Morning Five: 07.24.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 24th, 2013

morning5

  1. Tuesday was the day for the Louisville Cardinals to visit the White House to celebrate their 2013 national championship, and perhaps the very best part of the entire proceeding was the extremely lukewarm applause at the top that Kentucky senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) received when introduced by the POTUS. Obama gave his standard spiel of light-hearted remarks during the 10-minute event, referencing how Rick Pitino’s motivational technique of promising to get a tattoo “busted” his bracket and avoiding mention of the “other” school where the head coach won his first of two national titles. Pitino, to his credit, exalted the president while hitting on the themes of loyalty and perseverance that have come to define his teams at Louisville — giving Obama a Louisville Slugger engraved with his name to handle any future disruptive press conferences. For a much more detailed description of the Cards’ visit to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, check out Eric Crawford’s report from WDRB.com; and The Dagger has some great pictures that the players and entourage took while there. The entire press conference is at the bottom of this post.
  2. While Barack Obama has certainly taken his share of sniping in accordance with his lofty geopolitical position, the NCAA’s Mark Emmert may have taken even more concentrated vitriol from a unilateral perspective  (at least the Democrats support Obama; few seem to like Emmert). “One misstep after another,” as one administrator in this ESPN.com piece from Mike Fish and Dana O’Neil describes his three-year tenure as president of the organization. The accusations against the NCAA boss are lengthy, including not only mishandling of both the Penn State and Miami (FL) investigations, but also a general misunderstanding of the desires of his membership and a combative, at best, relationship with the media. It’s a really interesting read about the travails of the organization under his direction, and points again to a burgeoning restlessness among everyone that the NCAA’s days as a serious player on the American sports scene are effectively numbered.
  3. One school that certainly has no love lost for Emmert is Connecticut, given that the NCAA banned the Huskies from last year’s postseason as a result of its low APR scores. But, as Adam Zagoria at Zagsblog writes, Ryan Boatright and Shabazz Napier are back in Storrs and ready to make up for a lost season with a major postseason run in 2013-14. Louisville has to be considered the favorite in the spanking-new AAC, but the Huskies are a very interesting second banana. Kevin Ollie returns most of his key pieces from a 20-10 (10-8 Big East) squad that will no doubt enter next season with a major chip on its shoulder. If the chips fall into place for Boatright and Napier next season, there may not be a better backcourt in America. Only time will tell.
  4. What’s good for Duke is good for Team USA? That seems to be the correlation, as SI.com‘s Ben Golliver relates that Mike Krzyzewski‘s original decision to retire as USA Basketball’s head coach was more about reaching another four-year milestone at Duke than it was about international hoops. Basically, Coach K asked himself at the end of the 2012 Olympics whether he felt that he’d still be coaching at Duke in 2016, and at the time, he wasn’t sure of the answer. Since he believes that Team USA’s head coach should be actively involved in the sport — as he put it, “on the firing line” — he thought it would be best to give up the gig. USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo may have sensed Krzyzewski’s eventual 180, as he kept the job in waiting until Coach K decided last spring to return (stating that he is “sure he’s going to coach for a while.”). Given K’s 62-1 record and uncanny ability to get multi-millionaires to play team basketball for the USA jersey, this is a great, great thing.
  5. In our sport, summer is the time for testing out new things and the statistical wizardry over at KenPom is no exception. Yesterday the vaunted statistician announced a new metric to his suite of team data points yesterday: average possession length (APL).  As always with KenPom, the beauty of this new metric lies in the detail. Tempo is a measure that tracks efficiency, but APL simply tracks how long you are either holding the basketball each possession, or defending the basketball each possession. The 2013 listing is here (subscription required), but as Pomeroy notes, the correlation is already clear in viewing the last four years of data. Great defenses tend to correlate well with high defensive APLs — it’s harder for an offense to find a good shot — which begs the question whether faster-paced offensive coaches may be incentivized to slow things down to make their teams better overall. An interesting intellectual exercise, no doubt.

