Sunday, May 31, 2009

Gone Gangster, How coaches master the art of cheating.

John Calipari, Eddie Sutton, Todd Bozeman, Jim Harrick, Jerry Tarkanian, Kelvin Sampson and most recently Jim Calhoun have all had their brushes with "recruiting violations". Some of them have been considered secondary violations but for the most part, even the most respected coaches in the game may look the other way when a prized recruit is still up for grabs.

Have you ever had Jim Harrick's class the fundementals of basketball? I here it's an easy A. What about Jerry Tarkanian showing "loyalty" to Lloyd Daniels because he was so concerned about this kid getting a chance at a college education. How about having Kelvin Sampson posing as a stalker in coaches clothing? Do you really believe that Calipari knew nothing about Marcus Camby's dealings with an agent at Umass? The pressure to win isn't the real culprit to why college basketball coaches cheat right? WRONG.

The latest saga of "As the recruiting world turns" reveals yet another episode of cheating. Derrick Rose's SAT score is in question. Apparently evidence has mysteriously appeared that has revealed that another player on the Simeon High School roster took the test for Rose. To add insult to injury it is also believed that Rose's grades were altered to help him gain eligibility into college. According to scribe Pat Forde of, three other Simeon athletes got the same help.

Kentucky claimed that an extensive background check was done on Calipari before they considered the hire. I guess they never checked into his dealings at Umass. Maybe they never made the connection between him leaving for the NBA just before the violations were reported by the NCAA. If this was a movie, his ten year stay at Memphis would be a sequel to his days at Umass.

The physical evidence in the lastest installment of this trilogy connects Calipari to the scene of his recruiting crimes. Ironically, he somehow manages to fool yet another unsuspecting A.D. and escapes into the night. If Kentucky fans don't view their program as the third movie in the trilogy then what does that say about them? They hired Eddie Sutton after his sketchy run at Arkansas. Have they forgotten what happened after the 1988-89 season?

It would be naive for any sports fan or journalist to believe that major college coaches have no knowledge of grades or test scores being altered. In conspiracy and gangster movies, the main characters always have a "patsy" or alibi that allows them to be vindicated because the evidence doesn't directly tie to them. Calipari has been a master of finding creative ways to cheat. How could the Memphis program allow Reggie Rose (Derrick's older brother) to fly with the team to away games and stay with the team at the hotel if some prearranged deal wasn't made during the "recruiting process"?

R.C. Johnson, Memphis's athletic director overlooked the baggage Calipari brought because he wanted to create a national power out of a team that historically recruited all its players from the talent rich Memphis area. He knew he was making a deal with the devil when he hired Calipari. Mitch Barnhardt knows that to. He couldn't afford another hiring debacle like Billy Gillespie. This points to the pressure that college coaches are under to deliver a winning product and not graduation rates.

It's not rocket science here. Calipari has the same pattern in all of his collegiate coaching stops. His hiring at Memphis was perfect timing considering that the dust had settled from the Umass debacle after his stint in the NBA. It didn't take him long to lure his first major recruit in Dejuan Wagner but how did he do it? How about hiring Wagner's father as an assistant coach? How about giving up a scholarship to the younger Wagner's best friend Arthur Barclay?

Kentucky fans should also consider that these violations were on the horizon in mid January but the NCAA and Memphis kept it under wraps because the team was still one of the major draws for the upcoming NCAA tournament. This gave Calipari enough time to plan his escape. He was still fresh off of his final four run from the previous season. Of course he knew that if he had a decent run in this years tourney that another program would offer him a job. Enter Kentucky stage right. Remember that Gillespie's "contract" was more like a year to year lease than a standard contract.

There were constant rumblings about Gillespie's future as early as late December and early January. Search firms contact coaches throughout the year to gain "interest" in coaches taking over other programs throughout the year. It seems shocking when our favorite coaches leave for greener pastures but the reality is that these things are in the works behind the scenes long before they are reported. Let's address some factors that make it easy for coaches to cheat.

1.Close the loop holes that entices coaches to cheat in their pursuit to land prized recruits.

