The NCAA doesn’t want athletes to have fun in college

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In case you missed it in during the course of Vanderbilt’s dramatic win over Marquette on Wednesday night, the Commodore’s junior forward Lance Goulbourne sat out as he completed a two-game suspension handed down by the NCAA.

Why was he suspended?

(Takes a deep breath.)

Goulbourne, who was a sophomore last season, bought a parking pass meant for seniors off of a team manager that was a senior. He paid full price for the parking pass. But since the team manager — who was a student at the school, mind you — is considered part of the coaching staff by the NCAA, this constituted an illegal benefit. Vanderbilt self-reported the violation to the NCAA (this only came to light because Goulbourne was double-billed for a parking ticket) and Goulbourne was suspended.

Now, I may be a bit out of line here, but this is so utterly, fantastically, and brutally ridiculous, I needed to digest the information for a day because it simply didn’t make sense to me that something as innocuous as buying a senior parking pass off of a friend constituted an NCAA violation that was worthy of a two game suspension.

(Takes another deep breath.)

Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t the NCAA have much bigger fish to fry (cough, Cam Newtown, cough cough, Sugar Bowl, ahem, Taylor Martinez’s dad) than a kid that simply tried to pull one over on his school’s parking enforcement?

I could go on a rant here about the NCAA’s seemingly selective enforcement and inconsistency when punishing violators. I could bitch about the fact that a parking pass is worth two games while $6,000 in illegal benefits are only worth nine games. Hell, I’m sure if I tried hard enough, I could get something in there about Enes Kanter or Bruce Pearl or Tom Izzo.

But I’m not.

You’ve read those rants 1,000 times over in the last six months, and there is no need for me to regurgitate what every writer in the country has said because, in all likelihood, they said it better than I can.

My issue with this ruling has nothing to do with any other ruling the NCAA has made.

The goal of the NCAA is to have student-athletes get treated like any other student on campus. The ideal is that the kids that play basketball are students that just so happen to play basketball, like how kids in marching band are students that happen to play an instrument or how kids that act in plays are students that happen to be really good actors.

If my collegiate experience was completely different from the norm (which I sincerely doubt), then I retract everything I am about to say. But when I was in college, I did everything I could to beat the system and took advantage of every hook-up I had.

All of my friends did the same thing.

We were friends with a couple of guys that worked at a bar that students from my school spent quite a bit of time bellied up to. We went there all the time because we knew that the bartenders would let us in without paying a cover or waiting in line and would hook us up with drinks. That happens on every single college campus in the country and at every single bar you have ever been to.

Its called being a regular.

But Tennessee football players got in trouble for taking advantage of a relationship like that.

There was a beer store we went too all the time a few blocks off of campus. The people that owned the place would cut us deals if we bought a lot of booze there and always hooked us up with free swag. Giant inflatable Corona Palm Trees? Hell yeah! Motorized Bud Light coolers? Give me like five!

Along those same lines, there was a pizza place across the street from that beer store that we patronized so much that the owner started to give us discounts on the food we bought.

Jacob Pullen and Curtis Kelly did the exact same thing at a department store when they bought clothes and were suspended for three and six games, respectively.

The NCAA wants athletes to be normal college kids.

This is what normal college kids do.

They take advantage of every hook-up they can. They try to beat the system at all times. They take every shortcut possible. I know I’m not the only one that made friends with the campus police so that if I had a party get broken up or parked illegally, I could avoid getting into trouble. I also played basketball, which means that I probably violated many NCAA rules during my collegiate career when Mike or Dale let me off with yet another warning.

I understand that it is a slippery slope.

You don’t want to turn a blind eye to discounted clothing because the next kid will be getting a discounted TV and the kid after that will be getting a discounted car. I get that. A precedent needs to be set. (I also know how ridiculous it is to talk about “precendence” in regards in NCAA punishments in this day and age.)

But a little bit of common sense could help the NCAA in a big way.

Punish kids that break a rule with the intention of breaking a rule.

Don’t punish a kid like Lance Goulbourne, who was simply looking to get around his school’s parking regulations the same way any other underclassmen does.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.

Louisville challenges NCAA over recruiting allegations

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Louisville has refuted NCAA allegations against its men’s basketball program in the wake of a federal corruption scandal, requesting that the highest-level violation be reclassified.

The university also is challenging that former coach Rick Pitino failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance in his program.

Louisville filed a 104-page response last week to the Notice Of Allegations sent to the school in May. The document stated that college sports’ governing body seeks to ignore wire fraud convictions against several people involved in the scheme – including a former Adidas executive – by suggesting they were representing its athletic interests. Louisville’s contract with the apparel maker was a standard sponsorship agreement rather than a promotional deal, the response added.

“This argument is as novel as it is wrong,” the school wrote in its response. “Even if an institution has some responsibility for the conduct of its suppliers, that responsibility plainly does not extend to acts of fraud perpetrated against the institution itself.”

Louisville also seeks to have several second-tier violations reclassified even lower. The NCAA has until Nov. 15 to respond with the school responding 15 days after before a decision is made whether the case will proceed through the traditional Committee on Infractions or Independent Accountability Review Process (IARP).

The NCAA’s Notice of Allegations states that Louisville committed a Level I violation, considered the most severe, with an improper recruiting offer and extra benefits along with several lesser violations. Those lesser violations also include Pitino failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance.

The NCAA notice completed a two-year investigation following a federal corruption probe of college basketball announced in September 2017. Louisville acknowledged its involvement in the federal investigation related to the recruitment of former player Brian Bowen II. Pitino, who’s now coaching Iona, was not named in the federal complaint and has consistently denied authorizing or having knowledge of a payment to a recruit’s family.