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Pac-12’s Stance Against Grand Canyon Is Laughably Ironic

Posted by Chris Johnson on July 23rd, 2013

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

In a letter signed by league presidents and directed to the NCAA’s Executive Cmmittee on July 10, the Pac-12 voiced its unanimous opposition to the Division I promotion of Grand Canyon University, the first for-profit institution to, in essence, enter the college sports big leagues. The presidents laid out their opinion in clear, unmistakable, vehement tones. They want Grand Canyon out of Division I because Grand Canyon isn’t like other Division I schools. “Our major concern is how athletics fit within academic missions of for-profit universities,” read the letter. The presidents’ concerns are not unfounded – Grand Canyon is on the vanguard of for-profit schools entering Division I (the school began its transition process from Division II on July 1, and will be eligible for the NCAA Tournament as a member of the decaying WAC conference in 2017-18; Grand Canyon does not have a football team.) Anytime something new breaks into the college sports lexicon – or any major field of interest, really – there are going to be questions. There’ll be detractors, too, and the Pac-12 is leading this particular faction with a determined conviction to block Grand Canyon’s move. There’s no going back now.

Division I's first for-profit institution has incited protest from Pac 12 schools (Credit: ShermanReport.com)

Division I’s first for-profit institution has incited protest from Pac 12 schools (Credit: ShermanReport.com)

I just have one question: Did all of the Pac-12’s presidents just sleep through the past three years of conference realignment? Because it almost seems that way. I mean, how else can you rationalize a group of D-I presidents who, in the wake of almost three years of non-stop financially-driven realignment, openly question whether a program is doing something in the service of its own “academic mission?” What did the recent realignment frenzy tell us, if not that schools have absolutely zero regard for their “academic missions” or decades-old rivalries or cultural fit or geographic common sense or anything else not related to a program’s bottom line, when making major decisions about their place in the college sports landscape? Did the constantly shifting allegiances, the explicitly discussed dollars-fueled realignment moves, the near-implosion of a Big Six conference, not say anything about the incentives of major college sports programs? Money, bundled in TV contracts and broadcast rights deals, was the wind blowing conference realignment’s sails, and while the league-hopping drama may have reached a temporary stasis, the whole ordeal left a distinct impression about the way modern college sports are governed. The motivation is clear: Get money now and deal with everything else later.

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College Basketball Players’ Non-participation in the O’Bannon Case Makes Sense

Posted by Chris Johnson on July 22nd, 2013

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

At a June class action hearing, federal judge Claudia Wilken instructed plaintiffs in the Ed O’Bannon lawsuit against the NCAA to amend their complaint to include one or multiple current student-athletes. The thinking was that by adding a current student-athlete, Wilken would be more inclined to grant class certification to include both former and current players. This is a crucial distinction. If Wilken certifies the class to include only former athletes, the prosecution’s case turns into a smaller and less-damaging suit about the uncompensated use of likenesses in video games. Including current-athletes would broaden the issue to an argument of whether student-athletes are entitled to a cut of the massive broadcast rights revenues generated by athletic conferences and their constituent member institutions. Last week, six current athletes added their names to the 16 former athletes arguing O’Bannon’s case, and all of them, curiously enough, were college football players. College basketball players were mysteriously absent.

The absence of college basketball players could hurt the plaintiffs' cause.

The absence of college basketball players could hurt the plaintiffs’ cause.

That was the first impression after hearing the names of the six student-athletes who, in standing up to the organization that governs (and disputably so) their athletic performance, volunteered to publicly voice their discontent with college sports’ status quo. If football players were willing to challenge the NCAA, why weren’t basketball players eager to make the same stand? Were there not enough players willing to risk denigration and public ridicule for the sake of fair compensation in collegiate athletics? Was the realization of near-term legal responsibility and distant financial reward too weak an incentive to incite participation? Was the fear – even after the NCAA’s written promise against it– of retribution so unnerving? According to Sports Illustrated legal analyst Michael McCann, all of the above is probably the best explanation.

According to a source close to O’Bannon’s legal team, several college basketball players communicated interest in joining the suit. After some consideration, however, the players thought otherwise. Parents of those players, in particular, expressed concerns about the potential for retribution by the NCAA, specifically that negative information might surface that might impact the player’s draft status and corresponding rookie NBA contract.

