- USC v UCLA – A Smack Talk Suggestion – Zach calls himself “hell with a pen” and he doesn’t let us down here. Unless of course you’re a UCLA fan in which you’re not only let down but you’re pissed off. Which is probably exactly what he wants. And now he’s telling you he’s not going to respond which, in turn, will only further upset you. Hell with a pen, indeed.
- Sorry, Travis, but I’m boycotting Uber – Interesting Op/Ed here on boycotting the insanely convenient car service. This whole case (shockingly being called #ubergate – which is interesting in its own right as we can evolve to using hashtags for everything but can’t move past a 70s political scandal for naming even the most nominal of upsets) raises some very interesting topics. How much will we tolerate for convenience? Or in other instances fandom? In the case of Uber, there’s reported misogynism and now the threat of manipulating the press as well as their competition. The author is choosing to let Uber know of his discontent by hitting them in the pocket book. The same could perhaps be done to the NFL where their morale compass has seemingly been sitting on a magnet. There’s a reason things like Uber and the NFL are wildly popular. In some regard they hold power over us. But at the same time, the masses provided that power. If you disapprove, you can do something about it.
- NCAA mulling copying college football mid-season seed TV show idea – I’m with Norlander here and I’m not a big fan of starting a weekly show in January in which the committee reveals some version of the brackets. But I also don’t fully get the swift outrage to the idea. Yesterday we talked about exhausting narratives, derived discussions of what we think should be. In some regard, firing up a weekly bracket would allow us to talk about some pretty tangible stuff. These are the 64 best right now. But ultimately it would just be a glorified Bracketology. My biggest gripe with the football rankings is that it’s an attention suck in the middle of the week and forces networks to promote some really tardy rankings on the teasers for the coming Saturday for three days (Sun-Tues). I don’t like the idea, but I wouldn’t be outraged if it happened.
- Pac-12 passes reforms for athletes – I’m on the fence with this stuff. On the one hand it feels like this is a good thing. Change from the norm – which doesn’t seem to be serving athletes well – should be a good thing. They’ll be granted things well beyond unlimited snacks as these Autonomous Five begin to reform for the self-proclaimed better. But at the same time, I don’t necessarily see the athletes being directly involved in these improvements. This remains a top down implementation and seems to be a means for the powers that be to maintain power. It’s a smart move. I’m just not entirely sure it’s going to be in the best interest long (long, long term I’m talking) term.
- The best 100 players in college basketball – This is 100 players ranked out of the more than 4800ish scholarship D-1 players. OF COURSE YOU’RE GOING TO DISAGREE WITH IT! Embrace that and appreciate the comprehensiveness of the list as well as the design. We live in an evolving world of web design and when something can be put together functionally and aesthetically, it should be celebrated.
- “If we run and they kill us, so be it. But we have to run now.” – This is a heavy read. The story of the Nigerian girls kidnapped six-months ago, this is powerfully written. It’s tone is simple which is fitting its subjects: these are just girls. And they were exposed to such horrors. If you have the time, read.
Don’t ignore this letter. I did for a little while, but only because I went to a Mexican all-inclusive (recommended) to celebrate my brother’s graduation from medical school. But I implore you, do not ignore this letter.
The Pac-12 Presidents’ May 22 note to the rest of everyone is written in equal parts legalese, charm, altruism, and self-righteousness. They laud themselves as bold acting and seeking the autonomy not yet afforded them by the NCAA. And now their deadline is approaching (Hi, June) and this letter should not be ignored.
Because maybe these “pioneers of the west” are onto something? The NCAA has demonstrated a general inability to govern its institutions with any semblance of consistency or rationale. It is neither feared nor loved as Machiavelli would suggest leaving themselves susceptible to a coups, loosely what the Pac-12 Presidents have suggested (also, if you think Larry Scott isn’t all over this letter, you’re nuts).
Consider the Pac-12’s chest puffed. Bravado. They want a response from their “peer conferences” (presumably the Big 12, Big 10, ACC, and SEC) by June 4th before everyone meets on June 16th.
