Dana Altman deserves to be fired for mess at Oregon

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Dana Altman needs to be fired.

I’ll explain why in a minute, but before I do, let me set the stage for you.

Altman, the Oregon head coach, finally spoke publicly about the rape accusations against three of his players on Friday evening, just a few hours after school President Michael Gottfredson made it official that Dominic Artis, Damyean Dotson and Brandon Austin were kicked off of the basketball team.

Altman’s first public comments about investigation came four days after the police report detailing the alleged victim’s graphic accusations went public and almost two months after the incident occurred. More than anything, there were two questions the public was waiting for Altman and Oregon to answer:

  • Why was Brandon Austin, who had a sexual assault allegation at Providence hanging over his head, allowed to transfer into the school and the program?
  • When was Altman made aware of the latest allegations against his three players, and when did he discover the details of what the victim was claiming happened?

And quite frankly, neither answer was in anyway satisfactory.

Let’s start with the first question.

Austin was the only one of the three players that did not play in a game for the Ducks after the alleged incident occurred. That’s because he’s currently sitting out as a transfer. He left Providence after one semester because he had been suspended for the year. In March, the Wall Street Journal reported that Austin’s suspension was centered on an accusation that he sexually assaulted a woman in the fall. But it was known in basketball circles well before that.

On Friday, during his press conference, Altman said that he was unaware that Austin’s issue was an alleged sexual assault.

I’m not buying it.

Austin announced his transfer to Oregon on Jan. 7. He was suspended by the college for the entire year in late-December. Austin’s issue at Providence was a sexual assault allegation known by a number of people weeks prior to the suspension. I had multiple conversations about it before Providence announced he was suspended for the year, enough so that, when the Wall Street Journal’s report came out in March, I was shocked that this wasn’t already public knowledge.

If that’s what I was hearing, if those were the conversations that I was having, then I am positive Altman was hearing the same. He had to have known that a sexual assault allegation was Austin’s trouble at Providence.

That brings me to the second question: when did Altman know about the incident at Oregon and when did he find out specifics of which his players were being accused?

Altman said that he was made aware “the day before we left to go to Milwaukee [for the NCAA tournament]” of an “incident” had happened with some of his players when he was told by AD Rob Mullens. That would have been March 17th. He said he wasn’t told details of the accusations and was not privy to the identity of the players involved.

Let’s rewind here.

Oregon released their timeline of the investigation on Tuesday evening. The incident occurred on March 8th. Oregon admitted in a statement last week that they were made aware of the sexual assault allegations when the father of the victim called the school on March 9th. The alleged victim went to the Eugene PD on March 13th.

But Dana Altman didn’t find out about the incident or the allegations until March 17, after Artis and Dotson played in the Pac-12 tournament? Until the day before they were going to take off and play in the NCAA tournament? I find it hard to believe that, in a college town like Eugene, three basketball players could be accused of sexual assault and two different police departments, including the UOPD, could find out while the head coach stays in the dark for eight days.

But I’m cynical. I know that. I can admit that it’s possible word never made it back to Altman.

So I’ll take it a step further: Altman said that he did not have the details of the allegations or the identities of the players confirmed before the start of the NCAA tournament on March 20, which I find problematic.

It’s inconceivable for a college basketball coach to be made aware that a player on his or her team has a legal issue and for that coach not to figure out which player it is. Whether it’s to help them, to guide them, to make sure they have legal representation, to suspend them if, you know, they’re accused of forcible rape with two other teammates, it doesn’t matter. These are still student-athletes, right? These are kids that are supposed to become adults with the help of the coaches they play for, aren’t they? Isn’t that the ideal we’re going for here?

Moreover, I simply do not believe that a coach like Altman — or any coach at any level in any sport — would proceed to go about his business like nothing was wrong after he was made aware of an “incident” being investigated by the police that involved players on his team that was severe enough that it made it all the way back to his athletic director. Because that’s the story Altman is pitching here. His AD told him about the police investigation — and their request that Oregon pause their internal investigation, a topic I’ll get to in a minute — and, instead of finding out who was involved and how serious this “incident” was, he … went back to watching film?

Shouldn’t a coach want to know? Shouldn’t he be wondering which players on the roster managed to get themselves into trouble at the most important time of the year for a college basketball team? That shouldn’t be ignored.

But hey, maybe this is the way it played out. Maybe Altman is telling the truth here. All I’m saying is that I find it hard to believe Altman when he says he did not know the nature of the investigation and the identities of the players involved before the start of the tournament, in part because it would be the second lie that he told during that press conference on Friday.

And even if he is telling the truth, if he and his staff continued to prepare for the NCAA tournament as if three members of his team weren’t involved in an investigation being conducted by the police that he was clueless about, than that means that Altman was not on top of things the way a high-major college basketball coach should be on top of things.

Here’s something else that doesn’t add up: Altman’s stance is that he and Oregon did not look into the incident at all because they were specifically asked not to do so by the Eugene PD. According to the university, they explicitly asked the Eugene PD whether or not they should keep any players from participating in the NCAA tournament, to which they were told “to do what they normally would do regarding who plays and who doesn’t.”

That sounds good, but Melinda McLaughlin, a Eugene PD spokesperson, told The Oregonian that “police are not going to be concerned about who participates in a sporting event” and that they gave the school no specific instruction regarding playing time for the kids being investigated. That report was confirmed by KEZI9, a television station in Eugene.

Oh.

At best, there was a miscommunication between Oregon and the Eugene PD, and when dealing with sexual assault allegations and postseason tournament games that net coaches — like Dana Altman — five figure bonuses, miscommunications cannot happen. When a best-case scenario could be a fireable offense, you don’t want to think about a worst-case scenario.

If Altman is willing to lie publicly, as I believe he is, about knowingly accepting a transfer that had been suspended after being accused of sexual assault, why should we believe anything else that he is saying?

And if we can’t believe him about when he knew about the accusation, when he knew about the identity of the players being accused, or what the Eugene PD told him to do, than he shouldn’t be the head coach at Oregon anymore.

Dana Altman needs to be fired.

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
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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

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
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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.