[…]

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The EA-NCAA Split is Small But Telling News

Posted by Chris Johnson on July 19th, 2013

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

The NCAA is scared. No really, it is. Wouldn’t you feel the same way if, say, a massive class-action lawsuit with the potential to utterly shatter the fundamental method by which you govern and profit off college sports was knocking at the door? There’d be some fear in there, I’m fairly certain. That doomsday scenario is exactly the situation the NCAA could face as soon as this summer, when U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken is expected to grant class certification to a group of plaintiffs accusing the NCAA of not only price-fixing amateur athletes’ free-market oriented, competitive economic entitlements, but withholding the millions of dollars in TV and video game revenue schools, conferences and the organization itself reaps in each and every year. A storm is coming, and the NCAA is beginning to feel the heat. That’s probably an understatement. “Preparing for life without amateurism,” the utter silliness and dubious origin and antiquated nature of which is a different column for a different day, is probably closer to what the NCAA is thinking right now.

The end of EA and the NCAA's lucrative video game partnership is only half of the story.

The end of a lucrative video game partnership is only half of the story.

How do I know the NCAA is scared? Because when it does things like disassociate itself from one of the stickiest points of the massive lawsuit holding its head in the proverbial guillotine, you just know. That is, in essence, is what the NCAA did Wednesday night, when it announced it would no longer sponsor EA Sports’ famous NCAA Football video games. The move makes intuitive sense. Ed O’Bannon’s eponymous legal atom bomb began as a suit against the NCAA and EA Sports challenging the uncompensated use of student-athletes’ likenesses in video games. The case has since evolved to include current and former athletes who want a share of not only the revenue generated by video games, but also – as mentioned above – the conference realignment-driving, bank account-defying, laughably-defended TV contracts negotiated with member schools and conferences. The NCAA can’t afford to cut loose with the meatier part of the suit – the massive media rights revenues to be seized and, depending on your idea of what a new college sports world order could look like, distributed (at least in part) to the student-athletes who make those revenues possible in the first place. That part of the suit is in Wilken’s hands. The dispute over the properly compensated use of likenesses is baked in there, too, but the NCAA – up until Wednesday night – could (and did) at least make the prudent move to divorce itself from its longtime video game partner, lose a few dollars in the exchange and emerge fiscally solvent on the back end provided the other finer points of the lawsuit – namely, the class action dagger threatening to puncture amateurism’s aortic valve – fall short of unraveling the organization’s overarching economic model.

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NCAA Still Cleaning Up Last Season’s Misconduct

Posted by Chris Johnson on June 27th, 2013

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

So much ridicule and scorn has been shoveled on top of the NCAA in recent months that it almost feels redundant to criticize at this point – like a Ferrari-wielding millionaire challenging his Prius-owning cousin to a street race, or the O’Doyle family ribbing Billy Madison through grade school, or USC fans simmering over Wednesday’s news of the congratulatory back slap Oregon received for illegal payments to a recruiting handler. The harsh tones of NCAA critiques have coursed through every contingent of college sports media at one phase or another this offseason, and today, after going down that path on several occasions myself, I’m just not feeling up to it. Sorry.

The punishments handed down to Self and Marshall will be forgotten by the start of the season (AP Photo).

The punishments handed down to Self and Marshall will be forgotten by the start of the season (AP Photo).

But if you got me in the mood, I might be able to talk about how profoundly funny it was Wednesday to learn the NCAA had issued a public reprimand of Bill Self for a scoring table fist palm during Kansas’s third-round NCAA Tournament match-up with North Carolina that was so destructive he needed to be reminded of his unseemly game behavior three months after the fact. I can picture Self now, watching Andrew Wiggins do ridiculous free-throw line dunks from a comfortable lounge chair, smarting in the Kansas basketball offices while counting his nine Big 12 championship rings. “Ouch, that really hurt!” Self’s sideline demeanor was too publicly unbecoming – because coaches showing emotion during a game is a really bad thing; the NCAA says it, and so it shall be – and too tawdry for a coach who, by all accounts, is one of the purest and most morally pure sideline presences not just in college basketball, but any college sport.

