Thoughts of the Day: May 12, 2020

ARE YOU READY? LET THE CHAOS BEGIN!

In eight days or so, the NCAA is scheduled to vote on the transfer waiver rule that will allow athletes in every sport a one-time get out of jail free card. The Transfer Waiver Working Group has recommended the NCAA adapt a rule that would allow athletes to transfer one time without having to sit a year. Recently, however, the NCAA Board of Directors recommended tabling the measure, claiming now is not an appropriate time to consider such a change in the rules. Despite the recommendation, it is not a slam dunk that the proposed rule will voted down and it is entirely possible that some sort of changes to the current requirement of sitting a year will be voted in.


Confused? So is the NCAA and adding to the confusion is the potential for the people who currently oversee waiver requests to be completely overwhelmed by the sheer number of athletes who feel the need to be closer to home due to COVID-19. Imagine the lawsuits if some kids are denied the right to move closer to home and one of their loved ones dies or becomes seriously ill because of the virus. Imagine also what happens to kids at schools that might shut down football or basketball because all classes are suspended indefinitely. The simpler thing for the NCAA to do might be to offer a one-year transfer waiver with the promise to come up with a more structured process in the future. Some might say that once the barn door is open it will be impossible to go back, but the NCAA has been tinkering with scholarship rules for more than 50 years so coming up with a better set of transfer requirements is not a particularly big deal. If they want to get it done they will.


The NCAA isn’t known to move quickly on anything but in this case there is probable motivation given the organization’s track record of losing in court. Failure to implement some sort of change to the transfer requirements might create the kind of dilemma that either eliminates altogether or neuters the NCAA. Some sort of temporary right to transfer without sitting out seems to be the intelligent thing to do. Of course, the NCAA and smart decisions are far too often ships that pass in the night


CHAOS AND COLLEGE BASEBALL

Major League Baseball has elected to reduce its usual 40-round draft to a mere five with fewer high school and college baseball players drafted and a huge reduction in bonus money. Instead of first rounders signing for seven figures, the max bonus paid out this year will be $100,000. If a drafted player is signed for more than $100,000, the additional money will be deferred until next year and the year after. For an undrafted free agent, which will be the case for hundreds of high school and college players who would have been picked in a 40-round draft, the max signing bonus will be $20,000.


Here is where the chaos really begins.


First off, all the kids who were playing college baseball this past spring can come back without losing eligibility. Second, college programs that figured to lose a few players taken after the fifth round in a 40-round draft will likely see a spike in returnees. Third, high school kids that might normally get signing bonuses of at least $100,000 when taken in rounds six through 10 are going to figure college baseball is a better bet, particularly when MLB is planning a similar format for the 2021 draft. MLB is planning to reduce the number of minor league teams. Less money and fewer jobs means better players coming to play at a college near you.


Currently, NCAA rosters are capped at 27 players dividing up the money from 11.9 scholarships. The Division I coaches want rosters expanded to 35 to cover the influx of freshmen and players who decide to come back rather than take smaller bonuses. And, unless the NCAA decides to implement a transfer-waiver rule, we’ll see a lot of kids lose their scholarships if they’ve been unproductive for a year or two.


The situation at Florida might not be as chaotic as some other schools. Pitchers Tommy Mace and Jack Leftwich will both be drafted with Mace likely to go in the first round. It’s highly doubtful Florida’s three seniors – Austin Langworthy, Kirby McMullen and Nick Blasucci – will be selected and while all three could come back for another season, Langworthy and McMullen should sign if offered a free agent contract. At least now they have the small amount of leverage returning for another year at UF offers. Blasucci might want to look for a grad transfer destination since playing time in 2021 will be hard to come by.


Typically, O’Sullivan loses anywhere from 4-6 freshmen signees to the MLB Draft. With the reduction in bonus money, that number will probably be reduced. That means more talent than ever before for the 2021 season in the new ball yard, but also puts O’Sullivan in a situation he doesn’t want, which is to tell some kids they might want to move along.


CHAOS FOR COLLEGE FOOTBALL

We’ll start with the fact that NCAA president Mark Emmert is waiting for an intelligent thought to strike him. What a strange accident that would be because when it comes to leadership and college football he’s clueless. He’s busy casting doubt about all of college sports in the fall. Meanwhile, probably 80% of the influential Division I football programs are making plans to play, whether it’s a full or reduced schedule.


