTC contributor
I think it’s impossible for the NCAA to be consistent when it comes to every student-athlete. I know Cam Newton was basically shopped around but I don’t follow college football and don’t know anything beyond that so it’s not my place to comment on that or the Ohio State football controversy. What I do know is that Enes Kanter is a professional athlete. He played for a professional team and received $33,000 above his necessary expenses, according to the university and the NCAA. The outrage from Dick Vitale and others that the NCAA declared him ineligible to get back at John Calipari is ludicrous. Kanter would be ineligible no matter what team he played for and teams knew he was a risk while recruiting him. I can’t blame Kentucky for taking a risk with a potentially great reward but let’s stop with the conspiracy theories about this. When it comes to Josh Selby, that money wasn’t even 15% of what Kanter was paid, though it does seem strange that he’s allowed to pay it back and play while Kanter cannot. The bottom line is that it’s impossible to create one rigid standard for everyone. Each situation should be looked at on a case-by-case basis.
That’s Debatable is back for another year of expert opinions, ridiculous assertions and general know-it-all-itude. Remember, kids, there are no stupid answers, just stupid people. We’ll try to do one of these each week during the season. We’re fairly discerning around here, but if you want to be included, send us an email with your take telling us why at email@example.com.
This Week’s Topic: Santa is stopping by your house this week, and he’s bringing you one thing that you really want this college basketball season and he’ll take one thing away when he leaves. What are those two things?
Ned Reddick, RTC contributor
My wishes for Christmas are pretty simple. I would ask Santa to bring Kyrie Irving back. No matter what you think of Duke it would be difficult to find a part of his game that a basketball fan would not enjoy. He’s fundamentally sound, athletic, and he plays hard. Although his absence makes the season more interesting in the sense that it makes the championship picture less defined, with Irving suiting up for the Blue Devils they would be the heavy favorites to win the title. With him on the sidelines in street clothes they are just one of about four or five teams that have a legitimate shot at the title. As for taking something away I would ask Santa to make players stop putting themselves in bad situations. I know they are just college students who as a group tend to do dumb stuff, but I wish they could stop taking things that the NCAA deems as impermissible benefits (like clothing or money) or just breaking the law (like a DUI or stealing other people’s stuff). It’s unfortunate that they are willing to risk a potentially lucrative career for a short-term pleasure so I hope Santa can take that away.
Brian Otskey, RTC contributor
This is a bit out of left field, plus it will never happen, but I’d want to see live video of the debate inside the committee room in the days leading up to and on Selection Sunday. I think it would be fascinating to see what they focus on rather than what we fans and the media lurch onto as the most important criteria. I’m glad the NCAA allows the media to participate in a mock bracket for a few days because it’s fun to read about the process and how they went about it, but nothing compares to seeing the real thing. Also, last year’s bracket was riddled with procedural errors and I’d be interested to see if they really focus on that or not. As for what I’d get rid of, that’s easy. All the agents, handlers, AAU coaches, etc. that make up the nasty part of recruiting. Seriously, why does a high school kid have to have his “people” decide where to go or what to do? What person that age has to have an entourage? It is terrific that the NCAA appears to be cracking down but they have a long, long way to go.
Andrew Murawa, RTC contributor
Well, I asked Santa to bring me the title of the commissioner of all sports, but he just mumbled something under his breath. “But Santa, all I want to do is ban the use of domed stadiums in sports that are meant to be played outside,” I said, but he saw right through that, knowing that a college football playoff would be coming along right after that. And you know Santa, he’s a big fan of those bowl games. Anyway, after some haggling, Santa has promised me a couple of four-day national holiday weekends in March. He’s got an in with the holiday creation board for some reason – I’m guessing blackmail, but you never can tell with Mr. Claus. He’s a mysterious one. And, just as a personal favor to me (we go back quite a ways), when he leaves on Christmas morning, he’s taking away four NCAA Tournament at-large bids, although I suspect he’s just going to dump them somewhere near the site of the Great Alaska Shootout on his way back home.