Dana Altman, now in his first Final Four, should have been fired over Oregon’s rape case

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GLENDALE, Ariz. — Dana Altman shouldn’t be coaching in the Final Four. He should have been fired three years ago.

Mark Few and Frank Martin probably shouldn’t be coaching in the Final Four, either, but the circumstances are entirely different.

Few is the head coach of a program that was considered the worst job in the WCC as recently as 25 years ago, a program that had no basketball pedigree to speak of when he got the job, a program in a city that is more Montana than it is Seattle.

Martin?

He’s a longtime high school coach and a former nightclub bouncer in Miami that took over a bad South Carolina program, one that had never won two games in the NCAA tournament and had taken just four trips to the NCAA tournament in the previous four decades, because he didn’t like his boss at Kansas State.

Those guys are the ultimate success stories.

Altman has done a terrific job building Oregon, who had been to just 10 NCAA tournaments in 73 years, into a national power that has been to five straight NCAA tournaments and, now, an Elite 8 and Final Four in back-to-back years, but the success that he’s had shouldn’t cover-up the black eye left on this program back in 2014.

In March of that year, prior to the start of the Pac-12 and NCAA tournaments and after the Ducks upset then-No. 3 Arizona in Eugene, three Oregon players — Dominic Artis, Damyean Dotson and Brandon Austin — were alleged to have committed forcible rape of a female student at the university. The woman’s father would notify the Oregon police department the next morning while the woman would make a report to the Eugene police on March 13th, the day that UCLA beat Oregon in the Pac-12 tournament. Artis and Dotson combined for 15 points and 23 minutes in that loss.

Austin did not play.

He had been suspended by Providence for the 2013-14 season because he had been accused of sexual assault by a female student in the fall of 2013, transferring to Oregon that January, just two months before his second allegation.

EPD contacted Oregon that day, alerting them to the fact that three players were being investigated, but, according to a statement from Oregon at the time, did not tell the school which players were being investigated or what the investigation was for. Artis and Dotson would combine for seven points in each of the two NCAA tournament games the Ducks participated in that year.

None of this was made public until early May, when the EPD released a graphic police report detailing the allegations against the players. All three were suspended from the university less than a week later and, within two months, were dismissed from the school and banned from campus for 10 years.

“I’m comfortable with the way we handled it,” Altman said. “It was three years ago. But I think in retrospect everything was handled correctly.”

The players never faced charges.

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Altman was rightfully questioned for allowing players that were accused of sexual assault to play in Oregon’s tournament games, but it’s hard to criticize — and, frankly, harder to actually believe — a coach for listening to the police when they told him not to interfere in a criminal investigation.

The mistake Altman made was with Austin.

The cause for Austin’s suspension did not become public until March 18th, when the Wall Street Journal reported the details of the allegations, but it was the worst-kept secret within basketball circles.

Everyone knew.

Which means one of two things happened, either:

  1. Altman brought in a player that had been accused of sexual assault just months prior to his transfer, and he allegedly did it again on Oregon’s campus, or;
  2. Altman didn’t put in the minimal amount of work required to figure out why Austin was suspended, which allowed him to make his way to Oregon, where he allegedly assaulted another female student.

There’s no middle ground there.

Either Altman didn’t do his job, accurately vetting why a player had been suspended, or he lost a bet on whether or not a kid he brought into his program was actually a predator.

Both of those are fireable offenses.

Altman escaped any real punishment — he was named along with the university in a lawsuit filed by the accuser for “deliberate indifference”, which was settled for an $800,000 payout in August of 2015 — and he almost immediately turned things back around. Despite returning just three scholarship players, he won 26 games in 2014-15, finishing tied for second in the Pac-12 and returning to the NCAA tournament.

“Our guys did a great job, our staff did a great job. We had great support from the university. So it went fairly smooth,” Altman said.

A year later, Altman was in the Elite 8 for the first time in his career.

That was one year ago.

He’s now in the Final Four; no one ever said he wasn’t a hell of a basketball coach.

That’s doesn’t mean that he deserves the job that he has, and it certainly doesn’t make him or Oregon a feel-good story.

Brad Underwood pokes fun at his version of ‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game’

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On Thursday afternoon, Brad Underwood, the new head coach of Illinois, was invited to Wrigley Field to throw out the first pitch and sing ‘Take Me Out To The Ball Game’ during the seventh inning stretch.

While the ceremonial first pitch went well, his rendition of the ballpark classic did not go as smoothly.

Underwood was at least able to poke fun at his vocals following his performance.

“I’d rather coach naked than sing in front of 40,000,” Underwood said afterward. “There’s a reason my wife won’t let me sing in church.”

Underwood took over Illinois in mid-March following a one-year stint at Oklahoma State. He had previously led Stephen F. Austin to three NCAA Tournament appearances in as many seasons.

 

AAC plan men’s basketball tourney at new Texas arena in ’20

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FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — The American Athletic Conference will hold its men’s basketball tournament in a new arena in North Texas in 2020.