And before diving into the outlined objectives of this letter/initiative/revolution/coups, I’d like to note that the group rather swiftly denounces the resolution of athletes unionizing. Immediately prior to mentioning that this is “not the answer” the presidents refer to themselves and their peer leaders as CEOs. I find this language contradictory on many levels in such that unionization implies student-athletes are employees which the schools do not want. Meanwhile, proclaiming oneself a “CEO” suggests you hold chief office over employees. While there is not a concrete parallel between CEO and employment, the vernacular suggests as much. It is the only time CEO is referenced in the entire letter.
But this is less a matter of employment than a recognition that student-athletes (referenced 8x in the letter) deserve more. If they’ll go so far as to threaten unionization – autonomy! – there must be a gap between their needs and what they’re getting. The Pac-12 is recognizing this in a “bold” manner and trying to stay a step ahead. If they can deliver better benefits to their “non-employees,” they’ll pipe down and play the games, or rather get their educations or healthcare benefits. Is this the most fair means to a justified end? I dunno. But the important part is that the dialogue is happening. From Northwestern’s football team to the Ed O’Bannon and his lawsuit, the conversation is being had – for better and worse – which will result in change. Change is can be good.
On to the meat of this. The prezzies have outlined for us ten principle objectives for reform. Here they are with recognition of whether each principle is good or bad, what it is, and why it’d even be included (the third of which is also where I’ll take my blogging liberties). Also worth noting, certainly as we examine what each principle is, none of this has been spelled out for execution. As principles I think that can be excused but also highlights the complexities of institutional change. The good stuff:
- Permit institutions to make scholarship awards up to the full cost of attendance.
- Good /Bad Principle: Good
- What is it? From snacks to meals to housing and other comforts not currently afforded within an athletic scholarship, the University would have athletes’ backs.
- What’s the point? Money talks and the NCAA and everything it’s associated with aren’t above this axiom. With the schools promising to spend more on their athletes, they will be demonstrating their commitments and taking care of their “student-athletes.” Further, by taking care of the entire cost of attendance, institutions can sidestep the conversation of paying student-athletes by noting that they’re already going above and beyond covering tuition.
- Provide reasonable on-going medical or insurance assistance for student-athletes who suffer an incapacitating injury in competition or practice. Continue efforts to reduce the incidence of disabling injury.
- Good/Bad Principle: Good.
- What is it? Get hurt at school, school’s got your broken back. They’ve also noted the CYA clause that they’ll reduce the incidence of disabling injury. Football is on high alert at all levels.
- What’s the point? This seems to be a pretty obvious point and a friend of mine is producing a documentary noting that schools most certainly do not cover these athletes beyond their time on campus. Similar to principle #1, the Prezzies are recognizing where they could perhaps improve care of their non-employees. Presumably, as a union and/or employees, student-athletes would be eligible for benefits they are entitled to. If on-going care becomes a part of scholarships, the schools control the care and the amount of it. Not the union or the government.
- Guarantee scholarships for enough time to complete a bachelor’s degree, provided that the student remains in good academic standing.
- Good/Bad Principle: Good.
- What is it? Fulfilling a promise. These are student-athletes but just because the latter half falls off, doesn’t mean the school is off the hook for the former.
- What’s the point? This is something like the Friday Night Lights principle. If you’ve ever read the book or are familiar with the story, these kids are adored and taken care of right up until they’re no longer playing. Remember Boobie Miles? Knee gone, love gone. Alas, this is not specifically referencing injury. Sometimes degrees take longer than athletic eligibility to complete. Allowing kids to complete their degree on the school’s dime is a good thing. Chalk this one up as a win for the engineers.
- Decrease the time demands placed on the student-athlete in-season, and correspondingly enlarge the time available for studies and full engagement in campus life, by doing the following: 1) Prevent the abuse of organized “voluntary” practices to circumvent the limit of 20 hours per week. 2) More realistically assess the time away from campus and other commitments during the season, including travel time.
- Good/Bad Principle: Whatever.
- What is it? The RichRod rule. He got wrist slapped for such abuses at Michigan and in discussing this letter I was passed this glorious rant.
