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Posted on: March 30, 2011 6:49 pm
Edited on: March 30, 2011 7:25 pm

NCAA president Mark Emmert needs a new approach

Posted by Matt Norlander

Holding the office of President, NCAA: equal parts leadership and defensiveness. Leadership to everyone in your 400-some-odd-person outfit, centered in Indianapolis, as well as leadership to the hundreds of member institutions; defensive to anyone outside that cocoon who dare question the way your association operates and conducts its often-ambiguous business.

While a well-paying gig, being the president of premier American college athletics isn’t an enviable one. Mark Emmert isn’t even a full year into his tenure as Grand Poobah of the NCAA; after his appearance on PBS’ “Frontline” Tuesday night, he’s certainly off on the wrong foot. The former LSU chancellor and University of Washington president has hardly written his legacy at this level, and while he’s seemed like the right man for the job to this point, it’s clear he’s not the savviest when getting asked questions that deserve and should be asked.

I do give credit to Emmert in accommodating himself for interview, but he would’ve been better off giving PBS the hand and bypassing this sit-down altogether if he had any notion he would act like he did.

In the piece, which I urge you to watch here, Emmert came off as many things, none of them flattering. He was elitist, unwilling to answer a number of Lowell Bergmann’s questions, often patronizing the journalist while trying to shake off the mild interrogation. I felt like I was watching a politician on trial. Not a good sign. The president of the NCAA acted as though he was accosted, and it made him look worse than any overarching commentary from the piece could’ve possibly achieved. In a word: unlikeable. One of the topics: Bergmann merely wanted information, perhaps even a quick discussion, about Emmert’s salary.

“We don’t discuss our salaries,” Emmert said, despite the fact the NCAA is a public, non-profit institution. Why hide the number? What good does this do you to be mysterious?

Bergmann also asked legitimate questions about the NCAA’s moneys and why it chooses to not pay its players, despite the 14-years 10.8-billion dollar contract it has with CBS and Turner. That contract, according to Emmert, pays for about 90 percent of NCAA-sanctioned tournament events at all levels.

This pay-the-players debate isn’t fresh, but it’s not stale, either. And with the Final Four coming up, Emmert due to make his state-of-the-union address in Houston this weekend, it’s certainly a relevant question to ask him, as the NCAA’s never made this much money off its dynamic, D-I men’s basketball tournament.

“I can’t say it often enough, obviously, that student-athletes are students. They are not employees,” Emmert said.

Even if that attitude is not Emmert’s nature, and I suspect it’s not, the video is the damning evidence of a leader who doesn’t care to identify with the people or make any actions to give transparency to how his business works. That’s bad, and he probably knows it. In fact, Tuesday morning brought an article from USA Today wherein Emmert said he wasn’t completely opposed to the idea of compensate student-athletes in some way.

The “Frontline” piece was recorded well before the USA Today article ran. Emmert and his team clearly knew what was coming and have shifted course a bit, which is enlightening.

“I feel like there’s a lot of exploitation going on,” Joakim Noah said on PBS. Noah as an interview subject wasn’t the most appropriate choice, as he’s the rarer breed of college athlete with wealthy parents who could afford to send their son or daughter to college without a scholarship. Noah’s social and professional status gave his interview a dichotomy; he was more outspoken than most, but lacked the true perspective most other student-athletes, current or former, could’ve added. Bergmann did not that most student-athletes were too scared to speak out against the NCAA.

“The university did a lot for me … but at the same time I have teammates who came from all around the country and couldn’t pay for their family members to go watch this game,” Noah said. “I mean, we’re playing in the Final Four. The school can’t pay for it? Why not?”

There's more. Emmert dodged questions — thanks to the always-reliable, “ongoing legal matter” mattress to fall back on — about the current lawsuit Ed O’Bannon is spearheading against the NCAA. O’Bannon helped lead UCLA to a national title in 1995 and doesn’t believe the NCAA has a right to profit off his likeness in video games or UCLA-related entertainment after his graduation. (And it’s not.)

Emmert hasn’t done irreparable damage to his reputation, but he did let us in on who he is as a leader last night. Miles Brand was Emmert’s predecessor. The man who stood up to Bob Knight and fired the Hall of Fame coach from Indiana at the beginning of the last decade went on to be an NCAA president nearly everyone had respect for. He emphasized the importance of athletics. Brand died from cancer last year, and his presence still hovers over the NCAA.

Emmert now has to form his own identity and legacy atop the NCAA. It's not an easy job, but it doesn't have to be a thankless one, either. The NCAA is one of the tallest lightning rods in sports journalism. If the NCAA wants to improve its image, it starts with Emmert — immediately.