Louisville has previously indicated it would accept responsibility for violations it committed but would contest allegations it believed were not supported by facts. The school also noted corrective measures taken in the scandal’s immediate aftermath, such as suspending and then firing Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich.

Louisville also dismissed the NCAA’s contention that former Adidas executive James Gatto and amateur league director Merl Code represented the school while funneling illegal payments to recruits at several schools.

“The enforcement staff’s remaining allegations lack factual support and overread the relevant Bylaws,” the response stated, “and rest on the erroneous contention that the conspirators were representatives of the University’s athletics interests.

“For these reasons and others set forth, the panel should reject the enforcement staff’s dramatically overbroad theory, and classify this case as involving a Level II-Mitigated violation.”

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

INDIANAPOLIS — With the coronavirus pandemic already forcing changes for college basketball, a bubble may be brewing in Indianapolis.

Indiana Sports Corp. released a 16-page proposal Friday that calls for turning the city convention center’s exhibition halls and meeting rooms into basketball courts and locker rooms. There would be expansive safety measures and daily COVID-19 testing.

The all-inclusive price starts at $90,000 per team and would cover 20 hotel rooms per traveling party, testing, daily food vouchers ranging from $30-$50 and the cost of game officials. Sports Corp. President Ryan Vaughn said the price depends on what offerings teams or leagues choose.

“The interest has been high,” Vaughn said. “I think as conferences figure out what conference and non-conference schedules are going to look like, we’re we’re a very good option for folks. I would tell you we’ve had conversations with the power six conferences, mid-majors, it’s really kind of all over the Division I spectrum.”

Small wonder: The NCAA this week announced teams could start ramping up workouts Monday, with preseason practices set to begin Oct. 14. Season openers, however, were pushed back to Nov. 25 amid wide-ranging uncertainty about campus safety and team travel in the pandemic.

There is already scrambling going on and some of the marquee early-season tournaments have already been impacted.

The Maui Invitational will be moved from Hawaii to Asheville, North Carolina, with dates still to be determined and organizers clear that everyone involved “will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.” The Batttle 4 Atlantis has been canceled. The Cancun Challenge will be held in Melbourne, Florida, not Mexico.

More changes almost certainly will be coming, including what to do with the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

“I think we’re past the guesswork on whether we play 20 conference games or more than that,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said Friday. “We’re trying to get everybody set like in terms of MTEs (multi-team events), figuring out when to play the ACC-Big Ten challenge.”

Painter, who was part of the NCAA committee that recommended how to start the season, noted part of the uncertainty stems from differing protocols imposed by campus, city and state officials.

In Indianapolis, Vaughn believes the convention center, nearby hotels, restaurants and downtown businesses, many within walking distance of the venue, could safely accommodate up to 24 teams. The 745,000-square foot facility would feature six basketball courts and two competition courts.

Anyone entering the convention center would undergo saliva-based rapid response testing, which would be sent to a third-party lab for results. Others venues could be added, too, potentially with more fans, if the case numbers decline.

If there is a taker, the event also could serve as a dry run for the 2021 Final Four, also slated for Indy.

“It’s not going to hurt,” Vaughn said. “I can tell you all the planning we’re doing right now is the same for a Final Four that’s been scheduled here for any other year. But it would be nice to have this experience under our belt to see if it can be done.”

Maui Invitational moving to North Carolina during pandemic

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
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ASHEVILLE, N.C. — The Maui Invitational is moving to the mainland during the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the premier preseason tournaments on the college basketball schedule, the Maui Invitational will be played at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center in downtown Asheville, North Carolina.

Dates for the tournament announced Friday have yet to be finalized. The NCAA announced Wednesday that the college basketball season will begin Nov. 25.

This year’s Maui Invitational field includes Alabama, Davidson, Indiana, North Carolina, Providence, Stanford, Texas and UNLV.

All teams, staff, officials, and personnel will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.

Burton eligible at Texas Tech after 2 seasons at Wichita State

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LUBBOCK, Texas — Junior guard Jamarius Burton has been granted a waiver from the NCAA that makes him eligible to play this season for Texas Tech after starting 52 games the past two seasons for Wichita State.

Texas Tech coach Chris Beard announced the waiver Thursday, which came five months after Burton signed with the Big 12 team.

Burton has two seasons of eligibility remaining, as well as a redshirt season he could utilize. He averaged 10.3 points and 3.4 assists per game as a sophomore at Wichita State, where he played 67 games overall.

Burton is from Charlotte. He helped lead Independence High School to a 31-1 record and the North Carolina Class 4A state championship as a senior there.

NCAA season set to open day before Thanksgiving

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The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball season will begin on Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving.

The Division I Council voted Wednesday to push the start date back from the originally scheduled Nov. 10 as one of several precautions against the spread of coronavirus.

The later start date coincides with the decision most schools made to send students home from Thanksgiving until January out of concern about a potential late-fall and early-winter flareup of COVID-19. Closed campuses could serve as a quasi bubble for players and provide a window for non-conference games.

The maximum number of regular-season games has been reduced from 31 to 27. The minimum number of games for consideration for the NCAA Tournament was cut from 25 to 13.

Teams can start preseason practices Oct. 14 but will be allowed to work out 12 hours per week beginning Monday.

No scrimmages against other teams or exhibitions are allowed.

In other action, the council voted to extend the recruiting dead period for all sports through Dec. 31. In-person recruiting is not allowed during a dead period, though phone calls and other correspondence are allowed.

The men’s and women’s basketball oversight committees had jointly recommended a start date of Nov. 21, which would have allowed for games to be played on the weekend before Thanksgiving. The council opted not to do that to avoid a conflict with regular-season football games.

The council is scheduled to meet again Oct. 13-14 and could delay the start date and change other pieces of the basketball framework if circumstances surrounding the virus warrant.