Josh Smith’s Clearance a Game-Changer On and Off the Court

Posted by Bennet Hayes on October 26th, 2013

When news broke Wednesday of Josh Smith’s accepted waiver and immediate eligibility for Georgetown, the bulk of the media reaction constituted pure shock. After all, without any known medical issues or hardship concerns facilitating the transfer, there was no indication that Smith would recoup two full seasons of eligibility after playing in six games as a junior at UCLA. The decision marks the latest puzzling chapter in the transfer waiver saga that unfolded over the offseason, and has left nearly everyone (outside the NCAA offices – or maybe not?) as confused as ever about the process – including CBSSports.com’s Gary Parrish. The folks at Georgetown may or may not be surprised by the news as well, but they are surely excited to have their big man ready for the season opener. As for the rest of us, the state of confusion we currently find ourselves in is understandable, but perhaps it’s time to give the NCAA the benefit of the doubt. They may have finally figured out that more leniency with the transfer policy benefits both the kids and the sport. Increased transparency from the governing body will be necessary at some point, but for now, I’ll take Smith’s immediate eligibility as a sign of changing times.

Thanks To A Generous NCAA Ruling, Josh Smith Will Be On The Court When Georgetown Kicks Off Their Season In Seoul, South Korea On Nov. 8 (Harry How/Getty Images)

Thanks To A Generous NCAA Ruling, Josh Smith Will Be On The Court When Georgetown Kicks Off Their Season In Seoul, South Korea On Nov. 8 (Harry How/Getty Images)

When the NCAA overturned its own decision to deny Kerwin Okoro’s waiver request a month ago, we had to know then that the organization was finally beginning to hear the vitriol of fans and media surrounding the transfer issue. The Smith ruling may be a more subtle version of that phenomenon. Jay Bilas tweeted that the Smith ruling was “not objectionable,” but that what is objectionable is that “the NCAA rejects so many others, with no coherent policy.” Agreed, and while we have no coherent policy in place, the Smith decision certainly feels like the waving of the white flag. If the NCAA is going to set such a clear precedent with a case like Smith’s – after all the discussion on the waiver issue this offseason – we have to assume enough self-awareness on the part of the NCAA to presume that they are going to be taking a far softer approach to the issue. We can hope for a definitive public stance on the issue before next offseason, but the blatant nature of this case should mean we are headed for fewer denied waiver requests, and eventually, perhaps none.

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Morning Five: Columbus Day Edition

Posted by RTC on October 14th, 2013

morning5

  1. The month of Midnight Madness celebrations continued over the weekend, with a number of schools choosing to reveal their 2013-14 teams to the public on Friday night. The most prominent basketball school of this weekend’s group was Marquette, entertaining some 4,000 fans at the Al McGuire Center for Marquette Madness. The event trotted out the tried-and-true Madness standards: a three-point shooting contest (won by Jake Thomas), a dunk contest (won by Deonte Burton), etc., but one unique aspect of this version was that the school also handed out a “Lifetime Achievement Award” as part of the proceedings. Chris Otule, a Golden Eagles center who has played a full season in only two of his five years in Milwaukee and was recently granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA, was the recipient (see the tribute video here). Otule earned substantial national recognition in 2010 when it was learned that he was playing major college basketball with only one working eye (he’s been blind in his left eye since birth), but he also has become something of a hard-luck case due to the three significant injuries (two broken feet and a torn ACL) that he has suffered during his career at Marquette. By all accounts a genuinely nice guy, let’s hope that his final year in Marquette is productive and injury-free.
  2. News came out last week that longtime Texas athletic director, DeLoss Dodds, will retire from his post overseeing the wealthiest athletic department in all of college sports. The 76-year old’s decision to retire, though, comes at a time when the school’s revenue-producing programs — football, basketball and baseball — are all suffering through relatively tough times. Notwithstanding the football Longhorns’ upset of unbeaten Oklahoma on Saturday, the team had lost badly to BYU and Ole Miss earlier this season, and rumors are swirling about the security of Mack Brown’s head coaching job there. Similarly for basketball, Rick Barnes’ Longhorns were just picked to finish as the eighth-place team in a 10-team league (only ahead of the hoops disasters known as Texas Tech and TCU), raising significant questions as to how a program and coach who makes so much money and has access to so much local talent could have gotten itself in such a mess. Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News examines the political and operational realities of Dodds’ retirement, ultimately concluding that the new AD will certainly have some hurdles to overcome upon arrival at his new job. And apparently, Louisville’s Tom Jurich is not interested.
  3. While on the subject of athletic directors, the AP reported on Friday that a group of 65 ADs attached their names in support of a nine-page memorandum sent to a legal team convening in Chicago later this month to discuss updating the Uniform Athlete Agents Act (UAAA). Tired of dealing with agents, runners and other interested hangers-on associating with student-athletes in their revenue programs, the group requests that the penalties attached to violations of the UAAA contain higher fines and additional prison time. Specifically, they ask that changes to the law must “increase the incentives for and ease of prosecuting violators,” offering a number of recommendations to make it easier to catch the wrongdoers. Perhaps the strongest part of this proposed legislation is the idea of classifying someone as an agent for purposes of the law regardless of whether they are registered as one — although difficult to implement, this could help with the runner/go-between problem that has become all too familiar in recent years.
  4. Connecticut head coach Kevin Ollie may have jumped the gun in revealing his school’s latest APR score on Friday, but who can blame him given that his team was forced to miss the NCAA Tournament last season because of prior years’ academic troubles. The second-year coach proudly told the media: “We got a thousand. If you want to wait until May, you can find out in May. But it’s a thousand.” The “thousand” he mentions equates to a perfect score on the APR metric, which basically means that all of UConn’s student-athletes in the basketball program are in good academic standing and on track to graduate. According to Ollie, the program has emphasized the importance of education through accountability (i.e., players run if they miss class, etc.), which of course is all fine and well. But perhaps more than anything else, this improvement to a perfect score shows that the APR can be gamed like any other arbitrary metric if a school simply takes it seriously and correspondingly incents the players to do the bare minimum in the classroom.
  5. One of the interesting aspects to the NCAA’s new rule allowing practice to start in September is that coaches are limited to only 30 practice sessions in those 42 days between September 27 and November 8. Not only does the extra time between sessions let coaches ease into their practice plans and teaching points a little more thoughtfully, but it also allows teams to do some other character-building exercises that they simply wouldn’t have had time for under the old model. Case in point: Duke‘s four-day trip to New York over the weekend. On Saturday, Coach K transported his charges to West Point, his alma mater and site of his first head coaching job, allowing the Blue Devils to take in the pride and spectacle of the school responsible for educating the nation’s future military leaders. By all indications the players loved the experience, and one might suspect that if the Blue Devils go on to enjoy a great upcoming season, they’ll reflect often on this preseason trip to New York as the bonding experience where things started to come together. Have a great holiday, everyone.
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With Little Pomp or Fanfare, Practice is Underway: Is Earlier Better?

Posted by BHayes on September 27th, 2013

Bennet Hayes is an RTC columnist. He can be reached @HoopsTraveler.

Aaand we’re back. Sort of. Today marks the official return of practice for college basketball players across the country, but unlike in years past, there will be no festive Midnight Madness celebration to announce that we are underway – at least not yet. A new NCAA initiative to allow programs more practice time before their opening games was passed this offseason, and teams are now able to use their 30 days of preseason practice over the span of six weeks, instead of the four weeks it had been in preseasons past. Great, you say — perhaps we will have a cleaner, more efficient brand of basketball ready for opening tip? That has to be the hope, as the extra time should allow for a smoother transition into the year, at least on paper. But in a sport where tradition and ceremony often delivers much of the impact, will the extra weeks of practice improve the play on the floor enough to offset a potential depreciation to the meaning of Midnight Madness?

Will Midnight Madness Suffer As A Result Of The New Early Opening To Practice?

Will Midnight Madness Suffer As A Result Of The New Early Opening To Practice?

It’s hard to know how direct a response this rule change is to the game scores that are getting lower and lower and the accompanying grumblings that are getting louder and louder, but it feels like an effort by the NCAA to raise early-season quality of play. While the actual practice time (30 days) remains the same, stretching it out over the course of six weeks should help keep players from feeling overwhelmed, and also offer them the chance to recover and work on individual skills on off days. Nobody is claiming these two weeks will advance basketball 10 years worth of quality, but there’s no way the extra time can’t help improve the product of November and December basketball.