- What’s the point? It’s weak but I get it. There’s such aggrandized speech surrounding “college life” and “student-athlete” that if principles like this weren’t included we could scream bloody hypocrisy. But perhaps we can anyways. Larry Scott and the presidents’ ability to uphold this one will be fascinating. For example, Pac-12 basketball used to be pretty strictly Thursdays and Saturdays. It was simple, predictable, and allowed for the least amount of time away from campus. Now, with the addition of the Pac-12 Networks, most road trips include a Wednesday or Sunday game. Extended travel, time away from campus. Additionally, there were a handful of weekends that included a Wednesday and a Sunday game. Couple that with a dramatic increase in Thursday night football games and one has to consider why the second of the two sub-principles is suggested. It’s the right thing to do on paper, but would these guys really push for something that didn’t directly benefit them? Spreading the schedule thin benefits the networks. Tightening it up benefits the students (supposedly).
- Similarly decrease time demands out of season by reducing out-of-season competition and practices, and by considering shorter seasons in specific sports.
- Good/Bad Principle: Meh
- What is it? I’m not terribly familiar with gratuitous amounts of out-of-season competition or where it occurs. I played in summer ball leagues in college but they weren’t school sponsored. Similarly there are Pro-Am leagues all over the country that give college kids opportunities to compete over the summer. Again, I’m not familiar with much beyond that (enlighten me?). That said, shortening season and minimizing competition correlates directly with principle #2 in which we’re trying to reduce injuries.
- What’s the point? File this principle under “Consistency.” If we’re not going to let players get injured they sure as hell aren’t going to get injured while it’s not broadcast or not counting towards awards.
- Further strengthen the Academic Progress Rate requirements for post-season play.
- Good/Bad Principle: Ask Kevin Ollie?
- What is it? Schools will have to graduate a higher percentage of their athletes in order to be allowed to play for titles.
- What’s the point? Teaching to the test. Therein lies the flaw to No Child Left Behind (amongst others) and the APR. The point of upping the standards would obviously be to ensure that more students graduate to ensure more athletes can win! But such a standard directs coaches and players to simply fulfill a score. They can begin to “teach to the test” and the crux of an education is lost: To learn. Simply upping the standards just puts more student-athletes in situations to graduate for the sake of it. Like NCLB, the APR’s heart is in the right place, I’m just not sure it’s the most effective means to upholding the S-A mantra.
- Address the “one and done” phenomenon in men’s basketball. If the National Basketball Association and its Players Association are unable to agree on raising the age limit for players, consider restoring the freshman ineligibility rule in men’s basketball.
- Good/Bad Principle: WHAT???
- What is it? A threat.
- What’s the point? College coaches and administrators are powerful people and the NBA laughs at that power. The one-and-done rule was a hot topic during the 2012 lockout in college hoops circles. But it’s so un-tied to revenue that the Players Association and owners just tossed it aside. Ignored it. And that stings for these powerful coaches and administrators. It’s screwing with their altruism (student-athlete) and their brand. College basketball is becoming a minor league. The purity of the sport is diluted. A loss of innocence. New GS Warriors head coach, 5-time NBA champion, and Tucson demigod, Steve Kerr, thinks the age limit should be increased, too (that’s one insightful read, btw). But there’s a big gap between the wants and the haves. As it was brushed aside previously, Article X doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. So the Presidents here are taking a little brother move and saying, “If we can’t play, then no one can!!” Threatening to keep freshmen from playing (a move institutions would no doubt frame as in the best interest of student-athletes) means NBA scouts and teams can’t evaluate their next generation of talent and forces them into making less educated decisions with their money. While this all boils down to $, NBA teams would likely not be willing to take gambles on assets their unfamiliar with. Schools would be taking a major risk in executing this plan – there are other options like Europe, Junior Colleges, lawsuits, etc. – but the mere threat could be enough to move the NBA needle.
- Provide student-athletes a meaningful role in governance at the conference and
- Good/Bad Principle: Good.
- What is it? An invite to the party…
- What’s the point? And a seat at the kids’ table.
