don't we all
basketball recruiting is dirty like dirt in a dirt sandwich
Darius Morris and Jack Johnson
The Bylaw Blog has developed a recurring theme of late: by placing greater restrictions on the folk it has control over it cedes territory to people it doesn't. A prime example is when the NCAA banned college coaches from attending AAU events. AAU events didn't stop collecting players or happening, and coaches got more distant from the players they were trying to recruit. This provides greater influence for middlemen, and in college basketball these days lots of middlemen want to get paid, yo.
Here's another example, one year after ACC coaches successfully lobbied the NCAA to move the draft withdrawal date up 40 days:
A year later, here we are again. The ACC's coaches drafted a new proposal, one that moves the early-entry deadline all the way up to the day before the beginning of the spring signing period. In 2011, that date -- April 12 -- would have passed us by weeks ago. It would have given underclassman prospects exactly eight days after the national title game to decide whether they wanted to go pro or stay in school for another year. It would have -- I mean, it will; I'm still having trouble with the idea that this is actually happening -- forced players with millions of dollars on the line to make life-altering decisions in the matter of a few days with minimal information on which to make them.
Why move the date? April 10th is the day before basketball's late signing period. Now coaches will know how many spots they have open when that period opens. Except they wont. Bylaw Blog:
In attempting to control the draft process, college coaches have lost all control of the draft process to the NBA. Instead of an NCAA deadline of May 8, the new deadline is not April 10, but still April 24, the NBA's deadline.
The NBA's shown no interest in helping college basketball, so the chances the change actually has any positive effect are slim. The net effect is to prevent a bunch of players from declaring and returning to school. But at least there's an alternate universe in which college coaches are happier.
Why not revamp? I've been bothering the Bylaw Blog about this on twitter, and now I'm going to bother you: you could sidestep all these issues by dumping the current NBA draft structure and replacing it with something closer to the MLB/hockey model. In those sports everyone is automatically put into the draft and thus retains their eligibility. In baseball there is a narrow window in which you have to sign or the team loses rights to the player; hockey teams retain rights to the player until they graduate.
The Bylaw Blog keeps shooting down these proposals like so:
Short draft, limited roster spots, lack of minor league make MLB model less workable for basketball. NBA should adopt MLS approach*.
That was the same reasoning given to me when I bothered him about hockey, but I think he's conflating the two models. The MLB model does encourage a bunch of players to sign way before they're ready to enter the major leagues and implementing it in basketball could see a bunch of college stars toiling away in the D-League, something no one wants. (If the NBA had any designs on making people care about the D-League they wouldn't have started forcing players to go to college.)
The hockey model doesn't necessarily have this issue. Since teams retain rights they can leave kids in school until they determine whether or not they want to sign them. Players do tend to sign before they are NHL-ready but that's because there is a ready-made minor league with a higher level of play that acts as an intermediary between the NHL and the league. There isn't in basketball and the D-league is never going to be one, so teams would almost want to keep their players in college until they thought they were ready.
If I woke up tomorrow and was David Stern this is what I'd do:
- Change the draft so that every recruit who signs a LOI is automatically entered.
- Extend the draft to three rounds.
- Rookie contracts are at least one year longer than the amount of eligibility you're giving up. (IE, straight out of high school: five years, junior: two years, senior: one year, but in that case you don't have the sign the guy so this is essentially zero years.) That roster spot cannot be reclaimed by cutting the player; contracts are not 100% guaranteed but have some floor (probably the league minimum) that is.
- Allow unsigned, drafted players to play in the summer league.
And then if I woke up the next day as the president of the NCAA I'd:
- Fume at my lack of power.
But if I woke up the next day as an NCAA president who could force choke anyone who disagreed with me I'd:
- Allow pro teams to pay for their players to attend rookie camps and assorted "should we sign you" activities.
