I would like to dispassionately discuss college basketball today, without directly referencing the recent footwear follies/FBI probe and without even mentioning a certain notorious sideline suit whose first name rhymes with "Slick" and whose last name rhymes with "Maraschino."
For those familiar with my column work going back to college — I went to Maryland, a full-time, first-rate offender of athletic-vs.-academic priorities — you already know that before we pay college basketball players (which has some merit), I believe we should simply dismantle college basketball.
On that pleasant thought, let's dive in!
●First, round up the usual suspects of college hoops defenders and deniers. When asked about the fact that specific recruits were receiving six-figure payments from third parties to attend specific schools, North Carolina/Nike Coach Roy Williams indicated he was "stunned," saying, "It was just a shock to me."
Why wouldn't it be?
After all, this is a fella who professed no knowledge that his school engaged in nearly two decades of academic impurities.
Think about it: Between 1993 and 2011 — Williams became head coach in 2003 — more than 3,100 UNC students, 48 percent of them athletes, took "phantom classes" in the Afro-American studies department. And 169 athletes, including 15 men's basketball players, got a grade in a nonexistent class to keep their GPA above 2.0 for the semester. Williams saw nothing, said nothing.
So when Williams says last week's revelations were just a "shock" to him, I kind of believe him. Heck, if Roy Williams were pumping gas and Earl Scheib's cousin came along and painted his car polka-dot green, I don't think he would notice.
(Column Intermission: I am reminded of the time — many, many years ago — when I was a Washington Post delivery boy, and a woman down the street from where we lived asked if my delivery load differed appreciably on Sundays. Man, I thought, it's funny to hear a female talk about newspaper routes.)
Meanwhile, Duke/Nike Coach Mike Krzyzewski commented, "Last week was bad, doesn't mean all of college basketball is bad. It also doesn't mean that it's necessarily the tip of some iceberg. I don't necessarily agree with that. I think the iceberg is really good."
Why wouldn't he think the iceberg is really good? That iceberg is a really good rainmaker.
The universities get millions of dollars from the shoe companies. Coaches like Krzyzewski get millions of dollars from the shoe companies. Uh, the players? They get to wear the shoes — FOR FREE. No cost! And those are some damn good shoes.
I mean, I thought these athletic scholarships only paid for the student-athletes' tuition, room and board; if I had known it also included SNEAKERS, I would've been a jock instead of a journalist.
●LaVar Ball is pulling his son LaMelo out of high school and will home-school him for two years before he goes to UCLA. LaVar is simply working the depraved system he has in front of him.
He just needs a gym near their home if he is home-schooling him, plus he needs a college that will welcome LaMelo onto campus as a nominal student-athlete for one year — actually, it will be for more, like, six or seven months, and the kid probably won't even need a library card.
As for the home-schooling — as far as the three R's go, I'm sure LaVar will teach LaMelo good on 'rithmetic, but I'm not sure he'll he strong on reading and 'riting, plus geography, history, art, music and science might be left on the sideline.
●I'll take "Blue Chips" over "Hoosiers" any day of the basketball week. Yes, "Hoosiers" (1986) was one of the five best sports films of all time, but "Blue Chips" (1994) featured recruitment violations, player payments, impatient alumni and the entire dark underbelly of college basketball.
"Hoosiers" is who we think we are, "Blue Chips" is what we are.
Incidentally, "Blue Chips" includes cameos from the late Jerry Tarkanian, Bobby Knight, Jim Boeheim and Slick Maraschino.
Q. Connecticut women's basketball Coach Geno Auriemma recently volunteered to forgo his $2 million salary to help the state's budgetary situation. Will this get the ball rolling for other coaches, or is this an anomaly? (Michael Kolb; Spokane, Wash.)
A. Is this a rhetorical question?
A. When they zig, I zag. Also, I happened to move to suburban Helsinki four months ago, and the curling action is nonstop!
Q. We used to mock Dave Kingman — 16-year career (1971-1986) with seven MLB teams — because all he wanted to do was swing for the fences (442 career homers) and didn't care about average (.236 lifetime), strikeouts (about 1 every 3.7 at bats) or (seemingly) winning. Is it time to admit that maybe he was just way ahead of his time? (Wayne Wood; Madison, Conn.)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.
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