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Wright’s summer of fun includes White House, ESPYs, Spain

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VILLANOVA, Pa. (AP) Bang.

Jay Wright calmly mouthed one word when Kris Jenkins hit the 3-pointer at the buzzer that won Villanova a national championship. The Wildcats returned home the next day for a pep rally at the campus football stadium, and their celebratory victory tour has barely slowed down since April.

The White House. Wall Street. The ESPYs. The ticker tape parade. The Philadelphia professional sports teams feted the Wildcats with first pitch, first puck, first tip fun. Wright delivered a pep talk to the Eagles. Basketball and Basilica in Spain. What’s the next chapter? Read all about it in Wright’s upcoming book, “Attitude.”

Wright sat down with The Associated Press to talk about his favorite moments from a summer where the Wildcats reigned as the national champions. Here are some of his memories from what Wright called, “a wild offseason. Wild. And great.”

HAIL TO THE CHAMPS

President Barack Obama welcomed Villanova in May to the White House and congratulated the Wildcats for winning what he described as “maybe the best title game of all time.”

Waiting to be introduced, Wright chitchatted with Obama where the two discussed, well, basketball, of course. Obama’s brother-in-law is former college hoops player and Oregon State coach Craig Robinson and the president fills out an NCAA Tournament bracket every year. He even picked the Wildcats to win the national championship in 2015 (and lost).

“He really knows our business, really knows it well,” Wright said. “It’s funny to hear the president of the United States say how difficult a job we have. And you’re hearing it from the president! But we had a really insightful conversation about college coaching that was awesome to me.”

`CATS & BIRDS:

Wright was invited by the Philadelphia Eagles to give a private pep talk to coaches and players in June.

“It was all about just being loyal to each other, the Eagles, the coaches and players. They’re my favorite team,” Wright said. “I had met (coach) Doug Pederson because of (former coach) Andy Reid and I was friends with Andy.

“I would say the talk with the President was first and then the Eagles, that was really cool.”

EMPTY HANDED

Wright was in Washington for a leadership summit at the Pentagon when he met Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw back in 2014. Kershaw was in town to face the Nationals and the two bumped into each other at the Ritz.

Kershaw was excited to reunite with Wright two years later on the red carpet for the ESPYs .

“He was like, `I want to take a picture with the ring. I’ve got to get one of those, I don’t have one of those,”‘ Wright said, laughing.

Kershaw then threw Wright a curve – that the Wildcats weren’t going to win any awards.

“He said, `Did you win?”‘ Wright said. “I was like, well, we were nominated for three. As he said it, I realized, we would know if we won. He kind of started backing off. `No, no, no. I just remember last year I was up for one and the guy who won knew he won.’ It hit me before we went in there, we probably didn’t win. We would have known if we won.”

MOVING ON

The Wildcats stamped their passports for an eight-day tour of Spain that included three exhibition games against Spanish Select teams . The Wildcats toured Barcelona and Madrid in relative anonymity and avoided mobs of autograph seekers.

Little known fact, Villanova is named for a Spanish Augustinian, Thomas Garc�a (1486-1555), the son of a miller who was born in Fuenllana, a village near Villanueva de los Infantes, Castile, Spain.

Known fact, fans know who the Wildcats are in Philadelphia.

“We got back and people started taking pictures of us again,” Wright said. “It smacked us right in the face. In Spain, no one knew us. No one bothered us. But we got smacked in the face waiting for our bags. Everybody started asking for pictures because we were all together. It was all just a smack in the face of reality.”

INSTANT REPLAY

Wright has watched a replay of the national championship game twice. He watched it with a coach’s eye on the plane ride back from Houston and one more time with his family just days after the championship parade in Philadelphia.

“We listened to timeouts, we listened to Raff and Jim Nantz and Grant Hill,” he said. “We tried to get a feel for what people really saw and listened to. It took us like, three hours to watch the game. We kept rewinding stuff. We had a lot of fun with it. That was it. That was the last time.”

But video of Jenkins’ shot is on a continuous loop plays in the lobby of Villanova’s basketball complex – and the fun hasn’t ended yet.

“It’s been everything,” Wright said. “But we started practice on Friday and I kind of feel like officially, it’s over.”

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.