Does the NCAA Need Stronger Enforcement Mechanisms? Difficult Times Call For Radical Solutions…

Posted by Chris Johnson on August 20th, 2012

Christopher Johnson is an RTC columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.

The college athletic franchise has long championed itself as a strictly “amateur” system, with financial compensation for athletes standing as one of the cardinal sins behind an elaborate and unwieldy set of rules and regulations. The legislation preventing such illicit activity is diverse and wide-ranging, and several prominent athletic programs have been subjected to its punitive aptitude in the past decade. USC football received heavy sanctions in June 2010 including a two-year postseason ban and severe scholarship reductions as a result of a pay-for-play scandal surrounding former star running back Reggie Bush. Connecticut men’s basketball lost its head coach, Jim Calhoun, for three games last season among other restrictive penalties for recruiting violations committed during the pursuit of highly-touted shooting guard Nate Miles. The list of transgressions in the past few years alone is considerable, but the retributive measures have done little to prevent other programs from repeating previous mistakes and inventing new ways to game the system. College sports’ amateurism label is continually disgraced by programs willing to risk punishment for the end result of competitive advantage, whether that is through recruiting violations, pay-for-play, or some combination therein. And the NCAA, for all its intricately defined policing mechanisms and retributive wherewithal, remains largely impotent in preventing forbidden activity.

As Hargett’s Saga Shows, The NCAA’s Penalty Structure Has Been Problematic Dating Back Many Years

Instances of NCAA rule-breaking are revealed with frequent regularity, but the organization’s monitoring policies have done little to stem the tide of illicit behavior in the world of power conference athletics. The lawless activity has remained a fixture in the seedy underground world of college hoops recruiting, from Michigan’s dealings with booster Ed Martin to USC’s illegal recruitment of O.J. Mayo to UConn’s mishap with Miles. On Saturday, The New York Times‘ Pete Thamel provided another excellent example of the prevalent and deep-rooted iniquity that goes part and parcel with the process of courting the nation’s top high school players. In fact, his story takes us back more than a decade ago and offers up detailed insight for just how pervasive and systematically entrenched the criminal activity has become. Jonathan Hargett, who is now serving a nearly five-year sentence on drug charges after a promising basketball career was derailed by agents, runners, drugs and a number of other regrettable choices, is the subject of focus. According to Hargett, who played one season at West Virginia under coach Gale Catlett, agents approached him seeking to engage in financial-based representation when he was 15 and ultimately steered him toward the Mountaineers. Hargett’s wrongdoing was extensive, so much so that Dan Dakich, hired to replace Catlett (who retired shortly after Hargett’s one season in Morgantown), recounted vividly the specifics of Hargett’s institutionalized payment program: “They [agents] promised me $60,000 and only gave me $20,000,” Hargett told Dakich, according to the now ESPN sportscaster and radio personality. And even as Dakich departed what he called a “culture of dishonesty” after just eight days on the job, the NCAA could not compile a substantial body of evidence to punish West Virginia.

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Morning Five: 02.03.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on February 3rd, 2012

