Monday, April 30, 2012
In 2013, the A-10 will lose one of its bellwether schools as Temple waves goodbye and becomes a full member of the Big East. In response, the league has been linked with a trio of leaders from other conferences, all of whom have made recent Final Four appearances.
Butler, which had ruled the Horizon League for five years until being deposed in 2011-12, has an agreement "all but signed" to join the Atlantic 10 for the 2013-14 season.
The Bulldogs bring the prestige of national runner-up finishes in 2010 and 2011. No current A-10 member has reached a national final since Dayton--then an independent--in 1967.
Butler has also been the only Horizon member to earn an at-large tournament bid since 1998. Atlantic 10 membership presents an even greater chance to earn such a bid, as the league has sent at least three members to each of the last five NCAA tournaments.
In addition, the A-10 is reportedly in talks with Colonial Athletic Association kingpins Virginia Commonwealth and George Mason. GMU reached the Final Four in 2006 and VCU battled Butler in the 2011 semifinals.
An ironic twist to the story is that the same unrest that has prompted the Big East to pluck Temple could also be interfering with the A-10's effort to add replacements.
Hampton Roads (Va.) Daily Press columnist David Teel has reported that VCU's outgoing athletic director, Norwood Teague, is recommending that the school remain in the CAA for at least one more season.
VCU may be holding off until the simmering tension between the Big East's FBS football members and its basketball-oriented schools can be resolved.
Preseason reports of the seven non-FBS members considering a split into their own basketball conference were not advanced during basketball season. Still, if such a league did form, Xavier and Dayton would be natural additions connecting Notre Dame, DePaul and Marquette to their east coast opponents.
Losing Xavier and Dayton would do further damage to the A-10's basketball brand, making it a less attractive destination for a solid program like VCU.
Reports have yet to surface regarding how VCU's plans would affect George Mason's decision. If one or both decide to bolt, Old Dominion could be watching intently.
Like fellow Colonial member Georgia State, which is headed for the Sun Belt to accommodate its new FBS football program, ODU is pondering its options. Leaving the CAA for some other league --like the Sun Belt or Conference USA-- would likely entail a premature rise to FBS for its own program, which is only entering its fourth season.
Such a move would not be necessary if ODU headed to the Atlantic 10, but no reports have suggested that the A-10 would consider an invitation.
Either way, if the planned Colonial exodus continues, the last team out may need to turn off the lights. Meanwhile, Horizon members like Valparaiso, Detroit and Cleveland State may enjoy not having Butler to kick them around anymore.
Saturday, April 21, 2012
Clarkson, a guard for Tulsa, wants to leave following the firing of coach Doug Wojcik, and has been allowed to contact only three of the eight schools that he wanted to pursue. As a 16.5-point-per-game scorer in Conference USA, Clarkson could possibly crack the rotation at schools like Baylor, Texas, Arizona and Texas A&M, all of which he has been blocked from contacting.
He has been allowed to speak with Colorado, Vanderbilt and TCU, and could easily find substantial playing time with those teams, as well. Still, the principles guiding Tulsa athletic director Ross Parmley in his decision to block Clarkson's other destinations are murky at best.
College students the world over have the freedom to decide the course of their own educations, no matter how their tuition is paid. A student-athlete in a revenue-generating sport like basketball or football has serious limitations on those freedoms, perhaps as the tradeoff for the budding celebrity status that players can cultivate on campus.
Athletic scholarships have historically been a one-year covenant between player and school, but new NCAA legislation will allow programs to offer multi-year grants to their recruits. If college basketball and football are becoming mere farm systems for their professional counterparts, as Kentucky's assembly line is teaching us, why not treat these scholarships like professional contracts?
If a coach wants faith demonstrated by his recruits, he should be willing to demonstrate some himself. Offer a player a multi-year scholarship if the program wants to maintain the kind of leverage it enjoys now.
If a player receives a one-year scholarship from a school and the grant is allowed to expire, then the period from the NCAA championship game to about May 16 should be a sort of "free agent" period.
During this period, the coach has two options:
1) Guarantee the player that his scholarship will be renewed and honored, with the player having full legal recourse if the contract is breached; or
2) Allow him the opportunity to transfer to any school that he sees fit to attend.
Any players not renewed during that period will have full freedom to transfer without restriction. Coaches who do not care enough to assure the player his role on the following year's team should not have a say in his potential transfer destinations.
If the player receives a multi-year grant from his school, he's considered "under contract" until the deal expires or the coach agrees to release him. If a player seeks to transfer, then the coach or university can lay whatever restrictions it may choose. To protect the player, the coach may not revoke the scholarship for any reason other than character concerns, such as run-ins with the law.
