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Wisconsin’s Nigel Hayes is the face the fight against NCAA, amateurism needs


WASHINGTON — Wisconsin forward Nigel Hayes has never been afraid of taking a fight public.

He was one of three named athletes to join a lawsuit against the NCAA two years ago. He has been outspoken on issues regarding race and police brutality in America. And over the weekend, a picture of Hayes holding a sign at College Gameday in Madison that read “Broke College Athlete Anything Helps” went viral.

(According to Deadspin, the Venmo account listed on that sign belongs to someone from Hayes’ hometown. A similar Venmo account that also received payments is registered to Hayes. Hayes told ESPN that any money sent to the accounts will be donated to Boys & Girls Clubs of Dane County.)

He’s exactly the spokesman that college kids need in this fight.

There’s no better example of a kid that is being taken advantage of by the NCAA’s rules on amateurism and the inability to pay a player what he or she is worth.

Because Hayes is getting screwed.

For the majority of Division I athletes, getting school paid for in exchange for playing a sport is actually a pretty good deal. The senior sixth-man playing for American or Quinnipiac getting a quality education paid for cannot complain about being ripped off.

Hayes can.

According to a 2015 study by a professor from South Florida that was published in the Journal of Sports Economics, five-star basketball prospects should be paid $613,000 in compensation. Four-star recruits are worth more than $160,000 while three-star prospects are valued at $91,000. Hayes was a four-star prospect, but he’s not an average four-star player.

Hayes played in the Final Four his first two seasons. He reached the national title game, playing alongside the National Player of the Year in Frank Kaminsky, as a sophomore. He was an all-Big Ten player as a junior and is the Preseason Big Ten Player of the Year as a senior. Not only that, but Hayes has spent his college career as one of the most colorful characters in the sport. Whether it was making a video as Nigel Burgundy, his infatuation with a stenographer that went viral, his shots at conference rivals or his charity work with, Hayes is always in the spotlight for one reason or another. There’s an argument to be made that he’s the most recognizable face in college hoops this side of Grayson Allen.

The difference is that Hayes is well-known as opposed to notorious.

He’s smart, he’s funny, he’s likeable, he’s a good-looking kid. He’s everything that an advertiser would look for in a spokesman – more on that in a second.

Let’s add it all up. Hayes is worth $160,000 to his university simply for being a four-star prospect, but that’s before you consider his fame in the world of college athletics and the fact that he plays for Wisconsin, a massive national brand, in a league that pays the Badgers an estimated $40 million to broadcast football and basketball games.

I was able to speak to Hayes in a Washington D.C. Marriott where rooms start around $250 a night for Big Ten media day because the league made promises to Maryland and Rutgers that their push east – as blatant as blatant cash grabs can be – would mean the league would host more events on this side of the country. The Big Ten, a league centered in the midwest, will host its tournament at the Verizon Center in D.C. this March.

It’s probably worth mentioning here that Hayes will be wearing an Under Armour logo on every piece of Wisconsin gear he owns because the school signed an apparel deal worth nearly $100 million with the company this year.

In other words, based on the massive amount of money Wisconsin is bringing in via their football and men’s basketball programs this year and in the future, it’s safe to say Hayes is probably more valuable to Wisconsin than an average four-star recruit is to an average university.

And that’s before you consider the money that he loses out on due to amateurism.

How many car washes in Madison would want to be sponsored by Hayes? How many clothing stores would give him unlimited outfit options in exchange for wearing their products? I don’t know if Hayes loves cheese curds, but the good people of Wisconsin love cheese curds and I’m sure there are a few restaurants in the area that would be willing to spend some money to get Hayes to say his favorite cheese curds are their cheese curds.

But he’s not allowed to tap into that earning potential.

Because NCAA owns those rights.

And here is the most important part: Hayes is never again going to be this marketable.

There’s a reason he’s not in the NBA right now. Hayes declared. He went through the draft process and was told, more or less, that he’s not an NBA player, at least not right now. Not when he’s shooting 36 percent from the floor and 29 percent from three as a 6-foot-7 small-ball four.

This is as marketable and as profitable as he’s ever going to be, and the NCAA eliminates any ability he has to take advantage of that. Because they’re here for the academics, remember?

“We’re not student-athletes. We’re here to play sports,” Hayes, who is finishing up a business degree, said. “Some of us are missing class to be here right now.”

He’s stuck with a “salary” that the NCAA mandates cannot be more than his $40,000-a-year scholarship – in the 1990s, coaches won a lawsuit against the NCAA, saying their salaries were illegally restricted – and as nice as it is to be able to leave school without having to worry about those monthly loan payments for the next 30-something years, Hayes is good enough that he should be leaving school with enough money to put a down payment on a house and start a business so that he can put that degree to good use whether he decides to play professional basketball or not.

And if you think Hayes is going to spend his final year in college sitting idly by as money is taken out of his pocket, you’ve lost your mind.

As Hayes puts it, “Momma ain’t raise no punk.”

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

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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

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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

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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

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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.