Photo: AP

More NCAA tournament coverage
Category: NCAAB
Tags: Mark Emmert, NCAA
Posted on: February 22, 2011 3:09 pm
Edited on: February 22, 2011 3:43 pm

NCAA gives UConn three year probation

Is Jim Calhoun reacting to his NCAA wrist slap?

Posted by Eric Angevine

For starters, let's get the information straight from @ZacBoyer at the Hartford Courant:

NCAA announces findings, placing #UConn on three years of probation – today through Feb. 21, 2014

Former #UConn assistant Beau Archibald given two-year show-cause penalty by NCAA. Teams must prove reason why they want to hire him

NCAA suspending #UConn coach Jim Calhoun for first 3 games of next Big East season for failure to monitor, promote atmosphere for compliance

Josh Nochimson, former #UConn manager, agent, permanently disassociated with university. No contact with any member of athletics department

#UConn will have 12 scholarships, one less than maximum of 13, for this season, next and in 2012-13, per NCAA sanctions

#UConn assistants will be allowed fewer recruiting phone calls this year, time on the road and only 5 official visits next three years

NCAA finds that #UConn spent “more than $6,000 in improper recruiting inducements” and made over 2,000 calls to Nochimson

Nochimson ruled to have provided Nate Miles with payment for foot surgery, SAT registration and camps and clinics #UConn

#UConn also cited for distributing 32 tickets to “individuals responsible … directing activities with prospective” players, i.e. HS coaches

In total, coaches made “150 impermissible phone calls and sent 190 impermissible text messages to prospective” players, most to Nate Miles

Eric Angevine: Immediate reaction? Calhoun gets the wrist slap, and his underlings take the hard fall. Losing one scholarship doesn't sound particularly harsh, either.

Jeff Borzello: He's missed several games over the past few years due to health or exhaustion...don't think it will be a problem at all. The team has been in good hands with George Blaney.

Gary Parrish asked the first question during the conference call and asked how the NCAA reacts to the reaction that this isn't a harsh punishment, especially given the lack of a postseason penalty. He got some happy talk about the punishment being fair.

Seth Davis asked why the game penalties are delayed until next season for Calhoun, and the NCAA rep said that it allows time for the appeal process. Also why the disparity between the punishment of head coach vs. assistant coach. Answer: head coach is responsible for what happens in his program, and if someone has a show-cause that's a serious violation in terms of being forthcoming. We do not feel there is a disparity there considering what the asst did vs. the head coach.

Viewers chatting on the site have expressed opinions varying from "Whew! now we can go get some more recruits!" to "Jim Calhoun should be fired" to "Hathaway is a waste of an AD".

Committee on Infractions chair Dennis Thomas continually referred to the fact that head coaches bear responsibility for what their assistants do, which seems to be at odds with his punishment relative to that of the people he supervised. Dana O'Neil pressed the point, and Thomas responded that a head coach can't keep track of everything and that the punishment was appropriate.

Another reporter (missed her name) asked how much consideration was given to a postseason ban. Thomas replied that it was an arrow in the quiver, and that they didn't use it. Which seems obvious.

"The committee isn't swayed by high-profile coaches. We decide on the evidence that's presented." - Thomas

Ken Davis of NBC asked how the committee settled on the number of games Calhoun was suspended. Thomas refused to comment on the process and repeated the phrase "we decided on the penalties we imposed."

Over 50 percent of respondents to Courant poll question about appropriateness of the fine responded "Too Much". over 35 percent said "Just Right".

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: January 18, 2011 10:11 am
Edited on: March 7, 2011 10:30 am

WAC has been slowly dying for 15 years

Posted by Eric Angevine

I can see how this happened. Bailouts are au courant these days. Nobody wants to see cherished institutions fold, or good people losing jobs. It's a tumultuous time. Nonetheless, I admit to a little confusion in the case of the WAC. As our colleague Jerry Palm informed us recently, the Western Athletic Conference has been the beneficiary of a sort of NCAA restraining order  that promises the league an NCAA tourney auto-bid as long as it can maintain seven hoops-playing members. This, for a league that essentially killed itself 15 years ago (I'll explain. Hold tight).

First, consider: are we doing the WAC any favors by keeping it on life support at this point? Looking at's Conference Ratings, the WAC is now the 14th most powerful league in the country , well behind likely one-bid conferences like the Missouri Valley, CAA, and Horizon League. Once Hawaii's hoops program joins the Big West, that conference -- currently ranked 15th -- will probably leapfrog the WAC as well. The schools that will join the WAC in order to give it the bare minimum of membership under the new rule aren't going to inspire fireworks displays, either. Here's the breakdown:

Texas State Bobcats: Looking back over 18 years in the Southland conference, one can see that the Bobcats had just one 20-win season. They won the league's auto-bid in 1997 with a 16-12 overall record and fell to Clem Haskins' Minnesota Golden Gophers as a 16-seed. In 1994, head coach Jim Woolridge managed a 25-win campaign that earned him the honor of a 15-seed, and an 18-point drubbing by John Calipari's UMass squad.

