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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Big East Morning Five: 12.28.11 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on December 28th, 2011

  1. Most probably expected a routine and mundane news conference from Louisville coach Rick Pitino before Wednesday’s showdown with #12 Georgetown. Instead, Pitino gave reporters perhaps the biggest news story of Louisville’s season to date when he announced that he wouldn’t coach anymore once his contract runs out after the 2016-2017 season. For now, the statement is just that — a statement — and Pitino will have plenty of time to reconsider if he so chooses, but one has to wonder why Pitino decided to break that news now with his team undefeated and conference play set to begin. No one will blame him if he decides to retire, after all, he will be in his mid-60′s with very little left to prove as a coach, but this will have a negative recruiting impact if Louisville doesn’t have a succession plan in place or Pitino doesn’t change his mind. I doubt it will become a distraction in the near future, but keep an eye on this story because it will be a big deal as his contract nears its end.
  2. Connecticut begins conference play tomorrow as well when they square off with cellar-dwelling South Florida. The difference is that while the Cardinals won’t have Pitino on the bench in six seasons, the Huskies won’t have coach Jim Calhoun on the bench tomorrow — albeit only for a short period of time. Assistant coach George Blaney will take over Wednesday as Calhoun begins his three-game suspension for his role in the school’s violations during its recruitment of Nate Miles. Blaney is no stranger to replacing Calhoun for short stints and is 7-8 in his career as acting head coach of the Huskies, but it will be up to the players and how well they listen to the assistants to determine how much influence Blaney has. The good news is that, in addition to the Bulls, UConn starts conference play with Seton Hall and St. John’s, so its not as if the Huskies will play a challenging schedule without their head coach, but it will be interesting to watch nonetheless.
  3. One of our favorite sources for Syracuse information, The Juice, came up with five questions facing the Orange as they prepare to enter conference play and I would like to focus on one of them in particular. The first question is about the team’s center play and whether or not hyped sophomore Fab Melo can continue to show improvement against tougher competition. It’s a question worth asking given Melo’s marked improvements against inferior opponents, but I think the answer is a pretty simple yes. Frankly, Syracuse doesn’t need much out of Melo. They just need good interior defense and rebounding. If Melo can continue to protect the rim, rebound the basketball, and chip in when needed offensively, Syracuse is in great shape for a deep NCAA Tournament run.
  4. The story is somewhat old, but combining a hometown hero storyline with a walk-on underdog storyline is good enough to make the Morning Five no matter how late we catch it. West Virginia freshman walk-on Paul Williamson is getting some serious playing time on a very competitive Mountaineers’ team. Fans probably shouldn’t expect Williamson to become a regular contributor, but his shooting ability and poise allow Bob Huggins to play him until he can no longer hide the freshman’s defensive deficiencies. Will this be a story to watch all season long? Probably not because Williamson isn’t likely to get a lot of playing time in crucial moments, but for a local freshman on a team with NCAA Tournament aspirations to be getting meaningful playing time at this point in the season is a feel-good story for anyone who loves college basketball.
  5. Yahoo! released its Top Five college basketball stories from 2011 and I agree with all them, but don’t agree with the placement. I understand why the author picked Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski becoming the winningest coach in Division I basketball as the top story, but with all due respect, there is simply no way a coach winning a lot of games is a bigger story than what has transpired at Syracuse since the start of the season. Coach K’s record is a nice story and a good pick for the top story if we are looking for a feel-good ending to a trying year, but the Bernie Fine saga dwarfs the record in terms of newsworthiness and importance on a larger scale. I am as sick of the Fine scandal as much as the next man, but his alleged abuse and that of former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky are the most important stories in college sports period. They just have too many ramifications for it not to be at the top.
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Morning Five: 06.16.11 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on June 16th, 2011

