Context key in Matt Mooney’s transfer, bullying ‘accusations’

1 Comment
source: AP
AP Photo

One of the stories that has made headlines this week has been the transfer of Matt Mooney out of Air Force.

Well, the transfer isn’t that big of a deal. It happened earlier this month, and Mooney was a freshman guard that averaged 6.9 points for a team that was irrelevant in the Mountain West race. His move isn’t a big deal to people outside of Air Force, the Mooney family and the handful of mid-major programs that are now re-recruiting him.

What has made headlines, however, was a series of quotes that Mooney gave to the Chicago Tribune in a Q-and-A:

Q: Going to Air Force, I would assume is a much difference college experience than the normal college experience. Is that what you’re seeking, too, at this point — just a normal college experience? I mean, how long do you have to be in the military after graduating? Five years?

A: You’ve got to serve five years in the military. I honestly have no problem with the military, it’s just the Air Force Academy isn’t the same as the military. It’s a much different place. Freshman year here is really rough. It’s meant to be a year to see if you can stick it out and see if you’re ready for the military, but a lot of things go on that people don’t really realize. There’s a lot of bullying and things like that, honestly, because the system is [run] by upperclassmen. And freshmen have no power, whatsoever. It was just a rough year. It was kind of depressing, actually.

[…]

It’s just a tough place to be at. … It’s just not really what the military’s like here. Once you get out, it’s different. It’s much more relaxed. But here, it’s very controlled and very strict and disciplined. I went through six weeks of basic training. It was a tough year, to say the least.

Q: You mentioned bullying before. Are there specific examples of things that you had to do where you kind of look back and say, “Why did I have to do this?”

A: Freshmen were not allowed to wear our backpacks. We had to carry our backpacks in our left hand, and we have to run to and from class — to and from everywhere. One day, I was running to mandatory breakfast with my backpack in my left hand. I’m running there, it’s 6:45 in the morning, it’s cold. And one of the upperclassmen says I’m not running fast enough and they just dropped me and made me start doing push-ups. That’s kind of the stuff they can do. There’s a lot of examples, but that’s one of them.

Bullying is a hot-button topic these days — and rightfully so — which is why this story has made the rounds. Putting “so-and-so transferred because of bullying” in a headline is an easy way to garner some clicks, and Mooney learned the hard way that a quote taken the wrong way can make you trend on twitter.

He knows he shouldn’t have used the word ‘bullying’. I know this because he told me as much when I asked him.

But there are a couple of other important things to note here that put what Mooney said in context.

For starters, this is the way things work at many military academies. The first year a student is on campus, he or she is put through intense amounts of physical and mental stress. It’s not hard to find stories about this kind of treatment for freshmen at places like The Citadel or VMI, where freshmen are called “rats.” That’s the culture at a place like Air Force, and what didn’t get picked up as the story went viral was that Mooney said later in the interview, “All of the basketball guys, we all look out for each other. The seniors and stuff. But they’re not always around. I don’t have any of them in my squadron.”

So this wasn’t a decision based on the basketball team pushing him around. Mooney didn’t like the culture at Air Force.

How many freshman would?

More to the point, not everyone is cut out to be a military man.

“He just didn’t see himself as a military person,” Pilipovich said back when Mooney announced his decision to leave the program. “He said, ‘Coach, I love the staff, I love the team, I love our plays, but I’m just not happy every day here and I don’t see myself doing this.’ You’ve got to be happy, and if he’s not happy we wish him well.”

And, here’s the important part, he also didn’t feel like he fit in with the way the basketball team plays. Air Force head coach Dave Pilipovich runs the Princeton Offense, and Mooney told the Tribune, “I didn’t actually really know what it was like until playing in it” and “I didn’t really like playing like that.” Then throw in the fact that he also told the paper that he didn’t like how being at Air Force limited his ability to get home to see his family, and what you have is a kid that’s not happy about the school he decided to play for.

Yes, the bullying that freshmen receive at Air Force played a role in his decision, but if you actually take the time to pay attention to everything that he said, you’d realize that there was a lot more than went into it.

“The article was taken completely out of context,” Mooney said on twitter after some of his quotes started to get picked up. “I am not leaving because of ‘bullying’. USAFA is a great place with lots of great people, too.”

So there it is. The full context of Mooney’s quotes.

Take it how you will.

Louisville challenges NCAA over recruiting allegations

Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports
Leave a comment

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
4 Comments

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
1 Comment

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
7 Comments

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

Getty Images
4 Comments

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.