How did Calipari land Derrick Rose? The jury is still out on all of the facts. Plane rides with the team and over 2200 dollars worth of benefits to a family members certainly help matters. I guess if we work in reverse, we can also ask if these types of promises were prearranged during the recruiting process. Major college coaches are having to make special promises and shady backroom deals with AAU coaches, high school coaches, shoe companies, parents and numerous handlers just to land top tier talent. Does the term "friends" of the program ring a bell?

The cult classic Blue chips starring Shaquille O'neal and Penny Hardaway has a scene in it where Nick Nolte's character, Pete Bell is recruiting him. Neon Badoe (O'neal's character) ask Coach Bell that if couldn't play basketball would he be concerned about him going to college. Bell is honest and flatly says "No". That scene is a microcosm of the state of college basketball. Strangely enough Coach bell "arranged" to have Neon "tutored" to pass his SAT. Sound Familiar?

2. High School Seniors and College underclassmen should consider all of their pro basketball options.

Nick Calathes, Florida's do everything point guard is skipping the last two years of college to play professionally in Greece. Dick Vitale has been a great ambassador for the game but he has also poisoned the perception of playing professionally overseas. According to the average salary for European pro leagues are 1 million euros. That's better than getting the peanuts under the table in college while hoping to get drafted in the NBA before your sophomore season.

Brandon Jennings has started a trend. Josh Childress spurned NBA teams for more money overseas. Hall of Famer Dominique Wilkins finished his career playing internationally. His team also won the championship. Tons of NBA washouts have become stars internationally. Ever heard of Trajan Langdon? Charlie Bell was undrafted superstar internationally and eventually played his way into the NBA. These examples tells us how selfish we are as college basketball fans. It certainly exposes the sinister plan of the NCAA and its exploitative business plan to the tune of billions. Their little empire is worth billions. College sports in general is in need of real reform. Maybe this time the revolution will be televised.

3. Coaches should pay the price like the University at their prior jobs and the kids should be allowed a one time golden parachute.

Kelvin Sampson's violations has wrecked the Indiana program. New coach Tom Crean left a great situation at Marquette to "clean up" the Indiana program. His Crean any cleaner than his predecessor? On paper maybe but do we really know that considering the cesspool that college sports has morphed into. Calipari covered his tracks enough to get nearly 4 million dollars a year to coach at Kentucky but why should he get to coach at Kentucky without any penalties to him and UK just like it happened at Indiana?

If the NCAA were really interested in reforming its product it would change certain rules. One in particular that needs to be changed is that kids should have the choice to terminate their scholarships should their coach leave for another job. Schools that hire coaches with recent violations should face some form of punishment as well. That then reduces the likelihood of repeat violations at another program. It also creates an environment of fairness and makes college coaches honor their promises they make to the kids.

Considering today's climate of win at all costs that is to much like right. College administrators and their rabid fan bases aren't concerned about the education of their players. They are more concerned of giving the illusion of institutional control while the men behind curtain continues to make shady deals with coaches, boosters, and recruits. One hands washes the other. Brother Baines (the character from Malcom X) was right, college basketball and religion are hustles.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Hold The Mayo. The Truth about college basketball recruiting.

O.J. Mayo like many 21st century basketball prodigies are exploited for their athletic talents. That's a strong statement considering the reputation that college basketball routinely sells to its fan base. Who can forget the hype surrounding Lebron James getting a hummer before graduation. This move was the unofficial announcement that he was going pro. His nationally televised game was a sneak preview to the fact that college hoop fans would never witness (pun intended) NBA talent for college basketball prices.

Carmello Anthony took the conventional path by deciding to enter college. In the minds of most college basketball fans, Anthony made the "right decision" because it resulted in a National Championship. Translation, college hoops fans got what they wanted earlier especially the rabid fan base of Syracuse. This is the mentality of an extortionist. If you ask most college basketball fans, they also buy into the argument of college basketball's ruling class. You know the one about how pro ready college basketball players should spend at least 2 or 3 years in college for more "development".

Most con artist are great at what they do. They're skilled at making people believe that a bad decision for the party that stands to lose the most, is really "good" choice for the person that their ripping off. That sentiment sums up that state of college basketball recruiting.