  1. Yesterday was a busy day for former UConn forward Jamal Coombs-McDaniel as he not only received a deal from a judge allowing him to enter a state-run drug education program that would leave him without a criminal record (outside of the Internet) and he announced that he would be transferring to Hofstra where he will join former UConn assistant Patrick Sellars (the one who was thrown under the bus in the Nate Miles fiasco).
  2. We are only week away from the NBA Draft and most pundits expect the Cleveland Cavaliers to select Kyrie Irving with the #1 overall pick. Even though most people consider this a weak year overall there are a few people who are quite high on Irving. Basketball Prospectus is apparently high enough on him to write an a post comparing him to Derrick Rose. We don’t think that Irving is even close to the prospect that Rose was coming out of his freshman year (the comparison is probably based on most similar game rather than potential), but it is an interesting analysis.
  3. Over the years Dick Vitale has become somewhat of a lightning rod for fans upset about perceived biases against their teams so much so that they often forget that he was a pretty good college coach (and a lousy pro coach). Detroit, the school that he coached at from 1973-77 and led to the NCAA Tournament in 1977, has announced that it will be naming its court as “Dick Vitale Court at Calihan Hall” during the school’s nationally televised game against St. John’s on December 5, 2011 (more on it here from RTC). We are sort of on the fence with this one. On one hand the program does not have a great track record of success and Vitale got them to the NCAA Tournament, but on the other hand it could be interpreted to be a desperate plea to garner some national attention.
  4. We have been writing about “package deals” for several years now dating back to the sketchy Michael Beasley-Dalonte Hill deal, but assumed that they were going to be less frequent with the NCAA trying to be more vigilant on all fronts. It turns that belief might have been a bit premature as some are questioning a potential assistant coaching job offer to the father of 2012 recruit J-Mychal Reese. According to some reports J-Mychal’s father has offers from Texas A&M, Texas Tech, and LSU. Although he does have nearly a decade of experience as a high school coach some are questioning it and it should be worth following over the next year.
  5. UTEP rising sophomore John Bohannon got himself into a mess over the weekend with an anti-gay tweet stating ”#letsbereal it is NOT cool to be gay! (Zro voice) *jordan shrug*.” Bohannon subsequently deleted the tweet and posted another tweet stating ”To those who were offended by my tweet a few days ago- Didn’t mean any disrespect by it as I do not judge anybody by their sexual preference and would hope you would not judge me by one tweet. Thank You.” UTEP has not issued a comment other than that Bohannon reportedly issued the original tweet in reference to a lyric by rapper Z-Ro that stated ”Seems like today, it’s cool to be gay.” Within the UTEP student community response has been mixed, but mostly negative, which is not too surprising. We are sure that Bohannon will be reminded of this at a more than a few road games during his college career.
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RTC Interviews Exclusive: A Conversation With Linda Gonzalez

Posted by nvr1983 on May 25th, 2011

Last Friday, Linda Gonzalez, the older sister of former Manhattan and Seton Hall coach Bobby Gonzalez, posted a column (link to our post because she took her original post down) that drew a lot of attention across the Internet and within coaching and journalism circles. In that post, Gonzalez listed ten columnists (some local, but mostly national) whom she felt wrote with an agenda and often did not report the facts as they are, but instead tried to twist them to fit the story. After the post started a mini-firestorm online, we reached out to Linda Gonzalez to inquire about her thoughts and reasoning. What follows is a 25-minute interview with Gonzalez that touches on her reasons for writing the piece, thoughts on the media in general and specific individuals, and her impression of what led to her brother’s firing at Seton Hall. We have to admit that Linda Gonzalez turned out to be a lot more reasonable than we expected over the phone based on her initial post and some of the rumblings that we had heard from various media members before we spoke with her. She also makes some salient points about the media as a whole and about the perceived agenda that some media members have.

Gonzalez has been a controversial figure in the media for years

Rush the Court: By now, most of our audience is aware of  your post listing the 10 writers you consider the most corrupt or biased in the country, but we don’t know much about you other than the fact that you are Bobby Gonzalez’s sister. Could you provide us with a little background information on who you are?

Linda Gonzalez: Before we start let me make something clear. There is a difference between a public and private person. I am not a public person. I used to be a public person because I was a columnist for a newspaper. That was a long time ago. Now writing is a hobby. I have a personal blog that I write. In fact, I have two. One I keep for notes and whatnot, but I have a personal blog that I write that people are welcome to read, but it is still a personal and private blog. I am a private person who lives in upstate New York. I am involved with my family. I live a quiet life.

I am a daughter, sister, aunt, substitute mom, nana, niece, and friend. I want for my family the same as you want for your own. I want my family to have  love, success and to live a meaningful life with purpose. I do what I can, whenever I can to help them and myself to achieve that. I’m sure anyone would do the same.

I have a mother who is 84 and a brother who is a disabled Vietnam Vet. My sister died 20 years ago and she had four children. Now her children are starting to have children so I have got my hands full. Bobby is a part of the picture, a big part, because when one suffers, we all suffer.

