Tag Archives: NCAA

Virginia and North Carolina Both Got What They Deserved

After a hard fought game, Virginia left Chapel Hill with what it deserved – a victory over the struggling, but athletic North Carolina Tar Heels. Virginia snapped a 7-game losing streak to a Carolina team that also got what it deserved on Saturday.

After the NCAA issued the University of North Carolina a “get out of jail free” pass for academic fraud that kept its athletes eligible for almost 20 years while robbing them of any chance for a real education, UNC got what it deserved Saturday as well – a loss and a pot to stew in until the teams meet again next year.

UNC coach Larry Fedora was fuming as the clock ticked down to zeros and Virginia lined up in its victory formation. Fedora and the Carolina nation were outraged at a no-call on what they felt was a face mask penalty on a 4th down, game ending sack by Chris Peace. Carolina fans aren’t used to calls not going their way. Ignore the fact that Carolina just as easily could have been called for a block below the waste on the same play or the missed holding call on Eli Hanback the play before. UNC is supposed to get the breaks and get the calls, whether their athletes go to class or not.

When the NCAA acknowledged that Carolina ran an academic charade for 17 years that helped keep its athletes eligible to compete in its revenue sports, but then stated that the academic curriculum of its members is outside the jurisdiction of the NCAA infractions team…you might say Carolina is used to having its way. Maybe Carolina fans should go back and listen to the interviews and read the chronologies laid out by their internal whistle-blowers describing barely literate athletes getting “As” in classes that never met and turning in papers they never wrote before they get too indignant about a no-call that didn’t go their way.

The University of North Carolina, after spending $ 17 million dollars defending its systemic academic fraud, essentially threw the entire university under the proverbial bus by stating that their sham classes were part of the regular curriculum and were available to all students. Wow, the entire university population can take no-show classes? That must be very comforting to the parents of students and to major benefactors of the university.

While UNC was busy throwing its academic integrity out the window to defend its athletic department, Virginia was busy taking care of business on the field, resurrecting its dormant football program. Jordon Ellis in particular, personifies the 2017 Virginia Cavaliers. On Saturday in Chapel Hill, Ellis had his most productive day as a Cavalier. His legendary work ethic was on full display as he consistently ran for yards after contact, always fell forward, and gained needed yards on 3rd and 4th down.

Jordon Ellis embodies what we love about college athletics. He is a humble, hard-working young man who waited his turn and is reaping the rewards along with his teammates. The best news for Ellis and for Virginia fans is that Ellis is a red-shirt junior and Virginia fans can look forward to him grinding out 137 yards against UNC again next year in Scott Stadium.

Virginia played a far from perfect game against the Tar Heels on Saturday, but they made plays when the game was in the balance. That is what good teams do. I was disappointed that the ‘Hoos did not convert UNC turnovers into more points. The Virginia defense broke down twice against talented freshman Michael Carter allowing two long gains that resulted in or set up two Carolina touchdowns. Virginia will need more nearly perfect performances to generate more wins in the second half of the season. Big tests await the Cavaliers, starting Saturday with a home game against a rapidly improving Boston College program that Virginia has never beaten.

If karma is indeed about retributive justice, then maybe UNC just made their first, very small installment to bring the scales back to balance and Virginia a might be reaping the rewards for the hard work of the past two years.

For the first time ever, I think I might pull for the Blue Devils when UNC and Duke play in basketball this season.

Note for this coming Saturday – I realize that no one loves a 12:30 kickoff, but this team is 5-1. Boston College’s series record against UVa is 5-0 and they are coming off a huge win against Louisville. This Virginia has earned a crowd of 45K or more to help them clinch a bowl bid for the first time since 2011. Not loving the kickoff time, but loving this 2017 Wahoo team – Bloodies and Screw Drivers at 10:00 on a beautiful fall morning in C’ville ain’t all bad.

At Least the NCAA Rule Book isn’t the Size of the Federal Tax Code

SEC coaches, by and large, don’t care for the proposed early signing period. It’s human nature to dislike change. To shy away from disrupting the status quo. SEC coaches are no different than the rest of population but everyone, including these coaches, need to get over it. The coaching community needs to get over it, because until the NCAA rules committee collapses under its own weight, the rules and regulations are going to continue piling up.

Nick Saban doesn’t believe the early signing period provision has been well thought-out. Hugh Freeze’s sentiment was dripping with hyperbole when he described the idea of an early signing period as “reckless.” Butch Jones is apprehensive about a December signing period due to concerns that it would “…turn this into free agency.”

Settle down, guys. Step away from the ledge and settle down.

High caliber recruiters such as Saban, Freeze, and Jones have nothing to worry about if this rule is implemented. They’ll continue to bask in the glow of 5-star studded recruiting classes. Programs like Alabama’s may lose out on a few coveted recruits, but it will never be to the extent that it shifts the power structure of college football. Much to the dismay of the NCAA, an age of parity will not be ushered in.

Dan Wolken was correct in saying that the lives of the coaches “…might be slightly inconvenienced by these new rules..” And Saban made a deep, philosophical statement when saying:

“Tell me how it betters anything,” Saban said of the rule changes. “A lot of the things that happen in college football — and it’s no disrespect to anyone — is there’s a lot of paranoia that if someone else has an advantage on someone else, if we can sort of create some rules that negate that advantage…some of that goes on.

As is the case with numerous industries, college football is over regulated. Saban is absolutely correct in his comment about paranoia. The NCAA operates with the belief that it can regulate parity within football and basketball. This all speaks to a greater issue. There are too many NCAA rules to for programs to follow.