- Adjust existing restrictions so that student-athletes preparing for the next stage in their careers are not unnecessarily deprived of the advice and counsel of agents and other competent professionals, but without professionalizing intercollegiate athletics.
- Good/Bad Principle: Great.
- What is it? While most everyone is going pro in something other than sports, those going on to play pro sports would have improved access to the people evaluating them as possible employees at that level.
- What’s the point? As it is today, the (pointless) mid-April NCAA draft declaration rule comes well before the early May draft camps. Not even the NBA’s deadline to declare (late April) allows athletes to participate. Pro Days would seem to be a good idea. Surrounding this principle you hear a lot of discussion about Agents. Certainly they have a beat on draft statuses and interest. They could provide some sound advice, too. The overarching fear here (as evidence by the principles’ final sentence) is “professionalization;” otherwise read, “money exchanging hands.” Ironically enough, this one’s all about making and educated decision.
- Liberalize the current rules limiting the ability of student-athletes to transfer between institutions.
- Good/Bad Principle: Good.
- What is it? Player’s have to sit out a year if they transfer, receive a release from their school (we see you, Leticia), can be limited in the schools the transfer to, etc. They wanna make it easier to move.
- What’s the point? Transfers, certainly of late, are being considered an epidemic. Transfer rates are soaring and this is a bad thing (supposedly). I’m not sold, one way or the other, but believe that if someone wants to leave, they should be allowed to leave. We can preach all we want about commitment and follow-through. Words coaches use as a lifetime defending something. Transfers use them as a punchline (reference). But everyone else is doing it. Administrators and coaches jump ship for greener pastures, so why can’t the players? Hell, this whole thing is boiling down to what everyone else is doing so why not give the players a little bit of what everyone else is getting? Just so long as it’s not money.
Don’t ignore this letter. The B1G hasn’t and, as June 4th approaches, I imagine others won’t as well. I don’t think these principles are the answer to college sports’ inequalities, inadequacies, or inefficiencies, but it is a start. A conversation starter.
That was a fun non-conference slate.
I had considered writing a review of it as the timing seems impeccable. We could walk our way through all those games played against everyone not under Larry’s leadership. It would afford us an opportunity to revisit Askia’s big shot, Washington’s ineptitude, the Wright-Loveridge show, Stanford’s roller coaster, numero uno, Dana Altman and Joseph Young, Jahii Carson, trips to Michigan, and the interesting fact that Oregon State has played games in Maryland, Chicago, and Honolulu otherwise known as places Barack Obama has lived.
But we kinda just covered that so… If there’s anything else you want to cover, just @pachoopsab me.
That said, and this week excluded, it really was an exciting non-conference slate. The conference seems to be as good and deep as it’s been in forever. There have been good games up and down and all across the country. And as I was conjuring what to write during this slow week when no one is playing anyone of intrigue and I’m in Mexico for the twenty-third consecutive family New Years, I was reminded of a conversation about the success (or otherwise) of the new rules. Yes, I’m going to fill your holiday breaks with a discussion of officiating. Well only sort of.
Because just a few weeks ago the NCAA dropped their first bit of data on how their rule changes have affected the game. For a refresher on what they changed up, read this. And for the NCAA’s analysis, read this or allow me to synopsize:
- Basketball is better because of us
That’s about what the NCAA had to say about that. Like any good corporation they’ve pat themselves on the back for their job well done. I don’t mean that facetiously but if you’re going to tell everyone you’re doing X, Y, and Z to make A, B, and C better, your release on the matter will support that end-goal. You’re also going to tell the story that it’s working. As you may have noticed, the NCAA opens with:
Behold the new world of college basketball…
Well alrighty then, Cristobolo Columbus. Next they’re going to tell us they invented the Internet. Alas, picking on the NCAA is a touch passé. Really all the NCAA has done is push data at us to suggest the game has opened up. They are not wrong. Here’s what they’ve said:
- PPG: 67.5 –> 73.81
- FG%: 43.30 –> 44.71
- TOpg: 13.30 –> 12.75
- 2 more fouls per game, 5 more FTs, 3 more made FT
They warned us from the get-go that there would be more whistles and now they’re satisfied with this analysis and are “encouraged” by the direction they’ve sent the game. Nice.
