Minority coaches push for NCAA to adopt a Rooney Rule

Associated Press
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A group representing minority coaches is pushing the NCAA to adopt a rule that would require member institutions to interview a candidate of color for all head coaching and leadership vacancies.

The National Association for Coaching Equity and Development is joining longtime equality crusader Richard Lapchick in lobbying for an “Eddie Robinson Rule,” which would be college athletics’ version of the NFL’s Rooney Rule.

The group says such a rule would “address the negligent hiring practices which consistently exclude racial and ethnic minority coaches and administrators from positions of leadership in intercollegiate athletics.”

“It’s not about supply anymore,” Merritt Norvell, NAFCED’s executive director, said Friday. “There are plenty of qualified racial and ethnic minority coaches. It’s about the hiring process, which has historically and systematically excluded minority coaches by denying them an opportunity to compete in the process.”

NAFCED was formed last year to combat the dwindling numbers of minority coaches in college sports after the once powerful Black Coaches Association faded. Prominent members include Texas Tech basketball coach Tubby Smith, Georgetown basketball coach John Thompson III and Texas coach Shaka Smart.

Lapchick’s Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida released an annual study before the college football season that reported 87.5 percent of the 128 head football coaches in the NCAA’s Bowl Subdivision were white. That includes all four teams that made it to the playoff – Alabama, Clemson, Oklahoma and Michigan State.

Further, nearly 80 percent of college presidents and athletic directors at FBS schools are white males.

Lapchick has long advocated that the NCAA adopt a rule similar to the NFL, and he named it after Robinson, the revered coach at Grambling State who died in 2007. He called the endorsement from NAFCED “an enormous boost” that he hopes will help the proposal gain traction.

“I think what has been lacking is a forceful group of prominent sports leaders backing this,” Lapchick said. “This is such a group. In the absence of the BCA, this organization has the potential to have an impact on their own campuses as well as the NCAA.”

Norvell said NAFCED leaders plan to meet with NCAA leadership and conference commissioners in coming months.

“I do think for the health of the game we need diversity on the sideline,” former Georgia Tech and George Mason coach Paul Hewitt said. “It’s vitally important. We’re going through a very critical stage here and we need a lot of different ideas, a lot of different thoughts, a lot of different perspectives so we can arrive at the best place for the game and the kids who play the game.”

The biggest question will be whether the NCAA, or any other governing body, can enforce the rules on such a wide swath of public and private institutions. In 2009, Oregon passed a law that requires all of its public universities to interview minority candidates for coaching positions, but the law does not penalize schools that do not follow the rules.

Norvell said NAFCED, which is partnering with the National Consortium for Academics and Sports and The No Hate Zone in pushing for an Eddie Robinson Rule, said the public pressure that could be generated from such a measure would help schools adhere to the rule. Lapchick said he thinks legislative action would be more compelling than any perceived punishment that the NCAA could hand out.

“Having Congress rattling the sword as a result of this announcement by NAFCED would be an additional vehicle that would make the possibility of the NCAA moving more likely,” Lapchick said. “But I think this is the first step. Bringing Congress in to act would be a positive second step.”

Kentucky moves scrimmage to Eastern Kentucky for flood relief

Sam Upshaw Jr./Courier Journal/USA TODAY NETWORK
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LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky will play its annual Blue-White men’s basketball scrimmage in Eastern Kentucky to benefit victims of the devastating summer floods.

The school announced that the Oct. 22 event at Appalachian Wireless Arena in Pikeville will feature a pregame Fan Fest. Ticket proceeds will go through Team Eastern Kentucky Flood Relief.

Wildcat players will also participate in a community service activity with local organizations in the relief effort.

Kentucky coach John Calipari said the team was excited to play for Eastern Kentucky fans and added, “We hope we can provide a temporary escape with basketball and community engagement.”

The scrimmage traditionally is held at Rupp Arena. It will occur eight days after its Big Blue Madness public workout at Rupp.

Kentucky’s Tionna Herron recovering from open-heart surgery

Rich Janzaruk/Herald-Times/USA TODAY NETWORK
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LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky coach Kyra Elzy says freshman Tionna Herron is recovering from open-heart surgery to correct a structural abnormality.

The 6-foot-4 post player learned of her condition after arriving at school in June and received other opinions before surgery was recommended. Senior trainer Courtney Jones said in a release that Herron underwent surgery Aug. 24 at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston and is recovering at home in DeSoto, Texas.

Elzy said Herron “is the definition of a warrior” and all are grateful to be on the other side of the player’s surgery. Herron is expected back on campus early next month and will continue rehabilitation until she’s cleared to return to normal activity.

“Her will and determination to eventually return to the court is inspiring, and it’s that `game-on’ attitude that is what makes her such a perfect fit in our program,” Elzy said in a release. “We are so thrilled for Tionna’s return to our locker room; it’s not the same without our full team together.”

