The NCAA’s Mess

It’s all about the U. Well, that’s what the NCAA is thinking. Despite the NCAA’s colossal screw up in its investigation of the University of Miami, NCAA President Mark Emmert said he still plans to move forward in sanctioning Miami.

The NCAA investigation began nearly two years ago when it was alleged that Miami programs were given gifts and extra benefits from booster Nevin Shapiro. Shapiro is currently serving jail time for running an alleged Ponzi scheme. The NCAA was ready to not only give Miami a heaping mound of sanctions, but also former Miami and current Missouri Basketball Coach Frank Haith as well.

Then they screwed it all up. They went above and beyond in their investigation to make sure they could nail Miami to the wall, and it backfired on them in an unprecedented way.

The NCAA used bankruptcy hearings with Shapiro to gain testimony about what happened at Miami. Oh yeah, they asked outside council to do it.  Thanks to these actions, 13 interviews have officially been excluded from the NCAA’s original investigation into Miami, while parts of 12 others have been removed. These actions also opened up a review of the investigation by an outside council.

This whole mess lead to a few firings by the NCAA, but they claim that they still have roughly 80 percent of their original investigation to move forward with.

“The intention is to move forward with this case,” Emmert said. “There’s still a lot of information that’s available that has in no way been tainted by this incident.”

The NCAA wants you to believe that despite their actions, they are still able to move forward and fairly judge Miami. I’m sorry, but are you kidding me? Can the NCAA spell hypocritical? This whole investigation was meant to punish a school for improper benefits received. I like to think of it as judging a school on whether or not they have the integrity to abide by the rules set forth by the NCAA. So in a case that judges integrity, the investigators have none.

The sad things is it doesn’t matter at all. The only people they have to convince is the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions. I’m pretty sure that everyone can guess which way that decision will go.

This whole situation highlights the NCAA for what it really is. An organization that plays by its own rules and only cares about the bottom line.  And as long as their coffers are full, the NCAA will continue to run things one way, their way.

While the University may very well be guilty, and lets face it, probably is, it still doesn’t discount what the NCAA did. The NCAA will move forward and so will Miami, but I’m guessing they will be moving forward together. It probably won’t be long before the NCAA and Miami will be sharing a court room.

Good Things Come In Small Packages

Before the 2004-05 season, ESPN conducted a poll of the ESPN staff, ranking the top 10 collegiate basketball rivalries in the nation.

When the results of the poll were aired on ESPN2 in September of 2005, among the top ten were Xavier and Cincinnati, Indiana and Purdue, Illinois and Missouri and Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. But beating all of those and coming in at number four was the Calvin College and Hope College rivalry. I’m sure you were able to see that one coming.

Outside of the Division 1A level there are plenty of great college rivalries, and Hope and Calvin is one of them. The two Michigan schools are only separated by some 30-odd miles and have been playing men’s basketball against each other for 93 years.

Over those 93 years, the two teams have played 184 games including both conference and national tournament games. The Dutchman of Hope College currently leads the series 96-88. One of the most incredible things about the rivalry is just how close the games actually are.

Over the 184 games, just 108 total points separate the two teams. Hope has scored 12,515 points, an average of 68.016 per game. Calvin has scored 12,407 points, an average of 67.429 per game. For all you math nuts, that’s an average difference of only 0.587 points-per-game.

And just like any other great rivalry, the rivalry just doesn’t play out on the court. In 2005, Hope opened Richard and Helen DeVos Fieldhouse. The 102,000 square foot building cost $22 million dollars and seats seat approximately 3,400 fans for an athletic event. In reality, it puts places like Northwestern’s Welsh-Ryan Arena to shame.

The Richard and Helen DeVos Fieldhouse

 

Not to be out done, Calvin announced that they would be building their own new basketball facility as part of a $50 million dollar athletic facility. In 2009, Van Noord Arena opened as part of the 362,000 square foot Spoelhof Fieldhouse Complex. The arena can hold up to 5,000 people and boast not one, but four basketball courts.

Van Noord Arena

 

” They built a really nice facility, so we decided to build a bigger and nicer one,” said Christopher Sveen. Sveen, 30, graduated from Calvin in 2005. “There was no way we wanted Hope to have a better athletic facility than we did.”

One of the great things about a Division III rivalry is the kids who play the game. While some of the students may receive financial aide, most of the tuition is paid by the students. The kids who are there continue to play because they love the sport, not the promise of what may come after they leave college. All of the students will be there for four years, learning to despise their biggest rivals.

So the next time you want to take in a great college basketball game live, think about going to a small college game. And if you’re lucky enough, try driving up to Holland or Grand Rapids, Michigan to check out a Hope-Calvin game. Oh, and a ticket will cost you under $10 dollars.

Check out CalvinHope.Com for more information.

 

Is It News Or Is It Sports?

The Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State University rocked the nation during the 2011 football season. The country watched as more and more young men came forward to describe their experiences of sexual abuse at the hands of Sandusky that spanned over two decades. Slowly but surely, details of Penn State’s negligence came out, leading to the firing of the legendary coach, Joe Paterno.