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Morning Five: 06.25.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on June 25th, 2013

morning5

  1. The news that Kyle Wiltjer is transferring probably should not be that much of a surprise given the high expectations for him coming out of high school and his relatively paltry output, which was due in large part due to be stuck behind more talented players at Kentucky. With next year’s class of NBA Lottery picks coming through Kentucky, Wiltjer decided enough was enough and announced that he is looking at transferring to “play a more significant role”. With the announcement coming as Wiltjer is playing internationally for Canada now some will speculate that someone got in his ear and told him that he could showcase his skills more prominently at another school. Without trying to rile up Big Blue Nation that would probably be true. The speculation we have seen for where Wiltjer is headed seems to suggest Gonzaga as a likely destination, but Wiltjer has not named his top choices although we suspect he will have his choice in where he wants to go.
  2. With more and more coaches utilizing social media John Templon decided to take a look at the tweeting habits of major college basketball coaches. Some of the numbers are not too surprising like the fact that John Calipari has 10 times the number of followers as any other coach (to be fair the average Kentucky fan probably has multiple accounts to yell at the Jeff Goodmans of the world), but the some of the analysis like the most commonly used words is amusing and shows how inane most coaches Twitter accounts are. We would love to see a similar analysis of players although we would assume the most common words/phrases would involve retweeting who said that a retweet would be the best thing that ever happened to them.
  3. We can all get our fill of coach-speak on Twitter, but very few of us will ever be privy to the sales pitch that coaches use in the family rooms of recruits. As Dana O’Neil points out those conversations have changed significantly over the years to the point where coaches have to be careful about how they mention a player getting a college degree because some parties feel that staying in school to get a college degree is not the point of going to college as they are looking for a route to the NBA. This might be true in some cases, but the vast majority will never play in the NBA as the NCAA says they will “go pro in something other than sports”. We would be interested in hearing how parents who had been recruited years ago feel about the way that their sons are being pitched by the same coaches using very different approaches.
  4. One of the interesting aspects of getting to go to games is picking the brains of NBA scouts who often times are seated fairly close to us. Some of the scouts are fairly knowledgeable and seem to have a grasp of the best college players with an understanding of what they do and do not bring to the table. On the other hand we have all seen the scouts that are just there for an easy paycheck and the ability to sit courtside at games for free. Our personal favorite was one who we sat next to at a fairly big game a few years ago on New Year’s Eve and spent the entire game on his phone texting his friends about going to a club in New York City that night and then proceeded to tell us all about his plans. Seth Davis appears to have found a few of the former and put together an interesting breakdown of some of the top prospects in this year’s NBA Draft. The comments are pretty direct as you would expect from someone speaking anonymously, but for the most part they seem to be in line with what we would say.
  5. We have discussed the Ed O’Bannon case much more than we ever wanted to, but we never expected it to affect the NCAA’s credit rating. However that appears to be the case as Moody’s revised the NCAA’s credit outlook to negative in light of its ongoing litigation. It should be noted that the credit rating agencies are a lot less well-respected than they were before the financial crisis. Having said that if the NCAA “only” is taking out $40 million in debt to finance ongoing operations we don’t expect a downgrade would have a material impact on the sustainability of the NCAA as a financial entity.
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The Next Step Of The Ed O’Bannon NCAA Trial Is Upon Us

Posted by Chris Johnson on June 20th, 2013

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

The anatomic framework of college sports as we know it hangs in the balance Thursday, June 20, in the much-anticipated class-action hearing of the landmark Ed O’Bannon trial. Sports trials rarely come this big, or this potentially transformative, and by the time we’re all through here – we’ve still got a long ways to go, mind you – amateur athletics could bear zero resemblance, or very little, to the way it operates today. There is a lot on the line. Thursday’s courtroom meeting, wherein plaintiffs arguing on O’Bannon’s behalf will attempt to have their suit class-action certified by Judge Claudia Wilken, probably won’t render a conclusive verdict. The back-and-forth arguments will merely serve as pieces of evidence in the larger evolution of the case, and if one side’s platform is strong enough at Thursday’s gathering, Wilken could issue a ruling. But she probably won’t, which means we still have time to discuss the pawns involved, what’s at stake, the philosophical and legal implications at hand, and the likelihood college athletics could be completely made over sometime within the next few years.

