This will be my last column of the season. Before I go into hibernation for the summer I want to tell you what is right with college basketball, and what is wrong.
To find what is right you have to look no further than Francis Marion and UNC-Pembroke. The Patriots and the Braves played for the fourth time this season in the opening round of the NCAA Division II Tournament.
It was a hard-fought battle between two teams who shared a mutual respect. Francis Marion hit a three with 5.1 seconds left on the clock to tie the game, but UNC-P raced down the court and barely beat the buzzer with a 30-foot game winner.
One team elated. One team heartbroken. Both teams accepting the outcome with class and dignity.
Afterwards, there was not a dry eye in the locker room as our four seniors spoke eloquently about this season and their time at Francis Marion. They spoke of love and commitment and sacrifice, and it was a moment none of us in that tiny room will ever forget.
There are few things in this world that produce such raw emotion. The highs and the lows of a game, of a season, are not easily duplicated and they are wonderful provisions for a young person to carry down life’s winding road.
That is why I became a college basketball coach, and that is what is right with college basketball.
Money is what is wrong with college basketball, at least at the big-time level. CBS, and TNT, and TBS, and ESPN, are all throwing enormous sums of money at the NCAA to televise college basketball.
Consequently, coaches are paid too much, athletic departments are bloated as beached whales, academic integrity takes a back seat, and the workforce (players) accept under the table scraps designed to keep them coming back for more.
The NCAA (our institutions of higher learning) and frankly, you (the viewing public), don’t really give a damn how the sausage is made. Everyone just wants to make sure the sausage is hot and ready to serve in time for tonight’s tip-off.
You notice the NCAA has not declared anyone mentioned in the FBI sting ineligible. They are not going to derail this money train until well after “One Shining Moment” plays on April 2nd.
And that is what is wrong with college basketball. Enjoy the sausage. I’ll see you next season.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) wrapped up its annual convention in Indianapolis this past week. Division II passed legislation welcoming colleges and universities from Mexico into the Association. It also passed legislation allowing football teams to practice three additional days, and moved the start date of women’s volleyball up a week.
The State of Michigan wrapped up its sentencing hearing of Larry Nassar, the former Michigan State and USA Gymnastics doctor convicted of sexually assaulting female athletes under his care, last week, too. In a somber courtroom in Lansing, 159 girls and young women recounted horrific stories of abuse perpetrated under the guise of medical treatment.
It is ridiculous, unconscionable really, to mention the NCAA in the same sentence with Larry Nassar. Indianapolis and Lansing are about 250 miles apart, but a universe separates the business of that convention and the business of that courtroom.
I had hoped the NCAA had learned its lesson with Penn State and the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
The severe penalties initially imposed upon the Nittany Lions had to be walked back, and most now agree the NCAA getting involved at all was at best an overreach of power, and at worst political grandstanding.
It should be obvious by now that the NCAA has no power beyond its obese rulebook. If it does not fit into a bylaw, well, then it just does not fit.
If the NCAA ultimately understood it had no jurisdiction in North Carolina’s bogus African-American Studies program, then it certainly should recognize it has no power over a member institution employing a criminal and failing to stop his crimes.
But, sure enough, the NCAA has decided to wade into the muddy waters. It has “sent a letter of inquiry to Michigan State regarding potential NCAA rules violations related to the assaults Larry Nassar perpetrated against girls and young women, including some student-athletes at Michigan State.”
I agree Michigan State needs to be held accountable for what its administration knew and when they knew it. But the NCAA is not the organization best equipped to lift that weight.
Stick to running championships, slapping the hands of cheating coaches, and figuring out the best time for volleyball to start practice. You embarrass yourself by trying to do more, and in this case, your involvement serves to trivialize the seriousness of the abuse and horror.
In time, Larry Nassar, and perhaps those who enabled him, will be judged. Just not by the NCAA.