KU’s Self: Athletes should be paid

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Payment for student-athletes is one of those nuanced topics people seem to be unnervingly certain about. Many hew to the principle of amateurism espoused by the NCAA charter, and declare that a free education is all any player can ask for. Others point out that the NCAA and its member institutions are undeniably profiting from the free labor of student-athletes, to the tune of millions of dollars, and note that any other student on campus is free to get a job at any time to help pay the bills.

While we await the results of Ed O’Bannon’s lawsuit, it behooves us to listen to all sides of the issue, and to keep an open mind. If one of the nation’s top college basketball coaches can change his mind based on new evidence, it’s safe to say there really is no easy way to think about the problem.

The coach in question is Bill Self, architect of the Kansas Jayhawks’ 2008 national title run, and current caretaker of one of the sports blue-blood programs. The Lawrence Journal-World recently learned that Self has altered his  opinion on the matter of pay-for-play, as realignment wreaks havoc on the geographic footprint of each major conference.

“I used to be totally against paying players, paying athletes. I’ve changed,” Self said Friday in a phone conversation with the Journal-World to discuss particulars of his upcoming “Courtside View” panel discussion set for 7-8:30 p.m., Nov. 1 at Lawrence’s Crown Toyota Pavilion.

“I think if presidents are willing to take these athletes and send them across America, miss more school because they have conference realignment, and with the big business of the BCS Championship playoff in football plus the amount of money we generate through television in basketball, I can’t imagine why there aren’t different angles and avenues in which we could compensate the people that are exactly the ones bringing the money to the schools — the student-athletes,” Self said, taking one long breath.

Self’s panel discussion will include Mike DeCourcy of The Sporting News, Fran Fraschilla and Jay Bilas of ESPN and Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star. Plenty of heavy topics will be under discussion, in addition to the hot-button topic of pay-for-play.

My own stance on the topic? I feel student-athletes should share in the revenues generated by their efforts. If the proposed compromise of post-graduation trust funds is adopted, I’ll consider it fair. In the meantime, as long as everyone’s nominally bound by the current NCAA charter, any attempt to get around said rules by under-the-table payments is clearly legally wrong, even if it’s morally defensible.

I know I sound like I’m waffling — none other than the estimable Mr. DeCourcy tried to nail my opinion down on Twitter one afternoon. Suffice to say that I hope a day is coming soon in which student-athletes have access to a fair percentage of the money they earn for their “employers”, because as long as it’s a grey area, the shady stuff will continue to go down, and that hurts the sport and the young adults who play it.

Bill Self called it: realignment is about money, not even remotely about what’s best for student-athletes. That fact bears examination.

Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.

Arizona lands Pitt transfer forward Ryan Luther

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Arizona landed a key addition for its frontcourt on Wednesday as Pitt transfer forward Ryan Luther pledged to the Wildcats.

The 6-foot-9 Luther is expected to receive a hardship waiver that would give him immediate eligibility, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com, as Arizona gets some much-needed help up front.

Playing in 10 games last season before a stress reaction in his right foot ended the season, Luther averaged 12.7 points and 10.1 rebounds per game for the Panthers. In his final game of the season, Luther went for 13 points and 12 rebounds in a Pitt loss to West Virginia. Luther shot 45 percent from the field and is a noted perimeter threat as he was 38 percent from behind the three-point line.

Luther hasn’t logged heavy minutes as a contributor through a full season. Mostly a role player at Pitt until last season, Luther was the team’s most productive player when he was on the floor. But that production also didn’t come during ACC play and through the course of a full season.

Thankfully at a program like Arizona, Luther should have a bit more help around him. He could be a nice addition to the Wildcats, particularly if he rebounds and spaces the floor in the frontcourt as he did at Pitt. Arizona needed someone like Luther to provide more stability after losing players like Deandre Ayton and Dusan Ristic.

In the last few weeks, Arizona has rebounded nicely to land three commitments for next season — including freshmen Devonaire Doutrive and Omar Thielemans. The group isn’t as heralded as some past Arizona recruiting efforts. Given where the Wildcats were in recruiting a few weeks ago, however, this isn’t a bad turnaround.

