Archive for ncaa

I Can’t Stop Writing About This Damn Dying Organization

Posted in NCAA, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on December 12, 2013 by cueball

Playing college sports is not some moral choice.  Many in and out of the media have somehow begun the idea that believing the NCAA is a broken system and being paid for your skills as an athlete are immoral.  It is almost the idea that the athletes are to blame for the system being wrong if they have the temerity to believe they should be paid.

Many who have bought into the NCAA’s tax and labor law dodge known as the concept of the student-athlete.  Somehow, in the weakening of the NCAA, it and its media supporters have imbued being a student-athlete with the moral equivalence of a monk taking a vow of poverty to become closer to God.  The athlete who know they are going to play professionally at a high level are not taking a vow of poverty as athletes to better themselves, they are doing so because the system is set up to make them play in college.

Let us remember that many of the athletes that go to college on scholarship are not going simply to get an education.  Harrison Barnes did not go to my alma mater because of the Well, the Bell, or the stone walls.  He came because he wanted to go to the NBA and the only real way to get to the NBA is to spend what eventually amounts to less than two semesters in college.

In combination with the NBA and the NFL (and to a lesser extent the NHL, MLB, and MLS) the NCAA has managed to diminish education for many athletes.  They have created a situation where an elite athlete must decide between being a student or being a potential professional athlete.

I believe in education and education as its own reward.  The problem I have with the NCAA is that the system it has in part willfully created and in part fallen into in many ways diminishes education.  Again, it says if you are an elite athlete you must choose to be either a student or athlete.  Many do transcend this dichotomy.  Those student-athletes would succeed in whatever system was around.  The NCAA’s job should be to aid the other student-athletes in achieving the same scholastic heights as Myron Rolle who won a Rhodes Scholarship as a Florida State football player.

I think what has really bothered me is the way the arguments for the NCAA by its supporters pretends that those who criticize the NCAA are somehow evil and want some kid from a poor situation to be used up and destroyed by the dirty professional sports machine.

That is a dichotomous and idiotic argument.  I want people who want to go to college to be allowed to go to college by using their athletic ability (or any other skill they have) to provide a gateway to an education and better life.  I also want someone who only wants to play professional basketball (and not go to classes about 18th century literature) has the opportunity and mechanism to do so without taking away educational opportunities for athletes who want to take a class about 18th century literature.

This is not my best writing mostly because I keep trying to avoid writing about the NCAA.  It will be dead soon enough.

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Our Football Hypocrisy

Posted in college football, football, sports with tags , , , , , , , on August 28, 2013 by cueball

I’m a hypocrite.  Most of us are, I just admit it.  Most football fans just try not to think about what we are asking for our personal entertainment.

I’ve read or seen all the major news reports.  I’ve even read a couple of the scientific papers that describe the effects of concussions.  I have a good handle on what scientists suspect are the long-term effects of using your body as a projectile against other human beings.  I know we are probably asking individuals to shorten their life-spans so that we have something to watch on Saturday and Sunday.  That truly gives me pause, at least through the end of August.

Then football season starts up again and I am swept back into the familiar routine of games all Saturday afternoon and night and again on Sunday afternoon.

We are like addicts.  We know what we are doing is bad.  We know that it is dangerous.  We know we should not do this, but every August football pulls us back.  The thing is we know deep down that we are quickly heading towards rock bottom, that point of reckoning where we will have to truly face what we are doing and what we are asking of these athletes.  At least I hope so.  I hope we face what we are doing and truly try to change before someone literally dies on the field.

Then again, maybe the NFL is becoming rollerball even against its own wishes.  I think the nightmare scenario for everyone in the league is a death on the field and think they are doing everything possible under the structure of football to make it safer.  They are adjusting rules and emphasizing correct technique at younger levels.   The problem is, of course, it is still football.

It is still a game of collision.  The object is to tackle the guy with the ball.  So, unless you completely change the game to the point where it is no longer about arresting the physical movements of other players, it will inherently be a collision sport that veers into physical violence.

Football is different from other sports in that it is probably the closest sport to physical chess (and by extension warfare).  Every move right down to basic blocking has a counter-move.  There are only two ways to move the ball:  running and passing (we’ll leave kicking out for the moment).  Within those two possibilities you have hundreds of different plays which can be disguised with hundreds of different formations.  Defense is basically zone or man, but within that you can change the type of personnel on the field and or play zone principles on one side of the field and man principles on the other.  It is endlessly complicated and fascinating.

All of that being said, the sport appeals to us precisely because it is so physical a game.  After we get done with all the talk about zone blitzes and the read-option it comes down to the Oklahoma Drill.  It is the sport’s essence and its beauty.  Yet, what it represents may also be its undoing.

