Mike Brey says, ‘Don’t blame Notre Dame’

October 9, 2011

Interesting article on Zagsblog in which Notre Dame coach Mike Brey responds to comments from Jim Boeheim that Notre Dame is (partly) to blame for the issues with the Big East.  Brey refers to it as a cheap shot.

The problem is, Boeheim is right.

Boeheim’s statement:

“If Notre Dame wanted to save the Big East, they could have joined in 2004 and we wouldn’t be having these discussions today.  But they didn’t want to.”

In 2004, when this entire mess started with the ACC raid on the Big East, Notre Dame had a chance to stop it from happening.  Had Notre Dame joined the Big East in football, Miami would have stayed, and then Virginia Tech and Boston College would have stayed.  Miami at the time was the big prize.

But Notre Dame decided to stay independent, and the realignment started.

Brey evidently didn’t listen to or read carefully what Boeheim said, because his (Brey’s) comments all had to do with the more recent events, with Syracuse and Pitt deciding to leave the Big East for the ACC.

Of course, Notre Dame had another chance in the last year to save the Big East by joining as a football member, and they never stepped up to the plate.

I’m already on record as blaming Notre Dame in part for the defections in 2004, and for the further instability starting in the past year.  I’m also on record saying the Big East should have kicked Notre Dame out unless they joined as a full member, and forced their hand.  As a so-called “basketball-only’ school, Notre Dame is part of what makes the Big East unwieldy, and contributes nothing to the stability.  Kicking them out would have made it easier to invite another school in as a full member without having too many basketball programs.

Notre Dame will wait until it sees that that the Big East is on the verge of collapsing, then will escape like a rat from a sinking ship.  The Fighting Irish will end up either in the Big Ten or the ACC, but only if they include their football program.  In the end, Notre Dame’s stubbornness will cost the Big East dearly, but the league has done nothing to help itself.  Regardless, Brey needs to get off of his pedestal.

Zagsblog story appears here:




Who is to blame for realignment?

September 19, 2011

If you’re looking for whom to blame in the NCAA realignment fiasco, and the likely death of the Big East as we know it, start with this list:

  • The NCAA.  The NCAA is quick to say that they have no authority to affect realignment, and the organization will be crying when the four superconferences likely to result from all this decide to pull out and form their own organization.  But consider this: this entire mess started with the ACC in 2003.  Why did the ACC expand? Because of an NCAA rule that required a league to have 12 teams before it would be allowed to hold a conference championship game in football.   Unless I’m mistaken, the only two conferences at the time that would have been eligible were the SEC and the Big 12.  Had the arbitrary rule allowed for conferences with even ten teams to hold championships, the ACC might have grabbed Miami and been done with it.  The Big Ten and Pac 10 would have been okay as is.
  • The ACC and John Swofford.  I understand the desire to expand in 2003, and if they were going to expand, they needed to get to 12 teams.  Poaching all three from the Big East seemed purposeful.  Fast forward to 2011.  The ACC, Big Ten and Big East supposedly had an agreement in place not to poach from each other.  If that’s true, and if the ACC really went behind the Big East’s back as has been reported, then Swofford is really a snake.
  • Notre Dame.  Notre Dame could have stopped all of this realignment in 2003 if they had joined the Big East in football.  Miami would have stuck around, and Virginia Tech and BC never would have been tempted.  Instead, they allowed the league to be decimated – the league, probably the only BCS conference that would provide a home for the rest of their teams.  In 2010, the Fighting Irish had the opportunity to join the Big 10, and again head off realignment, or join the Big East, and strengthen it.  Again they refused.  I said at the time that the Big East should kick them out.  I still believe they made a mistake not doing so.
  • Miami and Donna Shalala.  They turned their backs on the Big East, after declaring loyalty to the conference, and started the whole mess.  How has that worked out, Miami?  Your football team has nose-dived, and your basketball team is mediocre.
  • The Big East Conference.  The Big East doesn’t get a pass here.

o       The Big East has never done anything proactively to protect itself.  Instead, it has been reactive.  The league never should have been as weak as it was prior to the first ACC raid.  Staying at eight teams was a mistake.  That was partly because:

o       The Big East started as a basketball conference, and later added football.  I don’t recall if it was an afterthought (I suspect it was; most of the founding schools were basketball only) or if it was planned, but the number of basketball-only schools has impacted the ability to expand the football base.  Adding TCU, for example, gave the Big East 17 basketball teams.