But you know there are more smart guys out there studying this. I’m just absorbing it but read Kevin Pauga’s KPI Trend Analysis. He brings the analysis to a per possession basis and finds similar results. And, of course, more. The key takeaways from his thoughts are that possessions per game have increased, a by-product of more fouls and thus shorter possessions (17.99 à 17.20) as well as fewer turnovers. With steals and turnovers down, the conclusion is that they’ve now become fouls. The end result of this is an increase in scoring which is a conclusion in its own right. The question, however, becomes whether or not that indeed creates a more entertaining game?
Or is that even the question at all?
As you read through many of these analyses, “improvement” and “entertainment” get thrown around quite a bit. But how much can you quantify entertainment? The assertion has been that the NCAA has positively affected the game in such a way that it is more entertaining to us.
But is that right? Are these the elements that we find most intriguing? I suppose what I’m most directly getting at is I’m not sure the score of the game is what I find most appealing. I grew up watching Lute Olson teams beat ASU 127-99 and that was just as fun as last season’s 73-58 win. What’s more, I grew to appreciate what Tony Bennett did at Washington State. He began a paradigm shift in a conference of run-n-fun. He made a Goliath of Pullman’s David. The average Tony Bennett team was playing with just under 60 possessions per game. Olson was closer to a thousand. What Bennett achieved was wizardry and he still managed to do it in a conference long perceived as soft. The forty-five-feet-from-the-basket touch foul is nothing new to Pac-10 fans.
Meanwhile, as Bennett and Howland were constructing a philosophical shift in Pac-12 basketball, Lorenzo Romar was experiencing his most successful three years of basketball with about 72 possessions per contest. The Dawgs were good and fun. And different than the Cougs and Bruins.
I’m not criticizing the NCAA’s work. They recognized an opportunity to improve their product and they acted accordingly. I think their analysis is somewhat limited to suggest that things are better essentially because they made it so. I’m particularly drawn to the glaring omission of 2012-13 game duration data. This season’s games are clocking in at 1 hour and 54 minutes. With no context, I have nary a clue as to what that means. Is that long or short? The same? This is important to me because I’m a busy guy. For example, baseball has lost its sparkle. I’m no longer 16-year-old Adam absorbing 4-hour marathon games of roided out homeruns and 98mph sliders. 29-year-old Adam rarely takes four hours to watch that diminished and poorly marketed product*.
*unless it is October in which case I most certainly will make the time
Consequently, I don’t want to watch guys shoot free throws for two-and-a-half hours. I’m all for opening up the game and I’ll gladly watch Jordan Adams get buckets; but if things trend towards November’s Seton Hall-Niagra tilt, in which 102 FTs were taken, count me bored.
The point here is that entertainment is subjective. We’ve been presented the right measures but – with a Pac-12 focus – the players are just better. Sometimes it’s just that simple. Jorge Gutierrez, or the equivalent, will not be the conference POY. Or even First-Team All-Ten-Man-Conference Team. Come March, that thing is going to resemble a draft board. The NCAA is making strides – they’ve told us as much – but I’d also like to give credit to the ones playing the games.
And now we’ve arrived at the really fun part. The section of the season where it doesn’t matter whether the final score is 99-92 with gazillion FTs taken or 14-8 with eight concussions. It’s storyline time and that’s the real entertainment. Because you shouldn’t fool yourself: You love drama.
Do you realize Andy Enfield now must out-tempo Steve Alford? As in he has to do it on a basketball court and not with his mouth? That Johnny Dawkins is coaching for his career the same way Ken Bone, Craig Robinson and maybe even Lorenzo Romar are? That Spencer Dinwiddie is going to prove – or otherwise – that he and his Buffs are the cream rising to the top?
That’s entertainment to me. When Utah knocks someone off or a court is rushed by giddy students. That’s a good game. Those slack jawed moments of howdidthathappen; holy shit, if you will.
It was a fun non-conference slate. And it’s about to get better.