Getting Wilken to rule in favor of class-certification would put O'Bannon and his plaintiffs in the driver's seat in this critical case (Getty).

Getting Wilken to rule in favor of class-certification would put O’Bannon and his plaintiffs in the driver’s seat in this critical case (Getty).

Before we get started, I’d be remiss if I didn’t throw out one probably unpopular but incredibly important fact: The NCAA isn’t about to vanish into thin air. Mark Emmert’s opaquely tangled amazon of rules and bylaws is here to stay for at least a couple more years. College sports needs a governing body, and the NCAA, for all its flaws, has fulfilled that basic function, with different degrees of success, throughout its existence. More important is whether the NCAA can continue to exist in the same way it always has. O’Bannon and his partners say nay. They believe athletes deserve a slice of the broadcast rights money shared between the NCAA and its members – the same money that pushed the turnstiles of conference realignment, blew the old Big East to smithereens and forced us all to reconsider the concept of athletic conferences in college sports. O’Bannon sees school and conference administrators and the NCAA getting fat off multi-million dollar TV contracts, the athletes whose competitions make those agreements possible in the first place receiving no financial compensation beyond room and board, the archaic notion of amateurism and its dubious historical origins – and he wants something to change. A lot of things, actually.

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If You’re Into Cheating, the NCAA Will Have Trouble Stopping You

Posted by Chris Johnson on June 17th, 2013

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

Most present-day criticisms of the NCAA nitpick its ethical and moral standards. They excoriate a system where athletes hand over the rights to their likenesses and athletic talents, yet are deprived of a slice of revenue those talents generate. They berate a byzantine rulebook filled with inane bylaws and regulations. They attack “amateurism” from every rhetorical angle. The verbal takedowns have hit a fever pitch in recent years as the NCAA’s handling of various high-profile impermissible benefits has provided convenient ammunition for fire-breathing columnists and national commentators. As long as amateurism is upheld as the foundational pillar of NCAA enforcement, and athletes remain removed from any monetary benefits on top of what’s offered in one-year renewable grant-in aid scholarships, the organization will be forced to tolerate a bombardment of scrutiny with no recourse to shift the public discourse away from its doggedly indignant mindset.

Losing a high-ranking enforcement official like Newman Baker is a continuation of a scary trend within the NCAA's enforcement wing (Getty).

Losing a high-ranking enforcement official like Newman Baker is a continuation of a scary trend within the NCAA’s enforcement wing (Getty).

Lamenting the NCAA, the institution, has and will continue to be a prominent feature of American sports media. Now there’s a new dimension to attack, and it goes deeper than flawed ideals or morally corrupt philosophies or anything about the NCAA’s actual legislative structure. These days, the NCAA has far bigger concerns than angry middle-aged sportswriters railing on amateurism, because before long, it may not have enough staff members to maintain amateurism’s grip on college athletics in the first place. Yahoo!’s Pat Forde delved into the deteriorating culture inside the organization a couple weeks ago – how over the past 18 months, the NCAA has seen some of its top investigators pack up and leave for compliance positions at various universities. The end result, as Forde writes, is an environment where athletes, coaches, boosters, agents and whoever else might be inclined to step outside amateurism’s restrictive boundaries are encouraged to go right ahead and do their worst. They can, in other words, break rules without bearing a passing concern for the consequences on the other end. The coast is clear. The people that prop up amateurism, and wield the power to cripple athletic programs with scholarship reductions and postseason bans, are quickly leaving the premises. Moving on. Fleeing the scene before the bottom drops out.

This is a problem.