Many of these young people are being "groomed" to be the next big thing on and off the court. Most of these kids attend athletic factories posing as private and "christian" schools. Many of these kids are shuffled around the country in hopes of more "exposure". Club basketball has become more important than playing for your local high school team. Some of these athletic factories do very little to prepare these kids for the academic rigors of college.

Opportunistic "guardians" often allow less fortunate kids to live with them hoping to cash in after the kid turns pro. Mayo used is basketball gifts as a means to an end considering most people in this country aren't really concerned about the education of poor children. Rodney Guillory knew that and so did the sports agency Bill Duffy and Associates. The power brokers of college basketball have become accustomed to just looking away and prosecuting when the game of dirty pool needs an eight ball to shoot in the side pocket. Mayo's story isn't the first and sadly it will not be the last.

Amare Stoudimare had similar challenges as a young phenom. He moved around out of necessity and quite frankly out of pure survival considering that his mother was an unstable parent. How else could he survive? If some college recruiter or runner paid for his meals when other would not then what's the big deal? I'm not an advocate of breaking rules but how can I ignore the human element to the plight of a kid with very limited options.

Often times, this is the environment that merges with the elements of hopelessness, lack of parental care and an overly critical society, creating the crossroads for some of these kids to join gangs or to select from the fast food menu of crime as a means of survival. In rare cases some kids with all world athletic talent are protected from these options. (Carmello Anthony) So when Sonny Vaccaro presents a kid with an opportunity to turn pro in the international game then how could anyone in good conscience berate a kid for making a life decision.

For those who advocate that these guys are missing out on the safety net of a college education, may I suggest you take a look at your favorite teams graduation rates. Some of the teams that do have decent rates aren't graduating players with degrees that would hardly be competitive in the real world. In other words, most of these guys aren't recruited to college because these institutions are interested in kids earning degrees. For every Myron Rolle there is 30 Somari Rolles.

Tim Floyd and USC are embarrassed yet again. Is Tim Floyd a weasel? Sure only under the guise of an organization like the NCAA that is posing as the moral authority concerned about the education of division one basketball players. He is apart of a culture that pays him to win at any cost. As the old saying goes, If you ain't cheating you ain't trying. (I wonder if deep throat will make a comback for the sake of reforming college sports)

Floyd isn't the first weasel in college basketball. Ever heard of Ed Martin? What about Eddie Sutton's near destruction of the storied Kentucky program. The term program should be the key indicator of what this is really about. Most of us are wired to believe the residual public image the"matrix"(NCAA media machine) feeds us. In this movie programs don't hack programs. People actually do the magic trick and that's even after we've seen the man behind the curtain.

Thousands of former college athletes can probably tell us stories that would expose our favorite programs for what they really are. The question is could we handle it. Do we really want to know the truth? Is Colonel Nathan Jessup (character from the movie A few good men) correct about us not being able to handle the truth? You Darn right he is!!! And he'll order the code red on College basketball recruiting if we would let him.

The 2009 draft class will feature international prospect Rickey Rubio, an eighteen year old kid that is being allowed to apply for the NBA draft because he will be 19 during the calender year. His stats in the euro league are pedestrian at best. His latest scoring average is just 10 points a game. Rubio is a point guard in Europe and this season has improved slightly in the scoring and assist column.

Brandon Jennings was thought to be a international bust by some analyst. Rubio however is being advertised as possible lottery material. Jennings is Averaging 7.6 points per game to go along with 1.6 assist per game. Rubio appears to be a better passer at the pro level but he has been playing with professional basketball a lot longer than Jennings. This

It's hard to imagine Rubio being an all star at the NBA level. I don't believe that Jennings will be one either however a fair question should be raised here. How can an unproven American basketball player be undervalued while an international product that is not much better be NBA ready?