If you follow me in the social Twitter, you’d know that last week I was very curious of the date. I mean I knew it was September but on that day I received an Outlook meeting request. This gathering of the minds was to be held on October 1 and I began to think, “What an oddly advanced meeting request. October is forever away but it is my birthday month and that’s pretty great. I wonder what I should do to celebrate that? What could this meeting be? Isn’t it Brad’s birthday soon, too? Probably should do something for that cat. Is October that far away? Do the Cats have a bye week? Is Saturday’s football schedule really that bad? I think I’ll have Pho for lunch. But sando sounds nice..” Yeah, I got distracted. Yet when I came to realize that October was tangibly close, this:
Oh hey. Hey guys? Hey #IsItNovemberYet
— Adam Butler (@pachoopsab) September 20, 2013
Of course begging said question is less a matter of calendar as it is a matter of competition. You, being the bright fan you are, recognize that November marks the first of 20ft-9inches for three, 35-seconds to shoot, questionable court rushes, scrubs waving towels, ubiquitous charges, and shining moments. COLLEGE BASKETBALL.
You need it and you want it and this week, because it is indeed not November yet, I present: THE WEEK THAT PRACTICE STARTS! Earlier this summer, the NCAA announced that practices could begin six weeks (42 days) prior to a team’s first game. They’re allowed to squeeze 30 practices into that window and now let’s pour one out for Midnight Madness.
[is this where I link or reference to Allen Iverson’s practice presser?]
Your team, their practice:
|First Practice||First Game|
And while there may not be a Midnight Madness (was anyone really running one of those anyway?) you might notice that nine Pac teams are in action on 11/8. Opening day? Kinda feels like it.
But this is a post about practice, the three man weave and running suicides where they don’t count unless everyone touches the line. Practice where every jumper is counted and gold jerseys are handed out. Practice where minutes are earned and lost. Blood, sweat, and tears. Hell maybe a fight?
It may only be practice. And it may not be Novermber yet. But it’s a start.
So the team that wins the Pac-12 Tournament garnered a twelve seed. This was immediately reacted to with moderate outrage and addressed by Mike Bobinski on the CBS Selection Show. Look, I understand that the committee’s job is tough and generally see little reason to get too upset at their work. Especially if they can provide a rational explanation. So I was willing to give Bobinski a pass if he had good reason. But this was his thoughts about Oregon as a twelve, “We had evaluated their entire season’s worth of work as belonging somewhere in that eleven range.” I can’t get behind that and I know if you’re a Duck you can’t either. I saw this team beat Arizona, UNLV, and handle UCLA twice. Four wins does not a season make but those four teams are seeded 6, 5, and 6 and the Ducks (just like Ohio State) had just won their conference tournament. Where’s the reward? Alas, the thing I keep coming back to is who’s more pissed off? Is it Oregon for getting the poor and “disrespectful” seeding? Or is it their first round opponent, the Oklahoma State Cowboys, who now have to travel to San Jose and play the angry Ducks?
Side note: Lotta points to be scored should this have been a football game.
Why I like them: This team plays their roles remarkably well and is committed to Dana Altman’s system. I love their depth and the complete roster of players and athletes Altman artfully substitutes. They defend and rebound tremendously well which bodes well come tournament time (see: Vegas, Las). They rank 16th in defensive efficiency nationally.
Why I don’t like them: Ain’t got no shooters! Their eFG% is right around average (49.1% vs 48.6%) and their three point shooting (for better or worse a key to winning this month) is…poor at best. They shoot just 32% from distance. Additionally, the fact that they’re turnover-prone does not help any offensive woes they might encounter.
Poetic Justice: EJ Singler has been the rock of this program and played in every other tournament this glorious month offers. He’s played in the CBI and NIT and now, for the first time in his career he’ll play in the Big One. We’ve already discussed how the program’s season was slighted but wouldn’t it be exciting to see the Ducks win a few for this guy? Or better yet, because of this guy? He’s putting up 15/5/2 over the Ducks’ last four games (including their P12 tournament run) and they could certainly benefit if the native Oregonian could stay hot.