There were 384 pages to the 2016-17 NCAA Division I Manual. Why? The schools need to employ entire compliance departments to attempt to keep track of it all. And the NCAA has committees, sub-committees, and sub-committees to its sub-committees set-up to monitor its member institutions. Even with this layered effort to keep track of it all, nobody is able to do so. The NCAA’s committees can’t even keep track of it all and it’s THEIR 384 page manual.

What should be happening is a contraction of the NCAA rules and regulations. It’s an unfortunate state of affairs when we can say that there are so many rules that what’s one more slight inconvenience? Like I said, I take no exception to Wolken making that statement.

It’s time to let recruits sign when they want to sign. It’s time to let coaches and players alike leave one school for another without having to sit out a year. It’s time for the NCAA to stop regulating what kind of snack and snack spread a school is permitted to give a player.

It’s just time for the NCAA to get out of its own way and let the players play and let the coaches coach. I guess it could be worse. The rule book could rival our country’s 74,608 page federal tax code.

E-mail Seth at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom.

Photo: Pixabay

Comment on this and every article by becoming a Campus Pressbox Insider.

And while you’re at it, Subscribe to our podcasts.

With the Brock Decision, Should NCAA Further Review Previous Military Service?

Usually when a college sports team goes up against the NCAA when it comes to an eligibility issue, the sanctioning body has no problem putting its foot down. So when Oakland went to bat for its freshman forward Isaiah Brock, it was facing pretty long odds.

But in this case, however, the NCAA decided that its initial assessment was wrong. And Brock, who spent four years in the United States Army prior to joining the Golden Grizzlies, would be eligible for the 2016-17 season.

The swaying rebuttal to the NCAA’s original decision, of course, was Brock’s military service, which became well-documented between the initial denial of his eligibility and its eventual reversal.

Brock, by his own admission, was a less-than-stellar student while at Forest Park High School in his native Baltimore, and chose the military as a more secure pathway to his future. For much of his time in the Army, which included a six-month stint in Afghanistan, he served as a mortuary affairs specialist.

“When a solider dies on the battlefield, we’ll go retrieve them, and they’ll come to us,” Brock said to Detroit Free Press. “We’ll process their remains, search through their belongings, search through their body, annotate all their wounds and everything that happened. You see all the ramp ceremonies with the flag draped over their body? That’s what we do, then we send them home.”

Also, during his military service, Brock grew from six feet to his present height of 6’8, and, during a chance encounter in Kuwait, met Oakland head coach Greg Kampe, who offered him a scholarship after his time in the Army was up.

The physical development was a mere complement to the internal growth Brock experienced. Recognizing the lack of effort he put into high school, he earned high marks in college courses he took while in the Army and worked hard to get a qualifying ACT score to be admitted to Oakland.

After being accepted, Brock worked to prove that his college coursework in the military was no fluke. His initial semester saw him earn B’s in his first courses, providing further proof that he was serious about his academics.

None of this personal growth seemed to factor into the NCAA’s original decision, though. In its eyes, Brock’s lack of performance in the classroom while in high school was enough to lead them to the conclusion he need another year before he could play.

The public, of course, had no real problem reminding the NCAA that this line of thinking was kind of silly. Brock was so far removed from the underachieving student he was that overlooking how he’s grown since graduation was rather unfair.

Also, the public wasn’t shy about the fact that the NCAA put a roadblock on a player who, by and large, will be a developing role player, heading off at the pass the idea that somehow Oakland was trying to get some sort of competitive advantage.

What is striking about this entire situation is that it does seem to shine a spotlight on the hole the NCAA appears to have when it comes to student-athletes coming from the military. Like Brock, many see the armed forces as an avenue to move beyond what they accomplished in high school, good, bad or indifferent.

And while that have been many former members of the military that have made the transition with no problem, the Brock case originally appeared to not take his service to country into account. Perhaps it was because the GPAs of previous ex-military student athletes weren’t as low as Brock’s were prior to joining the Golden Grizzlies.

But the entire situation should serve as an opportunity for the NCAA to review how it looks at military service as a whole.

The military, in some ways, shares a number of similarities with community colleges, in that the armed forces provides a wide range of education beyond high school. However, none of the classroom training provided by the military can transfer to any college or university.

For example, Brock, whose specialty in the Army was mortuary science, likely included coursework equivalent to that of someone who, say, completed their Associate’s degree.

The concept of understanding education and training within the military and how it should be applied to higher education is part of a much larger conversation colleges and universities should be having. But in terms of athletic eligibility, the NCAA probably should have looked at this service the first time around, rather than initially deny Brock’s eligibility and face public scrutiny.

Sure, the NCAA’s “better safe than sorry” approach to these matters has been applied to a number of situations over the years, most recently its decision to do away with the hardship waiver in 2015.

At the same time, for an organization that includes, within its membership, all the military academies, perhaps it’s time to change the rules so that student-athletes such as Brock won’t have to jump through so much bureaucracy the next time.

Email Bob at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @bobmcdonald.

Image via Oakland University Athletics

Comment on this and every other article by becoming a Campus Pressbox Insider.

I’m Your College Football Commissioner

Recently, more and more people have been stating their case for or against implementing a college football commissioner.  The debate about the need for a commissioner is far from over and I’m not here to end it.

There are plenty who say we should not have a commissioner, that it wouldn’t solve anything.  They’re just no fun.  Some have proposed possible candidates to fill the position.  Well, if none of those distinguished gentlemen are going to step up then I will.  I’m going to work under the assumption that we do have a commish and it’s me.

Before I really get started, I want to make it clear that my position is in no way associated with the sham of an organization that is the National Collegiate Athletics Association.  I am the College Football Commissioner and I will not answer to the NCAA.  It will answer to me, as will its member colleges and universities.