Herron committed to Kentucky during last fall’s early signing period, rated as a four-star prospect and a top-70 player in last year’s class. Kentucky won last year’s Southeastern Conference Tournament and reached the NCAA Tournament’s first round.

Emoni Bates charged with 2 felonies

Joe Rondone/USA TODAY NETWORK
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SUPERIOR TOWNSHIP, Mich — Emoni Bates, a former basketball prodigy who transferred to Eastern Michigan from Memphis, was charged with two felonies after police found a gun in a car during a traffic stop.

The 18-year-old Bates failed to stop at an intersection Sunday night and a search turned up the weapon, said Derrick Jackson, a spokesman for the Washtenaw County sheriff’s office.

Defense attorney Steve Haney told The Associated Press that the vehicle and the gun didn’t belong to Bates.

“I hope people can reserve judgment and understand there’s a presumption of innocence,” Haney said. “This was not his vehicle. This was not his gun. … We’re still gathering facts, too.”

Bates was charged with carrying a concealed weapon and altering identification marks on a firearm. He was released after his lawyer entered a not guilty plea. Bates’ next court hearing is Oct. 6.

“This is his first brush with the law,” Haney said in court. “He poses no threat or risk to society.”

Less than a month ago, the 6-foot-9 Bates transferred to Eastern Michigan to play for his hometown Eagles. Bates averaged nearly 10 points a game last season as a freshman at Memphis, where he enrolled after reclassifying to skip a year of high school and join the class of 2021.

“We are aware of a situation involving one of our student athletes,” EMU spokesman Greg Steiner said. “We are working to gather more details and will have further comment when more information is available.”

Bates was the first sophomore to win the Gatorade national player of the year award in high school basketball in 2020, beating out Cade Cunningham and Evan Mobley. Detroit drafted Cunningham No. 1 overall last year, two spots before Cleveland took Mobley in the 2021 NBA draft.

Bates committed to playing for Tom Izzo at Michigan State two years ago, later de-committed and signed with Memphis. Bates played in 18 games for the Tigers, who finished 22-11 under Penny Hardaway. Bates missed much of the season with a back injury before appearing in Memphis’ two NCAA Tournament games.

In 2019, as a high school freshman, the slender and skilled guard led Ypsilanti Lincoln to a state title and was named Michigan’s Division 1 Player of the Year by The Associated Press. His sophomore season was cut short by the pandemic and he attended Ypsi Prep Academy as a junior, his final year of high school.

UConn to pay Kevin Ollie another $3.9 million over firing

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STORRS, Conn. — UConn announced Thursday it has agreed to pay former men’s basketball coach Kevin Ollie another $3.9 million to settle discrimination claims surrounding his 2018 firing.

The money is in addition to the more than $11.1 million in back salary Ollie has already been paid after an arbitrator ruled in January that he was improperly fired under the school’s agreement with its professor’s union.

“I am grateful that we were able to reach agreement,” Ollie said in a statement Thursday. “My time at UConn as a student-athlete and coach is something I will always cherish. I am pleased that this matter is now fully and finally resolved.”

Ollie, a former UConn point guard who guided the Huskies to a 127-79 record and the 2014 national championship in six seasons as head coach, was let go after two losing seasons. UConn also stopped paying him under his contract, citing numerous NCAA violations in terminating the deal.

In 2019, the NCAA placed UConn on probation for two years and Ollie was sanctioned individually for violations, which the NCAA found occurred between 2013 and 2018. Ollie’s attorneys, Jacques Parenteau and William Madsen, accused UConn of making false claims to the NCAA for the purpose of firing Ollie “with cause.”

The school had argued that Ollie’s transgressions were serious and that his individual contract superseded those union protections.

Ollie’s lawyers had argued that white coaches, including Hall-of-Famers Jim Calhoun and women’s coach Geno Auriemma, had also committed NCAA violations, without being fired, and indicated they were planning to file a federal civil rights lawsuit.

The school and Ollie said in a joint statement Thursday they were settling “to avoid further costly and protracted litigation.”

Both sides declined to comment further.

Ollie, who faced three years of restrictions from the NCAA on becoming a college basketball coach again, is currently coaching for Overtime Elite, a league that prepares top prospects who are not attending college for the pros.

Dream’s McDonald returning to Arizona to coach under Barnes

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TUCSON, Ariz. — Atlanta Dream guard Aari McDonald is returning to Arizona to work under coach Adia Barnes.

The school announced that McDonald will serve as director of recruiting operations while continuing to fulfill her WNBA commitments. She will oversee all recruiting logistics, assist with on-campus visits, manage recruit information and social media content at Arizona.

McDonald was one of the best players in Arizona history after transferring from Washington as a sophomore. She was an All-American and the Pac-12 player of the year in 2020-21, leading the Wildcats to the national championship game, which they lost to Stanford.

McDonald broke Barnes’ single-season scoring record and had the highest career scoring average in school history before being selected by the Dream with the third overall pick of the 2021 WNBA draft.