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Why the NCAA Could be Taking a Huge Risk in the Ed O’Bannon Suit

Posted by Chris Johnson on September 27th, 2013

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

It wasn’t so long ago that we discussed the possibility of former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon and his group of plaintiffs being granted class certification by U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken in their lawsuit against the NCAA, Electronic Arts and the Collegiate Licensing Company. Thursday’s news forced a revision of that statement. The lawsuit now counts one defendant: that four letter institution we love to hate, the NCAA. Hours after EA announced it would no longer manufacture its popular college football video game, the video game company and CLC announced a settlement of a wide swath of cases brought against them by former players. The settlements, according to reports, will result in between 200,000 and 300,000 players receiving compensation for the previous use of their likenesses. Current players could also be in line to receive compensation, though it is unclear whether accepting money would compromise their eligibility. It is believed EA’s decision to cancel its production of NCAA Football – and thus dissociate itself from its sticky and laughably contrived argument that player likenesses were not modeled after real-life human characteristics (even after SB Nation discovered the use of former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow’s name in virtual playbooks designed by EA for its NCAA Football ’10 game) – was a preemptive move to eliminate the possibility of “damages” against current student-athletes, whose likenesses would have been used in the game.

The settlements reached by EA and CLC makes the O'Bannon case a one-on-one legal battle with the NCAA (AP Photo).

The settlements reached by EA and CLC makes the O’Bannon case a one-on-one legal battle with the NCAA (AP Photo).

That leaves the NCAA – who according to a USA Today report Thursday, is beefing up its legal team with the intention of fighting its case all the way to the Supreme Court – as the lone defendant. If the NCAA is truly bent on embarking on a long, drawn-out, high-profile legal battle, it risks not only having to pay billions of dollars to current and former players. It won’t have any say in when it must make those payments. O’Bannon and his plaintiffs, in other words, could be entitled to massive sums over a compressed time period after the trial. That’s a risk the NCAA appears willing to take, given its reported hiring of powerful attorneys. But is that a wise strategy? Or should the NCAA take EA and CLC’s lead and try to negotiate a settlement? We probably won’t find out until Wilken decides whether to certify O’Bannon’s class – which, according to legal experts, is likely to be the case. What’s interesting about EA and CLC’s decision to settle is the implicit message it sends – that the class is likely to be certified, and that cutting their losses now and reaching a deal before making themselves liable to much, much larger payments in a class action suit was the most prudent move available. It almost seems as if EA and CLC saw the writing on the wall. Another interesting part of this settlement comes from Sports Illustrated legal analyst Michael McCann, who suggests O’Bannon and his plaintiffs are “likely demanding information that would help them advance legal claims against the NCAA. A settlement with EA and CLC, in other words, makes one with the NCAA more likely.”

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APU Adds Another Layer to Movement for NCAA Reform

Posted by Chris Johnson on September 23rd, 2013

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.

The tide of public opinion turned against the NCAA long ago. Most people – fans, coaches, news media, etc. – seem to agree the organization needs a modern update, if not wholesale change. There are detractors, to be sure, and different factions have different opinions about how the organization should govern college athletics, but the fundamental desire for change seems to be something close to a consensus. The sentiment has struck a sympathetic note with a larger portion of the public in recent years, as the inherent hypocrisy of a “nonprofit” governing body generating billions of dollars off the backs of unpaid amateurs has been rammed home time and again, with everybody from noted civil rights journalists to college basketball analysts piling on. Lost amidst the controversy is the opinion of the (revenue-producing) student-athletes’ themselves – the young men electing to forfeit basic economic rights and health care services and participate in leagues and tournaments administered by the NCAA. A score of former college athletes – including Ed O’Bannon, whose name you should probably be familiar with by now — have voiced their discontent, but active players have, with sporadic evidence to the contrary, looked on from the sidelines as the philosophical debate and subsequent lawsuit that will no doubt define the early 21st century of college sports swirls around them.

The desire for NCAA change has an emergent group of inside-the-lines supporters (Getty Images).

The desire for NCAA change has an emergent group of inside-the-lines supporters (Getty Images).