That’s important to note because a lot of what I’m going to propose here will not be popular in those circles.  Frankly, I don’t give a damn.  It is past time the NCAA and its member schools make some sacrifices for the benefit of others.

I’m looking long-term here.  Those who are strictly after more money immediately can’t see that far down the road.  Here are your binoculars.

Joel Klatt’s Issues

Over the summer, Fox college football analyst Joel Klatt launched into his elevator speech highlighting the reasons why college football needs a commissioner.

Scheduling – This is an easy one.  Scheduling consistency is a necessity in the Playoff era.  Constantly comparing and contrasting the value of wins undermines the Playoff by questioning the strength of the selected teams.  Put everyone on a more level playing field and enhance the debate in the process.

Staff size – Klatt doesn’t like the way Nick Saban stashes coaches on his staff by calling them “analysts.”  It got him fired up enough to make another appeal in favor of installing a commish.  To a degree, Klatt is right about this.  It is unfair for the big boys to gobble up the best coaches just because there are virtually no restrictions on how many employees a program can have.

Player conduct – Right now, player discipline decisions are made by the head coaches themselves.  If that’s not a conflict of interest then they need to redefine what that phrase means.  Again, this is an easy fix.

Recruiting rules – This past summer, Jim Harbaugh showed us that the recruiting trail really is the Wild West.  It’s hard to regulate because so much of it occurs in the shadows.  I would appoint a Director of Recruiting to establish and enforce guidelines that prevent the big programs from abusing their power without preventing coaches from separating themselves from others.

“Fumbled” satellite camp vote – When it becomes painfully obvious that the conferences are voting not necessarily in their own best interests, but to harm the others, it’s time to switch things up.  The satellite camp debate that raged throughout the summer was an eye-opener indeed.  Let’s get some rules agreed upon and take the enforcement of them out of the hands of each self-serving conference.

Transfer rules – Sometimes, kids decide they want to go to a different school.  They shouldn’t be punished for that.

“Checkered past” transfers – Klatt mentions “checkered past” transfers, in obvious reference to what went on at that Baptist school in Waco, Texas.  Generally, these are not good human beings, but they’ve got skill so coaches are willing to take the chance.  In this situation, we need to raise the stakes for coaches and schools so they’re not endangering campuses by bringing in convicts.

Graduate transfers – These are college football’s free agents and I’m a huge fan.  If anything, we should be making it easier for guys to take full advantage of their eligibility while pursuing an even higher degree.

Officiating – Klatt is totally right about this.  Get all the officials under one umbrella so that everyone’s on the same page.  That way we won’t have to listen to fans whine and complain about an opposing conference’s officials playing favorites.  It’s a ridiculous notion and it’s easily fixed by unifying all the men and women in stripes.

Klatt says we need an adult in the room.  I totally agree with him there.  Here’s what the adult in the room has decided:

Problems Solved

Each Power 5 team will play at least two other Power 5 teams – one at home, one on the road – by the end of Week 3.  Each Power 5 team will play at least one Group of 5 team – on the road at least once every four years – before the end of Week 3.  These three games will compose the non-conference portion of the schedules

In Week 4, conference play starts, continuing through Week 13.  Each team will play nine conference games and get a bye week at some point during the conference schedule.  Week 14 is reserved for the conference championship games, which are now mandatory.

All football programs may only have a certain number of employees.  This includes coaches, trainers, “analysts,” everybody.  I won’t get too specific here.  How could I even hazard a worthwhile guess at such a number?  I’ll let my Compliance Director handle it.

All player conduct issues will be handled by the Commissioner’s office.  Don’t worry, I’m not going to go all Roger Goodell and start making these decisions on my own.  As you see, I’ve got many other things to do.  I’ll hire someone to review cases and suspend players as they see fit.  You can think of them as the Dean of Discipline.  No prior punishment will come into consideration as precedent.  We’re starting over.

We will have no more verbal commitments from recruits.  It’s unnecessary and it gets confusing when a guy decides he doesn’t want to go to that school after all.  We can all wait until national signing day.  I’ll save the countless intricacies that go into this process for my Director of Recruiting.

Satellite camps are not only legal, they are encouraged.  If you can spare however many of your allotted employees then you can take your show anywhere on the road your please.  We will establish guidelines before spring recruiting picks up.  There will be strict parameters as to how many employees a program can send.  All camps must be made open for all other schools to send representation.

There are only a couple transfer rules that I will concern myself with.  The first is the rule we all know.  When a player transfers schools they must sit out a season before playing at their new school.  Yeah, that’s gone.  I’ll let you transfer and play immediately, but you can only do it once while you’re still taking undergrad classes.  Once you graduate, you may transfer again, if you’d like.

As for the guys Klatt refers to as “checkered past” individuals, like I mentioned earlier, the stakes need to be higher for the coaches and schools bringing these guys in.  You want to take a chance that’s fine, but you will be fined if that chance you took turns out to be a bad one.  Taking money away is the most effective way I know to keep people in line.  Financial sanctions will dictate more careful decision making and I’ll bet we see a drastic dip in these “checkered past” transfers causing more problems.

All officials will be trained, employed, and monitored by the Officiating Director.  Repeated poor performance will be punished with demotions to lower profile games.  At some point though, fans are going to have to realize the refs do not have it out for their team.

Now I can get into the exciting part.  The College Football Playoff is now expanded to eight teams.  Each Power 5 conference champion will automatically qualify.  The committee will select at least one team from a Group of 5 conference, as well.  The final two spots are completely at-large.

So, does the committee go with a conference championship game loser, another small conference champ, or a runner-up from a tough division?  I don’t know, but as Commissioner, I’m intent on finding out.

