Former Richmond walk-on another example of the problems with amateurism

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Do you know what the foundation for amateurism is? Where it all started?

Back in the 1800s England’s uptight upper-class was quite competitive when it came to the sports that England’s uptight upper-class played in those days. As those sports became a bigger deal, men that worked as manual laborers and in factories wanted to compete. Given that they had spent their entire adult lives doing physical labor, the working class happened to be better athletes than England’s uptight upper-class that spent their afternoons drinking tea.

Some of those events had cash prizes. Some sports offered broken time payments, or cash to replace the lost income for taking the time to participate. England’s uptight upper-class didn’t like seeing their sports dominated by smelly working class folks, so they created amateurism in an attempt to purify the game, claiming their intent was to prevent maximizing profits from becoming the sporting ideal while, in all actuality, it was to keep those that couldn’t afford to play from playing.

Oxford and Cambridge picked it up. Harvard and Yale followed suit, and pretty soon, college athletics was built entirely around the classist ideals of England’s uptight upper-class.

At its soul, amateurism is an exclusionary principle.

It’s sole purpose is to prevent those that are good enough to be making money off of their ability from making money off of their ability, because capitalizing monetarily on one’s talent and hard work isn’t at all American. We’re a socialist nation, after all. Capitalism isn’t something we pride ourselves on.

Never before has the NCAA seen this much pushback against amateurism. If the Ed O’Bannon lawsuit isn’t scary enough, the NCAA seems to be getting embarrassed on a weekly basis by folks like Jay Bilas, who this month revealed proof that the NCAA was selling jerseys based on the likeness of their athletes.

Nothing has created as much attention, however, as Johnny Manziel and the Summer of Signatures.

Long story short, in the span of about three months, Manziel went from a redshirt freshman anonymous enough to be able to use a fake ID to the biggest name in college football. Fed up with the money that Texas A&M was making off of him, Manziel decided to start selling his autographs to memorabilia dealers, which is strictly against NCAA rules. All of this came to light at the end of an offseason that saw Manziel’s nationwide summer of partying get the kind of coverage normally reserved for Tim Tebow or Kim Kardashian.

In a vacuum, it seems crazy that Manziel cannot get paid to write his own name when the SEC’s massive TV deal is supported by players like Manziel, Texas A&M is receiving a reported $37 million in publicity thanks to his Heisman campaign, and the school is going things like auctioning off $20,000-a-plate charity dinners just for the right to break bread with their star QB.

And his college career is in jeopardy for pocketing a few thousand bucks for signatures?

I hate it. I hate everything about this rule, even if Manziel has reached a level of spoiled douche-itude that makes it tough for me to like the kid.

But in the real world, this probably doesn’t hurt Manziel, or any other star college athlete, all that much. The truth of the matter is that only a tiny percentage of student-athletes have any real market value — many of whom are football and men’s basketball players, and even then, it’s an overwhelming minority — and if you’re good enough that you would be able to profit off of your own likeness, chances are pretty good that someone has found a way to get some spending money into your pocket. Maybe it’s a booster keeping the team’s best players happy or an agent starting his recruitment early. Maybe it’s free bottle service at a club. Maybe it’s free tattoos or a no-show job or Ricky Roe duffel bags coming in at the start of every semester. I’ve heard enough stories to believe that the guys that are worth enough to get paid are getting paid.

I’m cynical, yes, but I genuinely believe that’s the truth.

Amateurism is wrong and exploitative, but it can’t hold back Adam Smith’s invisible hand.

The irony?

The people that amateurism actually hurts are the real student-athletes that it is designed to benefit.

People like Jonathan Benjamin, a walk-on for Richmond’s basketball team. He was a motivated and bright marketing student looking to start his own clothing line, but he had to halt the advancement of his business because he took pictures of himself posing in the clothes that he created lest he risk being ruled ineligible.

Think about that.

How about Joel Bauman? He was a wrestler at Minnesota before giving up his scholarship so that he didn’t have to take his name and face out of the music that he was creating, because that violated NCAA rules.

A walk-on at Richmond and a wrestler at Minnesota.

I’m sure that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

And it’s all so the NCAA doesn’t have to pay taxes. So schools can be the beneficiary of a booster’s check instead of the players. So that the money spent on donations for season tickets can be considered a tax write-off.

When you think about the concept of amateurism and who it’s actually hurting, don’t let a spoiled rich kid that’s a descendent of a Texas oil baron be the first face that comes to mind.

Think about all the kids like Jonathan Benjamin and Joel Bauman that are being forced to choose between playing a sport they love and trying to build a foundation for their future, which is kind of the point of being a college student, isn’t it?

Student-athlete?

Amateurism is forcing kids like Benjamin and Bauman to choose between being the student they want to be and the athlete they want to be.