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Morning Five: 06.13.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on June 13th, 2013

morning5

  1. Another day, another mob with pitchforks standing outside the gates. ESPN.com‘s Darren Rovell reported yesterday that a group of former NCAA athletes has filed a $5 million suit in federal court against a company that sells photographs of college athletes without their express permission. Although the claim does not list the NCAA nor some 90 schools alleged to sell images to the defendant company, it wouldn’t be much of a leap to eventually go after them as well down the line. Under current NCAA rules, the schools have the right to promote their own games using player images, but the legal question will center around whether they also have the right to sell or transfer those images. This lawsuit is of course unrelated to the Ed O’Bannon likeness case also working its way through the system in federal court, but the underlying issue — that players are not compensated for their work and corresponding brand — is very similar.
  2. While on the subject of the mission of the NCAA and its member institutions, the Chronicle of Higher Education published a piece yesterday from a professor at Ohio State University named Steven Conn. Conn, an American history scholar, took his soon-to-be-former boss, OSU president Gordon Gee, to task not so much for his forced retirement based on a series of verbal gaffes; rather, for helping to create and propagate the “athletic-industrial beast that defines higher education now.” The point he’s ultimately making is that college presidents nowadays have to spend so much time dealing with their athletic programs because of the money and prestige associated with them, that they’ve completely lost sight of what the true mission of an institution of higher learning is supposed to represent. Interesting read.
  3. With all the pressure on programs to succeed in the revenue sports, it probably shouldn’t surprise anyone that the average D-I men’s basketball coach has been at his current job for a total of 38 months — just over three years. This information and plenty of other coaching longevity tidbits comes courtesy of D1scourse, Patrick Stevens’ site examining college sports in the mid-Atlantic area. Although it was news to us that only one coach has survived at one school since the ’70s (Jim Boeheim at Syracuse, 1976), and only seven since the ’80s, the real takeaway from his analysis is that over 55 percent of true seniors who signed a letter of intent in November 2009 have experienced a coaching change in their careers. And yet we continue to penalize them for transferring, why, again?
  4. While on that topic, a really odd situation has developed involving DePaul forward Donnovan Kirk, a player who spent the first two years of his career at Miami (FL) before transferring to Chicago for the last two seasons. Given Miami’s success under Jim Larranaga especially relative to the train wreck at DePaul, Kirk has now decided to use his graduate transfer exception to head back to Miami for his final season. That’s right: a double-transfer where he is ending up at the same school where he originally started. He only averaged 6/4 last season for the Blue Demons, but he’s a great leaper and was among the Big East leaders in blocked shots per game (1.6 BPG). He’ll move right into a lineup in Coral Gables that is extremely lacking in experienced size, so this appears to be a win/win for both parties.
  5. The fortunes next season for another major basketball school in Florida — not FGCU, sorry — are still somewhat up in the air at this early summer point of the offseason. There are always a number of players finishing up coursework and dealing with standardized test scores to become eligible for next season, but in the case of Florida’s Chris Walker, there are serious concerns about his eventual eligibility. Not only does he still need to pass the ACT, which he has now taken three times, but he has to finish three core course requirements over the summer before he can enroll at the university in Gainesville. With most players these days getting themselves on campus for the early summer term to start prepping for next season, it doesn’t appear that will be an option for Walker very soon, if ever.
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College Sports Needs To Rethink Its Leadership Structure

Posted by Chris Johnson on June 7th, 2013

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

The relationship between the NCAA and the schools it governs has grown more tense and distrustful over president Mark Emmert’s tenure. This is a simple observation – anyone who watches, reads or writes about college sports can’t go more than a few weeks without catching wind of some new bureaucratic squabble. But without digging deep and realizing the systemic disconnect that defines the relationship between the NCAA and the people its rules actually affect, it is impossible to comprehend just how incompatible the organization has become with everything college athletics, and their place within the larger academic missions of their respective universities, should be. Outgoing North Carolina Chancellor Holden Thorp’s comments Thursday upon leaving his post at UNC and moving on to D-III Washington University in St. Louis get at the core of what has been the NCAA’s most glaring issue under Emmert (and even before that): Sports people aren’t making sports decisions. People in academia are.