In the specific case of someone near and dear to us who seems to be making an odd decision because of the current NBA draft structure, Darius Morris would have been in the draft out of high school and after his freshman year, but would have been passed over each time. This year he'd be taken at some point, could work out with his team a bit as long as he paid his own way (about which don't get me started, see fuming above), and then it would be up to the team and Morris to decide whether or not he was ready to make the leap. If the NBA team signed Morris immediately they'd be committing to having him on the roster for the next three years, so they'd have to think about it.
In this specific case and a lot of others the player would be far less likely to make a bad decision because he'd be talking directly with the team who held his rights. Similarly, NBA teams who draft a college player only to find out he needs more seasoning than they thought could save the roster spot and cash for someone else as they wait to see which of their prospects develop. Everyone would have more information via which to make better decisions.
Unfortunately, this seems diametrically opposed to the way things are going. Like Brionte Dunn and showing up on campus, I'll start getting my hopes up when people talking sense about how basketball recruiting goes down pass a legislative proposal and no sooner.
*[The MLS approach is to sign the player and then find a home for him, which doesn't seem workable because the NBA is not a single entity, unlike MLS. MLS is competing with leagues around the world for players, so there's a point to negotiating a contract with a league. The NBA isn't competing against anyone for anyone other than Josh Childress, so I'm not sure what the advantage of their structure is for basketball.]
Agentzzz. Does the SEC's reaction to predatory agents seem, oh I don't know, slightly self-serving? On one level I don't actually disagree with the idea that maybe having a registered NFL agent represent a kid and possibly throw him some dollars isn't the worst way to bridge some of the gap between the amount of money players make for their schools and the amount of money they make for themselves. That would conveniently pay the players likely to be worth the most to their schools without actually acting as a drain on athletic department budgets.
But maybe the time to suggest something like this…
The SEC commissioner says the current rules "may be as much part of the problem as they are the solution."
…is before half the schools in your league are under investigation and likely to lose key players. Watching the local journalists scramble to think outside the bun when their precious local programs come under threat is annoying when no one has a troubling word to say about the NCAA and their pursuit of Reggie Bush. You had five years to cluck about agents before the knocking got local. Doing it now is pure hackery. I can only imagine what the Free Press would write if Michigan had anyone involved in this. Probably not "we need a whole new way of thinking about agents."
Meanwhile, hearing Nick Saban position himself as the great and good friend of college athlete's eligibility is the sort of spectacularly brazen thing that is totally expected from Nick Saban. Seriously:
"I have no respect for people who do that to young people, none," Saban said. "I mean, none. How would you feel if they did it to your child?"
Do what, exactly? Oversign the hell out of them and then either end their careers with dubious medical scholarships or spawn a "voluntary" transfer? No. Give them money they shouldn't have because the NCAA says so. All right then.
Stupidzzz. So some guy outed the author of the Bylaw Blog. As a result, the Bylaw Blog is going on hiatus as the man behind it tries to clear it with his athletic department, which is Loyola Marymount's. Hopefully they take a look at the content on the blog and see it as a positive for their profile, which it certainly is, and let Compliance Guy continue being exceptionally useful.
As for guy who outs exceptionally useful guy: congratulations. You dug up a piece of information of no value to anyone and possibly/probably cut off the only insight into the increasingly important world of compliance that anyone had. You have committed an act of anti-journalism. Here, the truth makes us all dumber. I hope someone runs your foot over with a lawnmower.
Also then afterwards these gentlemen stop by and bend metal threateningly. Via Rittenberg comes this little bit of Barwis hype. On Mike Martin:
Bench-presses 505 pounds, squats 700 pounds … Power cleans 430 pounds, hang cleans 475 pounds …Runs the 40-yard dash in 4.9 seconds
Strength coach Mike Barwis says: "Mike is an absolute warrior. He has a never quit attitude and is a natural born leader. He is one of the most impressive physical specimens I have ever seen."
And on David Molk:
Bench-presses 490 pounds, squats 660 pounds … Power cleans 420 pounds, hang cleans 440 pounds … Runs the 40-yard dash in 4.9 seconds
Strength coach Mike Barwis says: "Dave is an outstanding worker and a natural athlete. He is one of the most naturally explosive linemen I have ever trained."
