Why you should be upset about Yahoo’s Myck Kabongo report

6 Comments

My first reaction to seeing the report from Yahoo! that Texas point guard Myck Kabongo would be suspended for the rest of the season by the NCAA was simple: Duh!

The kid lied to the NCAA. As Pat Forde wrote, Kabongo “provided inaccurate information to NCAA investigators when he was interviewed.” ESPN’s Andy Katz explained it as Kabongo neglecting to “give the NCAA all the information he had when asked.”

And, as anyone will tell you, lying to the NCAA is a cardinal sin. Ask Bruce Pearl. Or Brad Greenberg. Or Dez Bryant. The NCAA doesn’t have any subpoena power. They can’t force anyone outside of their control to talk to them. What they can do, however, is suspend a player or a coach that’s unwilling to speak with them. To ensure that the information they are given is the truth, the NCAA will do whatever they can to bring the hammer down on anyone they catch in a lie.

Ask Shabazz Muhammad. He was forthcoming about what the NCAA grilled him on, and he’s playing right now. (To be fair, the fact that his situation cleared itself up so quickly had a lot to do with a conversation overheard on a plane.)

Those are the rules the NCAA plays by. Kabongo knew them. He still “provided inaccurate information” and was caught doing so. Now he faces the consequences. It may not make sense that you can only park in front of your apartment building for two hours at any time of the day or night, but if you leave your car sitting there until the morning, you’ll be paying that ticket.

In the immortal words of Avon Barksdale, “Some things just stay the same, man. The game is the game.”

And therein lies the problem.

The issue here isn’t simply that Kabongo lied to the NCAA and got caught. He probably shouldn’t have done that, and when he got word that his season was over after Texas beat North Carolina at home last night, I’m sure the full weight of the regret for “providing inaccurate information” hit him. (Frankly, I have a tough time judging a 19 year old for trying to cover his tracks when he knows he messed up. God knows I did my fair share of lying to try and get out of trouble at that age.)

No, the issue here is that Kabongo was in a position where he needed to lie to the NCAA.

There are so many things wrong with the current structure of the NCAA. First and foremost, the fact that Kabongo is going to miss his sophomore season and damage, possibly irreparably, his standing as an NBA prospect over who footed the bill for an offseason workout and his association with an agent is ludicrous. Kabongo wants to get better, and to get better he needs to work out and train with the best. Those training sessions ain’t free. Jerry Powell, the New York-based trainer that worked out Kabongo on that fateful day in Cleveland, needs to make a living somehow.

But how is Kabongo supposed to pay for that? He’s not allowed to profit off of his ability, even though Texas is cashing eight figure checks for the rights to broadcast these “amateur” athletes and the NCAA signed an 11 figure — as in tens of billions of dollars — deal with CBS and Turner to broadcast the championship of the sport Kabongo plays. We can’t allow the players to see a return off their talent and their hard work when the NCAA has suits that need be paid and taxes they need to be exempt from.

The “student”-athletes can’t fight against these rights, either, because they don’t have a union. They don’t have a unified voice. They might be able to build one if they were willing take drastic measures and boycott a bowl game or a Final Four, but what kid is going to give up a chance to play in an event that big when they’ve been working their entire life to reach that goal?

And given how much money is on the line for the stars at the college level, what is wrong with them signing with an agent to ensure that they build their brand the right way and develop their skills to the point that they are a professional commodity? Is there really an issue with making things official with an advisor that they trust?

There are going to be a lot of people a lot smarter than me that put together words on this subject that make a lot more sense than what you just read.

But the bottom-line here is that we simply cannot accept the fact that “the game is the game.”

Because “the game is rigged, man.” Accepting the position that Kabongo was forced into as reality is a problem in an of itself.

So while it’s tough to be up in arms about Kabongo breaking a rule, it’s really quite simple to be up in arms about the fact that the rules are an injustice in the first place.

Top 2018 recruit R.J. Barrett names final five schools

Nike
Leave a comment

A top player in 2018 is down to five schools.

R.J. Barrett, a 6-foot-6 guard out of Monteverde Academy in Florida, announced Wednesday he’ll consider Arizona, Duke, Michigan, Oregon and Kentucky as his college destination.

Barrett is among those in the mix for the top spot in his class now with Marvin Bagley III reclassifying to 2017 this week and committing to Duke. He starred in Canada’s run to a gold medal at the FIBA U19 World Championships this summer, dropping 38 points on Team USA in a shocking semifinals win for the Canadians, who went on to defeat Italy in the finals. He averaged 21.6 points, 8.3 rebounds and 4.6 rebounds per game during the event.

The schools to make the cut for certainly are of little surprise. They’re among the biggest brands in basketball and have been among the recruiting elites for years.

Barrett was originally part of the 2019 class, but decided to reclassify earlier this summer.”Really, it’s been a thought of mine for the last year,” Barrett wrote for USA TODAY, “but I wanted to wait and see how the season would go and how school would go and when everything went well it became more and more real so I made the decision to go ahead and do it.

“I’m right on track to graduate in 2018 and academically everything is great.”

 

Big Ten reveals conference schedule with early-December games

Photo by Ben Gabbe/Getty Images for Wink Public Relations
1 Comment

We knew it was coming, but seeing it in black-and-white is still plenty jarring.
The Big Ten is going to play conference games in early December.

The league announced its full conference schedule Wednesday, unveiling 14 first-week-of-December games ahead of nearly a month-long hiatus before Big Ten play picks up again in January.

It’s a move that was forced after the Big Ten decided it needed to expand its east coast presence after its expansion to Rutgers and Maryland, and will be playing its conference tournament on the eastern seaboard for the second-consecutive year, this time at New York’s Madison Square Garden.

