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College sports living up to amateur status

By Patrick Kinahan | Posted - Apr 9th, 2013 @ 2:25pm



SALT LAKE CITY — With the crowning of Louisville as national champion in basketball, thus ends another year in college sports — the most bizarre institution we have in the world.

Recognizing that other sports still need to play out the academic calendar, they pale in comparison to the attention given to football and men’s basketball. And as each year goes by, those two sports continue to grow dirtier and dirtier.

Starting with the most recent, basketball has enjoyed a banner postseason in regard to negative publicity. But keep in mind it’s all about the student athletes.

In a form of poetic justice, the Rutgers scandal overshadowed the sport’s signature event. The Final Four took a backseat to the fallout of coach Mike Rice chucking basketballs at his players.

Unfortunately for the New Jersey University, the timing couldn’t have been worse. It is doubtful ESPN would have devoted extensive coverage to the story if it broke the week preceding the Super Bowl.

Then again, the source of the leak knew precisely when to go public with the information.

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As sickening as it was to repeatedly watch the video of Rice’s out-of-control behavior, maybe the blame needs to be spread around rather than isolated on one ridiculous coach. How much of Rice’s actions were a product of the coaching environment?

Win now or else.

By no means is this meant to excuse what Rice did, but the win-at-all cost mentality may have contributed to him snapping. Even winning isn’t always enough.

After winning the Pac-12 regular-season championship, former Weber State guard Ben Howland was fired at UCLA. Tubby Smith suffered a similar fate at Minnesota, after his team beat the Bruins in the NCAA Tournament.

And then there’s the case of Steve Alford, who bolted New Mexico to replace Howland less than two weeks after agreeing to a 10-year deal to stay with the Lobos program. Fortunately, no new recruit was sucked to committing to live in glamorous Albuquerque during the 10 days that Alford kept his pledge to stay around for decade.

Alford was within his rights to realize the dead end that is the New Mexico job and leave for a legitimate chance at the Sweet 16. But when a 19-year-old changes his mind and wants to transfer, he’s forced to sit out a year of competition and potentially could be denied a scholarship.


Alford was within his rights to realize the dead end that is the New Mexico job and leave for a legitimate chance at the Sweet 16. But when a 19-year-old changes his mind and wants to transfer, he's forced to sit out a year of competition and potentially could be denied a scholarship.

A short time after his school issued a press release saying he’s staying put, Gary Andersen discovers the grass — and the money — is greener at Wisconsin than it is at Utah State. Nobody should begrudge him for taking a better job, as long as every Aggie player was given the same opportunity if desired.

No wonder NCAA President Mark Emmert was loudly jeered when he was shown on the video scoreboard before Monday night’s national championship game.

Amid the Rutgers scandal, the Pac-12 was dealing with a problem that left its commissioner looking foolish. From the bottom of his heart, Larry Scott owes a deep debt of gratitude to the former Pac-12 basketball coordinator of officials.

For almost all of his tenure, Scott has had a touch of gold, helping to push the conference to greater heights. But he wasn’t up to the task during the recent controversy involving Ed Rush.

Shortly after the Pac-12 basketball tournament word leaked that Rush essentially put a bounty on Arizona coach Sean Miller, who then received a technical foul after a bad call in a two-point loss to UCLA in the semifinals. With much of the evidence before him, Scott declared that Rush’s outrageous behavior was not an offense worthy of termination.

And, since the outcome game can already be decided, point shaving really is harmless.

As cbssports.com first reported, Rush offered $5,000 or a trip to Cancun to referees for giving Miller a technical, which a number of officials in the room at the time confirmed to ESPN last week. Scott told ESPN that Rush’s comments were made “in jest.”

Does Scott wet his pants over a knock-knock joke? If Rush signs up for amateur night at the local comedy club, he’s putting Scott in the front row.

Fortunately, common sense prevailed as Rush resigned last week. On the way out he got a pat on the back for a job well done during his one season.

"I want to express my appreciation for the great contribution Ed made to basketball officiating for the (NCAA) conference during his tenure, particularly in the area of training and the cultivation of new officiating talent," Scott said in a release from the conference. "All of us at the conference thank him for his years of hard work, and we wish him well."

Thanks for the laughs, Larry, Ed, Mike and Mark. That’s why they call it amateur sports.

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