Whatever Fred Jackson's got, it's catching.
Martin totally pwns Northwestern DT Corbin Bryant, who squats like my grandmother (a mere 600 pounds) and is essentially on par with OSU DL John Simon; no comparables were available for offensive linemen.
Clean. We leave the fresh for the rest of the conference. Dana O'Neil has a remarkable article in which she anonymously surveys D-I basketball coaches and comes out with quotes like "If the NCAA was serious, they'd hire someone who knew what they were doing, not these women out here trying to get a husband.''
"These women"—referred to elsewhere as "gestapettes"—are the NCAA enforcement people tasked with wandering around summer recruiting events attempting to make sure everything is on the up and up. If only Bobby Knight was still coaching we'd have a likely candidate for that Mad Men-era quote; as it is it could be anyone.
Anyway, here's a feather in the cap combined with a shot at Tommy Amaker:
Which league is the cleanest? The dirtiest?
Congratulations, Jim Delany. Your league wins in a landslide. Of the 20 coaches surveyed, 11 said the Big Ten was the cleanest in the country. Three others cited the land where time stood still, also known as the scholarship-less Ivy League. (Although even the Ancient Eight earned one disparaging nod: "The Ivy League,'' one coach said before pausing to add, "I mean the Ivy League a couple of years ago, before all of that stuff at Harvard.")
But coaches cited the Big Ten's perceived willingness to police itself and rosters that "made sense," in which players traditionally come from the footprint of the schools they choose to attend.
Tommy Amaker got dirty enough to mention when he left Michigan for Harvard. Michigan is bringing a fork to a gun fight in basketball recruiting.
Some nice things were said about Michigan State that we will elide before getting to the next shocker:
…the Southeastern Conference was perceived as the worst, with three coaches partnering the SEC with the Big East and another tossing in the Big 12 (one coach went league-by-league, counting up schools). All in all, the SEC was named by 14 of the coaches.
"Oh no, it's not just a myth,'' one coach said about the SEC. "It's the truth.''
Maybe we need to rethink the way we perceive rampant cheating in college basketball?
Etc.: The WLA quibbles with the Offense of the Decade, suggesting that Drew Henson's abbreviated season as the starter should have won at QB. The numbers (61.6% completion, 14.7 yards per completion, 9.1 yards per attempt, and an 18/4 TD/INT ratio) are pretty compelling; I left him off because he only played about 75% of the season but… yeah. It depends on how heavily you want to weight that.
They also suggest Askew instead of Dudley but I did not really consider Askew a fullback since he spent most of his time as the deep back in a single-RB formation, IIRC, and anyway if I was putting together a team I'd rather have Dudley for short yardage than an okay tailback who can block.
Never trust a man with a ridiculous unibrow.
Basketball recrutniks will remember one Patrick Beverly, the late-rising Chicago wing that Amaker had seemingly locked down before a late trip to Arkansas suddenly flipped the kid. Beverly would go on to be a freshman All-American in 2006-2007. After a strong sophomore year he was ineligible as a junior and left Arkansas; he currently plays in the Greek league. If Beverly had signed up with Amaker there's a strong possibility he's still around today.
Anyway, afterwards there were more than the usual grumblings about dolla dolla bills y'all, many of them from moderator types on Rivals who usually shoot those things down. There wasn't any proof, though, and these things get old and people forget them.
[Oklahoma] acknowledged Wednesday that it was investigating phone calls made by former basketball assistant Oronde Taliaferro to determine whether he had committed any NCAA violations. In a statement, the school indicated that Taliaferro had made calls to a Merrill Lynch representative in Florida and the content of those calls was under review.
Oklahoma claims Taliaferro did not break NCAA rules by simply making the calls. The school's investigation started after a TMZ.com report that former player Keith "Tiny" Gallon had received a wire transfer from a Merrill Lynch representative. …
Taliaferro resigned in April after three seasons on coach Jeff Capel's staff, and the school said he wanted to "focus on other employment opportunities." Warren and Gallon have both entered their names in the NBA draft. …
The Tulsa World and The Oklahoman reported Wednesday that the school released documents showing that Taliaferro exchanged at least 41 phone calls and 25 text messages with Hausinger between May 2009 and March 2010.
Getting that cheddar, yo. Also of note: when Beverley exited Arkansas he outed a massive team-wide cheating scandal before someone got him to recant. Chances Beverly's change of heart were because of the majesty of Fayetteville: minimal. Also see new Golden Knight Isaiah Sykes. Here's to the NCAA hammering Oklahoma and taking a hard look at Arkansas.
Excellent work by the local papers in both these situations, by the way. #*&$ing stretching is the end of the world over here.
Outside the Lines put together an excellent piece on John Calipari brooming five players from Kentucky's roster as soon as he arrived. (It's technically six but one guy was a potential fifth-year, not an underclassman; ESPN's stretching a bit to make their case.) They mention that other people playing this game are Nick Saban, Billy Donovan, and… John Beilein!?!
Yes, actually, they do. It comes deep into the piece and is a tiny aside but they bring up the guy freakin' heading NCAA basketball's new ethics committee for Michigan's roster turnover amongst the usual sea of sketchy guys with slick hair:
A quick glance at the six departures over two years cited:
Ekpe Udoh. Udoh just turned in a triple-double for Baylor; Beilein obviously didn't want to lose him. Udoh saw 65% of available minutes in Beilein's first year and every time he is brought up a little part of a Michigan basketball fan dies. (Sorry, Eldridge P. Murthel of Saline, but that toe is never going to feel again.)
Reed Baker. Baker was offered an explicitly one-year deal sight unseen by Tommy Amaker (who feared that Dion Harris may have ended up academically ineligible) and took it; Beilein did not renew it. Baker landed at Florida Gulf Coast, where he's playing about 30 minutes a game.
Jerrett Smith. Smith was Kelvin Grady before Kelvin Grady was Kelvin Grady, a point guard who got buried on the depth chart. I believe he didn't come close to meeting Beilein's newly-instituted physical requirements. He transferred to GVSU and played the final year of his career there.
K'Len Morris. Morris also transferred to GVSU. He''s a junior this year; last year he saw 12 games before an injury ended his season. This year he has eight minutes in one game. (Injury again?)
Kendrick Price. Price quit the team when Beilein came in and now plays for the Vermont Frost Heaves of the Premier Basketball League. He is listed as a rookie from Michigan, so I believe he finished his degree at M instead of transferring somewhere else.
Kelvin Grady. Grady ended up buried at the end of the bench behind two walk-ons and decided he wasn't a fit for Beilein's offense. He's still at Michigan, playing receiver for the football team.
Only four of the departures were unexpected or something other than a total disaster for the interior defense and only two of those saw the players actually leave school—this is about academics, after all. Even leaving aside that, Michigan spent last year with ten scholarship players and the year before that with nine. No one was removed from the team to make room for a hotshot freshman. Creating standards your players have to meet to find playing time and seeing them transfer or quit because they don't, as Smith, Morris, and Price did, is totally different than cutting players so you can sign John Wall.
I don't bring this up to be defensive; it's just that the most common defense of this stuff on the part of folk who should be defensive is to bring up normal, un-sketchy attrition and attempt to draw a comparison. John Beilein (of all people!) is nothing like John Calipari.
Other than that, though, the piece is excellent. Three former UK players are quoted on-camera saying that they were cut. Cut with weaselly plausible deniability, but cut. Predictably, the comments are a horde of UK fans talking about haterz seeing them rolling. Jemele Hill's claim that UK fans would root for Charles Manson if he won is the most accurate statement that's ever been apologized for.
Broken record time: the NCAA should do something about this. Kudos to ESPN for ratcheting up the pressure.