Following the scandal, the university’s trustees hired former FBI Director Louis Freeh and paid him $6.5 million  to investigate the actions of those involved at the school. The Freeh Report came out in July of 2012 after Freeh said that he and his team interviewed more than 450 people and poured over more than 3 million documents. The report concluded that Paterno, University President Graham Spanier, Athletic Director Tim Curley and former Vice President Gary Schultz participated in covering up Sandusky’s actions.

The Paterno family immediately rejected the report’s findings and hired their own lawyers to conduct an investigation of what happened at Penn State. The law firm of King and Spalding of Washington, D.C., gathered its own findings that it believes contradict what was stated in the Freeh Report. Some of the highlights of the conclusion of their investigation include: No evidence exists that Paterno concealed critical information about Sandusky, No evidence exists that a desire to avoid bad publicity ever motivated Paterno and the Freeh report is “uniformly biased” against Paterno, and its authors “ascribe motives to people they never met or interviewed and interpret ambiguous documents with a clarity and decisiveness that is impossible to justify.”

It’s hard when reviewing the Paterno Report to view it for anything other than what it is; a self-serving report aimed at clearing the name of Joe Paterno by his family. While the report may indeed have findings that are true, the ability to separate the facts from the intent is nearly impossible.

If my father had been accused of something on this scale that I believed to be untrue, I would move heavens and earth to clear his name from any wrongdoing. I would view any report that found my father to be less than the man that I knew as junk, just as the Paterno’s have done. So while I can understand the motivation and intent behind the report, the actions of the family just seem like a scramble to restore the Paterno name.

Regardless of what they hoped would be accomplished through this report, Paterno will always be connected with Sandusky. Instead of being remembered as not only one of the greatest football coaches ever, as well as a man who impacted so many young men in a positive way, the Sandusky stain will remain.

Lost in the fray of this report, as well as the Freeh report, is the fact that the young men who were molested are forced to relive the darkest days of their lives. By continuing to thrust the actions of Sandusky into the national spotlight, we stunt the healing process of those who were involved. The young men have been forever changed and may never fully heal from what they endured, but reports like this are like picking a scab. Instead of allowing the wound to heal, we continue to open it.

It’s hard to tell a hurting family like the Paternos what the right course of action was. My advice, however, would have been to love and remember the man that you knew; the father, the husband, the coach who affected your life in a positive way. Not to try and force others to remember that man because,unfortunately, that’s not going to happen.

What Am I Missing?

The International Olympic Committee recently announced that it would be dropping wrestling from the Olympics beginning in 2020. The decision was made after several rounds of secret balloting. The board conducted the vote after reviewing 39 different criteria, including television ratings, ticket sales, anti-doping policy and popularity.

This decision marks the removal of one of the oldest sports in Olympic history. Wrestling was one of the events held at the inaugural modern Olympics in Athens in 1896.  It’s also one of the oldest sports in history, period. Wrestling has been found in many cultures over the years, including Egyptian and Babylonian, and is even referenced in Homer’s The Iliad.

For instance, one of the things that makes soccer so popular in third-world countries is the common idea that all you need is a makeshift ball and goals in order to have a game. The parallel to wrestling can be made because all you need is two willing combatants to participate. Wrestling is one of the most primitive sports in the world because of this fact, and this is the reason why wrestling can trace its roots back so far.

One of the most shocking parts of this decision, other than dropping one of the original Olympic sports, is the events that were chosen to remain instead of wrestling.  The final group of voting included the modern pentathlon, taekwondo and field hockey. No offense to field hockey or the modern pentathlon, but I fail to see how these sports better fit the criteria that the IOC reviewed before making its decision.

I can’t recall the last time I ever saw either of these events on television. I must be missing one of ESPN’s 500 channels that regularly broadcasts the modern pentathlon. I also didn’t know that field hockey is captivating the eyes of viewers across the world.

While I understand that television ratings are only one of the criteria used, I can only assume that it was one of the larger factors when deciding. The pessimist inside me is gently whispering, “Follow the money.” The Olympics, just like any other league or association, makes money. And this decision seems like a financially motivated one.

By eliminating wrestling, the IOC will now be able to add another sport by the end of the year. Wrestling will now have to apply with seven other sports to be included in the 2020 Olympics. These sports include baseball and softball, plus karate, squash, roller sports, sport climbing, wakeboarding and wushu.

I’m sorry, but what the hell does roller sports even mean? Rock climbing is going to produce more interest in the Olympics than wrestling? I could find fault in every one the proposed sports that are aiming to debut at the 2020 Olympics.

Interestingly, one of the first athletes to speak out about his displeasure in the IOC dropping wrestling was NFL wide receiver Roddy White, and he may just have said it best on Twitter.

“IOC come on seriously wrestling is a sport that almost every country does and you drop it I’m pissed #saveolympicwrestling”.