Texas San-Antonio Roadrunners: UTSA has had more recent success in the Southland, going 19-13 and garnering a 16-seed in 2004, only to score 45 points in a first-round pounding administered by Mike Montgomery's Stanford Cardinal. In 1999, Jim Calhoun and UConn did the honors. Way back in 1988 (hello, parachute pants!) the Roadrunners threw a scare into Lou Henson and the Illini, losing 81-72 in the first round.

Denver Pioneers: Denver has won Ice Hockey's Frozen Four multiple times, but has never been to the NCAA tournament in basketball. Even so, DU is the most promising addition to the new WAC. Under Joe Scott, who propelled Air Force into the Big Dance in 2004, the Pioneers are 5-0 in the typically competitive Sun Belt, having taken down a talented Western Kentucky team and Isaiah Thomas' FIU Golden Panthers along the way. If Scott can hold serve and win the school's first NCAA bid, he'll enter his new conference on a roll.

Now, I already feel bad about writing this. I don't want to disparage any of these basketball warriors from any of these fine institutes of higher learning. They're putting forth the effort day in and day out, and for their sake, I hope this is a good move. In terms of garnering multiple bids or higher seeds in the postseason, however, these moves are lateral at best right now. The last time the WAC got four bids to the dance, they went to UNLV, TCU, New Mexico and Rick Majerus' amazing Utah team that made the final game. Since those schools broke away, Nevada has garnered most of the league's noteworthy achievements, and they're headed to the MWC as well. Of the schools that are staying (for now) Stew Morrill's (above) Utah State program and New Mexico State are the cream of the crop, with both earning 12-seeds last season. Want to bet they're eager to fly the coop as well? The NCAA legislation to save the league's auto-bid may have been aimed at keeping at least those two competitive programs in the fold.

In football terms, where the real money lies, this is a huge step backward; adding two FCS programs and a non-football member is mere survival. The league's footprint shifts slightly eastward, and travel to Hawaii is eliminated, which will ease some financial strain, so that's a positive. Nonetheless, the WAC started to die the day the league expanded to 16 teams in 1996. That supersize move provided much of the impetus for the stronger schools to break off and form the MWC, starting the slow, painful dissolution of the WAC that is still being fought to this very day.

Ironic, isn't it? The WAC is being victimized by the very expansion gluttony it helped put in motion nearly 15 years ago.

Photo: AP

Posted on: January 7, 2011 8:24 pm

NCAA: The No Consistency Athletic Association

Posted by MATT JONES

The NCAA on Friday reaffirmed its previous ruling that Enes Kanter will never step foot on a basketball court for Kentucky.  The decision was not particularly surprising, as the organization had three times previously ruled against Kanter and seemed for some time to be dead set on drawing an Enes line in the sand, with virtually all other NCAA athletes on one side and Kanter standing on the other.  A myriad of conspiracy theories can be trumped up for the decision, ranging from the NCAA's general dislike of Calipari to its President standing up for his former employer, the University of Washington, where Kanter was committed before flipping and heading to Kentucky. But the simple fact is that a conspiracy theory is not needed for the NCAA to act irrationally.  In fact at this point, a lack of coherent reasoning and consistency seems ingrained in the core fabric of the organization.

The facts of the Enes Kanter situation have always been conceded.  Kanter played in Turkey for two seasons and was paid a sum of money between the ages of 16-17 to be part of the professional club, Fenerbache.  For many national sportswriters and college coaches, for whom nuance and shades of grey are as rare as a dodo bird, that has settled the issue.  However, the NCAA has created a system in recent years to attempt to allow these so-called "professionals" the ability to play college basketball in America.  Up until this point, the NCAA has recognized that the European youth system is different than that of America, with the notion of popular amateur athletics on the University level virtually non-existent.  The best talent of Europe signs early with a professional club and is trained in the equivalent of a basketball academy, with money paid for their training and expenses.  The NCAA has allowed these players to come to the United States and even last year, repealed the antiquated rule that forced them to sit out an equal number of college games to the ones they played for the professional team.

In Kanter's case however, the NCAA deemed $33,000 of payment given to Enes's father to be above what was a "necessary and actual expense."  To the NCAA, that money represented a salary, given because Kanter was a professional.  But of course, that conclusion doesn't pass the smell test.  Does anyone honestly believe that a player would be deemed a professional, while playing for one of the richest clubs in Europe, in one of the most expensive cities in the world (Istanbul) and would only accept $16,500 a year in the process? If Kanter and his club truly considered him to be a professional, why would he have been paid such a small amount?  Kanter's father has insisted that over $20,000 of that money was used for educational expenses, which if true, means that a little over $10,000 over the course of two years made Kanter a professional in the eyes of him and his club.  