Being a president at a high major university means getting involved with important matters better-reserved for more qualified athletic department officials. Thorp saw the need for a redistribution of power, and left his post to avoid further consternation (AP).

Being a president at a high major university means getting involved with important matters better-reserved for more qualified athletic department officials. Thorp saw the need for a redistribution of power, and resigned from his position to avoid further consternation (AP).

“Either we put the ADs back in charge and hold them accountable if things don’t work,” Thorp said in April during a campus forum, “… or let’s be honest and tell everyone when we select (presidents) to run institutions that run big-time sports that athletics is the most important part of their job.”

That sounds crazy, when you really think about it. Proposals to change inane bylaws and recruiting restrictions and scholarship limitations are being voted and ingrained into the NCAA’s rulebook by high-brow yes-men, the type of people who get up on stage at an athletic council meeting, get cozy behind a microphone and insolently mock everything from entire athletic conferences to religion stereotypes to individual coaches. College presidents, powerful leaders with academic backgrounds, are the ones taking the reins on the same issues athletic departments and coaches spend months and years wringing their hands about. If this presidential control model seems insanely ill-fitting, or just plain dumb, blame the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, a group founded in the early 1990s to address the growing unease among educators of athletic departments’ lax enforcement of rule and regulations. Their solution – such as it was – was to hand control to the presidents and chancellors, esteemed educators with no specific experience dealing with the dizzying complexities of college athletics. The leaders of massive public universities would work with the NCAA to come up with reasoned solutions on how to address the problems athletic departments let linger far too long. ADs and other athletic department officials had it all wrong. Let’s hand this over to the presidents. They’re smart, right? They can handle this. They know exactly what they’re doing.

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Morning Five: 06.06.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on June 6th, 2013

morning5

  1. College basketball’s worst kept secret became official late Wednesday night, as Missouri’s Michael Dixon, apparently the Teflon Don of sexual assault allegations in Columbia, announced via Twitter that he was transferring to Memphis. As we discussed in yesterday’s piece addressing the rumors of his transfer, Dixon brings a very interesting combination of talent and experience to a Tigers team desperately in need of some heady play to supplement the occasional wildness of returnees Joe Jackson and Chris Crawford. The question of whether Dixon will ever suit up with those two rising seniors, though, will be for the NCAA to decide, as he plans to request a waiver after already sitting out last season at Missouri. His argument will hinge on the Dez Wells exception, a unique and slightly different scenario where Wells was expelled from Xavier over a sexual assault allegation that even local prosecutors found completely unsubstantiated. Of course, Wells was ultimately allowed to play last season at Maryland, where he blossomed into one of the ACC’s most dangerous wings, and whether Dixon will receive the same treatment from the sport’s governing body may involve determinations on guilt or innocence that it is simply unprepared or unwilling to make. If he is allowed to suit up as a Tiger of the Memphis variety next season, though, Josh Pastner’s team suddenly becomes a lot more interesting on the national stage. 
  2. Speaking of that stage, one of the biggest and best national events in the early weeks of the season is the Jimmy V Classic. Next season’s pair of match-ups have now been finalized, and Memphis in fact will be one of those teams featured. The Tigers will take on a top 10 outfit in Florida in the nightcap, while fellow AAC member Cincinnati will battle new ACC institution Pittsburgh in the undercard. Did you get all that? It’s AAC vs. ACC, and AAC vs. SEC. If Dixon is cleared to play next season, the backcourt battles between he and Crawford versus Kasey Hill and Scottie Wilbekin will be fun to watch.
  3. Remember Julie Roe Lach, the former VP of NCAA enforcement who was fired in February related to a series of missteps that occurred under her watch, but most notably the ethical misconduct stemming from the Nevin Shapiro case at Miami (FL)? She resurfaced on Wednesday with an op-ed piece published at Yahoo! Sports giving her take on how the NCAA should operate its enforcement initiatives. It reads lawyerly, but if you can get past the tone and dryness of it, she makes several good points. From her perspective, the NCAA needed to accomplish three primary things with respect to its enforcement process: 1) make penalties against schools harsh enough to deter the risk/reward mindset; 2) shorten the length of its investigations; 3) in revenue sports, instill a valid fear in personnel of getting caught. As she writes in the article, the organization was moving steadfastly in that direction when the Shapiro case and subsequent media firestorm it entailed derailed the focus of the organization. Unfortunately for her, the piece has something of an air of desperation about it — even though Lach’s points are well-sourced and make sense, she won’t be taken seriously by either the media or the NCAA at this point. It’s worth a read, but what the organization now needs is the next general — a Lach without a reputation — who will carry the flag forward without the taint of scandal enveloping his every word.
  4. One of the NCAA initiatives of the past several years that we’ve gotten fully behind is the Academic Progress Rate (APR). Notwithstanding the fact that schools can game the numbers with bogus classes and coursework to increase their APR scores — baby steps — it still provides some degree of academic accountability where there was little before. And it has some teeth, as Connecticut found out the very hard way last season. So kudos to 2013 national champion Louisville, which was one of only 35 men’s basketball teams to score in the top tier of schools (scoring 978 or above) in the most recent APR cycle (covering academic years 2009-12). The entire top 10 percent list that the NCAA highlights as part of its “Public Recognition Awards” is located here. The biggest surprise on the list this year? It has to be Memphis, although Alabama men’s basketball and football clearly show that the army of tutors and student-athlete assistants in Tuscaloosa are very good at their jobs.
  5. We didn’t mention Indiana in the previous blurb, but we easily could have, as Tom Crean has taken a program that was scoring in the 800s to one that is at the very top of Division I men’s basketball on the APR nowadays (Will the Hoosiers print up commemorative t-shirts? Too easy.). But one IU player is not only receiving academic accolades, he’s also still getting lauded for his work on the court last year. The Tulsa Sports Charities organization has named Hoosiers wing Victor Oladipo as its 2013 recipient of the Eddie Sutton Tustenegee Award, an honor “presented annually to a college basketball player who best exhibits the traits of tenacity and unselfishness that Sutton advocated during a coaching career that landed him in the College Basketball Hall of Fame.” In a year when the race was fairly wide open among a group of about five players, we like to see the love spread around a bit. Good for Oladipo, probably the best player on both ends of the floor last season.
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Could the NCAA Be On the Verge of Creating a Fourth Subdivision?