Life’s Only Certainties:Death And Taxes

Phil Mickelson at the 2013 Phoenix Open

Phil Mickelson recently won his first PGA Tour event of the year and 41st of his career at the Phoenix Open. Playing in front his adoring Phoenix fans, Mickelson lead from start to finish in almost historic fashion. After missing a birdie putt for a first-round 59, Phil kept the field and rowdy fans at the par-3 16th at bay for the next three days. His reward for first place, a $1.1 million check.

Mickelson made headlines as the PGA Tour began when he complained about the taxes he pays as a resident of California.

“If you add up all the federal and you look at the disability and the unemployment and the Social Security and the state, my tax rate’s 62, 63 percent,” he was quoted as saying in Yahoo Sports. “So I’ve got to make some decisions on what I’m going to do.”

Mickelson was immediately criticized for criticizing the way he was taxed by the federal and state government. People couldn’t believe that someone who Sports Illustrated estimates makes $61 million-a-year could complain about anything.

Mickelson would probably look good to some NFL general managers and coaches after the way he backpedaled on those comments.

“I love this state, and I am certainly concerned for it,” Mickelson told reporters in a press conference before the Famers Insurance Open. “My apology is for talking about it publicly, because I shouldn’t take advantage of the forum that I have as a professional golfer to try to ignite change over these issues.”

But was what Mickelson said really wrong?

While Yahoo Finance estimates that Mickelson’s tax rate is closer to 51%, does giving up only half of what he makes, instead of almost two-thirds, make it any better?

As fans we often lack empathy for professional athletes when it comes to finances, especially when you hear stories like Latrell Sprewell. Sprewell once turned down a three-year $21 million contract because, “I have a family to feed .”

Even if Michelson is taxed at the 62% rate he estimates, he would still make more than $20 million this year.

Still lacking empathy?

Imagine that you make the average household income for the United States in 2012, $51,413. Then Zacchaeus, the tax collector (Yes, thats a Bible reference.), shows up and you’re left with $19,537. That’s what a 62%  tax rate looks like. Say Zacchaeus goes easy on you and only taxes you at 51%, that leaves you at $25,193.

How would you feel? Might you think about voicing your displeasure? Would you think about possibly moving to a new state where you could keep more of the money you earned?

While you may still lack empathy for Mickelson, he was well within his rights to voice his displeasure over the way he is taxed. No one should be happy giving away over half of what they make.

After paying taxes and his caddie Mickelson will keep an estimated 37 percent of the $1,116,000 he won on Sunday. Phil Mickelson will likely be able to keep only $410,000 of the $1.1 million he earned in his win at the Phoenix Open according to CBSSports.com.

Caleb Moore and the Impact of His Passing

Caleb Moore at Winter X Games

Caleb Moore, a freestyle snowmobile rider, passed away last Thursday after complications following a crash at ESPN’s Winter X Games.

Moore, 25, was attempting a back flip on his snowmobile when he crashed. The 450-pound snowmobile caught the front of the landing area and sent Moore flying over his handlebars. As Moore landed face first on the snow, his snowmobile landed on top of him.

Moored laid on the ground for quite sometime before being taken to a nearby Aspen, Colorado hospital to be treated for a concussion. He developed bleeding around his heart and had to be airlifted to Grand Junction, Colorado to undergo surgery. Following a complication with his brain, the Texas native passed away.

“As a result of this accident, we will conduct a thorough review of this discipline and adopt any appropriate changes to future X Games,” said ESPN in a statement following the news of Moore’s death.

But Moore’s death was not the only serious injury at the X Games this year. Rose Battersby and Ashley Battersby, no relation, both suffered falls in warm-up runs for  the Women’s Ski Slopestyle Final. Rose Battersby suffered a lumbar spinal fracture, and although she could feel all extremities, she needed to be airlifted to Denver. Ashley Battersby suffered a leg injury.

ESPN’s statement about reviewing the events and their safety was indeed genuine. ESPN officials even attended Moore’s funeral. The only problem is that while ESPN may indeed review the safety of events, the real review of safety needs to come from the athletes themselves.

The culture that surrounds the X Games is one that praises creativity and innovation when learning how to push the limits of what is possible. The need to go bigger, higher, and faster in whatever discipline they participate in are principles that these athletes thrive on.

Athletes like Tony Hawk and Shaun White are athletes made famous by the X Games. Hawk revolutionized skateboarding when he landed a 900 in skateboard half-pipe in 1999. He went on to have a very successful video game franchise named after him. White burst on the scene as a 20-year-old when he won Half Pipe Gold at the 2006 Torino Winter Olympics. He now has his own clothing line, video games, snowboard line, and has even appeared in movies.

Many of these athletes strive to be the next Tony Hawk or Shaun White. They strive to transcend the sport and turn their profession into multi-million-dollar franchises. The only way they will do this is to continue to push their physical limits to give their respective sports something they have never seen before.

So while ESPN may try and evaluate what needs to be done to make the X Games safer, the real policing will have to come from the athletes themselves. The athletes will have to learn that in ever-evolving sports, there are limits to what the human body is capable of, and more importantly, capable of withstanding.