Dan Shaughnessy should stick to writing about the Red Sox

Leave a comment

“Who is Dan Shaughnessy and what does he do?”

I kid you not, I asked myself that very question when this column popped up in my email.

I’m a pretty well-rounded sports fan — I’ll watch anything from football to soccer and baseball to hockey — but I freely admit that the vast majority of the reading I do in regards to sports is of the college basketball variety. I’m a busy guy. I have important things to do. The third season of Sons of Anarchy isn’t going to watch itself for the third time. I’m trying to be proactive here.

So forgive me if I never paid much mind to a Boston Globe columnist. Boston’s a pro sports town. This is a college basketball blog. Our topics of interest don’t intersect all that often.

Which is why its so interesting to me that Shaughnessy decided to pen a column bashing the NCAA Tournament. You can go read it if you like. I’d recommend against it. Why? Well, its a lot like this:

OK, everybody likes their brackets. The David-vs.-Goliath themes are fun, great finishes always fascinate, and sometimes it’s nice to check in on old State U. But is there any connection between folks who actually follow the college game and this gluttonous festival of 24/7 bracketology bombardment? No. There isn’t.Here’s a little test: Walk out your door and try to find someone who can name five players in this year’s tournament. You won’t find anyone unless you live next door to Bob Ryan, my boss Joe Sullivan, or one of the pudding-eating, basement-dwelling blog boys who’d normally be tracking UZR or NFL fantasy teams.

I’m going to refrain from voicing my true feelings on these two paragraphs, only partially because I’m no longer a basement-dwelling blog boy. I’m moving up in the world. This is NBC Sports. I’m now officially a living room-dwelling blog boy.

I’m also going to refrain from picking apart the rest of this column piece by piece. I’m not as funny as the guys from Fire Joe Morgan. And I’m probably too fired up to avoid saying something that could get me in trouble at NBC.

See? Living room-dwelling blog boy. I have some class now.

What I won’t refrain from is pointing out that those two paragraphs — and the column in general — are entirely hypocritical.

One of Shaughnessy’s main points is that everything about the NCAA Tournament is a cash grab. Whether its coaches with the exorbitant salaries and tournament bonuses, the television networks making 11 figures deals with the NCAA to broadcast the event, or the money the schools rake in from the event, everything about the NCAA Tournament screams cha-ching.

The irony in that?

The online media outlets covering the NCAA Tournament get a windfall as well. The traffic over at my site Ballin’ is a Habit more than tripled during the week leading up to the start of the NCAA Tournament. I’m sure NBCSports and ESPN and Yahoo! and all the other major media outlets saw even bigger spikes in the traffic going to their college basketball pages.

You don’t think Boston.com wanted a slice of the pie? Its a coincidence that this column was posted was posted online on Sunday, the last day of the first weekend of the tournament, right? And its also a coincidence that, after last season’s tiff with Kentucky Sports Radio’s Matt Jones at right around this same time of year, Shaughnessy made sure to get in a couple of paragraphs worth of jabs at John Calipari, right?

Because otherwise, that would have been a desperate grasp at the traffic bump that comes with the attention of Big Blue Nation.

The bottom line is that this column isn’t about what is wrong with the NCAA Tournament. Its about what is wrong with college sports. And there is plenty wrong with college sports — the recruiting violations, the agents, the lack of “student-athletes” at the highest level. I could go on for days.

Nothing that was written in this column was new. Nothing was enlightening. It was a pot-stirring rant looking to drive up the controversy to get a couple of extra clicks.

Dan Shaughnessy is a grumpy old blowhard writing for a newspaper in a pro sports town that decided to go on a rant about what is wrong with the world of college athletics.

Feel free to ignore what he has to say.

Iowa’s McCaffery says, “I’ve turned programs in” for cheating

Photo by Elsa/Getty Images
Leave a comment

There aren’t a lot of unwritten rules in basketball. One of them, though, is that if a coach breaks a real rule, other coaches don’t speak up. Coaches would seemingly rather lose out on a recruit or transfer rather than turning in one of their own for suspected malfeasance.