The Oklahoma Drill is simple.  In a space about three yards long and one yard wide two players line up against each other as if at the line of scrimmage.  The coach blows the whistle and the player who can push the other player out of the space or onto the ground wins.  It is simple. It is brutal and it is the essence of football.  The game at its core level is about one person taking the challenge to physically dominate another person.  Watching that challenge on each play keeps us coming back despite what should be our better judgment.

Hopefully this is the last time I talk about this

Posted in college basketball, college football, NCAA, sports with tags , , , , on August 23, 2013 by cueball

Amateurism is dead, smothered by NCAA commercialization. Yet, NCAA drags it around like it’s in a bizarre remake of “Weekend at Bernie’s.” – @JayBilas, ESPN Basketball Commentator Jay Bilas via twitter

How did I end up here?

I, like most people who love college sports started out believing in the sanctity of the NCAA and the current college sports model.

I love reading and writing and I believe in the concept of education as a good unto itself.

College football and basketball is a part of my Saturday’s and has been for as long as I can remember.  Back in the ancient times before the explosion of ESPN I remember waiting for the Jefferson Pilot introduction to start with the pilot himself on his boat in his yellow rain slicker.  That always meant the start of college football or basketball for the day was at hand.  The voices of Keith Jackson and Ara Parseghian are still ingrained in the football loving part of my brain.  I am a graduate of UNC Chapel Hill and a devoted fan of all of its athletic teams.

Yet, I sit here right now hating the NCAA and what it pretends to represent.

The first cracks in my blind devotion would come with the Fab Five.  This is a fascinating group of players.  On one hand they actually won nothing, yet they are more famous the then teams that beat them to win national championships and Big Ten Championships.  On the other hand, they were the first athletes to openly ask, “Why does everyone else get to make money off me except me?”

My knee jerk reaction at the time was the same as many now, “You’re getting a scholarship.  Shut up and be happy.”  However, the seeds were planted and I didn’t wholly believe what I was saying.

Then the slow drip, drip of all the television contracts, coaches contracts, “one and done” rules, etc. washed away the improvised splatter of “amateurism” the NCAA keeps trying to paint on itself to protect its revenues.

One of the arguments you will often hear by defenders of the NCAA’s status quo is that the huge CBS/Turner contract is split between all the NCAA schools and all of the teams in all of its sports, so it doesn’t equal that much money per school per team.  However, I look at it differently.  Having to split that money between so many athletic departments means that you have to protect what little revenue you have at all costs.  In this case that means making sure you don’t have a huge expenditure line of paying players eating into those revenues.

I think it is clear that the current system is going to collapse in on itself sometime within the next 10 years.  A system where the group at the top gets all the revenue and the group at the bottom who does all the work gets compensated in tuition and housing yet can’t get an outside job or use their own name to make additional money seems unfair because it is.  Coaches can quit and go to different schools with no repercussions as long as they can pay the buyouts, but a player leaves to go to a different school for whatever reason has to sit a year, unless granted a waiver by the powers that be.  Additionally, schools who claim poverty when asked to pay their “student-athletes” a living wage better not have a coach making millions of dollars.

Again, if the system seems unfair, it is because it is.  If we were still in a time when all the money surrounding college sports was solely the province of outside agents than the NCAA holding the line for amateurism would be more acceptable.  However, you can’t sell a jersey with a player’s number on it and then claim that you were only selling the team and the individual.

How many #50 Tar Heel jerseys were sold before Tyler Hansbrough matriculated to Chapel Hill?  Now, I love Rich Yonacker, Cecil Exum, Octavus Barnes, and Brian Bersticker as much as the next Tar Heel fan, but the school wasn’t moving a whole lot of merchandise with 50 on it when those guys wore the number.  The NCAA getting caught using the names of players as a search parameter for jerseys on their website was humiliating for them and funny for us, but it was at best a symptom of a failed system built upon a manufactured belief system with no basis in reality.

To sleep, perchance to get some freaking sleep

Posted in sports, television, writing with tags , , , , , , on August 21, 2013 by cueball

Insomnia is a bitch.

For the last week or so I’ve only been getting about 4 hours sleep.  I’ve been waking up at around 3:30 every night and haven’t been able to get back to a deep sleep.  I’ve gotten to that point just before a deep sleep when you are still on the wrong side of consciousness to be considered asleep.  You are still just barely awake and can still make out sounds of what is going on around you, but you are not fully asleep.