The multi-year scholarship can be used to give a player the peace of mind that comes with knowing that he cannot be cut from his team, while giving the coach comfort that his players cannot bail to a conference rival on a whim.
Some recruits will seek multi-year scholarships coming out of high school, wanting that "job security," so to speak. Some will be more interested in flexibility and be attracted to programs that offer one-year grants.
Athletes are seeking freedoms somewhat similar to those enjoyed by all their classmates, who can transfer to any school they desire, so long as they can meet admission standards and pay the freight. Other students don't even have to sit out a year. Still, coaches need opportunities to cover themselves and plan for the future, ensuring competitive rosters for the long term good of their programs.
Most coaches don't have "non-compete" clauses hindering their pursuit of new positions, but players have these strings attached to their freedom of movement every day.
For both sides to get what they want, coaches and players will have to conduct more research into each other's motives and determine how much freedom they're willing to part with. Still, it's better than the current system, which is too much like the Beatles' "Taxman" for my blood.
"...it's one for you, 19 for me..."
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Friday, April 13, 2012
CBS Sports' Gary Parrish reported that former Connecticut forward/center Alex Oriakhi will be transferring to Mizzou for next season. He will be immediately eligible because of UConn's Academic Progress Rate-related ban from next year's NCAA tournament.
Oriakhi's 2011-12 numbers dropped drastically as he struggled to share time with touted freshman Andre Drummond, who declared for the NBA Draft on Friday. Oriakhi stumbled to 6.7 points and 4.8 rebounds per game after recording 9.6 and 8.7 as a sophomore.
While stitching together a roster from talented Division I transfers worked for Haith's former Big 12 rival Fred Hoiberg at Iowa State, Missouri's addition of Oriakhi comes just in time for the Tigers' move to the SEC.
The Tigers lacked size last season in the wake of Laurence Bowers' season-ending ACL tear. Ratliffe was the only player capable of providing much low-post offense, but Oriakhi and Bowers will combine to form a dangerous pair next season.
Point guard Phil Pressey and the Big 12's top sixth man, Michael Dixon, return to spearhead the backcourt, and they'll be joined by plenty of talent, both new to college basketball and new to Columbia.
Pepperdine transfer Keion Bell will join the Tigers for his senior season after three strong seasons in Malibu. In Bell's last two seasons, he averaged over 18 points per game.
Junior-to-be Earnest Ross is a veteran of the SEC, having played his first two seasons at Auburn. In 2010-11, Ross ranked in the league's top 15 in rebounding at 6.6 per game, despite standing only 6'5".
In addition, freshman Jabari Brown, a former ESPNU top-30 prospect, will join the Tigers for the spring semester after leaving Oregon. Brown, like Bell a California native, played only two games as a Duck, managing to rack up 11 turnovers while scoring only 12 points. He will likely back up Bell and give the second unit another explosive scorer to work with Dixon.
As if the embarrassment of experienced Division I talents wasn't enough, Haith has added a pair of in-state junior college transfers and two three-star freshman forwards.
Quantel Denson, a 6'9", 230-pound native of Kansas City, averaged 6.5 points and four rebounds per game as a freshman at Hutchinson (Kan.) CC before transferring to Paris (Tex.) JC. His scholarship offer has survived an arrest for allegedly breaking into a dorm room at Hutchinson.
Tony Criswell played his sophomore season at Independence (Kan.) Community College after averaging three points and three rebounds as a freshman at UAB. The 6'9" 225-pounder notched 10.2 points and 5.4 boards per game at Independence.
Serbian freshman Stefan Jankovic (6'9", 200) is a talented frontcourt shooter who could play as a stretch four in a smaller lineup, but is a year or two away from being a help on the boards.
Finally, Haith has signed center Ryan Rosburg, a 6'10", 250-pound native of Chesterfield, Missouri. Rosburg is a hard-nosed big man who enjoys throwing his weight around and drawing contact, which could make him a crowd favorite in Columbia.
A look at the prospective depth chart illustrates why the Tigers are still expected to start the season in the top 20 despite the heavy attrition.
A legitimate 11-deep roster should give Mizzou every chance to challenge for the SEC championship, and the experience on hand could be a legitimate advantage over Kentucky's annual influx of freshmen.
Bowers and Oriakhi will provide valuable NCAA tournament experience, essential since Michael Dixon is the only other player who has been part of a tournament victory.
While the faces have changed, Tiger fans have legitimate reasons to believe that the winning results will stay the same. While 30 wins would be a tremendous encore, the Mizzou faithful would at least appreciate a March win to get the taste of Norfolk State off their collective minds.