Best Possible Scenario: EJ indeed stays hot and Daymean Dotson does the same, giving the Ducks a shooting threat alongside tournament MVP, Johnathan Loyd. Between this trifecta the offense manages enough muster while Kazemi throttles Le’Bryan Nash and a now game tested and completely healthy, Dominic Artis, gives Marcus Smart fits. The Cowboys aren’t hitting and Oregon takes advantage of their inability to board. The Ducks win this practical home game and semi-host the fourth seeded – and tough – St. Louis Billikens in what would turn into a hard-nosed, grind of a game. Which of course let’s us believe anything can happen. The Ducks match the Billikens in defensive intensity and take care of the rock, winning on a late Singler runner, 58-56. With the Ducks headed to the Sweet 16, Phil Knight buys out the arena and the entire student body is invited to Indianapolis for the Oregon-Lousiville game. Unfortunately the Louisville press is too much for these turnover prone Ducks, ending their season. Though Oregon wins the Nike-Adidas aesthetic game.
My football career never took off because I’m a narcissistic, attention whore and so I became a pitcher. Later I would start a blog.
On pitching, it’s the embodiment of an egomaniac. The phrase “ball in his hands” stems from the position and there’s a reason that on a scorecard, the pitcher is position number one. He’s always center stage, the game doesn’t start until he’s ready, and all eyes are on him.
A blog is just a twenty-first century name for “house of narcissism.”
So back to the football. As a 6’2″ 210lbs (there’s a reason my brother refers to those days as “Fadam”) freshman in high school benching 65lbs and squatting 115lbs, Coach Brunenkant was excited to have an offensive lineman project. I was in his Beginning Weights class at 11am on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays and for a block period on Wednesdays and was getting the full sale to block in his offense.
I was not going to play O-Line. Ever.
Despite getting to school early and doing things like read books and talk to no one, I was longing for the limelight. To pitch in October, my team’s world series fate in my hands, I idolized the Jack Morris’ of the world. Gutsy performers who took the team on their back, willing them to victory.
And then I played freshman tennis because the baseball coach was too frightening.
Eventually I’d get over that – I’m still terrified of the man – and letter a few times on the diamond, winning two conference titles, garnering one state runner-up appearance (this guy hit a 2-run homer in extras to beat us that I still don’t think has landed) and a few individual awards. It was fun and I hadn’t had to block anyone.
So now that we’ve loosely made our way back to football and not once mentioned basketball (which begins in just nine days, how excited are you?), allow me the point.
Football, despite my lack of desire to play it, is glorious. It’s the best hangover cure since the breakfast burrito and plays the glorious role of the dangling carrot getting you to the weekend. Have you ever tailgated? There’s not much else to say.
It’s a game centered around fandom and I love that.
As they have for eons, people come together to cheer on the successes of others. Their adopted group driving towards a collective goal of victory. And I’m fascinated by the emotional attachment we can grow to the wins and losses of something we have absolutely no control over. It’s bass ackwards but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
So now that we’ve covered my narcissism, shyness in high school, and why I love football, I’ll mention that I’m channeling the football spirit into some football writing over at Pacific Takes. I’m primarily covering Arizona’s season, the roller coaster that it is. I talk a lot about the program’s changing culture and I mention this Rodriguez guy a lot.
Here’s my latest where I talk about digging holes, ketchup, and burying trees.
On the basketball front, I’m giddy. The season is just around the corner and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been meandering around town with a good day buzz going and stopped to fully nerd out with someone in a “[insert college here] Basketball” shirt to talk upcoming season.
Let’s get ready cause it’s going to be a fun one.
The NCAA is a unique governing body. With a litany of rules to enforce and just a short arm with which to do such, they find themselves in a difficult situation. How can they police if there is no fear of reprecussions? How can they bite with all that bark? Let’s get medieval.
In his political doctrine, The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli addresses whether a leader should be feared or loved. “Both,” he says, “but it is far safer to be feared than loved if you cannot be both.”
A feared leader is a followed leader and last week the NCAA got its wish.
Washington and coach Lorenzo Romar cancelled a scrimmage, a scrimmage, with NBA alumni (a pretty solid group from the Husky family) in fear of breaking an NCAA rule. The to-be-violated rule states that former players cannot attend practices if it has been promoted ahead of time. Romar had publicized the event on local radio, KJR-AM, in effect poisoning the fun. They would later carry through with the scrimmage, closing it to media and the public in accordance with NCAA law.
Indeed, rules are rules, and Washington did the right thing in cancelling the scrimmage to avoid any wrist slapping. But it begs the question, is the NCAA scaring the right people?
Also last week, it was announced that Xavier’s Tu Holloway would be suspended one game for playing too much basketball (read this tweet from Jay Bilas). He played in two summer leagues instead of the permitted one league. Again, rules are rules as XU coach, Chris Mack reminds us, “Sometimes there are silly rules out there, but as silly as they are, you have to follow them. Sometimes I don’t like going 55 miles an hour on 71 in certain places but I have to follow the law.”
But now we’re back to the question. A feared leader may be the most effective but who is supposed to be spooked?
Should it be teams trying to promote their season with a fun alumni game? All-Americans trying to get a little summer run? Or should it be street agents, shady boosters, and cutthroat coaches (no pun intended)?
In Chapter 18 of The Prince (Concerning The Way In Which Princes Should Keep Faith), Machiavelli addresses a number of commendable traits pertinent to leadership. A Prince must keep faith, integrity, be merciful, and upright; sound characteristics indeed. But the philosopher continues, “It is unnecessary for a prince to have all the good qualities I have enumerated, but it is very necessary to appear to have them.” To summarize: make it look like you mean well.
Ah, like enforcing nominal infractions (self-reported at that) and dolling out subsequent suspensions while the real bad guys (oh hey, Edward Rife, Nevin Shapiro, Joel Bell) run amuck, untouchable by college athletics’ governing body? But hey, sitting Tim Abromaitis – the Notre Dame senior suspended four games for playing in an exhibition game three years ago – undoubtedly provides the appearance of good governance.
For who can argue with the letter of the law?
Ultimately, it’s a broken system. The NCAA holds no jurisdiction over half of its offenders and really stands to benefit from its biggest earners. As Dan Wetzel explains in light of the recent Michael Beasley law suit, turning a blind eye on any rules transgression is a financial win for anyone and everyone. In Beasley’s case, his agent scored an NBA-bound client and Beasley received handouts and favors while the NCAA cashed in on the talents of an 18-year-old to whom they paid nothing. This of course went conveniently unnoticed by NCAA rule enforcers during Beasley’s time as a student-athlete.
I won’t venture to conjure up a solution; I don’t know the rules nearly well enough and don’t swing a heavy enough bat to make that leap. But, like an umpire’s strike zone, I would ask that the NCAA simply be consistent. I know such a request doesn’t parallel Machiavellian rule – make the people think you’re doing a great job – but pointing the finger can only last so long.
Plus, I’d much rather watch NBA alumni scrimmages and Tu Holloway and Tim Abromaitis play despite wee infractions than pretend I care about vacated wins and Final Four appearances from seasons past.
In the final chaper, Machiavelli anecdotally lays out the oppressive-turned-flourishing empires of several ancient societies. He suggests that each fell into the dark before being drawn back into the light by a heroic and brave leader (two interjected thoughts: this and Suck-for-Luck). Perhaps we’ve reached the NCAAs darkest hour? Maybe it can’t get any worse?
While I don’t think there will be a knight in shining armor – that’s not the NCAA’s course – I do believe change can and should be on the horizon. Some steps have been made towards vacating the selectively Drachonian recruiting laws. Just last week the NCAA announced coaches can place unlimited calls and texts with recruits after their sophomore year. A small step but a step nonetheless.
Ultimately, the objective of Machiavelli’s work was to help make better leaders. To be such, shady tactics may be involved, but the end goal is a better situation for all. The NCAA appears to have the shady part down, next is the whole better situation thing.
The task to uphold amateurism is a difficult one. The NCAA’s job is not enviable to be sure. But no matter where the NCAA goes from here, no matter how bad it may ever get, know that we’ll always have this: