Blogger Spotlight: Rules can be interesting — ask Bylaw Blog

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There once was a time when a nameless blogger wrote a popular blog among college sports writers and fans that helped explained nuances and reasoning behind the NCAA’s myriad rules. A blog about bylaws? It might sound like homework for adults, but it was actually great.

Then this happened. And it seemed as though the Bylaw Blog would forever disappear.

Until the NCAA did the college sports world a favor and had John Infante, the assistant director of compliance at Colorado State, bring back his blog on the NCAA’s site. It’s as good as ever.

So, as the NCAA prepares to spend another summer tweaking its massive rulebook yet again, I had John on for the latest Blogger Spotlight. I was lucky, too. He’s a massive soccer fan and he was kind enough to send responses around various Gold Cup games.

Click here for more Blogger Spotlight

Q: After your identity was “outed” last summer, how did you decide to resurrect Bylaw Blog? Did the NCAA approach you or did you approach them? It seems like a natural pairing.

A: After I was outed, I decided I would not bring the blog back as a single, personal website. Luckily, the NCAA reached out to me as part of their larger blogging project for NCAA.org. It was the right mix of freedom and support. What’s surprised me more is how much writing once a week on a broader level than what’s going on at an individual school has changed my opinions on topics that I thought I wouldn’t budge on. And how strong some positions I now have are that I was fairly ambivalent about in the past.

Q: Example, please. I assume it wasn’t one instance that prompted the change, but is there anything that sticks out in your mind?

A: The best example is my view on the ongoing debate over nonscholastic vs. high school sports. I used to be pretty ambivalent. Now I’m convinced that nonscholastic sports are the future for developing college athletes, and the role of high school athletics will inevitably decline. The best way for the NCAA to regulate recruiting as high school sports become less important is to help organizations with proper controls and structure succeed by favoring them in the recruiting rules.

Q: How did the Bylaw Blog begin? I’m envisioning a mix of you explaining the nuances of your compliance job and people constantly asking you about the myriad NCAA rules led to its creation.

A: Part of my motivation was to “set the record straight” since there was not a lot of information about the nuances of NCAA rules. Look at how many people still think the NCAA prevents athletes from having part-time jobs. But mostly it was that the things I write on the blog are the fun part of my job. Digging through rules, putting together puzzles, and presenting in a way that others find useful. I wanted to do the fun part of my job more, so I turned it into my hobby.

Q: Most blogs associated with college sports have built-in audiences. Fans of the school, conference or sport want to know what’s going on. Have you found that to be true of Bylaw Blog? And who are those people – aside from media types and other school compliance officers?

A: The biggest audience I’ve seen is fans of schools who are facing investigations or violations. It’s an audience that’s growing, although the jury is still out on whether that’s a positive development. When news breaks that a school is under investigation or accused of major violations, fans want to know what it means. They want to know what’s going to happen next, if everything is going to be OK. And the more information about NCAA rules they can find, the better they tend to feel about the situation.

Q: There’s a disclaimer on the blog’s main page, but how often do people ask you for advice, clarifications, etc? I’d guess they view you as an extension of the NCAA’s main office.

A: I get questions on Twitter fairly regularly. And increasingly I’m getting accusations that one program or another is breaking the rules. I think it’s less that I’m seen as an extension of the NCAA and more that I’m a compliance professional with more than a few Twitter followers. Luckily, I don’t get questions from the two groups mentioned specifically in the disclaimer. I have never had a coach from another institution call me and I very rarely get calls from student-athletes or prospects who are at or being recruited by another institution.

Q: What kind of limitations accompany blogging on the NCAA site? Is anything deemed improper material or is anything suggested to you as a topic?

A: I have free rein to publish pretty much whatever I want, with direct access to the CMS, so my posts appear on the NCAA’s site without prior approval or editing. The NCAA staff has only edited one of my posts, and I agreed with the change (I had linked to a full, editable copy of the NLI on the same day there was an incident with a forged NLI. That could have lead to some mischief.). I struggle more with self-censoring and not wanting to appear like I’m just spouting a party line.

Q: Ah, the AAU debate. That stemmed from the Rivals rule, right? Your opinion here spells out your reasoning pretty well, which is tough to argue. What would be the tipping point for that change to actually take place?

A: That was a major part of it. It’s kind of a chicken and egg problem though. The NCAA needs an alternative to AAU in men’s basketball to get behind, but a competitor to grassroots basketball needs the NCAA’s support to emerge. I’m a pretty outspoken fan of the US Soccer Development Academy, and that really took off when MLS decided to invest in youth development. The NBA could change the entire landscape of prep basketball if it decided to get involved in youth development.