Posted by Chris Johnson on June 3rd, 2013

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

Imagine trying to lump wildly financially disparate athletic programs with different issues and different monetary imperatives under one legislative agenda. Imagine trying to hold that infrastructure together with vague terminology and philosophical principles and vexingly byzantine legalese. Imagine that organization asking an enforcement staff that can’t even police itself to make sure everything runs smoothly – no questions asked, no willingness to adjust. Imagine a near-universally loathed ruling figurehead, whose tenure has been besieged by near-constant turmoil on college campuses, wielding unseen legislative power, refusing to cooperate with influential school athletic directors, eroding public trust every step of the way, and doing it all while publicly casting himself as some enduringly unimpeachable monarch – untouchable, unimpressionable and, most recently, resentfully bitter to any and all external questioning or proposals for change.

A fourth subdivision could help eliminate some of the NCAA's more intractable financial inefficiencies (US Presswire).

Promoting discussion for a move towards a fourth subdivision allows schools with bigger budgets the possibility to change the NCAA’s separation of powers (US Presswire).

The public approval rating of NCAA president Mark Emmert, were there such a measure for the organization’s embattled leader, would not inspire confidence for election day. The rightful scorn and growingly pervasive critiques can’t be (or shouldn’t be) shoved on Emmert’s doorstep; his actions are merely a particularly irksome embodiment of the entire NCAA’s morally and ethically dubious ruling construct. Either way, his spot isn’t up for contestation, so Emmert doesn’t have to worry – even as swaths of media call for his resignation and athletic directors lose confidence in his ability to navigate the NCAA’s hazardous future. Emmert isn’t completely blind to the boiling discontent within his membership, and at the Big 12 meetings in Irving, Texas, last week, he made an important concession that shows he’s open to the concept of realigning the power structure to accommodate more-monied (and thus more powerful) programs.

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