Not for Fran McCaffery, though.

The Iowa coach was asked Monday about the FBI investigation into corruption into college hoops, and freely volunteered that he has previously turned other programs in for violations – and that he’ll do it again, if need be.

“I’ve turned programs in and I’ll continue to do that when I know that there’s something going on,” McCaffery said at the program’s media day, according to the Des Moines Register. “But a lot of times you don’t know what’s going on. So can you police yourselves? Only if you know something’s going on. But even then it’s hard for the NCAA to do something.”

Turning in another program for violations is really one of the biggest taboos in the coaching profession. That’s why you get coaches look silly in blocking schools for transfers when tampering is suspected, rather than a coach just reporting tampering.

McCaffery’s tactic, while probably frowned upon by many of his colleagues, is probably the best weapon the NCAA has in combating cheating. If coaches make it clear they won’t tolerate cheating – or that if it occurs, it won’t go unremarked upon – that will go along way in changing a culture and system that the FBI is going to potentially uncover with its wide-ranging investigation that already has resulted in 10 people’s arrest and a Hall of Fame coach’s firing.

“Any time the game is cleaned up,” McCaffery said, “it’s better for all of us.”

Report: Louisville offered $1.5 million settlement to Pitino

AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley
1 Comment

When it became clear that Louisville and Rick Pitino were going to part ways, much of the discussion instantly turned to the more than $40 million left on the coach’s contract.

The school reportedly tried to avoid that whole ordeal Monday, but Pitino apparently wasn’t interested.

Louisville offered to pay $1.5 million to a charity started by Pitino in exchange for his resignation, according to WDRB-TV Louisville. Pitino did not accept and was then fired for cause by the Louisville board.

It’s little surprise to see Pitino reject such an offer with so many more millions on the table should he (almost certainly) begin legal proceedings trying to recoup the cash that Louisville says it doesn’t owe him by firing for cause.

I vehemently reject (the school’s) right to do so ‘for cause,’” Pitino said in an affidavit sent to the school. “I have given no ’cause’ for termination of my contract.”

The firing came on the heels of the latest controversy  to hit Louisville under Pitino’s watch. First came the escort scandal that rocked the program, but now the school is part of the FBI investigation into corruption in college basketball. Ten people were arrested as part of the probe, including an adidas executive who is alleged to have orchestrated getting $100,000 to the family of a recruit in order to facilitate his commitment to the Cardinals program.

Pitino may be out at Louisville, but with more than $40 million at stake, the school surely hasn’t seen the last of him.

Louisville officially fires Rick Pitino

Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Louisville’s Athletic Association has officially fired head coach Rick Pitino nearly three weeks after an FBI investigation into corruption in college basketball linked the Hall of Fame head coach and his program to a $100,000 payment from Adidas to a recruit that enrolled at Louisville.

The association, made up of trustees, faculty, student and administrators, oversees Louisville athletics. They voted unanimously to fire Pitino.

Pitino has $44 million in salary remaining on his contract, which extends through the 2026 season. He was with Louisville for 16 seasons.

Pitino had been ‘effectively fired‘ by the university on September 27th, the day after the scandal first broke.

Earlier this summer, Louisville had received their sanctions from the NCAA in a different scandal that enveloped Pitino’s program. In October of 2015, a book was published by an escort named Katina Powell who alleged that a member of Pitino’s staff had paid for strippers and prostitutes for recruits and members of the Louisville team, some of whom were underage. The NCAA’s sanctions, which included vacating the 2012 Final Four and 2013 National Title in addition to Louisville’s self-imposed 2016 postseason ban, were handed down in June, two weeks after a Louisville coach had allegedly helped facilitate a $100,000 payment from Adidas to Brian Bowen’s family and six weeks before another coach would allegedly attempt to do the same for a 2019 prospect.