Q: Are there any other college basketball rule changes that might benefit the sport? Or any that just bug you?

A: At this point it’s clear that limits on communication between prospects and coaches are providing an opening for the third parties whose influence we want to limit. Not to mention that phone calls and text messaging (when it was legal) are a bigger factor in men’s basketball recruiting than most other sports. Deregulation would give coaches equal access and not provide a maximum amount of contact that coaches feel compelled to meet (or exceed).

As far as rules that bug me, I’m not a fan of the summer school/summer practice proposal, at least in its current form. My biggest objection is that it doesn’t require a student-athlete to earn any credits he’s not already required to earn. Not to mention there’s a conflict with the July recruiting periods. I’d like to see a rule that rewards coaches who promote a focus on academics during the season with extra practice in the summer, and a summer recruiting model that support it.

 Q: Kentucky snagged the spotlight the last week regarding its stance on John Calipari’s 500th win. Are cases like that a compliance nightmare? Bad press for something that’s not going to actually land the school in hot water?

A: I’m much more worried about the hot water than the bad press. Given the intense debate over NCAA rules, doing what the rules require can attract plenty of bad press as well. I thought the debate between the NCAA and UK, which was branded as petty, was actually very important. Had UK and the Committee on Infractions gone to a hearing, it would have had a major impact on how effective the penalty would be going forward.

Q: What’s in your future? Is Colorado State a spot you could envision staying for a while (Ft. Collins is lovely) or might this job eventually turn into something at the NCAA? And if that occurs, what happens to the Bylaw Blog?

A: I think I could stay here a while. I’m not sure about a job in compliance at the NCAA or a conference, I really enjoy doing this job on a campus, I’m not sure I would enjoy it as much at the national office. If it was an opportunity to write full-time, that’s a different story.

More of John’s writing can be read here. He’s also on Twitter @bylawblog.

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.

Indiana’s late-run beats No. 11 Michigan State 67-63

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BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Joey Brunk scored 14 points, including a key layup with 1 minute left to play, and Jerome Hunter made two late free throws Thursday night to close out Indiana’s 67-63 victory over No. 11 Michigan State.

The Hoosiers (15-4, 5-3 Big Ten) have won two straight and four of their last five. It was coach Archie Miller’s 50th win since taking the job three seasons ago.

Cassius Winston had 13 of his 17 points in the second half to lead the Spartans (14-5, 6-2), who lost their third straight in the series.

Michigan State had a chance to force overtime after forcing a turnover, calling timeout and sending Winston through the lane. He flipped the ball to Xavier Tillman for a layup, but the ball rolled off the rim and Hunter grabbed the rebound.

His free throws sealed the win.

The Hoosiers needed everything they had to earn this one after blowing a seven-point halftime lead.

Michigan State rallied by making its first six 3-point attempts in the second half and finally took a 51-48 lead on Rocket Watts’ 3 with 11:05 to go.

It remained a one-possession game the rest of the way.

But Aljami Durham finally gave Indiana what it needed – a 3 with 1:52 left – to break a 60-60 tie. Brunk’s layup made it 65-62.

BIG PICTURE

Michigan State: Trips to Indiana just haven’t been kind to the Spartans lately. On Jan. 12, they were routed at Purdue. This time, they got beat in the closing minutes. Clearly, Michigan State performed closer to expectations than it did at Purdue. But another slow start cost them another game. They will return to Indiana for the conference tournament in March.

Indiana: It doesn’t seem that long ago that the Hoosiers struggled to make shots. But they’ve figured out how to limit the 3s and take advantage of their size and athleticism inside, and it’s made a huge difference. If Indiana’s offense stays in sync this weekend, they just might crack the Top 25 for the first time.

STAT PACK

Michigan State: Aaron Henry had 12 points, while Gabe Brown had 10 points and four 3s. Xavier Tillman finished with nine points and 10 rebounds. … The Spartans had 13 turnovers, but only gave up six points off those turnovers. … Michigan State started the game by missing its first nine 3s. It wound up 9 of 21 from beyond the arc.

Indiana: Trayce Jackson-Davis had 12 points and four rebounds, while Durham finished with 11 points and four 3s. … Race Thompson had four points, two blocks and two steals before leaving the game late in the first half after a hard foul. He sat on the bench the entire second half. … Nine of the 10 Hoosiers who appeared in the first half scored. Only Jerome Hunter, who logged four minutes, was shut out. … NBA star Victor Oladipo attended the game. The two-time All-Star is expected to make his season debut with the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday.

UP NEXT

Michigan State: plays two of its next three on the road, including Sunday’s stop at Minnesota.