You began to wonder when student-athletes, an ironclad part of the purportedly broken enterprise of major college sports, would make a concerted and visual effort to protest the denial of rights so many outsiders believe the NCAA has wrongly maintained for so long. On Saturday, several college football players from different teams (including Georgia Tech starting quarterback Vad Lee and Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter) wore wristbands bearing the letters APU, denoting “All Players United,” a movement coordinated by the National College Players Association. At its core, APU is a protest lobbying for change within the NCAA, and features a list of goals (available on the NCPA’s website) it hopes to achieve, including better health care coverage for college athletes, using a share of the NCAA’s television revenue to secure “basic protections” and demonstrating support for the active athletes who joined the O’Bannon lawsuit as plaintiffs. The idea of players coming together to support NCAA reform is encouraging. For all the heat the NCAA has come under in recent months from various columnists and politicians, none of what we have seen to date comes close to the potential impact of actual players standing up against the organization. The platform does come off as sort of vague – demonstrating “unity” is important, and is sure to draw attention from the organization and outsiders alike, but focusing on one, specific goal (a cost-of-attendance stipend, perhaps) would seem a more reasonable agenda – but the fact athletes have not only come to terms with the fact the current system needs change, but articulated concrete measures they wish to implement is a big step toward a stronger and far more impactful form of revolt: refusal to participate.

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The PJ Hairston Saga Is Not Finished

Posted by Chris Johnson on August 16th, 2013

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

The P.J. Hairston saga has all the makings of a classic amateurism bombshell. The shady third-party handler vaguely accused of providing money and/or gifts to a college athlete. A star player from one of the most esteemed college sports brands in the country. A drug charge. A loaded firearm and ammunition found outside of an obscurely rented vehicle. The evidence-based suspicion of broader corruption among program athletes. An apparent academic scandal simmering in the backdrop. The amateurism debate reaching flood stage in the public discourse. A high-profile lawsuit challenging amateurism’s very existence. The convenience of the Johnny Manziel saga. It’s all too timely and salacious and interesting, but here’s the thing: We haven’t even come close to reaching the finish line. Hairston was indefinitely suspended from UNC basketball after being ticketed for speeding on July 28, his third reported traffic citation of the summer, and all charges related to his July 5 traffic stop have been dropped. Hairston won’t be punished by the legal system, but that was never the biggest part of his summer saga, anyway.

The final outcome of the Hairston saga is still unclear (USA Today).

No, the most concerning aspect of Hairston’s malfeasance is the status of his eligibility heading into a season in which North Carolina is expected to compete for a conference championship with the junior expected to shoulder the bulk of the point-producing load and solidify UNC’s otherwise shaky defensive perimeter. He may not be able to do any of that if the NCAA finds the vehicles he drove this summer were rented out to Hairston impermissibly, or if any of his dealings with local party promoter and convicted felon Haydn ‘Fats’ Thomas are deemed in violation of the organization’s confusing (and highly controversial) amateurism rules. More than two months out from the start of the 2013-14 college hoops season, Hairston’s future with the Tar Heels hangs in the balance. His status for the upcoming season is just as mysterious as all the plot twists and legal nuance that brought us to this point.

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Morning Five: 08.15.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 15th, 2013