Now, what happens is my alarm goes off at 6:30.  I turn it off and promptly fall asleep for another hour if I don’t drag my sleep deprived self up and out of bed.  This wouldn’t be so bad if I wasn’t trying to finish a book while working a full-time job every day.  The only time I really get to write is first thing in the morning and that is hard when all your mind is thinking is, “I need another 2 hours of sleep to be worth anything.”

This only recently started, so maybe it is because I know I need to write and my mind won’t settle.  I’m hoping that is what it is.  I’m just going to get up when my alarm goes off and try to function as best I can and write through it.  We’ll see.

I’ve been avoiding writing anything about Johnny Manziel or the NCAA this summer because I’m tired of the whole story.  I will say this:  I’ve come to believe the problem with the NCAA is two-fold.  First, it holds onto to this conception of amateurism that it only created in the 50s and 60s as television revenue became a reality.  No other entity in the world still holds onto this idea of absolutely no pay for athletes.  Second, the NCAA is more like FIFA and IOC then it is like any academically based membership group.  It is a money making vehicle who uses rhetoric to pump up its self-importance often at the expense of its sports and its athletes.

A fundamental question is rarely asked in the current argument over whether to pay players (or student-athletes).  That question is, why does college athletics exist?  Is it to give students who normally would not be able to afford college the opportunity to get higher education or is it to promote the schools the teams represent.  If it is to provide educational opportunities then the idea of selling the games to the highest television bidder and paying coaches huge amounts of money to win may still happen to an extent, but to the obscene extent they happen today.  If it is to promote the schools and act as “the front porch” that everyone sees, then the television revenue and coach’s pay makes a lot more sense.

In a perfect world this whole system would be to provide scholarships that help kids get educations.  They would be treated like any other scholarship student on campus who as long as they meet the requirements of their scholarship agreement they keep the scholarship.  Meaning if they meet their academic and athletic requirements, they keep the scholarship.  If they want to get a job during their free time they can.  If they want to start a business or make a rap album under their own name, they can.

The NCAA and a minority of its member institutions pay lip-service to the concept of student-athletes to continue making the money it and they have become dependent upon.  While I compared the NCAA to FIFA and the IOC, I think the NCAA is the saddest case.  They all stumbled into their money-grubbing almost accidentally, but the NCAA was started solely to protect athletes.  The other two began as ways to promote and legislate sports and events.  The NCAA’s origins were literally to protect football players by creating a governing body over the burgeoning football craze.  Now it has become an organization fighting off lawsuits over concussions via football.

I’ve come up with a few television shows premiering this fall that interest me.  I wrote Monday that I wanted to start reviewing a new show for this seasonThe Blacklist, Almost Human, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and The Tomorrow People all seem the most interesting shows coming up this season.  I need to check on the cable channels and see what they have debuting between this fall and next summer to see if anything else jumps out at me.

I hope to make these reviews and more consistent sports writing a regular features going forward.

Now, I might go take a nap.

I Have Not Forgotten My Love Of Sports

Posted in sports with tags , on March 11, 2013 by cueball

I haven’t written about sports in this spot for a few weeks.  This is mainly due to the fact that my favorite time on the sports calender is about to start, The NCAA Tournament, and I don’t want to soil my enjoyment by thinking about the farce that is the NCAA.  I will get back to sports soon, MLS season has just started and since I don’t watch baseball that will be on my mind throughout the summer.

Also, I have well noted all the happenings in the world of the NCAA over the last month or two with sadness and bemusement.  I don’t see the NCAA surviving in its current form past the next 10 years.  I believe there will be a revolt within it ranks that will lead to its downfall.  That revolt may not come from the place (The BCS/Playoff conferences) that everyone thinks it will.  I think it will come from the smaller conferences and schools who want to keep some semblance of college athletics being different from professional sports.

Anyway, all of that can wait until the second week of April.

I Just Started Putting Words On The Page And This NCAA Post Happened

Posted in NCAA with tags , , , , , , on February 21, 2013 by cueball

This is a strange morning.  I really have nothing I want to write about.  By this time most mornings I have come up with some angle, sometimes half-assed, to allow me to pontificate about something going on in the world or in my life.  The only thing mildly interesting to me is the continuing saga of the NCAA vs. Miami.

Unfortunately, we are in the name calling, posturing portion of this show.  On one side is the usual arrogance and hypocrisy of the NCAA.  They figure out that their investigators broke their own rules in investigating Miami and actually release a report detailing most if not all its missteps.  However, unlike the responsibility they place on head coaches for knowing what their players and assistant coaches are doing at all times, the top of the NCAA is spared any blame for this mess.

