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Sports Then and Now



Waiting for the Weekend: Inconsistency of Justice 0

Posted on June 16, 2017 by Dean Hybl
Thee NCAA punishment for Rick Pitino and Louisville is the latest inconsistency in justice from the NCAA.

Thee NCAA punishment for Rick Pitino and Louisville is the latest inconsistency in justice from the NCAA.

The Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States (IAAUS) was created in 1906 by President Theodore Roosevelt primarily to oversee and make safer intercollegiate football as well as to oversee eligibility in intercollegiate sports. The name of the organization was changed in 1910 to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

Over the last 111 years, this organization has grown to become one of the most hypocritical behemoths within the United States. Though considered a non-profit, the NCAA generates billions of dollars in revenue annually while their primary labor force receives no direct compensation from the association. To make it even worse, those “student-athletes” are penalized by the organization if they dare to attempt to receive anything other than a college scholarship and minimal gifts and awards for participating in tournaments or championship competition.

I could spend thousands of words illustrating examples of the hypocrisy and exploitative nature of the organization, especially when it comes to student-athletes. But, I do not intend to make that the subject of this column.

Instead, I want to briefly explore the announcement this week of penalties against the Louisville Cardinals men’s basketball program and head coach Rick Pitino.

The NCAA is investigating what ineligible players may have appeared in games for the Cardinals from 2010-2014 as part of an alleged sex-for-pay scandal involving a Louisville assistant coach and basketball recruits. If any players were deemed to have performed while they should have been ineligible, then Louisville could be forced to vacate victories, including their 2013 NCAA Championship.

Though he has not been directly implicated, head coach Rick Pitino was suspended by the NCAA for five ACC games next season.

Now, don’t get me wrong, if a Louisville coach was involved in paying women to have sexual relations with basketball recruits, that is morally abysmal and just another example of how some in college athletics have crossed the line. However, much like the Penn State scandal of a few years ago where the university and football administration were without question guilty of failing to meet simple ethical standards, they weren’t necessarily guilty of anything that specifically provided the team with an on-the-field advantage by providing a special benefit or keeping a player eligible.

That lies in very deep contrast to the University of North Carolina, whose men’s basketball team won the NCAA Championship just two months ago. The University and many athletic teams, including the men’s basketball program, have been under the cloud of an academic scandal in which the credibility of an entire department at the college was fabricated for many years, in part to help ensure that student-athletes could remain eligible.

Yet, not only was UNC allowed to participate in the last two national championship games, their head coach, Roy Williams, is regularly lauded by the NCAA and coaches association for his “ethical” behavior.

There is an old saying that the NCAA is so upset with the actions at UNC that they put UNC-Wilmington on probation for ten years. In this case, it almost seems that the NCAA is working with the University to try and make the entire issue go away. It is a stark contrast to how the NCAA handles much less significant scandals at other institutions. Read the rest of this entry →

The Palestra: College Basketball’s Most Beloved Arena 3

Posted on February 01, 2016 by Mike Raffone

The Palestra

As the NCAA basketball season inches towards tournament time, allow me to highlight my favorite place on the planet to watch college hoops.

As Philadelphia’s most revered sports venue, the Palestra is appropriately called the Cathedral of College Basketball.

Recognized as the birthplace of college basketball, this hallowed arena opened its doors on the University of Pennsylvania campus on January 1, 1927. On that seminal day, Ivy League rivals Penn and Yale tipped off in what would become the first of thousands of games held in this building.

Named after an ancient Greek rectangular enclosure, the sparkling new facility was designed to house 8,722 spectators.

However, more than 10,000 excited fans crammed into the Palestra to witness Penn beat Yale 26 – 15 on its opening day.

Since then, the Palestra has hosted more NCAA college basketball games than any other arena in the country.

Beginning 1955, the Palestra has also served as the home court for the round robin of Big 5 college basketball games. Though not an official league or athletic conference, the Big 5 boasts five successful college basketball programs located within a 17 mile radius of center city Philadelphia. Read the rest of this entry →

Never Mind RPI: Behind The Logic of The Bracket 3

Posted on March 05, 2015 by Ashley Andrews
There is no doubt that Kentucky will be at the top of the bracket when the NCAA Tournament bids are announced on March 15tth.

There is no doubt that Kentucky will be at the top of the bracket when the NCAA Tournament bids are announced on March 15tth.

The schedule says that the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament starts on St. Patrick’s Day, but the ongoing action up until that day can be the real March Madness. The migration from locks, bubbles, and outsiders continues right up until the last whistle of the last conference tournament, and the tiny window in which the committee assimilates all that information into a bracket is arguably the maddest time of March.

Teams like Kentucky, Virginia, and Wisconsin are unlikely to get a surprise come Selection Sunday, regardless of how their final couple of games turn out. But there is much more that goes into settling the field for play, especially starting with the two and three seeds. Before the men’s NCAA basketball tournament hits the airwaves, the committee is hitting the books to set it up. Here’s what (might) be going through their minds:

Peaking At The Right Time
Coaches use this term all the time. They just mean they’re hoping their team is playing their best basketball of the season when March arrives.