morning5

  1. August is without question the slowest month in the college basketball calendar, but a couple of key releases of information on Wednesday allowed for some pizzazz in an otherwise dry landscape. First and foremost, ESPN’s 2013-14 Gameday schedule was announced, and the early returns on the eight-game slate are quite favorable. In fact, a reasonable argument could be made that the schedule contains the best (on paper) games in the ACC, AAC, Big Ten, Big 12 and SEC this year. The “mid-major” game between Memphis and Gonzaga is certainly no slouch, and the second ACC game (depending on which between Syracuse-Duke and UNC-Duke is “the best”) is another great match-up. Even the Pac-12 either/or battle between Arizona-Colorado and UCLA-Stanford has promise. We don’t have the entire history of Gamedays in front of us at the moment, but there’s little doubt that we’ve enjoyed a group of games that (again, on paper) has had the star power and quality of these eight. Absolutely. Cannot. Wait.
  2. The other promising news that came out of Wednesday was also of a scheduling variety, although not related to the upcoming season. The Champions Classic, a fantastic event that pits blue-blooded powerhouses Kentucky, Duke, Kansas and Michigan State against each other on a round robin three-year basis, is set to extend its contract for another three seasons (2014-16, according to Tom Izzo). As one commenter notes below that revelatory tweet, it would be great if the organizers of the event continued to spread the love around the country so that places other than New York, Atlanta and Chicago would have an opportunity to host the proceedings. Roger Kuznia at TSN believes that the event should open itself up to more schools (such as UNC, UCLA, Indiana, Syracuse, Louisville and Arizona) so that one of the marquee nights of the early season doesn’t begin to lose its luster, and it’s a fair point. We’d like to see a two-night, eight-team event where schools rotate through (avoiding conference foes, of course), with perhaps an opportunity to earn their way into or out of future events based on their performances. Either way, we’re still glad to see the existing format headed to another rendition.
  3. The NCAA also released its attendance figures for the 2012-13 season on Wednesday, and as always, the aggregate numbers only get you so far to a real understanding of the topic. We hope to have more analysis on this later today, but for now, The Dagger‘s Jeff Eisenberg does a pretty good job breaking down some of the key stats. That a school like Creighton outdrew a school like USC by more than four times the number of fans per game is a testament to how whacked the BCS system is when it comes to college basketball. The Mountain West also outdrew the Pac-12 by more than a thousand fans per game, and you have to once again address the chicken/egg argument of what drives what when it comes to on-court success. Do fans who demand success at the best programs foster the overarching pressure to win from their teams; or do the teams that win boil up interest by virtue of people’s willingness and desire to associate with winners? It’s obviously a combination of both factors, but we have to believe there’s a pretty strong correlation between fans actually caring (and showing up regardless) and success on the hardwood. The NCAA should do that analysis.
  4. Asking a group of college coaches to name the best current coach in the sport would no doubt result in a plurality of names ranging from Mike Krzyzewski to Bill Self to Rick Pitino to several others. But asking a group of college coaches (or anyone, really) to name the best current recruiter in the sport leaves no room for debate — we’re honestly surprised that the numbers taken by CBSSports.com‘s crew didn’t approach 100 percent in favor of Kentucky’s John Calipari. In fact, the man who has inked 15 of the last 50 recruits ranked in the RSCI top 10 (think about that for a second…) didn’t even receive a majority of the votes (49 percent). Still, nobody else was close, as Kansas’ Bill Self (8 percent), Duke’s Coach K (6 percent), Florida’s Billy Donovan (5 percent) and Marquette’s Buzz Williams (5 percent) filled in the other blanks. It’s somewhat interesting that North Carolina’s Roy Williams didn’t receive a single vote — it wasn’t all that long ago that he was considered the best in the business in this regard.
  5. It’s called subsequent remedial measures (SRMs) in the legal realm, but what it essentially amounts to are actions made by an entity to mitigate future liability based on an alleged previous wrong (already under litigation). The idea is that SRMs cannot be used to “prove” that the responsible party is guilty of any previous wrongdoing based on those later actions, and it makes sense from an evidentiary sense (the case needs to be proven by intent used at the time of the infraction). But it sure as heck looks bad from a public relations perspective, and that’s exactly what both the NCAA and several of the major BCS conferences are doing now that the Ed O’Bannon/EA Sports case is taking on a life of its own. The SEC, Big Ten and Pac-12 announced this week that it will follow the NCAA’s lead and no longer allow EA to use its trademarks in its college football video game. It’s not all that important with respect to the O’Bannon case, but it’s very important in terms of
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Run and Hide: The NCAA Is Coming To A College Campus Near You

Posted by Chris Johnson on August 12th, 2013

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.

You can’t blame Jon Duncan for trying his level best. He assumed the NCAA’s Vice President of Enforcement position following the dismissal of Julie Roe Lach, one of the organization’s longest-tenured investigators, for her missteps in the investigation into rogue booster Nevin Shepiro’s alleged funneling of impermissible benefits to Miami football and basketball players. In the months since Lach’s dismissal, a swath of enforcement staffers have bolted on their own volition, the NCAA’s public approval rating has fallen to unforeseen depths, and the purpose of the organization’s sheer existence – long assumed a natural part of the college sports world order – has come under intense scrutiny from all corners. This is not a good time to be an NCAA enforcement official, and Duncan is merely attempting to do what’s best for the organization that employed him on an “interim basis” given the circumstances.

Improving the way the NCAA and athletic departments interact is a well-intentioned, but mostly futile, endeavor (Getty).

Improving the way the NCAA and athletic departments interact is a well-intentioned, yet mostly impractical, endeavor (Getty).

So when Duncan’s initiative to change the way enforcement staffers approach and conduct investigations was revealed last week, it was hard to view it as anything more than a feckless attempt to repair the NCAA investigators’ battered reputations. The most notable proposal was a program that plans to send members of the organization’s enforcement wing to various college campuses across the country. The hope, according to Duncan, who spoke to the Associated Press on Saturday, is to immerse enforcement folk in the culture and every day-operation of modern athletic departments.