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Where Does Jim Calhoun Rank Historically?

Posted by nvr1983 on April 7th, 2011

We realize that Jim Calhoun hasn’t decided to retire yet and there is still a pretty good chance that he will come back for at least one more season given his frequently stated desire to always look for a fight. Still we think that it is reasonable to suggest that even if he doesn’t retire during this off-season he will be retiring in the near future given his age (he will turn 69 in May) and well-documented medical history. So we ask the question that has been on the minds of many journalists during the past few days: where does he rank historically?

Calhoun already has quite a legacy

By almost any measure (ignoring the opinions of some rival fans) Calhoun would be considered a top 10 coach all-time putting him into a category that includes such luminaries as John Wooden, Mike Krzyzewski, Dean Smith, Adolph Rupp, Bob Knight, Phog Allen, and others. That much is obvious, but once you get into that group the measures used to differentiate those coaches gets more subtle. Certainly a coach would need to have longevity and a consistent record of putting winning teams on the floor, which could be measured by the career wins. A good bar to set there would probably be 600 wins. If you want to argue for a higher standard be careful because the legendary John Wooden “only” had 664 career wins, a number that many current number-crunching analysts would deem paltry compared to others in this group. Winning championships is certainly important, but as this season clearly demonstrated it doesn’t necessarily reflect having the best team, which Northern Arizona coach Mike Adrus indicated with his vote in the final coaches’ poll. Still at some point that is what the sport boils down to. When we look back at this season we will remember UConn’s tournament run more than Pittsburgh‘s excellent regular season. Setting the bar at 2 NCAA titles narrows the group down to 13, but includes individuals like Billy Donovan, who picked up his championships in back-to-back years, and would have a hard time making a list of top 10 active coaches much less top 10 all-time. It also leaves much to be desired when you consider that highly successful coaches like Jim Boeheim and John Thompson only have one championship each despite having a much bigger historical impact on college basketball than Donovan (at least to this point). The next factor would probably be a coach’s impact on the program and the game, which is a more nebulous concept and consequently impossible  to quantify. Still all other things being equal you would probably have to give the nod to someone who turned a program from an also-ran into a national power over someone who took over at a traditional power and continued to win even if that coach did bring the program up a notch or two. Others have undertaken the endeavor of trying  to rank coaches in order with The Sporting News being the most notable among them, but that isn’t our objective (at least not for today). Instead we will focus on Calhoun, his legacy, and his place in the history of the game.

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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 04.02.11

Posted by Brian Goodman on April 2nd, 2011

Throughout the NCAA Tournament, we’ll be providing you with the daily chatter from around the webosphere relating to what’s going on with the teams still playing.

Butler

  • Butler head coach Brad Stevens is undefeated since he has begun wearing glasses on the sidelines. This should be a non-story, but Butler’s recent success makes one consider the importance of this.
  • Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack will be the key players for Butler in their Final Four matchup with VCU. This is not surprising, as Howard and Mack have been the catalysts for the Bulldogs success all season.
  • The hands-on cerebral approaches of Brad Stevens and Shaka Smart have been huge in leading their respective teams to the Final Four. This approach has proved to be extremely successful considering the success of the two young coaches.
  • Despite being a star player, Butler big man Matt Howard tries to keep a low profile at Butler. This is almost impossible due to the contributions Howard has made for the Bulldogs throughout his career.

Connecticut

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If UConn Wins The Title Will Jim Calhoun Retire?

Posted by nvr1983 on April 1st, 2011

As he nears the conclusion of his 39th consecutive year as a coach at the Division 1 level and 25th at UConn a single question looms above Jim Calhoun and the program that he helped build: What will he do?. After sanctions were handed out against against UConn and Jim Calhoun a month ago stemming from the Nate Miles fiasco there was quite a bit of speculation that Calhoun’s days in Storrs might be coming to an end particularly given his numerous health issues over the past few years. Less than a month later UConn’s surprising run through the Big East Tournament and now the NCAA Tournament has shifted the focus and now instead of calling for Calhoun to step down the media has been heaping praise upon Calhoun calling this year the most impressive coaching job of his career. With his Huskies sitting just two games away from Calhoun’s third national title, which would tie him with Bob Knight in fourth place for most NCAA championships for a coach, the question has become whether this would be the ideal time for Calhoun to retire when he is at the pinnacle of the sport.