The committee wants these teams. They are likely to provide clemency to early sputters. Kansas can write off its early mugging by Kentucky, for example, because their recent results have been far more in line with what’s expected from a premiere team. And early season rankings are disproved annually. Strong play at the end of the regular season and in the conference tournament carries considerably more weight that early-season jitter games. The reason is obvious: Teams that come into March like a lion will provide the most exciting games and the best chance at a deep tournament run.

Losses, Yes. But To Whom?
Herein lies the debate over relative strength of conferences. Gonzaga has been dinged repeatedly for being dominant only because the West Coast Conference is not exactly viewed as hoops heaven, a criticism verified by BYU’s defeat of Mark Few’s squad.

Meanwhile, a different ocean laps against the shores of many of the ACC’s home states, the arena where Duke, UNC, Louisville, and their mates (including Syracuse, which is taking a mulligan on postseason play this year as self-imposed sanctions for compliance no-no’s) have locked up like combative rams in arguably one of the most brutal conferences in the country. Coming out of that fray with four losses will likely shine more brightly from the bracket than only a couple of blemishes in other locales.

But what of the SEC? Georgia head coach Mark Fox insists that the league is being downgraded because Kentucky is clobbering all of them, but that after the Wildcats there’s a high level of parity and quality in the league. Meanwhile there are thousands of fans screaming about the legitimacy of smaller leagues, the home of Cinderella.

Tickets, Please. Tickets. And Ratings, Too.
When it all shakes out, we have to face the reality that the NCAA–non-profit organization or not–is looking to make money. Venues cost money. Officials cost money. Security, staff, hotels, everything involved in the tournament is expensive, and the only way to cover these costs is to make sure that fans are in the seats. A no-friction road to the Final Four, especially in a distant regional arena, could spur many fans to skip early rounds and wait on their favorite to get to Indianapolis. The NCAA doesn’t want that. They want interest in those early games. So the committee may choose to set up a challenge for high seeds that fans may feel is unwarranted, strictly to ensure that those fans come to the games. This could be how seedings mysteriously drift downward for favorites and/or upward for dark horses. A 4/13 game is considerably more worrisome to fans of the favorite than the 1/16 arrangement, which since its 1985 inception has never seen an upset.

The same thing that sells tickets also turns on televisions, and viewership pays the broadcasters’ hefty bills–including those to the NCAA itself. The selection committee must make sure there’s intriguing TV to be had.

These are matters that aren’t settled on the court but in the conference room. While some fans may feel that the bracket should be established with nothing but hard basketball facts, the reality is that the committee must take some of these factors into consideration to keep the tournament accurate and, perhaps most important, financially sound.

The History of Wichita St. Basketball 1

Posted on March 11, 2014 by Scott Huntington

As one of the stories of the year, the Wichita State Shockers have gone undefeated in the regular season of their college basketball season. After making it to the Final Four the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament last year and earning a record of 34-0 this season, the Wichita St. basketball team is now where they have rarely been—in the limelight of sports prominence. For the casual sports fan, the Shockers have not often come to mind when it comes to choosing a winner for their March Madness brackets. However, Wichita St. basketball has come a long way since its beginning, starting under the name Fairmount College.

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The Beginning of Shockers Basketball

Under the original name of the “Wheatshockers”, the Fairmount College basketball team competed in its first season in 1906. Head coach Willis Bates and his six players finished the season 2-4. You don’t need medical translation to know that going 2-4 isn’t the best start to a program, but Fairmount College would eventually make strides forward, including the development of the full-court zone press under Coach Gene Johnson.

How Far Will Wichita State Go in the NCAA Tournament?

  • Lose the first weekend (27%, 3 Votes)
  • Winning the NCAA Title (27%, 3 Votes)
  • Lose in the Elite 8 (18%, 2 Votes)
  • Lose in the Round of 16 (9%, 1 Votes)
  • Lose in the Final Four (9%, 1 Votes)
  • Lose the NCAA Championship Game (10%, 1 Votes)

Total Voters: 11

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Start of Success

The Shockers would begin to see success after joining the Missouri Valley Conference, when the school hired Ralph Miller from East High in 1951. Miller convinced his star player in high school, Cleo Littleton, to come with him to the college. Littleton became one of the first African-American players in the Missouri Valley Conference. He was also the first to score 19 points per game as a freshman—a school record that stands today. Under Miller in the 1964, Dave Stallworth would become the Shockers’ first consensus all-American, scoring a career average 24.2 points per game. Miller would later be inducted into Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame after building the Shockers’ basketball program.

Wichita State’s First Great Season

In the season following the school’s induction into the state university system as Wichita State University, the Shockers would go 19-7 and win the Missouri Valley Conference in the 1964-65 season under Gary Thompson. In the NCAA tournament of that season, Wichita St. would defeat SMU and Oklahoma St. in order to earn a berth into the Final Four—an accomplishment tied for the school’s deepest-ever run in the tournament. In their Final Four matchup, Wichita St. would lose to defending national champs UCLA Bruins by a score of 108-89.

