Brandon Austin’s latest mistake: using the media to try and garner sympathy

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Northwest Florida College athletics

The future of Brandon Austin, a former Providence Friar and Oregon Duck that played at a JuCo in Florida last season, will forever be clouded thanks to the way that the former top 50 recruit flamed out at his first two programs.

As a freshman, Austin was accused of sexual assault by a woman on the Providence campus, an accusation that did not lead to a criminal charge but did get him suspended for a year. A couple of months later, after Austin had arrived on the Oregon campus, he was again accused of sexual assault by a female student. This time, there was a graphic police report, one where Austin, along with then-teammates Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson, didn’t deny what happened as much as they said the acts that the accuser described were consensual.

None of the three players were convicted, and Austin has still not been charged in either case.

(The Oregon accuser did file a lawsuit against the university and head coach Dana Altman, however.)

Artis and Dotson both sat out the 2014-15 season but have since found a place to continue their Division I careers. Artis will suit up for UTEP next season, while Dotson is headed to Houston.

The question deserves to be asked: Should Austin get another shot at a once-promising basketball career? Sexual assaults — particularly those on college campuses — are notoriously difficult to prosecute. Austin was not charged with a crime in either instance. Is that enough to prevent him from receiving a scholarship, continuing his basketball career and furthering his education?

It’s a touchy subject, to say the least, one that even Austin’s supporters will tell you is an uphill battle for him. The most difficult part will be playing the public relations game, trying to convince another campus that he’s not a risk to the female student body. That’s part of the reason that Austin and his advisors back in Philly gave Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports interview access last week, and boy, did that back fire.

Here are some of the things that Austin had to say in that story:

“The media painted a picture of me that I was this bad guy and I wasn’t,” Austin told CBSSports.com recently. “I’m just trying to stay strong through all of this, but it’s not easy. I’d be lying if I said it was easy.”

[…]

“I didn’t commit any crime,” Austin said of the sexual assault accusation at Providence. “I just wanted to leave and try to get a new start. I needed a change of scenery.”

[…]

“It was different than other places,” Austin said of this past year at Northwest Florida State. “It got me stronger. I think it humbled me. I know I’m better than that level. It’s just been really a humbling experience.”

What is he trying to say here? It’s the media’s fault that everyone found out about the two sexual assault allegations? That he’s the one that’s a victim here? That being “humbled” by having to play a year at a Junior College powerhouse is reason enough for us to overlook the fact that twice, within the span of five months, a woman accused Austin and a teammate of sexually assaulting her?

And it made matters worse that the author of this story decided to paint Austin as a sympathetic figure. He’s not.

If he wanted to salvage what’s left of his basketball future, Austin’s best move after the year that he had at Northwest Florida would have been to lay low, keeping his name out of the headlines for long enough that a coach at a low- or mid-major program would have been willing to roll the dice. He needs a low profile. He needs people to forget his name. He needs any coach that is recruiting him to be able to say that he’s a changed man, that he’s paid a massive price for his mistakes and that he’s only looking for a chance to move with his life outside of the public’s eye.

He’s never going to shed the label that these two accusations have put on him — I’m not sure he ever should — and fighting back against them, trying to clear his name, is only going to make him look worse.

He doesn’t need to be the focus of feature stories on national sports websites doing exactly that.

Look at the reaction to this story. Read the comments here. Read through the responses to the tweets that Rothstein sent about Austin. People haven’t forgotten.

And if this is the reaction to Austin simply saying that he wants another chance, imagine what will happen if a coach actually gives it to him?

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.

UConn’s Tyrese Martin granted waiver to play this season

David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports
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STORRS, Conn. — UConn swingman Tyrese Martin, who transferred from Rhode Island in April, has been granted a waiver that will allow him to play for the Huskies this season.

The 6-foot-6 junior averaged 12.8 points and 7.1 rebounds and started every game last season for URI, where he was recruited by current UConn coach Dan Hurley.

NCAA rules require undergraduate transfers to sit out a season, but the organization has been more lenient in granting waivers during the pandemic.

Martin, 21, is expected to compete for playing time at UConn on the wing as both a guard and small forward.