Calhoun has a lot to think about

 

Having coached at the college level since 1972 when he first arrived at Northeastern Calhoun has compiled an exemplary resume only finishing below .500 on four occassions with the last occurring during his first season at UConn (1986-87). Since that time Calhoun has only failed to guide his team to the post-season once (in the 2006-07 season when the Huskies finished a disappointing 17-14), but that doesn’t mean his career has not been through its share of ups-and-downs. One of Calhoun’s defining characteristics has been his resiliency as demonstrated by the fact that he rebounded from a first round exit in the NIT in 1993 to make 3 straight Sweet 16s or another NIT bid in 1997 to make an Elite 8 the following season before winning his first NCAA championship the following season with a histroically underated team led by Richard Hamilton and Khalid El-Amin.

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The NCAA’s Verdicts On Calhoun & Pearl Raise More Questions

Posted by nvr1983 on February 23rd, 2011

Within a span of 24 hours the NCAA released a pair of statements that sent shock waves through NCAA coaching circles. The first involving Connecticut and its Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun had been expected since Yahoo! Sports broke the story on the recruitment of Nate Miles in March 2009, while the other involved Tennessee and both its basketball and football programs in an ongoing process, but just came to the media’s attention within the past year. While the verdict on Calhoun and the release of the NCAA’s notice of allegations against Tennessee has created quite a bit of controversy, they also raise a lot of questions.

Calhoun was less than thrilled with the NCAA's ruling

Before we get into the questions, it’s probably best to lay out each of the cases:

Connecticut

The Huskies were cited for the recruitment of Nate Miles that involved the use of a former student-manager-turned-agent Josh Nochimson who reportedly helped direct Miles to Storrs. Nochimson reportedly dealt with two UConn assistants in Patrick Sellars and Beau Archibald, both of whom are no longer with the program. According to the NCAA’s official release “the case includes more than $6,000 in improper recruiting inducements, (150) impermissible phone calls and (190) text messages to prospective student-athletes, failure to monitor and promote an atmosphere for compliance by the head coach, failure to monitor by the university, and unethical conduct by the former operations director, among other violations.”

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Connecticut Self-Sanctions, But Will It Be Enough?

Posted by jstevrtc on October 8th, 2010

Today, the Connecticut men’s basketball program made public its findings and response to the NCAA’s allegations of “major violations” from back in May. The report was submitted to the NCAA on September 7th. Here’s what UConn said that its investigation found:

  • Staff members made numerous impermissible text messages and phone calls to recruits,
  • The program provided tickets or free admission to games to friends, coaches and other persons associated with recruits, and
  • Head coach Jim Calhoun is not guilty of failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance within the program.

The university volunteered the following penalties to its program:

  • A period of probation encompassing the academic calendars of 2010-11 and 2011-12 — essentially from now until May 2012, a period of 19 months, and
  • Loss of a scholarship for each of those two academic periods.

Calhoun, Connecticut AD Jeff Hathaway, and several university officials will travel to Indianapolis to meet with the NCAA infractions committee. That meeting is scheduled for Friday, October 15th — the first official day of practice. UConn has asked that the meeting be moved to a later date.

Calhoun Didn't Appreciate Being Singled Out By the NCAA.

The NCAA will consider the discussions from that meeting in addition to the 700-page response that contained the above findings and offer a ruling in November or December. Given the NCAA’s recent pledge to supposedly crack down harder on rules violators, the obvious talking point here is whether or not the NCAA will see UConn’s self-imposed punishments as sufficient for the crimes. The early returns from some of the more astute followers of the game indicate that they don’t feel the auto-sanctions will cut it.

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UConn Responds To NCAA Allegations

Posted by nvr1983 on September 7th, 2010

After months of waiting for UConn to respond the NCAA’s allegations of eight infractions against the Huskies that were filed in May, UConn finally delivered its report to the NCAA today. Unfortunately, none of us will have a chance to see what UConn’s administration and bevy of defense attorneys could come up with for quite a while (assuming that our readers don’t work for the NCAA). The charges, based on a NCAA investigation stemming from an outstanding piece of investigative journalism by Dan Wetzel and Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports about the recruitment of guard Nate Miles (who played an uninspiring 16 minutes as a Husky), include making hundreds of illegal phone calls and text messages (Kelvin Sampson alert!), giving recruits improper benefits including free tickets, and the failure of Jim Calhoun to ensure compliance within the program. Although we will probably have to wait quite a while for the NCAA to deliver its punishment, some experts are expecting the NCAA to come down hard on the Huskies particularly in light of how hard they came down on USC (the NCAA’s college football cash cow). Under Connecticut state law, UConn has ten days to respond to a request from the Associated Press open records request of a summary of the report and some sources within the UConn administration have suggested that they will likely wait until next week to release that information. According to UConn spokesman Kyle Muncy, the report, which takes up “several three-ring binders,” provided to the NCAA will have to be scrubbed of names and other information covered under state and federal privacy laws before it can be released to the public.