o       Adding DePaul and Marquette.  Adding Cincinnati, Louisville and South Florida was necessary.  Adding DePaul and Marquette made the league unwieldy.

o       Not kicking out Notre Dame.  The league has let Notre Dame be a basketball-only school.

o       Time and time again, the Big East has made critical mistakes, including denying membership to Penn State early on.  Joe Paterno wanted to be part of an eastern football league.  Penn State would still be around.

o       Ousting Temple.  I’ll bet the Big East wishes that Temple was still around.

o       Trusting the ACC.

R.I.P., Dave Gavitt. R.I.P., Big East

September 17, 2011

Big East Conference founder Dave Gavitt passed away on Friday at the age of 73.  My condolences go out to the Gavitt family.

The only solace that I can take is that he won’t be around to watch the systematic dismantling of the Big East.

Eight years after the ACC raided the Big East, taking in Boston College, Virginia Tech and Miami, they’re back at it again.  This time, the ACC is playing the victim card.  Now, according the UNC Athletic Director Dick Baddour, the ACC needs to protect themselves amidst all of the uncertainty with conference realignment.

The ACC was the initiator of this uncertainty eight years ago.  After losing three programs, the Big East was on the verge of dying as a conference, and reached out, taking schools from other conferences.  The realignment process had started.  The dominoes were falling.

As the rumors started to float in yesterday, I knew that they would turn out to be true, when it seemed that everyone but ACC Commissioner John Swofford was issuing the ‘no comments’.  It was obvious that something was up.  The ACC is to be congratulated.  They, better than any other conference out there, have played their cards perfectly.  That they’ve put in gear a process that I think believe will have a negative effect on college sports is obviously irrelevant.

The old cliche is ‘if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em’.  The ACC cliche seems to be ‘if you can’t beat ’em, kill ’em’.  And they’re succeeding.

I am a UConn grad, and a die-hard UConn fan.  At this point, my best hope is that UConn ends up in the ACC.  As painful as that is for me to deal with, it’s a fate better than death.  I just can’t see the Big East surviving this.  It was founded as a basketball conference, with football as an afterthought, added much later.  The inclusion of so many ‘basketball only’ schools means the conference gets unwieldy if it wants to expand its football membership.

Any other conference alignment comes with even more significant issues.  UConn in the Big Ten? Trips get long and UConn doesn’t really strike me as a Big Ten school.  There’s also that issue with the requirement that all schools be part of the American Association of Universities.

UConn in the SEC?  I know that ‘Big East’ isn’t much of an apt description with members such as DePaul, Marquette, and TCU, but UConn in the Southeastern Conference?  The Huskies don’t fit geographically, or as a football powerhouse.

The Big East could reach out to other castoffs, including Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri and Iowa State.   These are all fine schools, and fine programs.  But what a geographic mess that would be.

I’m afraid that UConn will be left out in the cold.

If UConn moves, say goodbye to most of the Huskies’ rivalries over the last 30 years.  Goodbye Syracuse and Jim Boeheim, along with Pittsburgh.  So long Georgetown, Villanova, Seton Hall, St. John’s, Providence and all of the basketball only schools.  Regardless of how this plays out, the basketball only schools will be elsewhere.

Rest in Peace, Dave Gavitt.  Rest in Peace, Big East.  No matter what, it won’t be the same.

Boo to MLB: NYPD and FDNY hats should have been allowed

September 12, 2011

A little bit off the usual topic today.

That was an incredibly narrow minded decision by Major League Baseball yesterday to prevent the New York Mets and Chicago Cubs from wearing NYPD and FDNY baseball caps during the game.  The decision was apparently made by former Yankees manager Joe Torre, who said that baseball wanted teams to be consistent, and that it wasn’t a lack of respect.

I would understand the issue if players were requesting to wear NYPD and FDNY shirts, instead of hats.  But for one night, the 10th anniversary of 9/11, especially since similar hats were worn right after 9/11, I don’t see why this was an issue.  Would having one team wear FDNY hats and the other wearing NYPD hats really have been a problem?  Even if the players individually chose which of the two hats to wear, would it have been confusing?  Would the Mets have gotten confused and thrown to the wrong player?

Especially in a sport that has allowed all kinds of ridiculous uniforms and hats as standard wear, this decision was ridiculous.  And that it was made by Joe Torre, the manager of the Yankees on 9/11, even worse.  And to be clear, I’m a Mets’ fan, but also root for the Yankees most of the time.

UConn/Calhoun haters pile on regarding recruitment of Andre Drummond

September 4, 2011

Lots of comments floating around regarding UConn’s signing of Andre Drummond, most of it negative.  The primary sentiment seems to be “how does a program that’s being punished get away with this?”

As a UConn fan, of course I love that the Huskies have landed arguably the best freshman this season.  Had he been signed before DeAndre Daniels, not requiring the scholarship adjustments that were required, I’d be even happier.  He wasn’t signed earlier, though, because he couldn’t make up his mind what he wanted to do.

As for the notion that the scholarship reduction isn’t much of a punishment for UConn, let me say this.  UConn has a scholarship limit, just like every other team.  Because of two separate issues, they were limited to 10 scholarships, 3 fewer than nearly every other program.  Like every other program, they are required to work within this limit, and need to balance their needs over a several year period.  If they had their full allotment of 13 scholarships awarded, they would still have been in this boat.

What should the Huskies have done in this case?  Told Drummond “too late”, or explored any reasonable possibility to see if they could bring him on board?  I guarantee you that any basketball program would have evaluated the opportunity and would have made every reasonable effort to bring him on board.  The Huskies worked within the rules, found a solution, and brought him on board.

Scholarship “adjustments” are an unfortunate part of the game.  They usually take one of three different forms: player transfers; players staying but ‘voluntarily’ giving up their scholarship; and bringing players in as walk-ons.

To the first case, we’ve all seen several less talented players transfer out of the UConn program.  In many cases, they probably left ‘voluntarily’ after being told they weren’t going to get a lot of playing time.  Rob Garrison, Jamaal Trice, Darius Smith are recent examples.  This happens to a larger or lesser degree at every program.  How many prep superstars have arrived at Duke, not panned out, and abruptly transferred, thus freeing up scholarships?

Regarding the second case, there have been several examples over the last few seasons of players giving up scholarships.  The first that comes to mind is Washington guard Taylor Rochestie, who gave up his scholarship so that the team could sign a highly rated recruit.  This past offseason, Louisville players Kyle Kuric, Elisha Justice and Chris Smith all agreed to play as walk-ons so that the Cardinals could sign recruits.  Admittedly, that’s a bit different since each of those players originally came on board as walk-ons.  Missouri player Josh Kroenke gave up his scholarship several years ago.  His wasn’t exactly a hardship case; he was and is an heir to the Wal-Mart empire.

To the last point: does anyone remember how Duke circumvented the 5/8 rule (teams were only allowed to sign a maximum of 5 players each year, and 8 over a two year period)?  They had Lee Melchionni come on board as a walk-on, again, allowing the Blue Devils to circumvent the rule.  Clearly there was interest in having him on scholarship — I even read on Scout.com, “and he’ll be on scholarship for three years.”

By the way, if you don’t think the 10 scholarship limit is hurting the Huskies, look at the roster.  Not counting Kyle Bailey, there are two guards listed: Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright, and two guard/forwards: Jeremy Lamb and Niels Giffey.  Lamb is a guard who can swing to forward when the Huskies go small (which may be their best lineup).  Giffey is a forward who is going to be forced to play guard on occasion out of necessity.  The Huskies would have been better off with another guard or two on the roster.

Two other points: I’ve read in several places that Bradley is enrolled in a 6 year Pharmacy program, and that as a result, he’d have to pay for one of those years anyway.  There certainly is a 6 year Pharmacy program at UConn; I haven’t figured out yet whether every Pharmacy major goes 6 years or whether there’s still a 5 year program also.  But I’m skeptical that Bradley would be able to use his scholarship in year 6 – I believe that an athlete has 4 years of eligibility spread over 5 years, with very rare exceptions allowed to have a 6th year.  But if it’s true, then from Bradley’s perspective this is ‘no harm, no foul’.