AAC Commissioner Mike Aresco announced Wednesday that Dickies Arena in Fort Worth has been selected to host the tournament for three years, starting in March 2020. That is only four months after the facility is scheduled to open.

On the same day of a groundbreaking ceremony for the 14,000-seat arena last April, the NCAA announced that first- and second-round games of the 2022 NCAA men’s basketball tournament would be held there. The NCAA women’s gymnastics championships are scheduled there from 2020-22.

The closest AAC school to the new arena is SMU, with its campus in Dallas about 40 miles away.

Orlando will host the 2018 AAC tournament, which moves to Memphis in 2019.

After hearing, UNC now awaits NCAA ruling in academic case

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North Carolina has wrapped up a two-day hearing with an NCAA infractions committee panel that will decide whether the school faces penalties tied to its multi-year academic scandal.

Now the case goes into yet another holding pattern.

School officials spent much of Wednesday in a closed-door meeting with committee members in Nashville, Tennessee. They returned Thursday morning for a second session lasting about 4½ hours with the panel that will determine whether UNC faces penalties such as fines, probation or vacated wins and championships.

NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn confirmed the hearing was complete but both sides were mum afterward.

Osburn didn’t comment further because the panel must deliberate before issuing a ruling, which typically comes weeks to months after a hearing. UNC athletics spokesman Steve Kirschner said the school wouldn’t have any comments about the hearing either.

Getting through the hearing process was a major step toward resolution in a delay-filled case tied to irregular courses, though there’s still the potential for the case to linger beyond a ruling if UNC decides to appeal or pursue legal action. The school faces five top-level charges, including lack of institutional control.

The focus is independent study-style courses in the formerly named African and Afro-American Studies (AFAM) department. The courses were 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 Kenneth 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.

The case grew as an offshoot of a 2010 probe of the football program that resulted in sanctions in March 2012. The NCAA reopened an investigation in summer 2014, filed charges in a May 2015, revised them in April 2016 and then again in December.

Most notably, the NCAA originally treated some of the academic issues as improper benefits by saying athletes received access to the courses and other assistance generally unavailable to non-athletes. The NCAA removed that charge in the second Notice of Allegations (NOA), then revamped and re-inserted it into the third NOA.

UNC has challenged the NCAA’s jurisdiction, saying its accreditation agency — which sanctioned the school with a year of probation — was the proper authority and that the NCAA was overreaching in what should be an academic matter .

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.

UNC chancellor Carol Folt, athletic director Bubba Cunningham, men’s basketball coach Roy Williams and women’s basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell attended both hearing days. Football coach Larry Fedora, who wasn’t at UNC at the time in question, attended Wednesday’s session.

None of the coaches are charged with a violation. But football and men’s basketball are referenced in the 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 Jan Boxill providing improper assistance on assignments.

Boxill and Deborah Crowder, who is also charged individually in the case, attended Wednesday with their attorneys but didn’t return Thursday. Crowder is a former AFAM office administrator who enrolled students, distributed assignments and graded many of the papers in irregular courses.

The infractions panel is chaired by Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey and includes former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

Kansas’ forward Dedric Lawson accused of walking out on $88 bar tab

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Dedric Lawson has been accused of walking out on an $88 bar tab, according to a police report obtained by the Memphis Commercial-Appeal.

Here’s what allegedly happened: He was at a bar in Overton Square in Memphis at 1:30 a.m. when he was handed a bill for more than $88 by a waitress. That waitress, who said she went to high school with Lawson, told police that he walked out of the bar and got into a Nissan Maxima and left without paying the bill.

Dedric has denied the allegation. Appearing on 92.9 FM, an ESPN radio station in Memphis, he said that he ordered two drinks worth a total of $10.50 and gave the waitress $12, but she wanted him to pay for drinks that were ordered by other people for other people. He did not order or drink those drinks, Lawson said, so he did not want to pay for them.

Lawson transferred from Memphis to Kansas this offseason. He was suspended by the Jayhawks for an altercation in practice last month and left home from the team’s trip to Italy earlier this month. He averaged 19.9 points and 9.2 boards for the Tigers last season, and will be sitting out this year as a transfer at Kansas.

Late on Wednesday, another former Tiger, Joe Jackson, was arrested on felony drug and gun charges.

College programs in Barcelona safe after terror attack

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August is the time that college basketball programs take their overseas trips, and one of the most popular destinations for that travel is Barcelona.

On Thursday evening, tragedy struck in one of the city’s most popular tourist locations, as a van driven down Las Ramblas struck pedestrians. Local authorities have confirmed there are fatalities and are terming the incident a “terror attack”.

RELATED: NBC News has the latest on the incident

At least five programs are currently in Barcelona: Clemson, Arizona, Oregon State, Grand Canyon and Tulane. All five programs have released statements confirming that all members of the traveling parties are safe and accounted for.

The attack occurred right outside Clemson’s hotel. The team is currently on lockdown.

According to Oregon State head coach Wayne Tinkle, the attack “happened directly in front of our hotel while we were having a team meal in the restaurant.”