TCU extends Jamie Dixon’s contract by two more years

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TCU has given head coach Jamie Dixon a two-year contract extension through the 2023-24 season, according to a release from the school.

Dixon took the Horned Frogs to the NCAA tournament for the first time in 20 years this season as he’s done a great job of turning around his alma mater. The release also notes that TCU had the highest average attendance in program history this season. Fans are also taking notice of a revitalized team.

With back-to-back 20-win seasons and postseason appearances, Dixon and TCU have a lot of positive momentum going on right now. The two-year extension for Dixon should help a bit in recruiting when it comes to overall stability, as well, as he’s been able to attract some quality talent so far.

Report: Kevin Ollie claims UConn violated rights with firing

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Fired former UConn head coach Kevin Ollie is claiming that the school violated his constitutional rights during his departure.

Ollie sent a letter to UConn school president Susan Herbst which was obtained by ESPN’s Myron Medcalf in a report released on Wednesday. Ollie’s lawyers are claiming the school proceeded with his firing before giving Ollie a proper chance to contest his termination — which was guaranteed in his contract and also the collective bargaining agreement with the University of Connecticut’s branch of the American Association of University Professors. Ollie was fired, with cause, in late March as the school mentioned an NCAA inquiry as the reason why. According to Medcalf’s report, the NCAA has not sent a notice of allegations to the school.

Ollie’s union membership includes thousands of faculty members around the country as the collective bargaining agreement demands a hearing process before any employee can be terminated for allegations of serious misconduct. Ollie claims he didn’t receive a letter he was supposed to get to begin the termination process.

“From our review of the facts and circumstances relating to Coach Ollie’s employment status, it is apparent that the University of Connecticut has already violated [Coach Ollie’s] rights under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution by subverting Coach Ollie’s opportunity to respond to charges and evidence in a meaningful way in advance of the decision to terminate his employment,” said the letter dated April 3.

“The public record, action taken, and authorized communications by representatives of the University of Connecticut, demonstrate that the decision to terminate Coach Ollie has already been made and therefore the University of Connecticut has effectively negated Coach Ollie’s property right protected by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

This letter to UConn likely begins a long legal battle to try to get an eight-figure payout back as Ollie is going to do everything he can to clear his name.

South Carolina’s Brian Bowen, still ineligible, to declare for draft

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Former Louisville forward and current South Carolina Gamecock Brian Bowen will declare for the NBA draft without signing with an agent as a safety measure in case the NCAA does not clear him to play in the 2018-19 season.

Bowen is the former top 25 prospect that was forced to leave the Louisville program after the FBI’s investigation into corruption in college hoops turned up evidence that his family had accepted the first payment of what was supposed to be a $100,000 fee to get him to be a Cardinal.

That investigation was ultimately what got Rick Pitino fired.

“I just felt that it was the right decision,” Bowen told ESPN. “My goal is still to play college basketball, but I felt as though it makes sense to cover my bases.”

Bowen is in a tough spot right now.

On the one hand, he has already missed an entire season of college basketball and there is no guarantee that he will be cleared to play next season, if at all.

On the other hand, the fact that he has not played in a year and that he has not played against any collegiate level competition is one of the reasons that NBA front offices are going to be hesitant to draft him, and that’s not a good thing for a player that was considered a second round pick before he spent a year on the sidelines.

North Carolina’s Cam Johnson undergoes hip surgery

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For the second time in the last six months, North Carolina wing Cam Johnson has undergone the knife.

On Wednesday, North Carolina announced that Johnson underwent an arthroscopic procedure on his hip on Monday, and that he is expected to make a full recovery and return to school in time for the start of the 2018-19 season.

The 6-foot-9 Johnson was UNC’s third-leading scorer a season ago, averaging 12.4 points while shooting 34.1 percent from three. He only played 26 games, however, after missing time due to a surgery to fix a torn meniscus.