Indiana: hosts another ranked opponent, No. 17 Maryland, on Sunday.

Three Things To Know: Marcus Carr beats Ohio State, Indiana wins, Yoeli’s back

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There were no brawls, but there is still plenty to talk about after a full slate of games on Thursday night.

Here are the three things that you need to know:

1. THE BIG TEN STAYS WILD

It was another bonkers night in the toughest conference in the country on Thursday.

Let’s start with the early game.

Ohio State lost for the sixth time in the last seven games, blowing an 11-point second half lead after Marcus Carr, who finished with 21 points, his a three with 3.3 seconds left on the clock to give the Gophers a 62-59 win.

Daniel Oturu added 11 points and six boards, all of which came in the second half, as he shut down Kaleb Wesson to give Minnesota the season-sweep of the Buckeyes.

Minnesota is now 5-4 in the Big Ten and 11-8 on the season, and while this loss drops Ohio State into 12th place in the Big Ten standings, the work that they did in the early part of the season combined with the depth and strength of the conference they play in means that, as of now, this is still a Quad 1 win for Minnesota.

The late game was just as crazy.

No. 11 Michigan State trailed by as many as 16 points in the first half before storming back to take a lead in the final four minutes. But Indiana responded, and caught a lucky break as Xavier Tillman missed a wide-open tip-in with less than a second left on the clock that would have forced overtime.

The Spartans are now 6-2 in the Big Ten, putting them in a tie for first place with Illinois, while Indiana an absolutely enormous win for Archie Miller and this program. With No. 17 Maryland coming to town on Saturday, this was critical for Archie Miller, whose lack of success has gotten the locals riled up.

This should give him some breathing room.

2. YOELI CHILDS IS BACK

It hasn’t really been discussed much nationally to this point, but BYU is a really good, really dangerous team this season when they are at full strength.

The problem has been that they’ve barely been at full strength.

Their best player is Yoeli Childs, a 6-foot-9 center with all the tools that make him an intriguing NBA prospect and, in turn, an absolute monster in the WCC. But he missed the first nine games of the season because of a paperwork issue withdrawing from last year’s NBA draft, and then had to sit out the last four after injuring his finger.

But he’s back now.

And he put everyone on notice with a 26 point, nine rebound outburst in a 74-60 win at Pacific.The Cougars are a very real at-large candidate with the size and shot-making to threaten Gonzaga. Keep an eye on them.

3. HOUSTON SURVIVES UCONN

In one of the weirdest end-of-game sequences I can remember seeing, No. 25 Houston managed to find a way to survive UConn’s upset bid.

Here’s what happened: The Cougars, who trailed for the entire game, finally took the lead late in the second half. They had pushed the lead out to six points, when UConn’s Jalen Gaffney scored with 7.3 seconds left to cut it to four. But after he scored, Houston’s DeJon Jarreau said something to Danny Hurley and was given a technical foul. After Gaffney made both free throws, Jarreau then committed a five-second violation on the ensuing inbounds.

UConn ball.

But this is the strangest part: Since UConn was in foul trouble, they brought in a walk-on — Temi Aiyegbusy — to commit a foul. But no time went of the clock on the turnover, so he had to remain on the court for the UConn possession. The ball ended up in his hands in the corner, and he passed up on a three took a pull-up that missed.

Houston grabbed the rebound, made their free throws, and that was that.

Three Things To Know: Memphis embarrassed; Luka Garza shows out again

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The story of the night in hoops was Zion Williamson’s return to the basketball court.

But there was plenty of action in the college ranks that is worthy of talking about.

Here are the three things that you need to know:

1. No. 20 MEMPHIS LOST BY 40 TO TULSA

That is not a typo.

The 20th-ranked team in the country went into Tulsa, Okla., and lost to the Golden Hurricane, 80-40. Tulsa was up 40-17 at halftime. This was a butt-whooping that was so bad that all Tulsa needed to do was score a single point in the second half and they would have been able to get the win.

Memphis shot 28 percent from the floor. They were 2-for-21 from three. They finished the night with more turnovers (20) and fouls (22) than field goals (16). This was the worst loss that a top 25 team has suffered against a ranked team in 27 years, since UConn beat then-No. 12 Virginia by 41 points.

For Tulsa, this is a massive, massive win. They are currently sitting all alone in first place in the American standings, a half-game up on Houston.

So good for Frank Haith.

But the story here is Memphis, because the Tigers, considered title contenders before the season began, look anything-but right now.

