Whitesburg KY

Will NCAA really punish Tar Heels?

Sports in Kentucky



North Carolina is officially on the NCAA clock. Respond within 90 days (from May 20) to a 59- page notice of allegations that include accusation of worst offenses: Academic fraud and lack of institutional control.

Five major violations Carolina administrators vigorously tried to confine to academic misdeeds and not athletics.

What, if any, relevance in Kentucky? Three decades ago, amid derisive cackles from fans from Chapel Hill to Louisville and on magazine covers, the University of Kentucky basketball program was in the NCAA dock, found guilty and punished for many of the same things. v If North Carolina is found guilty of the most shameful allegations, we will see if sanctions amount to wrist slap or rise to level of the hammer job on UK in the late 1980.

Of the five allegations that reach back to early 1990s, reading between the lines: Points two, three and four amount to take-the-fall-for-the-program(s) on officials who have retired, resigned or gone elsewhere including the school president, director of athletics and football coaches.

Alleged violations number one and five are enough to cause UNC officials to quake and basketball coaches to lawyer up, prepare for plausible deniability. That the NCAA letter does not accuse basketball coach Roy Williams, one can conclude that “ignorance to goings on” will be an acceptable defense.

Scenario: Still, the idea is intriguing – see Williams arrive at NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis in crisp slacks, best white shirt, blue tie and sky blue blazer, professorial rimless glasses and briefcase and Johnny Appleseed face ready to persuade NCAA officials “… I did not know any of this was going on and so I am not responsible and should not be held accountable.”

There is precedent for the ignorance defense, of course, which the NCAA can apply to give Williams a pass.

Meanwhile, with 90 days to respond (from May 20) Carolina officials will have most difficulty explaining: v Violation number one: The institution provided impermissible benefits to student athletes.

And … v Number five: The institution exhibited a lack of institutional control in regard to the special arrangements constituting impermissible benefits athletics academic counselors and staff within African and Afro-American Studies (AFRI/ AFAM) department provided to student-athletes.”

Having read Cheated, a poignant exposĂ© by Jay Smith and former UNC academic official Mary Willingham about basketball and football players at North Carolina, I believe that if the NCAA applies same justice to Carolina’s basketball as it did Kentucky’s three decades ago, the school’s two revenue producing programs are headed for probation, loss of scholarships and maybe forfeiture of wins.

Moreover, institutionalized cheating – paper classes, gift grades to sustain player eligibility and collective look-the-otherway deniability by athletics offi- cials at Chapel Hill – demonstrate how these things can be accomplished in secret at other big-time college sports programs.

North Carolina, according to Smith and Willingham’s book, enrolled at least one basketball player who, it was discovered, could neither read nor write. But he could play.

Flaws in the system that can be managed. v Because a college studentathlete’s class load and course selections are confidential by law, legitimate progress toward a degree are subject to manipulation by those whose incentive is – keep him/her eligible – coaches and administrators. v And, a program prone to boast about team grade point average but not required to reveal individual players’ GPA, lends itself to distortion. For instance, names of walk-ons and bench warmers frequently dot honor rolls and academic progress reports, but not scholarship players. North Carolina. Stay tuned.

Prohm’s Done Deal?

Dateline March 26: News came that Murray State and ball coach Steve Prohm had signed a contract extension through next year. Pay hike? $75,000 to $270,000. Radio and television contracts would hike his annual take to $300,000, not including incentives.

Prohm spoke glowingly of love for and loyalty to Murray State.

“It feels great,” he said in a text to The Associated Press. “Ready to get back to work.”

Contract signed and sealed, done deal, right? Maybe not.

Dateline June 8: Prohm interviewed for the Iowa State job. Fred Hoiberg had walked out of his eight year $2.5 million per year contract to coach the Chicago Bulls.

Contracts and ball coaches, huh?

American Pharoah

Credit put where it belongs and in context too, trainer Bob Baffert said it best: “He’s the one who did it. We were basically passengers.”

Chief passenger is one-time goat farmer-turned-bus driver in Mexico, Victor Espinoza. The jockey said, “… I’m donating all the money to the City of Hope (Cancer Center).”

Magnificent horse, American Pharoah. His glory days are coming. He will stand at stud for fee prices only Warren Buffett and Mark Cuban and a ball coach or two can afford.

Best description of Pharoah’s ride in the Belmont came from ESPN’s Ian O’Connor: “In the presence of greatness, I couldn’t help but think this horse deserved to be written up on Steinbeck’s laptop, or Hemingway’s, and certainly not mine.”

Well said all round.

Perspective? Since Kentuckian Steve Cauthen rode Affirmed to the Triple Crown in 1978, 13 horses have won the Derby and Preakness. Twelve ran in the Belmont Stakes and lost.

Footnote. Anybody else wonder how news of American Pharoah’s success played in Egypt?

NBA Draft

Next big date for basketball? June 27, 2015. NBA Draft.

Meanwhile, mock drafts continue to intrigue us.

• Eight of the first 10 picks are 19 year olds, including Karl Anthony Towns, projected at No. 1.

• Oldest player in top 10, Willie Cauley-Stein is 21, projected No. 8.

• Youngest bump-up to lottery pick status: Devin Booker is 18, projected 13.

• Surprise rise to lottery pick: Murray State’s Cameron Payne to 11.

• Surprise II rise to lottery pick: Trey Lyles at 12.

And so it goes.

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