“One of the things I hear is that our staff sometimes lacks an understanding of what campus life is really like,” Duncan said. “So we are piloting a program where our staff will work on campus with athletic directors, compliance staff members and coaches and walk in their shoes so that we have a true understanding of what goes on.”

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Bilas Pumps A Few More Nails Into NCAA’s Coffin

Posted by BHayes on August 8th, 2013

The NCAA has taken a pretty solid beating over the past year or two, but the compromised state of college athletics’ governing body did not stop ESPN’s Jay Bilas from helping himself to a few good hacks at the association earlier this week. Oh, and I should add that said hacks were not the kind you would see outside a bar at three in the morning; these were well-reasoned, deserved punches thrown at a group becoming increasingly defined by their hypocrisy.

These Instructions Wouldn't Have Worked A Few Hours After Jay Bilas Tweeted Them Out, But Look What Randomly Emerges When Searching For "Nerlens Noel" On The NCAA Store's Site!

These Instructions Wouldn’t Have Worked A Few Hours After Jay Bilas Tweeted Them Out, But Look What Randomly Emerges When Searching For “Nerlens Noel” On The NCAA Store’s Site!

You may be best served by simply scrolling back through Bilas’ twitter feed to Tuesday evening, but to paraphrase his discoveries, if you entered the name of a recent college sports star (say Nerlens Noel, or Denard Robinson) in the search bar at shopNCAAsports.com, the site would lead you to a very specific set of results. In the case of Noel, the result was a page full of #3 Kentucky jerseys.  For Robinson, it was a collection of #16 Michigan jerseys that appeared on the screen. Of course, fans are encouraged to buy this memorabilia from the “NCAA store” because they know which players wore these jerseys in real life, but the NCAA’s infamous stance is that they jerseys numbers are random, unattached to any particular student-athlete. In fact, as this USA Today article points out, one of the defendants in the suite of lawsuits pertaining to the NCAA’s use of college athletes’ names and likenesses said in a court filing that “products bearing college athletes’ jersey numbers do not represent actual college athletes.” Hmmmm, then is this a case of a really smart search function, or a really tone deaf NCAA? Well, the NCAA seemed to agree that it was the latter; the search capability was disabled just hours after Bilas fired his first shots.

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Congressional Bill Could Accelerate Movement For NCAA Change

Posted by Chris Johnson on August 6th, 2013

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

The scent of change lingers thick in NCAA territory these days. Major conference athletic directors have spoken about the possible creation of a new “Division 4” that would allow a subset of larger Division I leagues to operate under a different governance structure than their small-school counterparts. The Ed O’Bannon lawsuit threatens to undercut the NCAA’s decades-old adherence to amateurism. Shady tactics and egregious errors in enforcement made during the NCAA’s high-profile investigation of the Nevin Shapiro scandal at Miami have been laid bare by various publications. Experienced enforcement staffers are leaving in droves. A new lawsuit alleging a lack of accountability for student-athlete concussions in contact sports has inspired a new strain of ethical debate. Put simply, the NCAA is beset on all sides by various philosophical and legal attacks; a breaking point feels imminent. Over the next year or so, something – whether a massive development in the O’Bannon case, a formal establishment of a new NCAA subdivision, or some other major change – is going to happen. The NCAA cannot exist in its current state. This is widely accepted and rarely denied.

Congress's involvement could force the NCAA's hand on a number of resisted structural revisions

Now Congress wants a say in the matter. Last Thursday, House members Charles Dent and Joyce Beatty introduced The National Collegiate Athletics Accountability Act. The act contains a number of powerful regulations, but the main points can be pared down to the following four: 1) a guarantee of four-year scholarships in contact sports (which, per the legislation’s definition, include the following: boxing, field hockey, ice hockey, football, lacrosse, soccer, martial arts, wrestling and rodeo), eliminating the potential for schools to revoke one-year, renewable grants-in-aid on the basis of injury, skill, or sheer whim (i.e., no more runoffs) – a practice more than one third of the nation’s most powerful athletic programs have yet to abolish, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education; 2) permission for schools to extend cost-of-living stipends to student-athletes; 3) requiring concussion tests for all sports, both contact and limited-contact; 4) formalizing “due process” guidelines for schools and players found to have violated NCAA rules, including an appeals process and administrative hearings. A failure to meet any of these requirements would result in a loss of Title IX funding, which provides institutions with billions of dollars annually.