The opening round quarterfinal games will be played on college campuses, with the higher-seeded team hosting.  This is one of the few things that the schools might actually like to hear.  Imagine a Playoff game at any one of the dozens of iconic college football venues.  Unlike most of what I’ve said here, this is not a hard sell.

Now Accepting Applications

As your new College Football Commissioner, I would like to officially offer you a chance to apply for employment in our office.  We’re going to take college football into a new era and we’d love to have your help in doing it.  Join now because what I say goes and it’s going to be fun.

E-mail Mitch at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @GreatGatzke

Photo: Flickr user Elvert Barnes

Comment on this and every article by becoming a Campus Pressbox Insider.

NCAA’s HB2 Boycott Welcomes Fans to the 21st Century

On October 19, 1960, Georgia authorities jailed thirty six civil rights protesters for their participation in an organized sit-in, among them Martin Luther King Jr. With candidates John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon embroiled in a highly competitive presidential race, the story presented a political hot potato neither campaign wanted any part of catching.

Unfortunately, projecting support for African American communities at the time irritated voters in the country’s all-critical southern bloc, threatening either candidate’s pursuit of the Oval Office. The strategy? Avoid, avoid, avoid.

To his credit, Kennedy didn’t avoid it. In an act of political courage, Kennedy called Coretta Scott King soon after the incident in order to reconcile with a grieving community, even as it jeopardized his White House aspirations.

If you haven’t heard, that campaign worked out alright for President Kennedy. Beyond that, his piece of history serves as a poignant example of how goodwill and good business can so often align. Sure, our moral standards should motivate us to console Coretta Scott King, a grieving wife and mother, but business happens to look favorably upon those who follow moral standards. Kennedy’s controversial action began a decades-long alignment between the Democratic Party and African American electoral support, electing multiple presidents and pushing incalculable measures in public policy. I’d say that’s pretty good business.

Using your authority to safeguard certain people’s interests is not only the right thing to do, it’s the intelligent thing to do. It doesn’t matter if those people are black or white. It doesn’t matter if those people are rich or poor. It doesn’t matter if those people are gay or straight, male or female, or anything in between. Protecting certain people’s interests is the intelligent thing to do. Thankfully, NCAA President Mark Emmert occasionally acts intelligently.

People can cry all they want about the NCAA’s “political correctness” in removing championship games from North Carolina. Allow me to welcome those people to the 21st Century. Political correctness is no longer just a buzzword. Political correctness is no longer just “virtue signaling.”

As the demographics of this country diversify at unmistakable levels, political correctness is increasingly becoming just plain old correctness. Whether you are comfortable with that concept from a subjective standpoint is none of my concern. My concern is the objective truth, and the objective truth is that “political correctness” concept constitutes the way forward for entities reliant upon public opinion and public participation. It’s the way forward for people, it’s the way forward for businesses, and it’s the way forward for the NCAA.

House Bill 2, in contrast, defiles the very basis of political correctness. HB2 singles out members of the LGBTQ+ community based on their identities and discourages them from using public facilities, therefore disincentivizing them from engaging in business with the NCAA. House Bill 2 affects the NCAA just as it affects all businesses: by marginalizing consumers. Nothing affects the bottom line quite like marginalizing consumers.

The Center for American Progress projects $567.5 million in future economic losses for North Carolina. Wired estimates the losses are already at $395 million as of Sunday. On the one hand, companies like the NCAA are boycotting North Carolina realizing it’s bad for business. On the other hand, companies like the NCAA are being adversely affected by the fact HB2 is bad for business.

The NCAA wields all the power in this showdown with the state. If North Carolina chooses to legislate against the interests of certain consumers, the NCAA has full right to allocate their business to locations most beneficial to their fans and to the society their fans create. If that reallocation happens to satisfy LGBTQ+ and millennial fans, all the better.

Last week, my colleague Seth Merenbloom (whose writing I greatly respect) penned his disapproval of the NCAA, citing, among other complaints, China hosting a Pac-12 basketball game this November. I endorse in no way the human rights record of the People’s Republic. With that being said, there’s nothing wrong with the NCAA playing in China.

Seth’s premise rests upon the fact that there’s a comparison between the human rights records of China and the United States, and, quite frankly, there’s not.

With the precious rights and liberties that the United States extends its citizens (and its lawmakers), there’s absolutely no excuse for a state to flout those rights and liberties by marginalizing an innocent minority. The NCAA’s business in North Carolina will inspire zero cultural change within the Tar Heel State. Bringing an NCAA (and thus American) influence to China enables a sharing of those rights and liberties, helping the NCAA, helping their student-athletes, and, if only slightly, China’s progression towards LGBTQ+ inclusion.

There’s nothing wrong with the NCAA promoting its business in China. There’s everything wrong with allowing North Carolina to sulk to a comparison with the human rights standards of the Chinese government.

For an organization that preaches “student” before “athlete”, how can the NCAA not exemplify the diligent, principled activism it expects from its student-athletes? Civil disobedience has endured generations. If their boycott can truly inspire reform, why is that practice suddenly off limits for the NCAA?

Here’s why: because certain sports fans and pundits remain glued to the past, refusing to accept the developments of a 21st Century America as they relate to a 21st Century sports world. I’m 18 years young and I have no qualms with disrupting the traditionalism that holds sports back.

The NCAA’s decision to remove championship games from North Carolina promotes goodwill, good business, and treating people with respect. No, that doesn’t politicize the issue. Business has been politicized since the very beginnings of this nation. The writers, fans, and pundits faulting the NCAA for making a sound business decision with empirical benefits?  They’re the ones politicizing the issue.