College Basketball Power Rankings: Duke to No. 1, Xavier and Minnesota climb

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At this point, there really is no choice but to put Duke at No. 1 in the Power Rankings this week.

That’s what happens when you’re a consensus top three team in the preseason and, five days into the regular season, you pick off another top three team. Hell, we had Michigan State ranked No. 1 in the NBC Sports Power Rankings last week.

At this point, Michigan State is still No. 2 for me. Their one loss this season came on a night where Grayson Allen went crazy and they gave up 25 offensive rebounds and committed 18 turnovers, and they still were in the game down the stretch. Beyond that, the only teams in the top 25 that have lost so far this season are Kentucky, Northwestern and Providence. The Wildcats fell to Kansas while playing their best game of the season, while Northwestern and Providence both dropped out of the top 25.

But the truth is that, as of today, we still don’t really know anything about these teams. Arizona, Villanova and Wichita State didn’t have to play anywhere near their best basketball to start the season 3-0. The same can be said for anyone that is currently sitting at or near the top of these rankings.

This week is when we start to really find out about them. Arizona is playing in the Battle 4 Atlantis. Duke, Michigan State, North Carolina and Florida are in the PK80. Wichita State is out in Maui. There are events in New York City all week. UCLA, Creighton, Baylor and Wisconsin are in Kansas City. There are games in Las Vegas and Orlando and California

And while my opinion on the glut of exempt events still stands, I do think that we learn more about, say, Wichita State seeing them play potentially overmatched opponents in Maui over the course of three straight days than we do seeing them beat the brakes off of mid-major competition in Koch Arena.

Anyway, here is the NBC Sports Top 25 in its entirety:

1. Duke, 4-0 (Last Week: No. 2)
2. Michigan State, 3-1 (1)
3. Arizona, 3-0 (3)
4. Kansas, 3-0 (4)
5. Villanova, 3-0 (5)
6. Wichita State, 2-0 (6)
7. Florida, 3-0 (7)
8. Cincinnati, 3-0 (8)
9. USC, 4-0 (9)
10. Miami, 3-0 (10)
11. Xavier, 3-0 (14)
12. Texas A&M, 2-0 (11)
13. Minnesota, 4-0 (19)
14. Louisville, 2-0 (12)
15. Notre Dame, 3-0 (13)
16. Seton Hall, 4-0 (15)
17. Kentucky, 3-1 (16)
18. North Carolina, 2-0 (17)
19. Saint Mary’s, 4-0 (21)
20. Alabama, 3-0 (22)
21. Purdue, 4-0 (24)
22. Gonzaga, 3-0 (23)
23. UCLA, 3-0 (18)
24. Texas, 3-0 (NR)
25. Texas Tech, 4-0 (NR)

NEW ADDITIONS: 24. Texas, 25. Texas Tech
DROPPED OUT: 20. Northwestern, No. 25 Providence

Texas Tech mollywhops No. 21 Northwestern, stakes claim to second-best in Big 12

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No. 21 Northwestern was, technically, never even tied with Texas Tech on Sunday evening.

The Wildcats were given a technical foul at the start of the game because their players were not in the scorebook, which was more than adequate foreshadowing for what was to come. Keenan Evans made a free throw before the ball was tipped, the Red Raiders would then score the next eight points and jump out to a 23-5 lead that Chris Collins’ club never recovered.

Northwestern never was within single-digits again, let alone close enough to make this a game. They lost 85-49, the worst loss for the Northwestern program in nearly a decade, since Nov. 27th, 2007.

I could recite the stats to you, if you’d like. Northwestern shot 26.7 percent from the floor. They were 6-for-23 from three. Texas Tech forced 17 turnovers, and Northwestern had 12 field goals to 11 steals for the Red Raiders.

It was as bad of a beatdown as you’ll see between two teams in the NCAA tournament discussion.

It’s easy to read into this loss, and the loss that Northwestern suffered at home against Creighton on Wednesday, and think that the Wildcats are not yet cut out for being the hunted, and that might be fair. As cliché as it is, there is something to be said for the way an opponent plays when you are the quality win. At some point, Northwestern is going to have to prove they can handle that.

But Sunday was not about Northwestern.

Sunday was about Texas Tech.

It was about Chris Beard putting the Big 12 on notice.

This team is tough and they are old. They have size and athleticism. They have a star in lead guard Keenan Evans and a roster that is more than willing to put in the work on the defensive end of the floor. Most importantly, however, is that Beard has built a team full of guys that all have something to prove. There aren’t any four or five-star freshmen on his roster. The elite recruits that he does have are all transfers, cast-offs from other programs.

That’s just how Beard like it.

Now I don’t think the Red Raiders are going to be winning the Big 12 and ending Kansas’ streak of 14 straight Big 12 titles. But I do think that they’ll be right there in the mix for the title of second-best in the Big 12, and I’m not sure I would have felt that way before the start of the season.