One More Run Before Insignificance

11 years after Wichita St.’s greatest season at that point, the Shockers would win their next Missouri Valley Conference title. With one of the school’s best-assembled teams, including freshman-phenom Cheese Johnson, the 1975-76 Shockers returned to the NCAA tournament. A heart-breaking loss by one point to Michigan—the eventual runners-up—in the first game of the tournament would then be followed by the Shockers’ Elite 8 season in 1981 in which Wichita St. defeated Kansas. The Shockers would subsequently go through a period of mediocrity through the 1990s.

Return of the Shockers

Under new Athletic Director Jim Schaus, Wichita St. would begin to see success again in the 2000s. The hiring of coach Mark Turgeon would prove advantageous as he brought the team to three consecutive 20-win seasons and the school’s first conference championship in 23 years. The program has continued to gain momentum as the Shockers won the NIT tournament in 2011 and reached the Final Four of the NCAA tournament last season. Now, Wichita St. is poised to make a deep run in the tournament with the likelihood of a one seed and the confidence that only an undefeated season can give you.

Cam Newton’s Dad Really Blew It 66

Posted on September 12, 2011 by Dean Hybl

Before news broke that Cecil Newton had shopped the services of his son to college teams, they appeared to be the feel-good story of college football in 2010.

You know how sometimes you make a decision that seems to be a good short-term choice, but when looked in the bigger context probably wasn’t such a smart idea? Well, I can’t help thinking of that kind of notion when thinking about Cam Newton and the record-setting performance he had yesterday in his first game for the Carolina Panthers.

Even though the Panthers lost, given that Newton threw for more yards in his professional debut than any quarterback in NFL history, today should be a day when Newton is celebrated nationwide as a budding superstar and starts to cash in on his mile-wide smile, dynamic personality and athletic ability.

However, while I believe there is general appreciation for his performance and ability, I get the sense that many people across the country aren’t really interested in signing up for the “Cam Era” and likely will never embrace him in the way that his talent and potential might deserve.

You can choose to say that the reason for this is that he is a black quarterback in what is still predominately a white quarterback world, but I will respectfully disagree.

Instead, I believe that players such as Warren Moon, Randall Cunningham, Doug Williams, Donovan McNabb, Daunte Culpepper, Michael Vick and others have paved the way for someone like Cam Newton to be the face of a franchise and the face of the NFL.

In my opinion, the biggest reason that Cam Newton isn’t receiving the unbridled love of sports fans across the country can be traced to one of those short-term decisions. When Cam’s father, Cecil Newton, chose to hold discussions about how much it was worth to certain universities to secure the services of his son, Cecil unknowingly forever altered how his son is perceived by the sports world.

Whether or not you believe that money changed hands (to my knowledge no evidence of this has been proven) or whether you believe that Cam knew about the discussions (as of now the NCAA has ruled that he didn’t), you cannot help but look at Cam in a different light than if his father had respected the rules of amateur athletics and the NCAA and waited until after his son had completed his college career to cash in financially.

I have little doubt that if the world had never learned that Cecil Newton tried to trade the services of his son to Mississippi State for a six-figure cash deal, Cam Newton would have been the toast of the sports world even before his amazing NFL debut. Read the rest of this entry →

A Counter-Intuitive Solution To Scandal In College Sports 4

Posted on September 04, 2011 by John Wingspread Howell

Jim Tressel and Terrelle Pryor are just among the latest to bring scandal to college athletics.

As college football scandals proliferate and deepen, this sports fan is beginning to feel as if we’re hitting bottom. It’s time to separate college athletics from professional sports.

My solution is simple. College athletics should be college athletics. No player should represent a school in any sport, if that player would not have been academically eligible to attend the school for which s/he plays.

Give athletic scholarships to all those who qualify both academically and athletically, and give them four year scholarships contingent on maintaining academic eligibility.

According to my proposal, any athlete wishing to play for a particular school would have to go through the regular admission process first. Only after being accepted on academic criteria, would an athlete then be eligible to compete for an athletic scholarship.

Such a policy would actually increase opportunities for athletes who are truly college material to play at the intercollegiate level, and to obtain scholarships to attend the best schools at which they can qualify. It would also eliminate the potential for abuse, since recruiting would be limited to athletes who are academically eligible, and since the athletic department would not have any influence over the admission process.

It is true that under this system the schools with the best athletic programs might be the schools with the lowest academic standards, but so be it.
Read the rest of this entry →

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      July 4, 2017 | 8:48 pm
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      Sudden Sam McDowell

      The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month was a hard-throwing lefthander who often led Major League Baseball in both strikeouts and walks. His off-the-field story also made him the prototype for a famed television character.

      Sudden Sam McDowell made his Major League debut for the Cleveland Indians a week before his 19th birthday and pitched in the majors for 15 seasons.

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