Refusing to recognize the empirical benefits simply to take a political stance against “political correctness” towards LGBTQ+ individuals is implicit bigotry that’s just as divisive as House Bill 2 itself.

The notion that defending the LGBTQ+ community is bad for business draws unsavory, underlying assumptions about the LGBTQ+ community.

Criticizing the NCAA for adapting to the 21st Century undermines college sports and all those who benefit. Those takes may seem #hot, but they’re true. In fact, I seem to remember another #HotTake artist who challenged the status quo with some young, flashy, and innovative ideals.

His name was John F. Kennedy.

 

Email Cole at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @Cole_Hankins.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Comment on this and every article by becoming a Campus Pressbox Insider.

The NCAA will not Play Championship Games in the People’s Republic of North Carolina

Everyone knows by now that the NCAA has pulled all of its championship events out of North Carolina due the state’s HB2 law, because the NCAA leadership considers the law to be state-sanctioned discrimination.

Chad Griffin, who is President of the Human Rights Campaign, applauded the NCAA’s decision when he said this:

“Every day that HB2 remains on the books, countless people across North Carolina are at risk of real harm. NCAA President Mark Emmert has shown tremendous leadership by taking a bold stand for equality in the face of discrimination.

And NCAA President Mark Emmert made this comment in defense of the NCAA’s decision to move these championship events out of North Carolina:

“Fairness is about more than the opportunity to participate in college sports, or even compete for championships. We believe in providing a safe and respectful environment at our events.”

In taking this action, Emmert and the NCAA are standing up for what they believe to be right and, through his comments, Griffin and the Human Rights Campaign are supporting what they consider to be the NCAA’s support for human rights.

Whether or not I agree or disagree with this law or the actions that the NCAA has decided to take is not relevant. What should be considered relevant is the level of hypocrisy that is being shown by the NCAA and the Human Rights Campaign.

Did you know that the Harvard basketball team and the Stanford basketball team are scheduled to play a game in China this year? Well, they are.

While it’s the Pac-12 and not the NCAA who is sponsoring this game in China, Emmert and the NCAA are still sitting on their moral high-horse by staying quiet and not placing public pressure on the Pac-12 over playing a game in a country that does not support the human rights that the NCAA believes North Carolina is abusing. Griffin and the Human Rights Campaign apparently don’t have an issue with the Pac-12 sponsoring an event in communist China.

The list of human rights that China abuses on a daily basis is a long one and included in that list is the communist country’s lack of support for the LGBT community. China decriminalized homosexuality in 1997 and it hasn’t been considered an official mental illness since 2001. Nonetheless, homosexuals are not a protected class of people in China.

Yet, the NCAA and the Human Rights Campaign take issue with North Carolina, looking the other way when it comes to China’s abysmal track record on human rights. This goes beyond a double standard. A double standard would imply that the two situations are comparative and I would argue just the opposite. China’s lack of human rights is considerably worse than what is going on in North Carolina, but the NCAA doesn’t seem to have an issue with this Pac-12 sponsored event.

So, if the NCAA isn’t using a double standard, what is it doing?

The NCAA is attempting to score political points. And it’s working. The NCAA wants to keep the protesters off of its front lawn. The NCAA wants to keep ESPN from running negative stories on the organization. The NCAA wants to appear to be progressive. Yes, the NCAA is virtue signaling, but it is being selective about when it does.

Why, then, would these same progressive-minded people that the NCAA and its member institutions want to stay in the domestic good graces of, have no issue with the Pac-12 playing in China? Easy, these would be protesters see this as an opportunity for the Pac-12 and, by association, the NCAA, to be a human rights model for China. It makes zero sense and is based completely on a rationalization of the topic.

There is one conference, to date, that has joined the NCAA and engaged in virtue signaling of its own and that is the ACC. In a recent press release, the ACC stated that the conference will no longer hold neutral site championship games in North Carolina. It is worth questioning whether or not the ACC will continue to play in countries like China.

I get it, the NCAA doesn’t control what the conferences or teams do in situations like this. When a conference like the ACC decides it can’t do business in North Carolina because of discrimination then the conference owes it to its members and the public to be consistent with its human rights values. Otherwise, it’s all just virtue signaling.

It is also worth mentioning that as a public institution of higher education, an ACC school like the University of North Carolina does accept state funding to help support its budget. If the University of North Carolina or any other state-funded school in North Carolina really wanted to make a stand against what is considered to be state sanctioned discrimination, these schools would be turning down their state funding. Let’s face it. There is no way that will ever happen.

If the NCAA isn’t going to voice public displeasure with the Pac-12 playing a game in China then it should have no problem playing championship events in North Carolina. If the ACC will continue doing business in China then it should have on problem playing its neutral site championship games in North Carolina. Otherwise, like I said, it’s all virtual signaling.

 

E-mail Seth at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom

Photo: commons.wikimedia.org

Comment on this and every article by becoming a Campus Pressbox Insider. And while you’re at it, Subscribe to our podcasts.

NCAA Pulls Events From North Carolina, Leaves Collateral Damage

The NCAA has spoken, and it is not happy with the state of North Carolina. For reasons clearly stated in a September 12 press release, seven NCAA championship events will be relocated away from previously designated venues in Cary, Greensboro, and Greenville, North Carolina. This action will affect seven men’s and women’s sports across all three divisions of the NCAA, but the opening weekend’s games of next year’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament not being played in Greensboro will grab the headlines.

It’s not that you need the NCAA involved to draw headlines towards North Carolina’s now infamous bathroom bill. The National Basketball Association has pivoted its big neutral-site game, the Association’s All-Star Game, from Charlotte, where it was scheduled next winter, to New Orleans. Businesses, most notably PayPal, have halted planned growth in the state. Concerts have been canceled and a number of local governments have restricted business travel to the state, all voicing frustration with the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act.

With me, I’ve never actually paid that much attention to the company I keep in a public restroom. Get in, take care of what you went in there to do, and get out. It feels simpler than it seems to be, and I feel common sense is at play, but I’m not in public office. Maybe every fourth or fifth law passed over there has to be about something that really isn’t an issue, or wasn’t an issue. It is certainly buzzworthy now.

We’ve punished a lot of the wrong people in North Carolina, to date. To be fair, this punitive action towards the citizens of North Carolina is about removing anti-discriminatory language from law. It’s been a while since my last math class, but if I recall how to handle a double negative, it equals ‘adding discriminatory language’, correct? That’s how I’m rolling, here.

The hospitality industry has lower numbers to be hospitable towards, thus fewer hours will be given to those employees. Construction workers aren’t laying the groundwork for new commercial properties. With the absence of those buildings, goes the many entry-level jobs no longer available to the many students hoping to graduate into the workforce.

Some of those recent graduates will be the NCAA’s former student-athletes, some forced so far from home their families won’t see them play on the biggest stage of their careers. On the off chance, Mount Olive returns to the Division II Championship Baseball tournament, the know they won’t be hosting the finals in Cary, even though that was the plan. There are athletes that play golf, soccer, lacrosse, and tennis that might have similar sob stories.  You could call if unfair, but that really only amounts to a minor inconvenience.

Something like that only pales in comparison with the dilemma a NCAA Tournament Committee might face, when it would have had to (maybe) keep public schools from Connecticut, Minnesota, New York, and Vermont out of one of the 8 slots in Greensboro next March. There would be more noise about losing a Sweet Sixteen, let alone a Final Four, but we’ll hear plenty, given the 18 Division I Hoops programs in the basketball-crazy state of North Carolina.

Quick to weigh in with endorsements of the NCAA’s decision were the athletic directors from the state’s name brand athletic programs, Duke and North Carolina. Duke’s Kevin White stated that they agree with the NCAA’s decision and that they “will always be committed to diversity and inclusion, and applaud any efforts to ensure that those values are protected and enacted at all times, and in places in the state of North Carolina.”

North Carolina’s Bubba Cunningham discussed his school’s commitment to fairness and also expressed his disappointment on behalf of people of the state and the communities “that are scheduled to play host to these championship events and to the students who may be denied the opportunity to compete for championships in their home state.” What happens to the student-athletes is admittedly trivial, but they are collateral damage, playing the role of pawns in this political chess game.

Ask Governor Pat McCrory or the sponsor of HB2, Representative Dan Bishop, how much they weep for those student-athletes, those hospitality workers, or those young North Carolina-educated professionals, all missing out on opportunity and prosperity. Does the message get to them, to spark change? I don’t think it does.

It doesn’t actually matter. The NCAA is bound by its constitution to not stand idly by. The schools are bound by their own commitment to decency, if not their reputations, to follow suit. The idea here is a unified front against discrimination. It isn’t the NCAA’s directive to get complicated and detailed with this. They needed the North Carolina government to do better, and the North Carolina government failed them.

The longer this goes on, the more collateral damage we’ll see in the form of real people in the Tar Heel State. For the student-athletes, they’re best served to take the sacrifices they may be forced to make with a grain of salt.

Maybe they can send a postcard from Pensacola or wherever.

E-mail Jeff at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @byJeffRich.
Featured photo Jarrett Campbell via Wiki

Violence Against Women Up, College Football Down

The words of Vince Lombardi are echoing repeatedly in my head, “What the hell is going on out here?!”

We’re months away from the 2016 season kickoff, and frankly, I’m the least enthused about the upcoming season. As much as it pains me to say this, the off-season’s reports of sexual assaults by football players around the country have put a serious damper on my mood surrounding my most beloved sport.

I’m not naïve by any stretch of the imagination. These senseless and cowardice acts have plagued campuses for decades. It just pains me to see campus administrators and coaches turning a blind eye to such disgusting acts to preserve the cash cow that college athletics (more notably football and basketball) have become. The recent scandal and fallout at Baylor University  puts such practices in plain sight.

Before Baylor University, there was the alleged sexual assault by two  University of Tennessee players. The sickening part of the University of Tennessee case is you actually have a football player doing the right thing and supporting the victim. Instead of being commended for standing up to poor cultural standards in the Tennessee locker room, he is instead ostracized and forced to transfer schools. It infuriates me that such ignorance and blatant disregard of life is permitted at higher learning institutions.

When racial tensions were high at the University of Missouri, you had the football team band together for a common good that affected not only the campus, but the state as well.  Where is that same banding together against violent acts against women on campus? Instead, there is a complete 180 degree turn in regards to women’s safety on the Missouri campus, which tragically earned the second-highest rate of sexual assault incidents in the nation.

These women are someone’s sister, daughter, girlfriend, or otherwise. I can only imagine what would be going through the head of a player, a coach, or an administrator if a sexual assault had been committed against someone they knew. I’m assuming the first thought would be to identify, locate and beat the (expletive) out of the attacker. The idea of someone violating a loved one brings up feelings of guilt and helplessness, which lead to anger. Ultimately, those feelings of anger lead to acting upon them toward the guilty party.

In the wake of all this madness, college athletic departments have adopted more stringent player evaluations and are now “more” cognizant of the moral character incoming players possess. It’s all quite convenient at this juncture to take such a stand now. Before the curtains were thrown all the way back, these events would have been simply glossed over and categorized as isolated incidents where things just got “out of hand.”

College Football’s Cover Up

Usually, position battles, preseason rankings, Heisman, and All-American candidates flood the college football airwaves. Yes, these conversations are still present, however you can’t help but feel a little dissatisfied that those same conversations share the same narrative as the disgusting actions that are occurring on campuses nationwide. I feel it’ll get harder and harder for telecasts to cover the latest events of the season without addressing the most glaring blight on the college football landscape. However, the sports media have become quite adept and brushing aside the most important topics to maintain viewership.

The newest distraction of college football is the satellite camps and the attention it’s gathered over the past months. It’s interesting how college coaches and the NCAA are squawking back and forth over the legitimacy of this practice, yet take a ‘pass-the-buck’ approach when it comes to women’s safety on college campuses when collegiate players are involved. Again, I guess it only matters when it hits close to home or it begins to affect the bottom line, whichever comes first.

I could care less about satellite camps. I could care less about which coach is subliminally taking digs at another coach in regards to satellite camps. What I do care about is the safety of students on campus. It should be the primary goal for universities. Students come from far and wide to pursue an education at higher learning institutions. There, students are bombarded with coursework, managing/developing a social life, and self-discovery.

It’s the responsibility of the institution to have preventative measures to guard against violence towards students, but also to treat victims with a sense of humanity and compassion regardless of how it may affect the guilty party involved. Unfortunately, if the guilty party happens to be a high profile athlete, chances are the victim may be discouraged from coming forward to report their attack(er).

Some Perspective

I’m not trying to make a hokey statement about nationwide campus peace. But collegiate administrators, coaches, and players have a responsibility to represent their institution and themselves. I would be ashamed to be a part of a team with players that committed such acts against women. Yes, this may break every team bond and code to speak ill of my teammates. However, as a man, there are certain things one stands for and then there are certain things a man doesn’t.

I’d be careless to think that every situation that involves violence is the same. There are back-stories upon back-stories that either gets the gist of it reported on or the source of the incident isn’t reported at all, and is simply centered on the actions taken place. My wife always says, “There are three sides to every story…your truth, their truth, and the truth.” Somewhere in there, you’ll discover the answers.

Don’t get me wrong, situations that end in violence should not be justified. But if we’re going to combat this trend, we need to understand each situation in its entirety. Unfortunately, there are so many scenarios in which violence against women has occurred. Here’s an idealistic approach- require all incoming students to attend a mandatory campus conduct course during their student orientation. This course would be signed by each enrollee after attending. It would be used as a legally binding document in the event legal action is brought upon a student who violates the agreement, and holding them accountable for their actions. This agreement will also hold students that make false allegations against other students just as accountable.

As the days approach opening day kickoff, my hope is to feel less jaded about all that’s transpired over the past few months and generate some excitement for the upcoming season. I pray that universities, players, coaches and the like can approach the situation of violence towards women with the intention of bringing greater awareness,  higher accountability, and stronger conviction when tackling this dangerous phenomena plaguing college football.

I don’t expect any major changes in the immediate future. However, if college football doesn’t right their ship, don’t be too surprised that the amount of support that elevated college football to the stratosphere of popularity, suddenly gives way and the entire institution of college football as we know it will come crashing down with no one to pick up the pieces.

Mark Cuban Has No Use For The NCAA

Dallas Mavericks owner and entrepreneur Mark Cuban was recently featured in an article published by The Chronicle of Higher Education. In the article he elaborated on his previously self-publicized opinions about the current state of higher education and how he sees the future of the industry unfolding.

The article is behind a pay wall, however, SportsDayDFW’s reported on the article in its entirety and shared Cuban’s opinion about sports and where they should fit in on a college campus. In Cuban’s opinion, colleges should not include athletics.

SportsDayDFW assumes that Cuban has this seemingly radical belief because, in Cuban’s world, there is nothing more important than profitability. While it is true that profitability is often the deciding factor between making a deal and walking away from a deal when you’re a professional like Cuban, the almighty dollar may not in fact be the post that Cuban’s anti college sports opinion is tied to.

If profitability is not the reason for Cuban wanting the association between sports and college removed, why does he want the two business models to be separated?

The reason is because Cuban has no use for the NCAA as a governing body.

Cuban is a member of a small but growing group of outspoken personalities who believes that the NCAA does more harm than good when it comes to college sports. Just read his comments from a 2014 article by ESPN Staff Writer Tim MacMahon.

Since Cuban is the owner of an NBA franchise, it is understandable that basketball would be the sport that he frames his argument in. It is Cuban’s belief that NCAA basketball does nothing to help a basketball player and, if anything, actually hinders the athletic and personal development of the player.

As Cuban said to MacMahon:

The NCAA rules are so hypocritical, there’s absolutely no reason for a kid to go [to college], because he’s not going to class [and] he’s actually not even able to take advantage of all the fun because the first semester he starts playing basketball. So if the goal is just to graduate to the NBA or be an NBA player, go to the D-League.

Cuban is correct. Forcing a kid to go to school for one year is not beneficial to the player. Sure, the appearance of the “student athlete” is nice, but it is just that, an appearance. Take the most recent one-and-done basketball player for LSU, Ben Simmons, as an example.

Simmons averaged 19.2 points and 11.8 rebounds a game. He averaged a double-double for the season and he was only a freshman. He was clearly one of the best players in the game. At least he was statistically.

When the Wooden Award finalists were announced, Simmons’ name was not on the list of honorees. His omission was because his grade point average was not the minimum 2.0 that is needed to be considered for the award. His grade point average was also enough of an issue that he was suspended for the February 20 game against Tennessee.

Simmons is a perfect example of what Cuban is talking about when he says that the D-League would be better for these kids than one meaningless, but NCAA mandated year in college.

Everyone knew that Simmons was a one-and-done player before he ever decided which school to play for. If you knew that a multi-million dollar contract was waiting for you in a year and all you had to do was make it to next year, would you take school seriously? If you are being honest with yourself, the answer is “no.”

This is why Cuban believes that the association between sports and colleges should be dissolved.

Years ago I had this conversation with a friend. I argued in favor of disbanding the NCAA. My argument also included creating a vocational type of environment for the sports teams. Essentially what I was arguing in favor of was an AAU style of setup for all college sports. And at that point, we would not even call them college programs. They would be semi-professional teams.

And as luck would have it, Cuban was the center piece of my plan to re-organize college sports.

In essence, Cuban would be the commissioner of this semi-professional league and he would have a board of directors in place. This board of directors would be independent from the teams. They would not have the power that the NCAA holds, but they would have the ability to assert their influence when needed. More on that in a moment.

These semi-pro teams would have boosters in much the same way college programs do. Now here is where my concept becomes radical for some of you reading this. The boosters would now have the ability to pay players for their services on these semi-pro teams.

Now remember, in this fantasy of mine, the teams have nothing directly to do with a school. However, if anyone on the team wanted to go to school, they could certainly do so. But financially they would not have the full ride scholarship that some do now.
Going back to my commissioner and board of director positions, let me now clarify what I meant when I said that they would have the ability to assert their influence when needed.

Being semi-professional teams, they would be run like any other business and that means contract law would have to be handled. The commissioner and board of directors would be the arbitrators in legal disputes, but that is it. And if it makes you happy, sure, the players can unionize, but that would be up to the players.

I acknowledge that this is a radical idea, but I also like knowing that a billionaire like Cuban has given it some thought as well. Cuban has influence while I am just a weekend warrior blogger.

This idea would not only make education more legitimate, it would also make the on field competition better.

Applying free market principles to college sports would add increased competition to the market. Coaches would have the undivided attention of the players because their eligibility would not be tied to a grade point average. All that would matter was how good the player was on the field.
As for boosters being able to pay players, well, I obviously see nothing wrong with this. Paying players works at the professional level and it can work at the semi-professional level. The only reason payment is not acceptable now is because the NCAA insists on perpetuating this student-athlete charade.

Who knows, maybe I should go on Shark Tank and pitch this idea to Cuban myself.

E-mail Seth at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom.

*Featured image courtesy of Flickr/JD Lasica

Too Many Bowl Games?

Finally, the folks at the NCAA came up with something I can actually support. It seems that the NCAA has placed a three-year halt on adding additional bowl games, effective until after the 2019 season.  I mean, let’s be honest here. Do we really need to have 41 bowl games? I love football as much as the next guy, possibly even more, but I can only do so many bowl games. Hell, I can’t even recall the all the names of the bowl games. It’s as if they change names and sponsors every year. It’s getting hard to keep up with and in the quest to add more (money)-excuse me, more games to satiate the football soul, the very essence of the game has been lost in the shuffle.

I cannot even remember who played in most of the bowl games outside of the main bowls I grew accustomed to- about 20 or so bowls. Now that I mention it, 20 bowl games sound a bit excessive. My one redeeming argument is that there are at least 40 good teams playing in these bowls so the entertainment factor is significantly higher.

Last season there were three teams (Minnesota, Nebraska, and San Jose State) with losing records playing in the postseason. Over the past 45 years prior to this season, only four teams total with losing records were able to play in a bowl game. Where have we gone wrong? There’s a piece of me that has a bit of sympathy for under-performing programs that get a shot to salvage a season that would, in most cases, be deemed a wash. However, the football purist in me is cringing at the fact that there are too many games. Not every team needs to make the postseason. The postseason has become so over-saturated with games, to the point that teams don’t necessarily have to sweat about their performance during the regular season.

It’s as if the NCAA is rewarding mediocrity. It dilutes the spirit of competition. Not every program is going to, nor are they supposed to win. This reminds me of a commercial that I saw where a father and son are leaving a championship game, which the son won, and all the players on his team as well as the team that lost received the same participation trophy as a culminating prize. No championship trophy for the champs? It’s this everybody’s-a-winner mentality that drives me up a wall. Sure, it’s great for children because accepting defeat is a difficult skill to manage. However, in sport, there has to be a winner. Otherwise, why strive to be the best you can be? It makes no sense to bust your ass when, in the end, they’re all going to be receiving the same amount of recognition for “participating.” It’s unacceptable.

I love competition. Competition is why we play the game. Yeah, it’s fun to play the game, but as former NFL coach and current ESPN NFL analyst Herm Edwards says, “you play to win the game.” And if you win enough games, you should be rewarded with a bowl berth. Teams should not be rewarded with bowl berths just to fill slots.

I feel that the NCAA should just cut down on the number of bowl games played. Having 41 bowl games  is flat out ridiculous. I can’t imagine sitting through all those games. At some point, the quality of play and overall significance of the outcome mean absolutely nothing. These are factors that dampen the quality of bowl season. Alas, football’s popularity is at an all-time high, so the NCAA is milking the passion of loyal watchers just to line pockets. It’s a sad day indeed.

When the 2019 season concludes, we’ll see if there is still a need to add more bowl games to an already crowded postseason schedule. My hope is that a ton of common sense bricks fall on the collective heads of the NCAA bowl committee and they realize that they are slowly killing the sport. The last thing I want to equate bowl season with is boredom. If the NCAA is not careful, those days may be upon us sooner than we think. Football heavens help us!

Photo Courtesy: CityofStPete