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Morning Five: 08.01.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 1st, 2013

morning5

  1. See that date up there at the top of the post? Yeah, August 1. Also known as the downswing of the summer, and the corresponding slow, gradual ramp-up to the next college basketball season. It’s not yet time to get excited, but it’s definitely worth a nod to the notion of a season getting here sooner rather than later. With that said, how about some super-duper-early preview materials to get the month started? SI.com‘s Andy Glockner gets things going with a look at the new Big East, featuring three new schools and an interesting existential question on whether a basketball-centric conference can survive and even thrive in major college athletics. And in case you missed it from a few days ago, Glockner also did a review of the remnants of that conference — the AAC — with a heavy emphasis on the defending national champions. 
  2. While on the subject of these two non-BCS leagues, Mike DeCourcy examines how a proposed $2,000 “living expenses” stipend that the top football conferences are hoping to add (especially if they pack up for a Divison 4 entity) would impact the likes of these conferences. It’s not an easy question to tackle, nor is it something that the “high-resource” schools populating the Big East and AAC necessarily want to see happen. That said, as DeCourcy notes, there is no realistic scenario where huge basketball schools like Connecticut, Cincinnati or Georgetown would allow regional and national rivals in the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, SEC and Pac-12 to offer recruitsan additional and legal financial incentive without also doing so on their own. Those schools would simply have to rework their financial sheets to make it happen, which may require some level of creativity among their accountants and senior management, but let’s not pretend that college athletics isn’t awash in money. The issue at most relevant schools is on the expenditures side, not the revenue one.
  3. And what about those revenues? It’s time for your near-daily Ed O’Bannon lawsuit update, and this one is a good one. In a 2-1 appellate decision involving a different case but one that will be instructive to the O’Bannon group’s decision, the US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled on Wednesday that video game maker EA must face claims against it for the usage of college players’ likenesses. The video game company had argued that it was protected by artistic license under the First Amendment, but the court rejected that argument. EA, of course, was notorious for using college football and basketball player likenesses to the point of absurdity in its video games, yet still claiming player anonymity because the names were removed from their virtual jerseys. It sounds ridiculous, and it is. As the court stated: the video game likeness had the “same height, weight, skin tone, hair color, hairstyle, handedness, home state, play style (pocket passer), visor preference, facial features, and school year” as the defendant (former Nebraska quarterback Sam Keller). What does this mean for O’Bannon? SI.com sports law expert Michael McCann believes that it means EA will settle its case with that group, leaving its co-defendants the NCAA and Collegiate Licensing Corporation to twist in the wind for the major payouts. Either way, this is another signal that big change is on the horizon.
  4. Stipends, Division 4, huge-dollar lawsuits… the NCAA is taking hits on all sides right now. Still, the prevailing wisdom is that no matter what transmogrified shape major college athletics eventually assumes, everyone’s beloved NCAA Tournament will not be messed with. The positive cash flow of over $700 million per year to the NCAA (and eventually parsed out to the schools) is just too valuable to destroy — so goes the thinking, at least. But, as Gary Parrish notes in one of his best columns in a long while, the potential of the monied schools choosing the nuclear option is at least worth our consideration. If there’s a dollar to be made, this cabal has proven that they’ll pursue it, time and time again, and often in the face of public sentiment. If, as we’ve also argued in this very space, the big-time schools decide that they can run their own version of March Madness resulting in a larger piece of the pie than they currently receive, then, as Parrish says, “smarter people [have done] dumber things.” We cannot disagree.
  5. In the meantime, America is stuck with the Texases and Ohio States of the world sharing postseason basketball space with the likes of VCU and Gonzaga. Arizona, as a member of the burgeoning Pac-12, is closer to the former group than the latter. And with Sean Miller at the helm, the Wildcats are poised to dominate west coast basketball and stay as a national powerhouse for the next decade or longer. This SBNation.com report from Scott Coleman notes that only two schools have ripped off top 10 recruiting classes in each of the last three years: Kentucky, obviously, but also Miller’s Wildcats. This year’s recruiting class will join a strong returning group from last season to potentially vault Arizona to the top of the Pac-12 standings, and if the reports about Aaron Gordon’s performances over the summer are any indication, he may just find himself standing as the best prospect in the country not named Andrew Wiggins this time next year.
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Morning Five: 07.31.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 31st, 2013