“We let our defense dictate our offense,” head coach Penny Hardaway told reporters after the game. “We didn’t play any defense today. I think today was the first day we’ve done that ll year. I don’t know if guys overlooked Tulsa because of the name. We did our due diligence as a coaching staff to let them know what was going to happen with the matchup zone and how hard they play.

“It’s pretty embarrassing.”

2. LUKA GARZA WENT NUTS AGAIN

If it seems like Garza is putting up monster numbers every games, it’s because he is.

On Wednesday night, the Hawkeyes welcomed newly-ranked Rutgers to campus and sent them home with an entertaining, hard-fought, 85-80 win. And Garza was the star of the show. He finished with 28 points, 13 boards, four blocks and two steals in the win, anchoring the paint as Iowa out-scored Rutgers 47-37 in the second half.

The big fella is now averaging 23 points and 10.5 boards.

Iowa has now won four straight games to move into a tie for third in the Big Ten standings — with Rutgers, among others — and they have won eight straight games in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. They are a third of the way through a three-game homestand as well.

3. VIRGINIA TECH TAKES DOWN NORTH CAROLINA

Virginia Tech kept up their push to finish as the fourth-best team in the ACC with a 79-77 double-overtime win over North Carolina.

The Hokies are now 14-5 overall and 5-3 in the ACC, but the more interesting story might actually be the Tar Heels.

They are 8-10 on the season and 1-6 in the ACC. They have been a disaster for the last month, but there may be some reinforcements on the way in the shape of Cole Anthony. If he returns and the Tar Heels, who are 2-7 in his absence but have wins over Alabama and Oregon with him, get things back on the right track, they are likely going to find themselves in an incredibly awkward situation on Selection Sunday.

Big 12 hands down Kansas-Kansas State fight suspensions

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The Big 12 handed down suspensions to four Kansas and Kansas State players for their role in the fight that occurred in Phog Allen Fieldhouse on Tuesday night.

Silvio De Sousa, who tried to fight three different Kansas State players and picked up a stool during the melee, received a 12 game suspension from the conference. David McCormack, who went into the stands to confront James Love III, received a two game suspension. Love was given eight games for part in the fight, while Antonio Gordon, the freshman that turned a messy situation into a fight, was hit with a three game suspension.

“This kind of behavior cannot be tolerated and these suspensions reflect the severity of last evening’s events,” said Commissioner Bob Bowlsby.  “I am appreciative of the cooperation of both institutions in resolving this matter.”

In the final seconds on Tuesday night, after DaJuan Gordon stole the ball from him at halfcourt, De Sousa blocked Gordon’s shot and towered over him. That sparked an incident that turned into a full-fledged brawl, as De Sousa threw punches at three different players on Kansas State before picking up a stool as the fight spilled into the handicapped section of Kansas seating.

Self called the fight “an embarrassment” after the game, adding on Wednesday that “we are disappointed in [De Sousa’s] actions and there is no place in the game for that behavior.”

McCormack will be eligible to return for Kansas on Feb. 1st when they play Texas Tech at home. De Sousa will be available to play in the final game of the regular season at Texas Tech. Gordon can return on Feb. 3rd, when the Wildcats host Baylor, while Love will be out until late February. But he has played just one game and two minutes on the season, so there is no clear indication of when he will actually put on a Kansas State jersey again.

The four most important questions after Kansas-Kansas State fight

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Very other sport can treat brawls like comedy, and I think it’s about time that we did the same for basketball.

So let’s take a look at the four funniest moments from last night’s Kansas-Kansas State fight. Shouts to Jomboy:

1. IS THE KANSAS MASCOT OK?

Throughout the entire fight, the mascot is just in utter disbelief. He cannot believe what he just saw, and he certainly cannot be consoled:

2. CAN JEREMY CASE START AT LINEBACKER FOR KU’S FOOTBALL TEAM?

Case is the video coordinator for Kansas. He’s also a former Kansas point guard. He knows what this rivalry is all about, and he also is not going to be afraid to get in the middle of it.

Case starts out on the wrong side of the melee:

But when he sees De Sousa and Love squaring up and throwing punches, he intervenes by throwing himself into a player six inches taller than him:

3. WHAT HAPPENED TO JAMES LOVE III’S SHOE?

James Love the third has played in exactly one game this season. He has spent more time on the court fighting that he has actually playing, but he still found a way to get into the middle of this fight and, in the process, lost his shoe:

He’s not dressed for the game.

Did he bring an extra pair of shoes? Did he have to head back onto the bus without a shoe on this right foot? So many questions, so few answers.

4. WHO IS THE MAN IN THE ORANGE HAT?

He’s some kind of photographer.

He got his shot, that’s for sure: