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

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  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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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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