Posted by Will Tucker on October 14th, 2013
- One year after a postseason ban prevented his team from participating in the Big East and NCAA Tournaments, Kevin Ollie reports that his UConn team scored a perfect Academic Progress Score (APR) in the 2012-13 season. “We learned from our mistakes and we are going forward,” Ollie stressed, adding, “you want to create an environment that’s conducive for these kids to learn.” Junior Ryan Boatright and senior Shabazz Napier seem to have assumed primary leadership roles on a team that is expected to compete for an NCAA Tournament berth this season, after accumulating APR scores of 978 and 947 in the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons, respectively. “Nobody wants to run for somebody else not going to class,” said Boatright, “so we definitely make sure everybody goes to class and does their work.”
- While the American Athletic Conference lacks several high-profile vestiges of the Big East (RIP), Cincinnati Coach Mick Cronin believes the sea change will serve the Bearcats as well as similar changes have in the past. Cronin pointed out that the 14 regular-season UC games scheduled to appear on the ESPN family of networks this season is the most of his tenure, and noted, “Coach Huggins built this program with a bigger fish in a smaller pond mentality.” In light of the forthcoming loss of rival Louisville from the conference schedule, Cronin said he was already working to “get some bigger name non-league games at home” in 2014-15. The eighth-year head coach said he was trying to keep the Cardinals on the schedule as a non-conference opponent, which would obviously be a treat for fans of either long-time nemesis.
- Addressing summer rumors at Louisville media day, Cardinals guard Kevin Ware said that he first heard a report that he’d been kicked off of the team from his sister. “She was like, ‘You got kicked off the team?’ I woke up — first thing in the morning — and had to ask, what are you talking about? All those rumors and things like that are false. I’m still here.” The junior guard and his teammates reiterated that he had remained a member of the team throughout the offseason, and Ware attributed the rumor to a Kentucky blog, noting, “I wouldn’t say they started it for sure, but that’s the only thing I can think of. Just the whole U of L-UK thing.”
- Newly-hired Memphis assistant coach Robert Kirby gave all of us a major dose of perspective last week when he donated a kidney to his 57-year-old sister, who was suffering from renal failure and in danger of losing her life. Kirby was the only one of 12 siblings determined to be an eligible match for the operation, and they had lost their mother to a similar condition in 1996 after she refused to explore the possibility of a kidney donation from any of her children. His sister, Virginia Kirk, reportedly showed signs of improvement almost immediately, and the first-year Tigers assistant hopes to return to practice in the coming weeks.
- After a difficult year that saw the firing of basketball coach Mike Rice and the resignation of athletic director Tim Pernetti, Rutgers President Robert Barchi made a laudable gesture when he announced last week that he would donate his $90,000 bonus toward his school’s scholarship fund. Citing “a year of fiscal restraint” in which Rutgers is “asking our faculty, students and staff to do more with less,” Barchi wrote to the Board of Governors that he and his wife intended to donate the performance-based reward toward student aid. In addition to multiple recent controversies within the athletic department, The (Newark) Star-Ledger reports that Barchi was encouraged over the summer by several state lawmakers to step down from the boards of two private companies that engage in business with the university.
Posted by Will Tucker on April 4th, 2013
- After a disappointing single season in Pittsburgh, Jamie Dixon says 6’5″ shooting guard Trey Ziegler is transferring again in hopes of finding “a chance to be more involved” in his final year of eligibility. Ziegler failed to replicate the production he’d demonstrated in two seasons playing for his father at Central Michigan, registering career lows in almost every major statistical category. Ziergler probably wasn’t going to thrive at Pitt next year, but with only six scholarship players returning, he would have provided much needed depth and experience in the backcourt off the bench. Cardiac Hill notes Ziegler is the sixth player to transfer from Pitt in two years.
- Less than two weeks after insisting he would return for his sophomore year, Pitt center Steven Adams reversed course Tuesday and announced he would declare for the NBA Draft. Adams’ draft projection fell from top five in the preseason to mid-to-late first round after his production (7.2 PPG, 6.3 RPG) failed to reflect his athletic, punishing 7’0 frame. Even before an underwhelming freshman campaign, Jamie Dixon had evidently alluded to a “four-year plan” Adams had envisioned for himself, which included getting his master’s degree at Pitt. But Adams is one of 18 children, and Dixon implied the wish to provide for his family outweighed Adams’ ambitions in school: “It’s tough, I think he really loved it here. He loved his teammates… I know what he was saying but I also know what his family was saying at the same time.” With Dante Taylor graduating and Marcus Gilbert transferring, Talib Zanna is the only real frontcourt presence Dixon returns next year.
- On the topic of reversing coarse, Rutgers athletic director Tim Pernetti fired Mike Rice less than 24 hours after publicly defending his basketball coach on ESPN. Pernetti was contrite in a statement on Rice’s release: “Dismissal and corrective action were debated in December and I thought it was in the best interest of everyone to rehabilitate [Rice], but I was wrong.” The loose end here is confusion over the involvement of President Robert Barchi, who distanced himself from the scandal yesterday when a spokesperson reiterated that Barchi hadn’t seen the damning practice footage until Tuesday. The problem? Pernetti had initially implied to ESPN that the president was aware of the tapes’ content in December and signed off on his efforts to “rehabilitate” Rice. Don’t be surprised to see Barchi throw Pernetti under the bus and weather the storm. Meanwhile, Adam Zagoria reports that Bob Knight is a long-shot candidate to replace Rice. Which is so unconscionable that it must be a late April Fool’s joke.
- USA Today and Forbes have updated the usual financial stats on program revenues and coaching salaries, and Sean Keeley at TNIAAM points out that Syracuse is getting a seriously good deal with Jim Boeheim. The Orange coach ranks number 17th (on a list that omits several more highly paid coaches), raking in $1.9 million per year in base salary. That’s less than Big East peer coaches JTIII ($2.2 million), Jay Wright ($2.3 million), and Rick Pitino ($4.8 million). Looking at Forbes’ comparison of basketball program revenues in the Final Four, Keeley observes that while Boeheim and John Beilein earn about the same salary, Michigan basketball earns just over a third ($9.9 million) what Boeheim’s program makes ($26 million).
- Yesterday the leftovers of the Big East were finally named the American Athletic Conference. The UConn Blog is pleased with the inoffensive title, which lends itself to the edgier AmeriCon abbreviation and should, if nothing else, put a stop to the geography jokes everyone suffered through last year. “It’s fine. Frankly, I’m surprised it’s not worse, and on the scale of UConn‘s conference realignment news, that makes this a resounding victory.”