On the other side, you have a school, who has a booster, who is in jail, caught providing athletes with prostitutes, strippers, swag, and money as well as “helping” coaches recruit.  Those coaches then lied to NCAA investigators.  Of course, Miami basically claims this was all a setup and they are being railroaded by the big bad NCAA.

This is a case where a shady cop catches a known criminal, but in the course of the investigation violates about 40 evidentiary rules letting the criminal get away with his current set of crimes and allows the criminal to act as if he is as pure as the driven snow.

This leaves the rest of us trying to decide who is worse, the bumbling crooked cops or the unrepentant pimp.  Actually, that sums up all the major cases the NCAA investigates.   You have NCAA Enforcement which is staffed for the most part by good and dedicated people who unfortunately have been charged with enforcing what rules that are often contradictory to the concept of common sense.  They are usually chasing coaches, boosters, and various hangers-on who see the NCAA rules as either an impediment to be conquered or an inconvenience to be ignored.

One of the arguments some sportswriters make when discussing the NCAA, its rules, and the enforcement of those rules is that they like schools who ignore the rules because it shows the hypocrisy of the rules surrounding amateurism.  Now, I may be recent convert to the idea that the rules of amateurism are an anachronism created as a way to avoid paying taxes and salaries, but you can’t ignore them if you are a member of the NCAA.

If you are a member school of the NCAA you have 3 choices: 1) Follow the rules, 2) Try to change the rules, 3) Blow up the whole system.  You can do a combination of 1 and 2 and maybe 2 and 3, but you can’t do 1 and 3 together.  Either try to change the rules from the inside or foment a complete revolution and blow up the system.  I hope someone does try to lead a charge to rip the NCAA asunder   The resulting chaos would be pure comedy gold.

If/when this whole thing blows up (I see you BCS/playoff system/whatever your name is) it won’t just be the schools and conferences involved.  Their television “partners” will also have a say in this mess.  With that much money comes the fun idea of watching schools within conferences openly backstab and betray each other.  Again, comedy gold.

I think the NCAA is in its death spiral.  I just want what happens next to at least be fun to watch and talk about.  Because right now, it’s just annoying and sad.

The Erosion Our Trust In Sports

Posted in sports with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 12, 2013 by cueball

I’ve been studiously avoiding writing about the NCAA for the last week.  I am tired of it.  I still have the same feelings about the NCAA as a failed organization.  I am still baffled by some of its decisions and its institutional arrogance.  I will probably write something when its review of the Miami investigation comes out later this week.

What I am tired of is the relentlessly bad way the things surrounding the NCAA make me feel about sports.  The problem is it is not just the NCAA but the use of performance enhancers by athletes, the ubiquity of match fixing in the soccer, the glass ceiling for non-white coaches in the NFL, and finally the weird dance the NFL is doing around injuries.

Sports are supposed to be a fun way to get away from all the crap of your daily life.  That is getting harder and harder as time goes on and information from “the inside” is more available to us.  The more we know about what is going on in places we as fans never had access to before is changing our relationship with the games we love.

The Europol match fixing report came out after the Super Bowl.  It and the reporters who have been covering this for the last few years like Declan Hill lay the ease at which matches can be fixed.  It is rather amazing how easily the fixers operate aided by the fact they are moving across jurisdictions and the sheer number of games on any given weekend at all levels.

This information made me cast a jaundiced look at the 34 minute blackout at the Super Bowl and look more closely at the lower Division I basketball scores scrolling at the bottom of ESPN Saturday night.

This is where we are sometimes as sports fans.  We see a score between two Sun Belt Conference teams and wonder, “Did someone shave points in that game?”  We could not pick any of the players in the game out of a lineup, but as a slightly more than casual fan, we know the possibility of point shaving exists.  A lower Division I starting basketball player who is “going pro in something other than sports” (thanks NCAA marketing) could possibly be convinced that there is no real threat to his career for taking a $1000 to shave a few points here are there.  It isn’t like this has never happened at a major school in the NCAA (This provides a nice primer on the most recent NCAA basketball scandals.)

What about the guy refereeing the game?  We have actually seen someone getting caught doing this, not in lower Division I, but in the NBA.  It is possible, to say the least.

The problem isn’t that these things are happening.  The problem is that serious sports fans have to entertain the notion that they might be happening when something abnormal goes down on the field of play.  If  you watched this year’s Super Bowl, admit it, for a moment, you thought the blackout could be some nefarious plot to change the outcome of the game.  You may not have Tweeted it, texted it, or said it out loud, but you thought it.

That is the problem.  All the things that are wrong with sport are starting to erode even our basic trust in the fundamental fairness of what is going on the field and the final score.