Kansas’ Self: Adidas case a “dark cloud on our profession’

Jamie Squire/Getty Images
3 Comments

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Kansas coach Bill Self had come to know James Gatto well over the years, along with just about everyone else involved with the college basketball side of the athletic apparel giant Adidas.

It comes with the territory as one of the company’s flagship schools.

But when Self first heard that Gatto had been swept up in a wide-ranging FBI investigation, centered on Louisville but uncovering corruption elsewhere in college basketball, the Jayhawks’ coach admitted being “very disappointed and disheartened” and likened it to a “dark cloud for our profession.”

Prosecutors have accused the 47-year-old Gatto of conspiring with coaches and others to funnel payments to top prospects and their families to win commitments to play at schools sponsored by Adidas. The idea was that their relationship with Adidas would continue whenever they reached the professional level.

The family of one prospect was allegedly paid $100,000 to commit, according to court documents, and the school was later revealed to be Louisville. The school has since placed coach Rick Pitino on administrative leave while the federal investigation is being resolved. Nine others, including former Oklahoma State assistant Lamont Evans, have been charged in the case.

Self said during a lengthy interview Friday that the cash payments from Adidas surprised him, but “what is not surprising is third parties’ involvement in recruiting. Everyone should know that.”

“That’s prevalent everywhere,” he said. “There’s nothing illegal about agents talking to kids and their families in ninth and 10th grade. There’s nothing illegal about shoe companies funding AAU programs. That is what’s been encouraged and done, so it shouldn’t be a surprise you could have influence from third parties.”

Kansas officials insist they have not been contacted by the FBI, and the school is not under any sort of investigation. It

Kansas recently reached a 12-year contract extension with Adidas that will ultimately provide the school with $191 million in sponsorship money and apparel. Self suggested the affiliation is being used by rivals on the recruiting trail.

“Whenever in recruiting there is something out there that has been reported, whether it’s reliable or unreliable, total myth, whatever, there’s usually competitors that make sure that information gets to people. Unfortunately, that’s how it works,” Self said. “You can say that’s negative recruiting … but a lot of times the things that are reported are so inaccurate it puts you on the defense.”

The Jayhawks already have commitments from two top-100 prospects in 6-foot-9 forward Silvio de Sousa from Florida’s IMG Academy and 6-10 center David McCormack from Virginia’s Oak Hill Academy.

They are also in the mix for several more top-50 prospects in what could be a crucial class for them.

“I’d be lying,” Self said, “if I told you we hadn’t discussed these issues with kids. And has it hurt us to date? I don’t think it has. But it’s not signing day, either.”

Attorney makes case for Louisville to retain Pitino as coach

AP Photo
2 Comments

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Rick Pitino’s attorney has told the Louisville Athletic Association that it should not fire the coach of the men’s basketball program because his client “could not have known” about activities alleged in a national federal investigation of the sport.

Steve Pence made his case Monday while the ULAA was meeting to discuss whether to fire Pitino nearly three weeks after the school acknowledged the program’s involvement in the investigation. The association board is still meeting and has not announced its decision.

Association, a separate body that oversees Louisville’s sports programs and comprised of trustees, faculty, students and administrators, on Oct. 2 authorized university interim President Greg Postel to begin the process of firing Pitino for cause after Postel placed him on unpaid administrative leave Sept. 27.

Pitino, 65, is not named in court complaints in the federal probe but Postel said in a disciplinary letter that the allegations violated his contract.

Pence has contended that Louisville rushed to judgment and made his case before the board for 45 minutes on Monday.

He said Pitino should be retained and noted, “The coach did not engage in any of this activity, he didn’t know about the activity. I think we made a very compelling case to the board, I think they listened attentively and we’ll just have to wait and see what they say.”

Pitino has coached 16 years with the program, a run that included winning the 2013 NCAA championship but was tarnished by several embarrassing off-court incidents.