morning5

  1. Last year’s Armed Forces Classic between Connecticut and Michigan State on an air base in Germany may not have brought the same razzle-dazzle that the original aircraft carrier game in 2011 did, but it was easily the most compelling opening night game last season for any number of reasons. The weird midnight local time tip, the aircraft hangar setting, the wild military crowd in attendance, Kevin Ollie’s first game as a head coach, the start of UConn’s “lost season,” a Jim Calhoun appearance, and yeah, even a pretty good game. Next year’s event seeks to do us one better, as Andy Katz reported on Tuesday that the 2013 version will be held at US Army base Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, resulting in the first college basketball game to be played in Asia since Ralph Sampson’s Virginia group was about to lose to Chaminade. The participants will be Georgetown and Oregon, with both teams expected to be good next season and hoping to get an early non-conference quality win. Georgetown certainly hopes this trip goes a little better than the last time it visited Asia, while Oregon’s representation continues the Pac-12’s ongoing push to marketing its products on to the other side of the Pacific Rim. We can’t wait. 
  2. Speaking of Pac-12 schools in the Beaver State, Oregon’s rival could be coming apart at the seams. Already on the hot seat for a middling 77-88 (31-59 P12) record in five years in Corvallis, Craig Robinson was hoping to have his most talented and experienced team returning intact next season. With the news released on Tuesday that starting frontcourt mates Devon Collier (13/6) and Eric Moreland (9/10) were suspended indefinitely for undisclosed team violations, there is valid reason for concern that the Beavers are facing a meltdown 2013-14 campaign. The good news is that the pair will be allowed to continue their strength and conditioning training as well as summer workouts, so perhaps these suspensions are merely of the ‘send a message’ variety. There’s one thing we can bank on, though. If Robinson doesn’t have Collier and Moreland at his disposal next season, he’d best polish off that financial services resume for a pending move back east.
  3. How about some better news? The National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame announced its Class of 2013 earlier this week, and the names include some of the all-time greats in our sport. The headliners are 1968 NPOY Elvin Hayes (Houston) and 1975 NPOY Marques Johnson (UCLA), along with six-time NCOY Gene Keady (Purdue) and Villanova national championship head coach Rollie Massimino. Wichita State superstar Xavier “X-Man” McDaniel was also selected, in addition to Tom McMillen (Maryland), Bob Hopkins (Grambling), and a unique team inclusion: the entire 1963 Loyola (Chicago) national champions. That team was notable in that it started four black players on its title team, some three years before the more-ballyhooed Texas Western squad won its Brown vs. Board of Education game against all-white Kentucky. Former Washington State and USC head coach and Nike representative George Raveling was also chosen to the Hall for his work with the shoe company (a “contributor,” they call it). The ceremony will occur as part of the CBE Classic in Kansas City on the Sunday before Thanksgiving. A deserving group.
  4. Among the latte-sipping class, you’ve pretty much arrived if you’re mentioned in The Economist. The high-brow publication from the United Kingdom has long been considered one of the most cogent analytical voices on international economic matters in the world, and particularly so among US policy-makers and business leaders. Rarely do sports, especially college sports, find space on the magazine’s pages, but last week the rest of the world was introduced to Ed O’Bannon and his lawsuit against the NCAA. Many people reading this kind of material are likely clueless about the history and importance of the NCAA, but the tone of the piece again shows how, as a matter of public perception, the organization has already lost the coasts. People all across America still love college sports — the eastern and western edges of the continent included — but the growing consensus among the educated and wealthy concentrated in those areas is that the NCAA is exploiting 18-22 year olds for its unjust enrichment. The O’Bannon case has a long way to go still, but don’t think that the judge and principals involved didn’t notice The Economist’s wandering eye.
  5. Every once in a while Deadspin comes up with some sort of analysis that doesn’t involve genitalia jokes or athletes (and their wives, sorry, WAGs) doing dumb things on Twitter. Last week Patrick Burns wrote up a comprehensive analysis of watching an entire year (2012) of the 11 PM ESPN Sportscenter to see which sports, teams and personalities received the most coverage. There were no surprises at the top of the list, of course, with the NFL (23.3% of all available minutes) and NBA (19.2%) in dominant positions, followed by MLB (16.8%) and college football (7.7%). But perhaps surprisingly given how pigskin drives all the money-making decisions at the school and conference level, Sportscenter spent nearly as much time talking about college hoops (6.8%) as it did on the gridiron. The most talked-about team, as you can imagine that year, was Kentucky (0.9% of all minutes). True, Sportscenter is but a single proxy for the importance of American sports culture, but it’s an important one nonetheless.
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