John Calipari, folks:
UK announced Tuesday that three scholarship players will not be back on the team next season.
The three were A.J. Stewart, Donald Williams and Jared Carter.
Each of them has been told to play nice or else and has quotes thanking everyone for the opportunities, but privately they must be seething. By the numbers this is vastly worse than the Alabama stuff, as Calipari signed the class in the full knowledge he'd have to boot almost a quarter of his team to do it, without the luxury of medical redshirts. And he's not even done: if Jodie Meeks comes back and there are no academic issues, two more guys will have to get show the door. It's indefensible. Kentucky should be ashamed they allowed it to happen.
Meanwhile, a walk-on was taking about a scholarship with Gillespie and then got the cold shoulder. This doesn't come close to the level of the departed above since the player didn't come to UK under the impression he could spend four years there and end up with a degree, but the manner in which it was handled is revealing. The JCCW on that:
Time for tweeting? Check. Time to give a good kid, a lifetime Kentucky fan and Kentucky native, the common courtesy of telling him he's not needed in person? Or even over the phone? No dice.
These guys got cut so Calipari could cram his five-member recruiting class, which will no doubt feature a number of one-and-dones, on campus, and the idea of the "student-athlete" dies a little more. Calipari's now two for two on abandoning schools just as they get nailed with major sanctions for activities that—like Steve Fisher—the headman didn't know about because he didn't want to. Add in his record as an assistant at Kansas and Pittsburgh and Calipari has been at four schools, all of which have been hit with major infractions stemming from his time there. (Here's the NCAA database for these things; unfortunately it's impervious to links.)
Yeah, John Calipari had no knowledge of (probably) Derrick Rose's fraudulent test score, but that's sort of the point: he didn't know. And he didn't know Marcus Camby and the agent blah blah blah. He's not an idiot and neither are the people at Kentucky. And neither is the public. We're all terribly cynical now.
I find this stuff hugely depressing. Calipari can't take his two recruits and coach the guys he's got and wait a single year to graduate some kids, he's got to boot upstanding players off the team now so he can win now because that's just what he does, and the Kentucky administration just watches. All Kentucky has to do is wait and they'll have their full compliment of NBA-focused players who regard school as a nuisance and Kentucky as a marginally preferable alternative to Europe. Not even that's good enough.
I wonder about people who don't care about anything past the final score, don't care how that stuff goes down. I'd hate to be the guy behind A Sea of Blue right now, as he's not one of these people:
What he has done is effectively turn UK into an NBA franchise, and while that might be good for wins and losses and national championships, it isn't going to be welcomed everywhere. Some people are going to be very upset with how this is going down, and they have every right to be. UK has historically honored its scholarships, and has only rarely (if ever) done what is going on right now -- forcing players to transfer in order to make room under the "scholarship cap."
He excuses this behavior in two ways: blaming the athletic director for letting it happen and citing the massive contract Calipari signed, which "demands immediate results."
Why? It doesn't, of course. It demands eventual results, or at least it would if anyone at Kentucky gave a tenth of a crap about the players currently on the team.
I look at the rest of that guy's post, which is filled with halfhearted defenses of Calipari's long and checkered past and just cringe. I'd hate to wake up and see my basketball team filled with mercenaries and the country's biggest asshole on the sideline, winning the hollow victories of the morally bankrupt. What's the point of pretending Kentucky's basketball team is wing of the university anymore?
I'd love to get all up on my high horse about this undeniably douchy move by Thad Matta…
When Cameron Wright got off the phone with Ohio State men's basketball coach Thad Matta on Tuesday night, the junior guard from Benedictine knew he was not going to fulfill his dream of playing basketball for the Buckeyes. …
While recruits in football and basketball backing out of non-binding oral commitments isn't unusual, this wasn't a case of a kid changing his mind. Ever since OSU assistant John Groce, the primary recruiter for Wright, left to become the head coach at Ohio last June, Wright said contact from the Buckeyes had been sparse, and the call from Matta on Tuesday led to the final parting.
