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.

Report: Texas’ Jones to test NBA possibility

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Both of Texas’ McDonald’s All-Americans from its 2016 class will test the NBA waters.

Andrew Jones will declare for the draft, but will not hire an agent, according to ESPN’s Jeff Goodman.

The 6-foot-4 guard joins Jarrett Allen, the Longhorns’ star center, in utilizing the rule change that became available to players last year in which they can declare, workout for teams, attend the NBA combine and still return to school.

Jones averaged 11.4 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game as a freshman. He shot 42.5 percent from the field overall and 32.8 percent from 3-point range.

Allen seems the likelier candidate to remain in the draft as a potential lottery pick, but Jones came to Austin with similar one-and-done possibilities given his status as one of the class’ top recruits.

Texas, of course, is hoping both return, not just because they’re both big talents, but because incoming and highly-touted recruit Matt Coleman fills the major hole in last year’s lineup – point guard. If the three of them can share the floor together, Year 3 of the Shaka Smart era will be much more interesting.

Morrow announces transfer from Nebraska

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Nebraska was once again hit with a surprising and damaging transfer.

Ed Morrow, Jr., who led the Huskers in rebounding last year, announced his intention to transfer, the school announced Wednesday.

“I support Ed in his decision to transfer schools and wish him well,” Nebraska coach Tim Miles said in a statement. “We appreciate his hard work over the last two years. Although I am disappointed, we will continue to recruit young men who are committed to our mission of building Nebraska Basketball with a culture of success in all areas…life, school and winning basketball at its highest level.”

The 6-foot-7 sophomore’s departure is a major hit to the Huskers, who are coming off a 12-19 year in which Miles’ job security was called into question. It almost assuredly will be again this year as Nebraska hasn’t been able to build on its 2014 NCAA tournament appearance, instead putting together three-straight losing seasons.

Morrow’s decision is surprising not only given he’d been a productive member of the team – averaging 9.4 points and 7.5 rebounds per game – but because he was born in Nebraska before attending high school in Chicago and both his parents were Nebraska student-athletes his father winning a national title on the football team in 1994 and his mother an all-Big Eight performer on the basketball team.

“I want to say thank you to my teammates, coaches, the fans and the University of Nebraska athletics department for giving me the opportunity to play Division I basketball,” Morrow said in a statement. “It is hard to leave home, and Nebraska is my home. I was born and raised here, it is my parents’ alma mater, and I have a lot of friends here. But sometimes you have to venture out to pursue dreams and aspirations in a career. This is a sacrifice I have to make to better myself.”

Morrow’s transfer comes a year after Andrew White surprised Nebraska with his decision to graduate and transfer to Syracuse, which no doubt impacted the Huskers’ poor 2016-17 record.

Miles was on the hot seat at the end of last season and will assuredly begin this season there as well. A roster hit like Morrow won’t do much to help him improve the situation. Nebraska does, however, have three starters returning while Georgetown transfer Isaac Copeland is eligible, as is Miami (Fla.) transfer James Palmer, Jr.

Lonzo Ball says “I’m better than” Markelle Fultz

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Usually, it’s LaVar Ball that makes news for what he says.

His eldest son is now getting in on the business of generating headlines with something other than his play.

The UCLA star, who said he’ll enter the draft after just one season with the Bruins, claimed he’s the better prospect than Washington freshman Markelle Fultz, who many have pegged as the No. 1 pick in June’s draft.

“Markelle’s a great player,” Ball said, according to ESPN, “but I feel I’m better than him,” “I think I can lead a team better than him. Obviously he’s a great scorer — he’s a great player, so I’m not taking that away from him.”

Not exactly inflammatory stuff – like saying you could have beaten Michael Jordan, that you want a $1 billion apparel deal or a number of things his father has said – bu Ball is certainly projecting confidence. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. There’s quite a bit of money – and pride – at stake with the draft, and Ball put up a season worthy of comparison to Fultz, who had great numbers but played for an abysmal Washington team. Ball, on the other had, had strong numbers while leading UCLA to the Sweet 16.

Both are going to go at the top of a draft that’s stocked full of promising point guards. Which player goes before the other remains to be seen, but it’s likely public pronouncements aren’t going to affect the draft order.

 

UMass hires McCall away from Chattanooga

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UMass has found, once more, the man to take over its basketball program.

The Minutemen have reached an agreement with Chattanooga coach Matt McCall, the school announce Wednesday

“The tradition and resources that are in place not only make this one of the best basketball jobs in the Atlantic 10 Conference,” McCall said in a statement released by the school, “but one of the best jobs in the country. We couldn’t be more excited about becoming part of the UMass family and look forward to building upon the rich tradition that has been established here in the past.”

In McCall’s two years at Chattanooga, the Mocs to the NCAA tournament in 2016 and a 19-12 record this year that featured five-straight losses to end the season.

The move will take McCall out of the southeast for the first time in his career as he previously served as at Florida and Florida Atlantic before getting his first head coaching job at Chattanooga.

McCall wasn’t the Minutemen’s first choice to replace Derek Kellogg after three-straight lackluster seasons. Winthrop coach Pat Kelsey had agreed to take the job before a last-minute about-face that saw him return to the Eagles program just before his introductory press conference was scheduled to begin.

“Matt is a rising star in college basketball coaching who has been a key piece of three successful programs in his career,” UMass athletic director Ryan Bamford said in a statement. “He has earned a reputation as a relentless worker, a great teammate and colleague and a confident leader of young men.

“Matt has worked with some of the most respected coaches and administrators in the country, who loudly sing his praises. Coach McCall’s appointment begins an exciting new chapter for our tradition-rich men’s basketball program at UMass.”

Despite being the second choice, McCall’s reputation in the coaching industry makes him a strong hire, having worked under Mike Jarvis and Billy Donovan. He took over at Chattanooga for Will Wade, and brought the Mocs to a 29-6 record and a  12-seed in the NCAA tournament in 2016.

UMass went to just one NCAA tournament under Kellogg (in 2014) during his nine seasons leading the Minutemen.

VIDEO: Frank Martin’s sideline demeanor as a high school coach

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South Carolina coach Frank Martin has the reputation of being rather, shall we say, intense on the sidelines during games.

The coach has a stare that seemingly could bore a hole through his players when they do something that doesn’t reach his level of expectation. Martin’s demeanor, though, didn’t just come into form once he hit the college ranks.

He was plenty intense on high school sidelines as well.

Martin won three titles while at Miami Senior in the mid-1990s, coaching the likes of future pros Steve Blake and Udonis Haslem. Now having reached his first career Final Four, that sideline persona has put him on the precipice of winning yet another championship, this time at the collegiate level.