  1. We suppose that we should recognize that there’s a football game going on this weekend in Indianapolis that involves a couple of well-known quarterbacks. It should come as no surprise that Las Vegas sports gambling establishments are offering all kinds of ridiculous prop bets on the Sunday evening Super Bowl, but as The Dagger’s Ryan Greene writes in this piece, there are an interesting array of crossover props available that institute both this weekend’s college basketball action as well as the NFL championship. That’s right, if you are inclined to pick between Northwestern star John Shurna’s combined points and rebounds vs. Tom Brady’s number of completions or any number of other crazy wagers, Vegas invites you to come on down and give them some of your money.
  2. It’s not every day that you’ll read an article that compares the New York Times and Deadspin in the same sentence, but this piece by Dave Pickle at the NCAA does exactly such a thing. Feeling a need to respond to an onslaught of negative reporting from the Times’ Joe Nocera, the NCAA is fighting back using its own media platform. We read the original pieces that Nocera wrote regarding Connecticut’s Ryan Boatright, but he’s moved well beyond that criticism into other areas including the right to privacy and other associated injustices that he accuses the NCAA of perpetrating. The organization has responded in kind by accusing Nocera of an inherent conflict-of-interest (his fiancee’ is the communications director for a law firm suing the NCAA on the “likeness” issue) and bringing up a prior rebuke for calling Tea Party members “terrorists.” We certainly appreciate the interest that Nocera has taken in the inner workings of the NCAA, but we’d prefer if there were more news organizations asking similar questions on multiple fronts so that the one-man crusade aspect of this would disappear.
  3. A bit of recruiting news beyond Nerlens Noel on Thursday — the Jordan Brand Classic rosters were announced for the April 14 game in Charlotte, and seven of the top 10 players according to Rivals will be on the rosters. Noel himself will not be there because he did not reclassify to the Class of 2012 in time for consideration, but somehow we don’t think that will affect his hyper-recruitment in the next couple of months. The West team will be comprised of consensus #1 player Shabazz Muhammad (undecided) along with “forward Brandon Ashley (Arizona), center Isaiah Austin (Baylor), forward Anthony Bennett (undecided), wing Archie Goodwin (Kentucky), wing Danuel House (Houston), wing Grant Jerrett (Arizona), guard Marcus Paige (North Carolina), wing Alex Poythress (Kentucky) and guard Rasheed Sulaimon (Duke).” The East team will consist of UCLA recruit Kyle Anderson, “guard Kris Dunn (Providence), wing Jerami Grant (Syracuse), guard Garry Harris (Michigan State), forward Brice Johnson (North Carolina), wing Ricardo Ledo (Providence), center Tony Parker (undecided), guard Rodney Purvis (N.C. State), center Kaleb Tarczewski (Arizona) and wing J.P. Tokoto (North Carolina).”
  4. This story doesn’t involve Division I basketball, but it’s scary enough to be newsworthy. A charter bus from Austin College in Sherman, Texas, carrying the men’s and women’s basketball teams (the ‘Roos) caught fire during the trip to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport on Thursday forcing both teams to evacuate the bus to get to safety. One athlete was provided medical treatment for smoke inhalation, but the remainder of the traveling party was able to transfer to another bus and move on to its road trip to Colorado. Still, a harrowing situation that luckily didn’t involve anything more serious than that.
  5. It’s Friday, which means that Luke Winn‘s latest and greatest Power Rankings came out yesterday. In this week’s column, you’ll learn which of the elite teams in America has the most balanced offense (hint: it’s not a school near Lake Oneida), Ricardo “Right Hook” Ratliffe’s offensive tendencies, a titillating teaser for more defensive charting on Syraucse, and even a reference to St. Mary’s guard Matthew Dellavedova’s mouthguard. Read it. In case that doesn’t provide you enough hoops analysis for one morning, Seth Davis also released a new Mailbag, which features an analysis of all the unbeaten conference teams’ chances for an at-large bid. Compelling stuff, as always.
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Is This What Calipari’s Detractors Have Been Waiting For?

Posted by jstevrtc on May 28th, 2010

In a story on the New York Times website, college basketball writer Pete Thamel and contributor Thayer Evans dropped a big Memorial weekend bomb on the Big Blue Nation, as the legions of University of Kentucky basketball fans around the world are known.  According to the article, the NCAA is looking into former UK shooting guard Eric Bledsoe possibly having received improper benefits while in high school, specifically having his rent paid by his senior-year high school coach, Maurice Ford.  The article also brings up the question as to whether or not Ford, in attempts to gather money to make such rent payments for Bledsoe and his mother, solicited money from at least one college coach in order for Bledsoe to sign with that coach’s school.  Also raised is the matter of Bledsoe’s academic improvement after his original high school had shut down and he transferred to a private school; evidently the NCAA is inquiring as to how Bledsoe’s high school GPA could have dramatically jumped from 1.9 to 2.5 during his senior year, thereby putting him over the minimum NCAA standard to be eligible for a scholarship.

There's been no comment from Bledsoe or UK as of yet.

Mr. Ford, as Thamel and Thayer note, has denied all of the accusations.  And according to Matt May of, the folks at Kentucky haven’t even received a letter of inquiry about these issues.

If something actually comes from this, the bigger question will be how much the Kentucky program — and specifically John Calipari — actually knew about what was happening.  Fans of the UK coach will note how, regarding the “troubles” at his former jobs at Massachusetts and Memphis, Calipari was never specifically dinged with any wrongdoing, and that the mistakes made by Marcus Camby and Derrick Rose were out of the realm of what Calipari could realistically police.  On the other hand, Calipari-haters are about as giddy as Keith Olbermann watching George W. Bush fall down a flight of stairs.  They’ve already tried the man and handed down a guilty verdict long ago, and have just been waiting for something on which they could pin it.  Both sides would be well-advised to keep calm for now.

Unfortunately for Kentucky fans, it’s the program, and not necssarily the player or coach under investigation, that usually takes the hit if penalties are deemed necessary.  If something comes from this — and again, we don’t know if anything will — could Kentucky be stripped of its 35 wins from last year, which would put them back behind that 2,000-win mark?  Could those UK2K shirts become collector’s items?  Or would the NCAA rule that Bledsoe simply has to pay back whatever money was borrowed?  Since Bledsoe is no longer under the thumb of the NCAA, that might be tough to enforce.  To be sure, even if there is something to be found here, the accusations will be tough to prove.   Academic fraud at a high school is not as easy to verify as you’d think, and this matter of rent payments would be even tougher.  Again, unfortunately for Kentucky supporters, the NCAA is detective, judge, jury, and executioner, and they get to determine what constitutes good, hard, believable evidence.  And even if the NCAA finds something and says that the guilt lies totally with Eric Bledsoe and not with John Calipari or anyone at the University of Kentucky, it’s likely that the UK program would still feel the NCAA’s pimp slap while Bledsoe skates.  IF that happens, you can bet that the Calipari-to-NBA talk will heat up again, and you’d have to figure that the UK recruits who didn’t sign letters of intent would suddenly start to reconsider.

We’ll see what happens.  It’s still early days, yet.  Considering the recent news out of Kansas and Connecticut…it’s been a tough week for some of college basketball’s leviathan programs.

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Boom Goes the Dynamite: 01.24.09

Posted by nvr1983 on January 24th, 2009

dynamite1After my trip to Chapel Hill last weekend where rtmsf handled all of the duties for Boom Goes the Dynamite while I mingled with ESPN personalities and college basketball stars, I will be in charge of today’s edition while rtmsf does relationship stuff with his significant other. Pretty weak if you ask me. . .

11:00 AM: Although we are a men’s college basketball site, we feel that it’s appropriate to mention the passing of Kay Yow, the former NC State coach, to breast cancer (or more precisely complications related to breast cancer). We can’t really do justice to her impact on the women’s game so it’s probably better just to refer you to a chronology of her life.

11:10 AM: The Notre Dame GameDay crowd looks a lot larger than what I saw last weekend at UNC. I am not sure if it is just a bunch of camera tricks by the GameDay crew, but they definitely have more signs. It may be that UConn is much, much better than Miami was last week or that the UNC crowd may be a bit jaded, but the Chapel Hill crowd was not as into the GameDay experience as I expected them to be.

11:45 AM: Digger Phelps has been doing a good job of working the crowd, which he also did last week at Chapel Hill (even off camera), taking the homer pick of Luke Harangody as his choice of tough player after the other analysts picked Blake Griffin, Tyler Hansbrough, and Stephen Curry to boos. As expected the crowd went wild with Digger’s pick. A little later in the show, the crowd gave the stereotypical college crowd response to a Duke segment by chanting “overrated”. Not surprisingly, the analysts all defend Duke. Appropriately enough, Bobby Knight calls out the Notre Dame students by questioning their education. It looks like he is getting more comfortable with his role on ESPN.

11:50 AM: Another awful half-court shot. Where does ESPN find these guys? He deserved to be embarrassed like that on national TV for popping his collar. Someone should tell him that hasn’t been cool since. . .actually it has never been cool. Congrats on the airball.

Noon: Wow. All of the GameDay guys except Knight picked LSU to beat #13 Xavier. I guess it’s in Baton Rouge, but Xavier is definitely the better team. Least surprising pick of the day: Digger picks Notre Dame. Knight abstains from picking a team.

12:15 PM: Duke is off to a good start against Maryland after Jon Scheyer opens the game with two 3s. What’s going on with Brian Zoubek? He actually looks like a legitimate center today. I have seen him play several times this year and he certainly has improved from last year, but he has never played like this. If he can do this even for spurts this year, Duke might have a legitimate chance to win the title this year instead of their usual great regular season and flop in March.

12:20 PM: Villanova is tied at 10 with USF 6 minutes into the game. Dante Cunningham has 8 of Villanova’s 10 points. I don’t have much else to say about this game since I don’t have ESPN360 available since I am out of town. If anybody has this game on TV, let me know if anything interesting happens.

1:00 PM: Duke goes into halftime with a 25-point lead despite having one of the ugliest possessions I have ever seen to end the half. Do you remember when the Duke-Maryland games used to be the best games of the season? I still remember trying to figure out where I could go to watch the game on TV my freshman year of college. (My school didn’t believe in providing cable to dorm rooms.) Meanwhile in Tampa, Villanova is struggling against USF (tied at 32 at halftime).

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