"I was definitely going to stick with Ohio State," said Wright.
…except I'm pretty sure Michigan did something subtler but similar with DeWayne Peace and Jordan Barnes, football recruits of yesteryear who decommitted in a fashion something less than voluntary. Peace had a conversation like this at some point:
Michigan: We'd like you to play defensive back.
Peace: Didn't I tell you I wanted to be a receiver?
Peace: Excuse me, I have to call Kansas.
Barnes, meanwhile, cited a wholesale lack of contact from the Michigan staff when he decommitted.* (He would later end up at Oklahoma State.) In both these cases Michigan didn't actually call up and say "you can't come here anymore," which makes their actions fractionally less douchy than those of Matta, but it's basically the same thing: whoops, can I have that scholarship back?
This might not be a trend yet, but it will be one soon, and then it will just be a fact of life. It's inevitable what with recruiting schedules moving so far forward, especially in basketball. Wright committed a year and a half ago(!). In the interim he went from highly touted to anonymous three-star. If you're a Michigan basketball fan you're probably thinking "I sort of wish Amaker had the balls to do that with Jerrett Smith," which assumes that Amaker would actually have replaced Smith with someone better but whatever. I feel you.
What's inevitable is also totally unfortunate, though. Wright's depressed final quote isn't going to be showing up in any annoying commercials starring violin-playing Asian soccer virtuosos:
"At the end of the day, it's all a business."
I thought the entire point was that it wasn't, in fact, a business. Upon this rests the entire near-fiction, not to mention the NCAA's tax-exempt status: that, in the end, the best interests of the student-athlete are paramount. That once you tell this Wright kid he can play basketball at Ohio State, he gets to unless he fails social studies six times or gets so high he can touch the sun.
As a fan I'd meet this news with two different emotions. One: hurray, it's more likely the team will be good. Two: boo, it's going to be harder to cheer for them when the ghost of Cameron Wright is sitting next to the walk-ons in a Cleveland State jersey. Everyone has a different balance there; mine slants heavily towards #2.
So it's good to be a fan of a university that did not actually run Jerrett Smith off, at least not before he got to campus. Smith's now a bench player at Grand Valley State after being booted for failing to meet standards set by Beilein. This also happened to Kendrick Price. Their removal from the team was not voluntary, but that seems fine as long as the standards are uniform and don't include things like "be useful on the court." Given the continued presence of Anthony Wright (before the Oklahoma game, at least), it's safe to say this isn't one of the standards.
Rodriguez's dance with the decommits hews closer to a line I'm uncomfortable with but still ends up on the right side of the line. If you don't think a kid can contribute or doesn't fit in your offense, it's best to tell them and let them make up their own mind. It's better to find out Michigan thinks you're a defensive back before signing day, after all, and unless you're being dishonest about that—which we'll never have any way of knowing—that's probably a net benefit. Peace is now a receiver at a place he'd rather be.
Barnes' case is murkier but there, too, Michigan let the guy make up his own mind. They helped along by making him feel unwanted, and while I'd prefer it if Michigan waited long enough to make sure they really wanted everyone they offered that kind of scrupulousness would put them behind the eight-ball, and as long as you don't actually yank the offer the kid's making a choice.
Do I have a larger point here? This is where the larger point goes. I don't know. I was just going to turn this into a UV bit and then it ended up pushing 1000 words, so you've read to the end and I should have a point.
I guess it's this: I don't want Michigan to be the sort of program that can pull what Matta just did. While I'm fine up to a point with the occasional moral compromise required to stay atop the shifting sands of Lemming-era recruiting, Rodriguez's tendency to shotgun offers out and let God sort 'em out later seems like a strategy that will lead to more uncomfortable situations not unlike a middle school dance: one party is desperately trying to extricate themselves from a situation they didn't think through before they checked the box that said "yes I like you."
*(I can no longer find a link for this, unfortunately. I have referenced it before, though. At the time of the decommit there was an Indy Star article that was pretty blunt about it.)