While that decision might seem a bit irrational, viewed in the abstract, it could at least be defended.  But of course, the NCAA does not operate in a vacuum, and over the course of the last three months has issued three high-profile decisions allowing three high-profile players to compete despite amateurism violations.  Each could be defended with some tenuous logic when released, but when viewed together with the Kanter decision, no consistent theme can be found.

Take Kansas Freshman Josh Selby. He was suspended for nine games and required to pay over $5700 to a charity of his choice due to his acceptance of that amount of improper benefits while in high school.  Under NCAA rules, Selby was no longer an amateur.  But the NCAA looked at the case and somehow determined that this violation could be redeemed if the money was simply paid back.  How is the excess $5700 in expenses different than Kanter's $33,000?  Is it just that the total is too large?  Maybe so, but there is nothing in the NCAA rule book that says the amount makes a difference.  Is the difference that the money was paid by a European club rather than a hustling street agent?  Maybe so, but there is nothing in the NCAA rulebook that says where the illegal money comes from should make a difference.  The difference is manufactured, but never explained by the NCAA.

Take Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton.  His father admittedly asked for $180,000 in improper benefits from Mississippi State, but the NCAA allowed Newton to play because it deemed that it could not be proven that his son knew about the money.  Ok fair enough.  In a vacuum that makes sense.  But Kanter also claims to not have known about the money taken by his father in excess of the "actual and necessary" expenses.  The NCAA claims that the fact money was taken is different than if money was simply asked for by the parent. However that difference is not based on any rule in the NCAA Rule book and the logic behind both cases (the son should not be punished for the sins of the father) applies to both equally.  So why is Newton, who one has to strain the laws of credibility to believe didn't know his father was on the take, playing and Kanter, who likely didn't do the expense budget and probably didn't know the amount his father took, ineligible?  Its hard to comprehend.

Or take the Ohio State five.  All five broke NCAA rules when they sold or exchanged NCAA memorabilia that was given to them for various team accomplishments.  All broke the rules and violated the amateurism standard.  But, the NCAA allowed them to miss only five games and even went further by delaying the punishment because the group was supposedly unaware of the rule they were breaking.  I am certain that 16 year-old Enes Kanter in Turkey had no clue what the NCAA rules were when he took the money from Fenerbache, so why doesn't the "I didnt know" apply to him?  Is it because he has no BCS Sugar Bowl upcoming?

The simplistic way to look at the Kanter situation is also the easiest.  He played for a professional team, so he was a "pro", end of story. But, when one looks beyond the surface level, those simplistic distinctions breakdown and are shown to be based on nothing in the NCAA rule book or from any logical consistency.  Josh Selby, Cam Newton, the Ohio State Five and Enes Kanter all broke NCAA rules.  All of them should have been ruled ineligible based upon a strict reading of the NCAA rules.  But in three of the cases, the NCAA decided that the rules needed bending and rendered punishments that allowed for "flexibility."  In the Kanter case, the rules were read strictly.  What explains the difference?  Well nothing in the NCAA rule book or any logical framework does, so all we are left with is one conclusion.  The only thing certain about the NCAA's decision making process is that it will be consistently inconsistent

Posted on: January 6, 2011 1:11 pm
Edited on: January 6, 2011 1:34 pm

Enes Kanter Situation Close to a Conclusion

Posted by Matt Jones

With Kentucky close to entering SEC play on Saturday versus Georgia, the status of the elephant in the UK locker room is also about to be determined.  A source has confirmed that today is the day when Enes Kanter's final appeal will be heard by the NCAA.  The Turkish big man's saga has been a confusing one.  After initially being ruled permanently ineligible by the NCAA due to benefits he accepted while a member of a Turkish basketball club, Kanter's appeal was then delayed after the Cam Newton decision.  Kentucky went back to the NCAA, citing supposed "new information" and since the NCAA agreed to rehear the case, Kanter and UK have been in limbo.

Now, according to sources, Kanter will face the NCAA appeals board this afternoon, with a decision expected within the next 72 hours.  Because the Kanter situation has been deemed an "appeal", it is assumed that Kanter lost his rehearing with the NCAA, although no official ruling has been released.  The appeal this afternoon will likely represent the final stage of Kanter's eligibility determination by the NCAA, and one way or the other, Kentucky and Kanter should get closure on the process.  Many NBA scouts project Kanter to be a potential Top 5 pick in this year's NBA Draft, although his father has stated that if allowed to play next season, he will return to the University of Kentucky.

For the state of Kentucky, the "Free Enes" campaign has gone non-stop for over three months.  By next Monday, we will know if it worked.

Photo: AP
Category: NCAAB
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