Figure the schools/conferences that want to play will come up with their own solution and if Emmert doesn’t want to go along then bet the farm there will be a wholesale migration from the NCAA to a brand new organization. I keep hearing whispers that some of the more powerful people in college sports are putting together contingency plans that will allow football to be played with or without the NCAA. From a personal standpoint, I think it’s high time to kick the NCAA to the college football curb. One of two things needs to happen: Either reduce Division I to 100 schools (possibly a few less) or set up two national championships, one for the Power Five schools and one for the Group of Five. I’m good either way as long as it gets the NCAA out of the Division I football business. Let football schools streamline things by eliminating about 75% of the ticky tacky NCAA rules that require schools to hire an army of compliance people to play watchdog for the stupidest of violations.


I will stick with my belief that the college football season will be reduced to 10 games with Division IAA games lopped off. I know the SEC thinks it can play a 12-game schedule, but I don’t think that’s feasible with all five power leagues so I think there will be some uniformity for the sake of the College Football Playoff. Since Notre Dame has to be accommodated, 10 games seems to be the magic number.


We may see quite a few schools either suspend football for a year or drop it completely both at the lower levels of Division I and throughout D1AA. One way Division I could help out their less fortunate brethren would be to allow a spring game against a D1AA team. Which would you rather see: A glorified scrimmage with the clock running and walkons getting 40% of the snaps or a game against say Bethune Cookman? BCU would sell out The Swamp and would bring its band. That alone would be worth the price of admission.


Keep a close eye on California where the governor is saying there may not be any college or professional sports at least until January. Would the rest of the Pac-12 play if UCLA, Southern Cal, Stanford and Cal couldn’t? Would the Mountain West play if San Diego State and Fresno State couldn’t?


It will be interesting and potentially chaotic!


CHAOS FOR DUKE BASKETBALL? QUITE POSSIBLY

Now before you roll your eyes back in your head and think out loud that donkeys will fly first, understand that Gina Ford, who at one time represented former Dookie Zion Williamson, has filed a lawsuit along with a Request for Admission. A Request for Admission is only going to result in a denial from Williamson that he received any financial incentives to attend Duke University but this isn’t simply a nuisance filing. The reason to take it seriously has to do with former Dookies Marvin Bagley and Wendell Carter along with FBI wiretap evidence that was used to convict former Adidas consultant Merl Code.


Bagley is accused by disgraced attorney Michael Avenatti of being paid by Nike. Carter is named on expense reports submitted by agent/runner Christian Dawkins, also convicted in the college basketball corruption trials. Bagley and Carter are eye-openers but the NCAA didn’t act or at least hasn’t been forced to act. The wiretap evidence may force the NCAA to start a serious investigation because in it former Kansas assistant Kurtis Townsend and Code discuss what Williamson’s stepfather (Lee Anderson) was asking (cash and housing).

Add all this together and it starts getting sticky for Duke. There is enough evidence to proceed forward with Ford’s lawsuit and that means depositions under oath that will likely follow the line of questioning in her Request for Admission.


Here is a sample from the Request for Admission that involves Williamson’s mother, Sharonda Sampson: “knew that Sharonda Sampson demanded and received gifts and economic benefits from persons acting on behalf of Duke University (directly or indirectly) to influence you to attend Duke University to play basketball.”


Duke and Mike Kryzyzewski are considered college basketball’s ivory tower. Is it possible that Bagley, Carter and Williamson got nothing under the table to attend Duke and had any sins in their recruiting washed white as snow by Coach K? Sure. Anything is possible, just as it is entirely possible that a Duke booster paid all three or that Nike chipped in. Of course, Coach K will deny everything and maybe justly so, but isn’t it interesting that dirt is being heaved in his direction?


POTENTIAL SEC BASKETBALL CHAOS? LIKELY

Finally, with the NCAA doling out more Notices of Allegations, Auburn, LSU and South Carolina await FedEx to deliver their packages that will essentially say, “You’re guilty as sin, the only thing remaining is to negotiate the amount of pain that will be inflicted.” Judging by the severity of allegations in the NOA’s already delivered, none of these three schools should expect to get off easily.


Of the three, LSU figures to get hit the hardest since Will Wade is caught on FBI wiretaps negotiating the price it would take to sign Javonte Smart. There is enough evidence that Wade should have already been fired except to do so without an NCAA NOA or federal indictment would have resulted in the school having to pay a rather hefty buyout. Once the NOA is received, LSU is well on its way for jettisoning Wade without paying him another dime.


Auburn is going to get hit and there is a chance they’ll nail Bruce Pearl for failing to monitor the program since, after all, he hired Chuck Person, but expect AU to stick with Pearl and ride out the sanctions.


South Carolina will get off lighter than the other two, but it’s still a black mark for Frank Martin and for AD Ray Tanner, who runs a rather clean program top to bottom.

Three SEC schools on NCAA probation, all three of them likely to be banned from postseason play for at least one year is chaos since Auburn, LSU and South Carolina should all be good enough to make the NCAA Tournament next year.

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