Miles Bridges hurt as No. 2 Michigan State cruises past Stony Brook

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EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Miles Bridges stayed in school to chase a national championship instead of cashing in on his potential in the NBA.

Three games into his sophomore season, he is hurt.

Bridges scored 20 points before limping off the court after injuring his left ankle, casting a pall over No. 2 Michigan State as it beat Stony Brook 93-71 on Sunday night.

“Thank God it’s not a high-ankle sprain,” coach Tom Izzo said. “It’s just a sprain where he rolled it. He’ll be day to day.”

The Spartans (2-1) bounced back from their loss to top-ranked Duke with a win that will be remembered as being costly if Bridges’ injury lingers.

Bridges was fouled with 8:32 left in the game as he went into the lane with the ball and awkwardly planted his left foot, rolling his ankle. After trying to stay in the game to shoot free throws, the preseason All-America player went back to the bench briefly before walking toward the locker room.

“By Tuesday morning, I’ll know more,” Izzo said. “Miles is tough enough to play through it but we’re not going to take any chances.”

Nick Ward scored a season-high 22 points, Joshua Langford had a career-high 19 points and Cassius Winston scored a season-high 13 points and had six assists for the Spartans.

The Seawolves (0-4) led for much of the first half, holding Bridges to two points as they led 22-15 midway through the first half.

Stony Brook’s Elijah Olaniyi scored 16, Akwasi Yeboah had 15 points, UC Iroegbu scored 12 and Tyrell Sturdivant added 10 points.

“The biggest positive was coming out and competing for 40 minutes,” coach Jeff Boals said. “We kept on fighting. I think we led 12 1/2 minutes in the first half. Our biggest thing was coming out and getting off to a good start, just to build some confidence.”

BIG PICTURE

Stony Brook: The America East Conference team made 13 of 26 3-pointers against one of the top teams in the country. That kind of shooting can help the Seawolves pull off an upset, something they had a chance to do in setbacks against Maryland and Connecticut.

“We’re 0-4 right now and it doesn’t look good on wins and losses, but we’ve competed in every game we’ve played,” Boals said.

Michigan State: Bridges’ health is a key factor for the team, and for himself. Izzo isn’t sure how long Bridges will be out.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Spartans will slip in The Associated Press poll after losing to the top-ranked Blue Devils and perhaps because Bridges is injured.

HUMBLED AT HOME

Michigan State standout freshman Jaren Jackson fouled out in 14 scoreless minutes. He missed his only shot, a 3-pointer, and had a team-high three turnovers.

“This might be the only time in that kid’s career he doesn’t score,” Boals said. “He is an unbelievable talent.”

The 6-foot-11 Jackson, rated as one of the top prospects for the 2018 NBA draft, was averaging 16 points and 10 rebounds.

“Jaren’s a great player, but he is a young player,” Langford said. “He’s way ahead of where I was.”

UP NEXT

Stony Brook: In its home opener on Wednesday night, hosts Brown.

Michigan State: Plays DePaul on Thursday night in Oregon at the Phil Knight Invitational. The Spartans will play the Ducks or Connecticut in the semifinals on Friday and could face No. 9 North Carolina on Sunday.

“It’s not the biggest stage like Duke was, but it’s time to get back to what we lost against Duke,” Langford said.

Donald Trump’s response to LaVar Ball: ‘I should’ve left them in jail!’

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I told you this was going to happen.

After LaVar Ball downplayed Donald Trump’s role in bringing home his son, LiAngelo, and the three other UCLA players that were arrested for shoplifting in China last week, Trump responded by taking to twitter and saying that he should have left American citizens in prison in a non-democratic, authoritarian country because they will not personally acknowledge his efforts enough:

Sigh.

Now we await LaVar’s response.

Five-star 2018 recruit Anfernee Simons could test NBA Draft process

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Five-star Class of 2018 guard Anfernee Simons is interested in potentially entering the 2018 NBA Draft.

According to a report from Jonathan Givony of ESPN, the former Louisville commit will likely be eligible to jump to the NBA straight out of high school since he graduated high school last year while turning 19 next June. The 6-foot-4 Simons, considered the No. 16 overall prospect in the Rivals’ Class of 2018 national rankings, is playing a post-grad season at IMG Academy for 2017-18 after reclassifying as a sophomore.

If Simons opts to go pro than college basketball loses a potential star as he’s been shooting up the national rankings over the past year. Simons was committed to the Cardinals since the beginning of his junior year but he opened things up once former head coach Rick Pitino lost his job in a fallout from the FBI investigation on college basketball.

Simons started his season at the National Prep Showcase this weekend as six NBA teams sent people to watch him play, according to Givony’s report.

It’ll be fascinating to see what happens in this situation as Simons hasn’t done much with the recruiting process over the last several months. Now that NBA teams are already watching him play, Simons could follow in Thon Maker’s footsteps and turn pro right away.