Second, I’m not sure that I understand another NCAA rule that UConn has interpreted as ‘since the Huskies were recruiting Andre Drummond, he couldn’t come in as a walk on’.  I assume this means ‘since he was offered a scholarship, he can’t come in as a walk on’.  I have to believe the Duke was recruiting Lee Melchionni, and he ended up as a walk on.  How do you define who can and can’t play as a walk-on?  Personally, I would like such a rule, but it would seem to be very difficult to arbitrate.

If there are loopholes, it’s fair to say, the NCAA should close the loopholes.  When Duke brought in Melchionni, it was a similar loophole.  When Duke used to take an overseas trip during the first semester (being one of the few schools that had/have a break during the first semester), it allowed them two extra weeks of practice right before the season started – and allow them to bring their freshman, something that no other program could do at the time during the summer.

To refresh my memory about the details, I did some searching on line,  and found this entry from “The encyclopedia of Duke basketball”:

“In October 2002 Krzyzewski too his team to London for a long weekend during Duke’s fall break.  The Blue Devils scrimmaged against a team from Belgium and played four games against British pro teams, winning three.  Dahntay Jones led Duke in scoring with 64 points in the four games.  This trip differed from the first two in that the entire team was able to participate, a key factor for a freshman-dominated club.  On the previous summer tours, incoming freshman were not permitted to participate because they were not yet enrolled in school.  In this unique instance, Duke was able to practice 10 days in advance of the trip and play four games while other schools were just beginning preseason drills.”

The point is, even the sainted programs take advantage of loopholes.

Source: The encyclopedia of Duke basketball, by John Roth, Ned Hinshaw

Drummond is officially on board

September 1, 2011

UConn announced today that Andre Drummond is enrolled, and a member of the basketball team.  As widely speculated, Michael Bradley has given up his scholarship and is applying for financial aid.

I’ve read several articles that believe that the Huskies recruiting class is now in the top 5 in the nation, with #10 DeAndre Daniels and #42 Ryan Boatright joining Drummond, who was ranked #1 or #2 (all rankings from Rivals.com) UConn has also pushed their way into the preseason Top 5 rankings, though the Sporting News already had them at #4, even before Drummond.  I agree with both rankings, though it remains to be seen how the addition of Drummond affects the team chemistry, and how the Huskies will fare with only 3 true guards on the roster.

More on Andre Drummond

August 30, 2011

And now a twist to the whole Andre Drummond situation.

According to the Hartford Courant, UConn is talking to Michael Bradley about giving up his scholarship voluntarily, at least for the coming year, and applying for financial aid.  Bradley would then become a walk-on.  Other options, according to the Courant, would be for Enosch Wolf or Niels Giffey to leave and  play in Germany.

The possibilities involving Bradley and Wolf do not really come as surprises; they seem like the obvious candidates, especially since neither one is likely to see a lot of playing time when Drummond joins the team.

Giffey would be a loss; he seemed to be developing into a dependable and versatile player, and is the most logical candidate to pick up backcourt minutes if any of the three UConn guards are injured or in foul trouble.  Without Giffey, the Huskies become very frontcourt heavy.

The twist is that it’s too late in the year for UConn to revoke a scholarship. Scholarships are renewable year-to-year, and the renewal date is 7/1.  Now a player needs to voluntarily give up a scholarship.

UConn believes that Drummond would count against the 10 player scholarship limit, regardless of whether he’s given a scholarship.  In other words, they believe that he can’t be a walk on.  Supposedly, because they have been recruiting him, he can’t be a walk on.  I’m not quite that I understand this; Duke circumvented the 5/8 rule that was in place several years ago by allowing Lee Melchionni to join as a walk on.  Perhaps that rule was applied differently; perhaps that exemption has been closed; or perhaps the Blue Devils never recruited Melchionni.  I find the last part of that hard to believe, however.

It would be difficult to believe that UConn and Drummond went down this path without knowing there would be a solution, so I’m optimistic that it will be resolved.  If it’s Bradley, I suspect he’d be back on scholarship next year, since Drummond is likely to be one and done.