No wonder the NCAA wants a two year requirement to be enforced by the NBA. This is the perfect time to get this done. Jennings looks like a failure while Mayo, Tim Floyd and USC look like lone gunmen yet again. Gotta strike now while they can still alter the Zapruder film. Looks like a classic Oliver Stone flick right? Think again.... We could conger up images of Kelvin Sampson stalking kids as a serial dialer or John Calipari's involvement shady recruiting tactics at Umass. (Some may argue that he's up to his old tricks at Kentucky)

College sports has become a DE facto pro league right under our noses. What drugs are we taking that produces plausible exaggeration? Do we really believe that most of these kids are really "student athletes". The hippies of the 1960's would actually cringe if they learned of our new drug called delusion. This is worst than LSD. How can we look at Kentucky's scholarship dilemma and deny that it doesn't resemble a shady pro contract. (in terms of unloading unwanted players before the salary cap deadline) College Basketball lost its soul and competitive goodwill a long time ago. If you're one that supports the company line after delving into your favorite programs track record then I can say is may the best cheater win....

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Is Whitlock Right about his assessment of Selena Roberts

Jason Whitlock is considered to be one of the most thought provoking sports columnist in the country. His recent article questioned the journalistic integrity of Selena Roberts which is fair game but to link the steroid controversy to the Duke Lacrosse scandal was off base.

Whitlock thinks that Roberts should've offered a retraction to her columns concerning the Duke players Reade Sealigmann, Colin Finnerty, and David Evans. In case you've been under a rock this rape case was a media fire storm caused by an "accuser"(Crystal Mangrum) and the unscrupulous prosecutor Mike Nifong.

His attack of Dan Patrick in his column suggested that he blew an opportunity to question her journalistic integrity because she never "apologized" for her article in the New York Times. In his appearance on the nationally syndicated Dan Patrick show, Whitlock did every thing he could to discredit Patrick's reasoning for not bringing the case up.

In some circles Whitlock is right but by my estimation he is wrong. Here's why.

1. Why should he compare a rape case to the Steroid controversy in Baseball?

It makes no sense to do that. Robert's column on March 13, 2006 never said that the boys were guilty. She did raise valid concerns about privilege, class and the elephant in the room- race. Race is what made us this intrigued about the Duke Lacrosse team in the first place. Most Americans are more likely to confuse the rules of the game with the latest dance craze.

Roberts sources that were granted anonymity may have given her credible accounts about pitch tipping, his alleged steroid use in high school and other A-rod-isms we may not care about. Does it mean that she a sleaze ball? Not necessarily but one could argue that the industry of sports journalism has turned into a 24 hour version of the Enquirer. Americans love it so if she can make a quick buck writing "a tell all" so be it.

2. Portraying Finnerty, Sealigmann, and Evans as "victims" is pretty comical.

These guys were living in the bliss of athletic and social privilege. They had off campus housing and could afford to hire strippers (black ones at that) to show up at their wild party. No one should have to go to jail for a crime that they didn't commit and thankfully these guys did not. However there are poor working class people who aren't so lucky. Many of them do not have the best attorneys at their disposal and the piles of cash it takes to hire them.

I never saw Whitlock or any other columnist come out in "defense" of Kobe Bryant when he lost his endorsements after being accused of rape. Before he went to trial some Americans believed he was guilty. Most columnist Even after that Oscar worthy performance he gave with his wife at his press conference shortly after the story broke. Did he write about Marcus Dixon? The young man accused of raping his white girlfriend after the father found out about their relationship? NO

3. Is the Pot calling the Kettle black?

Whitlock has an affinity for using Al Sharpton as pawn which appeal to political conservatives that are sports fans. When he says that Bonds and A-rod are being singled out because of race that segment of his fan base doesn't find him that "thought provoking". When he wrote about the disparity of black coaches in the NCAA while working at ESPN he got hate mail. When he categorized black violent criminals as the black KKK he was back in the good graces of the establishment. The thought provoking light came back on just like it does when crispy creme has fresh doughnuts.

When he defended Don Imus he was all over the airwaves. After that initial ride of fame he needed someone else to bully . Selena Roberts is a great target which the perfect fodder to "bojangle" in front of his mostly conservative readers. His argument of Roberts being like Sharpton is about as "thought provoking" as attending a funeral. His attack on her is just like what he says Al Sharpton does. Looks like the pot and kettle are two peas in a pod...