What we will be reading through this fall

As of right now the only heads to have rolled are Beau Archibald, head of basketball operations, and Patrick Sellars, an assistant coach. According to reports, Archibald, Sellars and Calhoun are expected to provide their own individualized responses to the NCAA’s allegations. For the time being the most immediate impact on the UConn program will be their continued difficulty attracting top recruits with a cloud of uncertainty hanging over the program. The Huskies have already lost Maurice Harkless, a 2011 recruit who previously committed to UConn before pulling out and committing to St. John’s, and have lost Ater Majok, who has decided to pursue a pro basketball career in Australia, in a move that some of pointed to as an ominous sign of things to come for the program.

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Morning Five: 06.11.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on June 11th, 2010

  1. Might want to set your alarms for this one.  UCLA will be holding a public ceremony at Pauley Pavilion for the late, great John Wooden on June 26 at 11 am PDT, and it will be broadcast live on Prime Ticket and streamed live at www.ucla.edu (brief aside: a smaller tribute will also occur today at UCLA’s graduation ceremony).  We doubt that Wooden’s tribute will get 1% the attention of what another departed Angeleno of far lesser character got last summer, but we’ll do our part (and we hope you will too) to honor the man who helped make college basketball what it is today.
  2. One day after Kansas AD Lew Perkins was cleared of any wrongdoing by the university on an equipment flap, he announced his retirement effective next summer.  Um, congratulations?  Under your watch, you certainly helped to grow the Kansas football program (Orange Bowl winners in 2008) and keep the basketball program on the top plateau (national title in 2008), but the last year has been ridiculously bad, beginning with the football/basketball team fights and ending with KU apparently getting thrown to the wolves by the rest of the Big 12.  Well, he does have another year to solve some of those problems.
  3. Tom Izzo update: he spoke with Cleveland officials today while MSU faithful held a rally on his behalf back in East Lansing.  His quote on the matter: “It’s not going to be forever,” referring to his dalliance with this NBA job.  Stay tuned.
  4. UConn was warned over ten years ago about the “appearance of impropriety” with agent Josh Nochimson, but that didn’t seem to matter when it came to recruiting Nate Miles in 2006 and 2007.
  5. Where’s your glove, Dickie V!?!  The larger-than-life ESPN commentator found a way to get himself into the news during the offseason by throwing himself into the path of a foul ball at a Tampa Bay Devil Rays game last night.

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Boom Goes the Dynamite: 12.19.09

Posted by jstevrtc on December 19th, 2009

Welcome back!  Another weekend means another edition of everyone’s favorite college basketball live blog.  Assuming they all actually happen (there was, like, a huge snowstorm, you see), there are actually some pretty darn good games happening today (Michigan at Kansas, anyone?  Maybe a little Xavier at Butler?), and since we know you’ll be watching, and we know we’ll be watching…why not watch with us?  We’ll be commenting all day, but we want to know what your thoughts are on the games as they’re being played.  So keep checking this space and hitting that refresh button, and let’s have your comments as well.  It’ll start at noon and go all day long, so I suggest you grab some hot chocolate (or your beverage of choice), turn on your favorite game, and join us.  Keep checking back every few minutes!

12:03 pm: So here we go.  Starting off with Michigan at Kansas on ESPN as our principle (and as of right now, only noteworthy) game.  This is a good but perplexing Michigan team.  Their four losses are Marquette, Alabama, Boston College, and at Utah.  Michigan was a tournament team last year and returned those two stars in Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims, which would make me think they should have at least won a couple of those.  BC is tough, but Michigan has to defend the home floor against a team like that if they want to be taken seriously.  Quite a tall order they’ve got today.  As I type this, Michigan’s last three shots have been threes, none of which went down.  Meanwhile, Kansas has been getting the ball inside every trip down.

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