For the record, I’m sure that UConn will be within the NCAA rules, though they sure seem to be circumventing the 10 scholarship limit.  I wasn’t any happier when Duke circumvented the 5/8 rule.  I also am not in favor of the way that teams run off lesser players to free up scholarships, though that seems to pretty much happen everywhere.

There’s another interesting aspect to this story.  There is speculation that incoming UConn Athletic Director Paul Pendergast helped to pave the way for Drummond’s arrival, according to a story by Neill Ostrout of the Connecticut Post.  Ostrout reports that while outgoing AD Jeff Hathaway had “major reservations” about arranging for Drummond to come on board, Pendergast has been more open to the idea, and helped with the arrangements.  The Post also cites ESPN.com as reporting that Bradley will give up his scholarship.

Andre Drummond to UConn — for 2011

August 27, 2011

Shows how little I know.

Andre Drummond pulled a shocker today today, announcing by Twitter that he was joining the Huskies for the 2011 season.  Previously, Drummond had denied that he would reclassify for 2011, and had in fact announced that he was instead changing prep schools.

I really didn’t believe that Drummond was going to end up with the Huskies, partly because UConn was (and is) out of scholarships, and partly because I was convinced that he wasn’t going to escape Kentucky’s grasp.

Because the Huskies are out of scholarships, one of the current players is going to have to give up a scholarship.  The two most obvious candidates are Enosch Wolf and Michael Bradley.  Wolf saw little playing time after joining the Huskies in midseason, while Bradley redshirted.  Bradley is a real project — at 6’10”, he averaged 5.9 points and 6.5 rebounds as a high school, which wouldn’t seem to predict stardom.  Wolf supposedly has potential, but didn’t show all that much.

Drummond still needs to complete paperwork and be cleared by the NCAA.

Drummond joins a recruiting class of G Ryan Boatright and F DeAndre Daniels.  It would be interesting to see where this class would rank nationally, but I’m not sure that any of the recruiting services will update the ranking again.

I thought the Huskies were going to be pretty good this year, despite the loss of Kemba Walker.  After all, they returned most of the nucleus of an NCAA Championship team.   While Walker will be difficult to replace, Shabazz Napier ought to be able to step in, and Boatright will be good off the bench.  The Huskies will only have three scholarship guards, but they’re all talented.

Where the Huskies were going to have difficulty was on the front line.  Despite the numbers, however, there really wasn’t going to be a lot of talent at C and PF.  As little as Charles Okwandu contributed, he was going to be missed — there really wasn’t going to be anyone to relieve Alex Oriakhi, and most of the talent is really better suited for SF — including Roscoe Smith, Niels Giffey, Daniels.  The addition of Drummond, as long as he doesn’t upset the chemistry, is a real game changer.  Imagine a starting lineup of Oriakhi, Drummond, Smith, Jeremy Lamb and Napier.  I think Tyler Olander is going to be a player, but for now, I feel better with him coming off the bench.

The Huskies should now start off the season ranked in the Top 10 — it should be an exciting season.

Comments on Jeff Hathaway’s situation

August 16, 2011

Amidst all of the talk that Jeff Hathaway is likely being forced out as the UConn Athletic Director, let me make a few comments.


  • I’ve never been a huge fan of Hathaway.  Until a couple of years ago I had nothing specific to point to, but my opinion was based more on the fact that he seemed to be a caretaker.  Hathaway didn’t hire Jim Calhoun, Geno Auriemma, or Randy Edsall.  The success of the basketball programs predates Hathaway.  Gampel Pavilion predates Hathaway.  I’m not convinced that Jeff Hathaway’s actions have made the football program successful.  I’m not saying that Hathaway didn’t earn his position, but he certainly walked into a good situation.
  • A couple of years ago, I felt that Hathaway dragged his feet in extending Jim Calhoun’s contract.  Remember how long that dragged on?  It was supposedly agreed to late in the year, but not signed for several months.  I remember reading at the time that it was due to Hathaway’s busy travel schedule.  It seems to me that Hathaway’s priority should have been to get Calhoun signed.  Calhoun’s contract situation was used as the basis for negative recruiting, and it sure seemed that the Huskies lost out on some quality prospects who believed that Calhoun wouldn’t be sticking around.  Jeff Jacobs of the Hartford Courant reported today that:

“A number of coaches evidently expressed discontent because it took so long to have contracts finalized. Hathaway is the chairman of the Division I Men’s Basketball Committee and any appearance of spending too much time away from home is not good.”

  • I didn’t like the choice of Paul Pasqualoni as Head Football Coach.  I would have liked to have gone after a rising star in the college ranks, not a retread.  I hope that I will be proven wrong.
  • Having said that, and understanding that Hathaway has supposedly not done enough on the fund raising side of the business, Robert Burton’s attack on him was out of line.  He had some valid points, but the manner he went about them was wrong.
  • Does it seem that perhaps the university supported Hathaway at the time (though not strongly enough), bided time to save face, and is now following through on Burton’s demands?
  • Interestingly, Burton threatened to withdraw $3M in donations.  Hathaway supposedly will want a $3M buyout from his contact.  Coindidence?
  • Speaking of Pasqualoni, I’ve read comments that say that Hathaway is liked by Auriemma and Pasqualoni, but doesn’t get along at all with Calhoun – meaning that the coaches of two of the three highest visibility programs support Hathaway.  That’s fine, but Pasqualoni has been on the job less than a year, and was hired by Hathaway.  His support at this point is meaningless.
  • I wonder if Hathaway is being assigned much of the blame for the Men’s Basketball recruiting scandal.  Jacobs points out that Hathaway allowed the number of compliance officers to dwindle.  I seem to recall reading a claim that Beau Archibald was asked by the athletic department to contact Josh Nochimson, because there were not enough compliance officers to handle the issue.  Still, I’m sure that I buy assigning the blame to Hathaway.
  • Jacobs also cites, “The failure to replace a chief academic fundraiser, allowing the number of compliance officers to dwindle, micromanaging, the tickets-for-cars Monaco Ford scandal of several years ago, the complaints against Hathaway are well known.”

Too much love for Duke, Krzyzewski

July 24, 2011

I really get nauseated with the constant fawning over Duke and Mike Krzyzewski.

There is no doubt that the coach and the program have among the best in college basketball for the last 20 years.  But sometimes the attention and the homage just get to be too much.  And I’m not only talking about Dickie V.

The latest example is Jeff Goodman’s column on cbssport.com, where “Coach K.’s Dukies” come in at #3 in the list of most impressive team accomplishments, behind only UCLA’s basketball dynasty and Butler’s back-to-back appearances in the Championship game.  I don’t necessarily have an issue with the ranking.  What gets me is the following statement: “However, what is also remarkable is the way Coach K built the program in Durham. It’s a team that won just 38 total games in his first three seasons at the helm and didn’t have tradition to fall back on.”

This isn’t the first time that I’ve read something like this.  There seems to be a mistaken impression that Mike Krzyzewski built the Duke program from scratch.  In the eighteen seasons before Krzyzewski took over the Duke program, the team went to four Final Fours, including two championship games, in addition to two Elite Eight appearances.  Pretty solid for a program with no tradition.  Moreover, in the three years before Krzyzewski took over, the team finished as follows under Coach Bill Foster: NCAA runner-up, NCAA participant, and Elite Eight participant.  In Krzyzewski’s first year, the Blue Devils fell from 24 wins to 17 wins, followed by 10 and 11 win seasons.  He was probably lucky that he survived his first three seasons; not many coaches would survive that type of start.  (Of course the spin on that is that it took him three years to bring in “his kind of players”.)

Interestingly, Krzyzewski disciple Johnny Dawkins has had a similar start at Stanford.  He took over a team that had won 28 games and gone to the Sweet Sixteen under previous coach Trent Johnson, and has so far managed 20 wins, 14 wins, and 15 wins – yet recently had his contract extended.  It’s hard to believe that Stanford was unhappy with Johnson, who took the team to three NCAA appearances in his four seasons, but has been happy with Dawkins.

Again, I have no issue with Duke and Krzyzewski being considered among the elite, and arguably right at the top.  But UNC has won just as many championships during this period, and Jim Calhoun has done a more remarkable job of program building, and won three championships to Krzyzewski’s four.  For Pete’s sake knock the pedestal down to a realistic size.