The problem with MSG is that the Big East hosts its annual conference tournament there, meaning the B1G will have to play its tournament a week early, March 1-4. That means a week less of January, February and March for the conference to play its 18 league games. Thus the early December start. NBC Sports’ Rob Dauster broke down the situation in even more detail – and bite – last spring here.

Every team in the league will play both a home and a road game during that league’s first week, a soft opening if you will. Whether teams like the change or not will likely come down to circumstance  – what players they have injured or suspended, what players their opponents have injured or suspended and any other host of issues, but it’s hard to believe with all things being equal, Big Ten coaches will like this move. They’re playing extremely meaningful league games less than three weeks into the season with other conferences getting nearly 2 months of preparation before facing their toughest slate of games.

The B1G, though, will have more favorable and interesting games – even if they’re programmed against college football championship games (including their own) – that week than any other conference can boast, which likely means some nice TV ratings. Given why this change is being made, that’s probably the priority anyway.

South Carolina adds Maine grad-transfer Myers

Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images
1 Comment

South Carolina is adding some immediate help in its follow-up season to a Final Four run.

Wesley Myers, a graduate transfer from Maine, is joining the Gamecocks’ program, according to FanRag Sports’ Jon Rothstein.

The 6-foot-2 guard gives Frank Martin’s team an instant infusion of scoring as they look to replace SEC player of the year Sindarius Thornwell and PJ Dozier. Myers 16.9 points per game last year on 43.7 percent shooting, including a 34.3 percent mark from 3-point range.

He’s the second grad-transfer Martin has picked up this offseason, joining Florida Atlantic’s Frank Booker. The pair should help ease the transition from last year’s success to a much less experienced team that returns just a pair of starters.

Myers, though, doesn’t arrive in Columbia without some notable history.

Last year, after transferring to Maine from Niagara, was suspended after an altercation with a teammate, according to reports. He and teammate Marko Pirovic argued over locker room music, and the alleged ensuing altercation left Pirovic with a broken jaw, according to reports. Three other Maine players were suspended after telling a team athletic trainer that Pirovic had injured himself in a fall in the shower. Pirovic declined to press charges.

Virginia head coach Tony Bennett: ‘We believe in diversity and unity to its fullest extent’

Matt Gentry/The Roanoke Times via AP
3 Comments

Virginia’s Tony Bennett finally spoke out on last weekend’s clash between white supremacists protesting the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee and counter-protesters that resulted in the deaths of a 32-year old woman named Heather Heyer and two police officers involved in a helicopter crash:

Bennett does not exactly take a hard-line stance — the message is more about healing within the community and how much he loves his current hometown than it is about condemning what happened — but he does say “we believe in diversity and unity to its fullest extent.”

Kyle Guy, a sophomore on the Virginia roster, had this to say on Sunday:

UNC academic case finally reaches NCAA infractions hearing

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Leave a comment

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — It has taken more than two years for North Carolina to appear before an NCAA infractions committee panel since initially being charged with five top-level violations amid its long-running academic scandal.

The two-day hearing begins Wednesday in Nashville, Tennessee. The panel will ultimately determine whether the school faces penalties that could include fines, probation or vacated wins and championships, making this a major step toward resolution in an oft-delayed case filled with starts, stops and twice-rewritten charges.

“The hearing stage, no matter what size of a case, it’s a big deal to any university,” said Michael L. Buckner, a Florida-based attorney who has worked on infractions cases. “I’ve been a part of what you’d consider small cases, I’ve been a part of one of the largest cases. And trust me: The client feels the same anxiousness and apprehension no matter what size of a case it is.

“But I can definitely imagine with North Carolina, this is definitely a momentous occasion.”

The charges include lack of institutional control in a case tied to irregular courses in the formerly named African and Afro-American Studies (AFAM) department. The case is an offshoot of a 2010 football probe, with the NCAA reopening an investigation in summer 2014, filing charges in May 2015, revising them in April 2016 and then again in December.

The panel, which would typically issue a ruling weeks to months later, is chaired by Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey and includes former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

UNC’s representatives were seen arriving for the closed-door hearing at a Nashville hotel Wednesday morning. The contingent included athletic director Bubba Cunningham, men’s basketball coach Roy Williams, football coach Larry Fedora and women’s basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell. Jan Boxill and Deborah Crowder, two former UNC employees charged individually in the case, were also seen with their attorneys.

None of the coaches are charged with a violation. But football and men’s basketball are referenced in a broad-based improper benefits charge tied to athlete access to the irregular courses, while women’s basketball is tied to a charge focused on a former professor and academic counselor providing improper assistance on assignments.

Fedora wasn’t working at UNC during the time in question.

“There’s nothing that I can add to what happened before I ever got here,” Fedora said last week. “But I’m there for support. I think me being there is important — not only for the NCAA but the university — that it shows compliance is important to me and our program.”

The focus is independent study-style courses misidentified as lecture classes that didn’t meet and required a research paper or two for typically high grades. In a 2014 investigation, former U.S. Justice Department official Keorneth Wainstein estimated more than 3,100 students were affected between 1993 and 2011, with athletes making up roughly half the enrollments.

The NCAA has said UNC used those courses to help keep athletes eligible.

UNC has challenged the NCAA’s jurisdiction, saying its accreditation agency — which sanctioned the school with a year of probation — was the proper authority. In a May filing , the school stated it “fundamentally believes that the matters at issue here were of an academic nature” and don’t involve NCAA bylaws.

The NCAA enforcement staff countered in a July filing: “The issues at the heart of this case are clearly the NCAA’s business.”

UNC has argued non-athletes had access to the courses and athletes didn’t receive special treatment. It has also challenged Wainstein’s estimate of athlete enrollments, saying Wainstein counted athletes who were no longer team members and putting the figure at less than 30 percent.

___

Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter