Morning Five: 10.02.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 2nd, 2013

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  1. The drumbeat of pay-for-play continues echoing through the chambers of college athletics. The latest and greatest: Jay Bilas tweeted out an article last night called “Money Madness: Why and How NCAA Athletes Should Be Paid” from Duke Political Review, a piece that probably wouldn’t have otherwise been seen by anyone beyond a small group of policy wonks. Zach Gorwitz argues that the free market should allow for college football and basketball programs to pay its players a reasonable salary beyond the cost of a full scholarship — he suggests $10,000 to $60,000 for football players, as an example — limited by an NCAA-wide salary cap and organized through negotiations with a players’ union. It’s an interesting idea, for sure, if for no other reason than it provides specific ideas beyond the “they should be paid without consideration of cost” crowd. Expect more. This is only just beginning. Meet Jeff Kessler.
  2. Wake Forest is one of the forgotten schools in the new-look ACC. Aside from a single Orange Bowl trip in 2008, the Deacs are not a regular football power like Clemson or Florida State; nor are they a basketball power like Duke or North Carolina (or Syracuse; or Pittsburgh; etc.). Since a brief but halcyon stretch in early 2009 when Wake hit #1 in both major basketball polls, it’s been mostly downhill on both the hardwood and gridiron ever since. The football team hasn’t had a winning season in five years and the hoops program has reached a level of moribundity under fourth-year head coach Jeff Bzdelik that it hasn’t seen in nearly three decades. As such, Wake alumni and fans are none too happy with their athletic director, Ron Wellman. After sowing their oats with an anti-Bzdelik billboard/publicity stunt at last year’s ACC Tournament, they are now planning to attack this coming weekend with a an aerial banner assault circling over the school’s football stadium during a game with NC State. The details, should you choose to consider them, are posted on a public Google Doc that was sent to us by a concerned Twitter follower. Best of luck with your endeavor, Wake fans. You are a forlorn lot.
  3. As we mentioned on the national site, Oregon State’s Craig Robinson announced suspensions on Tuesday for two of his most prominent returnees, Eric Moreland and Devon Collier. For unspecified internal reasons, Moreland will sit out half of the team’s regular season games (14), while Collier will only miss one. The two forwards represent the bulk of the Beavers’ returning frontcourt this season (with both players averaging more than 25.0 MPG), and thus their benchings is quite the gamble for a head coach who might be on the hottest seat in all of major D-I college basketball. Moreland in particular is an elite rebounding presence, ranking fifth in the nation in defensive rebounding percentage last season (27.5%) and more than holding his own on the offensive window (10.5%). Luckily for Robinson, he expects to have both back at full strength in time for the bulk of the Pac-12 season in early January, and the non-conference schedule other than a trip to Maryland and a mediocre field at the Diamond Head Classic does not appear terribly daunting.
  4. One of the players that Robinson had hoped to have returning this season was former guard Ahmad Starks, a 5’9″ whirlwind of a player who took care of the ball, made free throws, and knocked down long-range shots for the Beavers. The Chicago native headed back east in May to play at a school closer to his ailing grandmother, hoping that the NCAA’s transfer exception would allow him to play immediately at his new, closer destination. He ultimately decided to play for John Groce at Illinois but, according to ESPN’s Andy Katz, the NCAA on Tuesday denied his waiver, citing the distance in mileage from Champaign to Chicago (roughly 135 miles) as too far to justify the exemption. It’s been somewhat rare for the NCAA to deny these waiver requests, so this is a peculiar turn of events given that Starks is realistically only a couple-hour drive away from his grandmother. Katz cited a “100-mile” standard that perhaps signals that the NCAA is going to use for future adjudications of these decisions, which although an arbitrary distance, would still create some much-needed clarity to the rule. Let’s see if they stick to it in future iterations of this decision. Tough break for Illinois too, seeking to replace much of its backcourt this season after the losses of Brandon Paul and DJ Richardson.
  5. Although we still find preseason material to be a bit too early for prime time on this early October date, that hasn’t stopped the college hoops writing cabal from putting in some work. We’ll mention some of the more interesting items as we get closer to the traditional time for Midnight Madness in a couple of weeks, but here are a couple of things you should see now. First, The Dagger‘s Jeff Eisenberg released his preseason Top 25 yesterday, with his top five,  in order: Kentucky, Louisville, Duke, Michigan State, and Kansas. For each team he lists both their best-case and worst-case scenarios, and by our count, he lists those five teams as the group with enough upside to win the national title. Over at Sporting News, Mike DeCourcy lists seven key players who have something to prove this season. As always, the dreaded slideshow format is mitigated by strong writing and analysis by the longtime hoops scribe. Give both a look.
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Morning Five: 07.31.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 31st, 2013

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  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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Ben McLemore Allegations More Fodder For a Monotously Grating Debate

Posted by Chris Johnson on May 6th, 2013

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

Maybe the most important question is, “is anyone even the least bit surprised?”

That was the first thought that jostled around my frontal lobe after reading Eric Prisbell’s expose in Saturday’s USA Today detailing St. Louis-area AAU Coach Darius Cobb’s admission to receiving multi-thousand cash payments and free-expenses paid trips in exchange for perceived influence and access to Kansas star and likely top-three NBA draft pick Ben McLemore. Cobb reportedly met with various sports agents and financial advisers looking to steer McLemore to the professional ranks after his redshirt freshman season. Even a cursory knowledge of NCAA protocol would lead you to make the following conclusion without much in the way of deep introspective thought: An investigation of Kansas’, and by extension McLemore’s, alleged impropriety could result in the Jayhawks not only losing their Big 12 title and Sweet Sixteen appearance, but having its entire 2012-13 season expunged from NCAA historical accounting. Everything McLemore touched during his college career could be in danger of sheer obliteration. There would be protest and angst and complaints. It would get ugly.

The NCAA ultimately may not be able to find any wrongdoing on behalf of Kansas or McLemore (Getty Images).

The NCAA ultimately may not be able to find any wrongdoing on behalf of Kansas or McLemore (Getty Images).

Or maybe it won’t: thanks to some quick analysis on the matter at hand from John Infante, the internet’s resident NCAA bylaw expert and author of the famous Bylaw Blog, a completely blood-free resolution of the case seems entirely plausible, even historically prudent. Kansas can look through the superficial ugliness of its star freshman shooting guard and nefarious AAU-circuit go-betweens and financial impropriety, yearn for a punishment-free future and not feel totally nervous about the whole thing. The NCAA, as is all too often the case in high-profile impermissible benefits cases (and as was made glaringly evident in the resolution of the Lance Thomas jewelry fiasco), has no legal means by which to force Cobb, alleged McLemore-invested runner Rodney Blackstock or even McLemore himself, now that he’s declared for the NBA Draft, to discuss his muddy past. The only looming repercussion is if Cobb or Blackstock qualifies as an “agent,” which could very well be the case under the NCAA’s new expansive definition, or – as Infante details in much greater and clearer nuance – if McLemore is proven to have had knowledge and willing acceptance of Blackstock’s (or whoever else was involved) services.

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NCAA Emails Signal Dissension Among Administrators and School Officials

Posted by Chris Johnson on September 20th, 2012

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

Criticizing the NCAA’s amateur-related restrictions and regulations is a trend long since adopted by a sizable majority of the college sports viewing public. The main point of contention, or so it seems, is the organization’s ability to negotiate and license lucrative media rights deals while expressly denying its constituents – the student-athletes themselves and the marketable product their competition creates – a slice of the financial pie. Each and every violation of that fundamental principle, from textbook impermissible benefits scandals to menacing third-party influencers to rogue boosters, amplifies the national discussion. It’s gotten to the point where supporting the NCAA’s legislative agenda draws widespread skepticism and angst, as if the maintenance of amateurism has evolved into a contrarian viewpoint. It wasn’t long ago that the discussion proceeded in reverse, with the now-in vogue free-market position marginalized by a prevailing consensus that the extant system, such as it is, works. As the discourse challenging the underlying structure that defines intercollegiate athletics gained new levels of credibility and authority, it was fair to suspect the NCAA would eventually need to defend its heavily scrutinized system in not only the court of public opinion, but a court of law. Sure enough, a class-action lawsuit led by former UCLA star Ed O’Bannon has challenged those bedrock principles forbidding student-athletes from receiving paid compensation above the school-funded assistance provided by athletic scholarships, otherwise known as grant-in-aids.

The internal disagreements over the NCAA’s concept of amateurism could help advance O’Bannon’s suit against the organization (Photo credit: Isaac Brekken/AP Photo).

The legal dispute is nothing new; O’Bannon initially raised his grievances in 2009. His case, which is scheduled to go on trial in early 2014, has only intensified the public indictment of NCAA policy. In the meantime, while it prepares to face the landmark test case that could dismantle its authoritative standing, the NCAA may need to reconcile its moral and philosophical mission internally. That’s the impression given by ESPN Outside the Lines reporter Tom Farrey’s article revealing in-house dissension over the legitimacy of the NCAA’s treatment of its student-athletes. Email correspondence between school administrators and NCAA officials contains hard evidence of high-ranking authorititative figures harboring substantial misgivings over the basic philosophy upon which the student-athlete ruling system operates. For example, Nebraska Chancellor Harvey Perlman offers scathing criticism of the student-athlete’s absence within the financial component of the NCAA’s media rights and licensing negotiations.

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As NBA Draft Deadline Passes, A Reminder of NBA/NCAA Rules Discrepancies

Posted by EJacoby on April 30th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter.

The NBA’s deadline for players to enter the 2012 NBA Draft passed over the weekend, with the biggest news coming from North Texas that star big man Tony Mitchell is returning to school. Why the minimal buzz about the deadline? It’s because the NCAA’s own deadline had already passed back on April 10, the date by which players had to withdraw from draft consideration if they had previously declared but wanted to retain college eligibility. It’s a confusing rule that’s just one of many areas of discrepancy between the NBA and NCAA as far as eligibility is concerned. For two associations that depend on each other so much, they often act more like competitors than allies. From the NBA age minimum to NCAA amateurism to the different draft deadlines, there are several areas of contention worth reflecting on.

Tony Mitchell is Staying at North Texas, a Decision He Had to Make Before Sunday's NBA Draft Deadline (AP Photo)

On Friday, NBA Commissioner David Stern appeared on Dan Patrick’s radio show where he mentioned that he’d like the league to adopt an even more restrictive age minimum on incoming players. For Stern, the ‘one-and-done’ format still doesn’t adequately solve the problem of making sure players are prepared enough to contribute immediately to his league. But as we’ve seen over the past 10-plus years, there are plenty of 19- and 20-year-olds that are able to contribute at the NBA level right away, and it wouldn’t be fair to stall their professional earning potential just because NBA general managers want a better read on any and all potential draftees. And that’s the problem; Stern is focused solely on the NBA and has no reason to worry about the college product or its student-athletes. The differing motives between the NBA and NCAA continue to be a potential long-term concern.

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