How the NCAA created and absolved themselves of corruption

Arizona Wildcats F DeAndre Ayton (Photo via Chris Coduto/Getty Images)

This past June, the NBA shattered another draft night record when 16 players who had only played their freshman year, also known as “one-and-dones,” were selected in the first round of the 2017 NBA draft. Much of this is the result of the eligibility rules imposed by the NBA which state that an athlete must be at least 19 years of age during the draft and that any non-international athlete must be at least one year removed from graduating high school.

The recent reports of many college athletes receiving improper benefits surfaced. Most notable was Arizona freshman DeAndre Ayton who was accused of receiving $100,000 to sign with the Wildcats.

With such overt hypocrisy in college basketball, the economics of the industry and nature of its current rules suggest that revising the one-and-done rule is necessary for the salvation of the sport.

The NCAA clearly states that it is a platform for amateurism which promotes the idea that its athletes are students first and athletes second. However, in an October 2017 article, sports economist Daniel Rascher estimates that the college sports industry generates $13 billion dollars a year.

With such high economic stakes, pressure mounts on coaches to win games. This is supported by the fact that of the 351 college basketball coaches 57 percent have been at their current school for fewer than five years. Naturally, the easiest way for basketball coaches to maintain their jobs is to win, which is also much simpler when you have the best players. The highly competitive market for athletic success has resulted in many coaches resorting to bribing top recruits to come to their school.

High School recruiting databases such as Rivals, 247 and Scout.com numerically rank prospects on their talent. Affirmation of their value creates an elastic market for players that eliminates the incentive to settle for the fixed rate salary which many believe to be an effective resolution to the issue.

Overall, it is no surprise that the juxtaposition between the NCAA generating 13 billion dollars of revenue while the agents (players) of their institution receive no compensation is capable of creating an extremely toxic environment.

How the rules under the current system endorse corruption

Under the current rules, no American player can go directly from high school to the NBA. Therefore, they have two options: play a year of college or play internationally and be legally compensated.

NBA Rookie Terrance Ferguson (Photo via Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

NBA rookie Terrance Ferguson, just one of three Americans who ever opted to forego college basketball and play internationally, articulated his rationale in a June 2017 interview with the Charlotte Observer saying, “Most one-and-done players only spend a few months in college. You have to do schoolwork and all this other stuff. At college, the only people making money off you are the coaches.”

Unfortunately, playing internationally robs athletes of the opportunity to compete against the highest level of competition that is not the NBA and can consequently harm an athlete’s draft stock. Of the four major American sports (football, basketball, baseball and hockey), basketball is the only one that allows athletes to leave after just one year.

As a result, any wrongful compensation these athletes receive must be investigated and processed; only after this can athletes finally be punished. However, by the time sanctions are ready to be carried out, most players have already bolted for the NBA. Therefore, because there is very little chance that an athlete will miss any games or face legal consequences, they have little reason to decline money.

To synthesize, corruption is nearly impossible to erase from an institution that has such a wide disparity between what the athletes deserve versus what they receive. However, disallowing one-and-dones can reduce the corruption. If the NBA eliminates the minimum age, then the number of one-and-dones would diminish dramatically, as many more would opt to be paid immediately.

If the NBA stands pat, then the NCAA would be wise to follow College Football’s policy and force athletes to spend three years at their school before leaving for the pros. Such a rule would force athletes to decide whether they are interested in the NCAA’s message of being “student-athletes” with the risk of the NCAA investigating them for receiving wrongful benefits, or they could opt to play internationally until they meet the NBA’s age requirements.

Allowing the existing rules to remain would tell every fan and athlete that the NCAA cares more about the economic benefits of college basketball than the sanctity of the game and its institution.

College Football: Power 5 conference power rankings

With the College Football season past the halfway point, it is time to rank the Power 5 conferences from best to worst.

Photo via Getty Images

No. 1, Big 10

The Big 10 has three teams in the Top 10 and five total in the Top 25. There is no doubt that it will get at least one team in the playoff. If Penn St. and Wisconsin are both undefeated going into the Big 10 championship, then it has a very good chance at getting 2 teams.

The elite coaches set the Big 10 apart from the rest as Meyer and Harbaugh are probably among the top five coaches in the game. Behind them, they have James Franklin who is proving to be capable of building a championship contender now that scholarship restrictions are lifted.

The conference has also established consistent winners in Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz and Michigan State’s Mike Dantonio.

Finally, the Big Ten has young up and coming coaches in Minnesota’s P.J Fleck and Purdue’s Jeff Brohm. With great coaches across the board, the Big Ten has the potential to dominate the college football landscape for the foreseeable future.

TUSCALOOSA, AL – SEPTEMBER 28: Head coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide walks the field during pregame warmups prior to facing the Mississippi Rebels at Bryant-Denny Stadium on September 28, 2013 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

No. 2, SEC

After ruling the college football world for the entirety of the 2000s, the SEC has taken a step back.

Alabama is still by far the most dominant program in College Football, yet other traditional powerhouses such as LSU, Florida and Auburn have gone from perennial top 10 programs to very beatable teams typically ranked between 15 and 25. These teams still have unbelievable talent on their defensive lines and receiving cores, however, none of them have been able to find a reliable quarterback. Whether this is on the coaches or simply bad luck is unknown.

Until the majority of the SEC teams get championship caliber playmakers at the quarterback position, it will be difficult for them to re-establish themselves as college football’s unrivaled top conference.

Paul Nisely via SN Illustration/Getty Images

No. 3, Big 12

The Big 12 will always struggle to be a great conference with only 10 teams and no conference championship game.

They have earned the No. 3 ranking because they have three teams with a legitimate chance at making the playoff in TCU, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State pending an undefeated finish. The same cannot be said for the ACC or the Pac 12.

The Big 12 has always seemed like the playground of college football, a cute place where everyone throws touchdowns, plays no defense and everyone is happy.

If Tom Herman can turn around Texas, then the Big 12 can return to the feared conference it once was when Michael Crabtree, Sam Bradford and Colt McCoy held dominion over the college football’s top five.

Until then, the Big 12 will be limited by being somewhat top heavy and not having the potential resume builder that a conference championship game provides.

Photo via Gerry Broome/ Associated Press

No. 4, ACC

The ACC is still a very formidable football conference, but it took a major step back in 2017.

The Atlantic Division, arguably the most feared sub-conference last year, has regressed mightily as Florida State and Louisville have fallen entirely out of the top 25.

Clemson is still a national title contender but, with a first-year starting quarterback, they appear much more beatable than they were last year.

On the Coastal Side, North Carolina went from a top 20 team to perhaps the worst team in the ACC after quarterback Mitch Trubisky left for the NFL.

Heading the Coastal is undefeated Miami and Virginia Tech with one loss. Any team in the ACC is not really a threat in the national championship race.

Although it is a down year for the ACC, it should improve when its teams and quarterbacks gain more experience.

Photo via Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

No. 5, Pac 12

Rounding out the Power 5 conferences is the Pac 12, who has had an extremely disappointing year.

Unlike the ACC, the Pac 12 does not have the excuse of having inexperience as USC, Washington and Washington State all returned veteran quarterbacks with legitimate National Championship hopes.

USC’s Sam Darnold, the most exciting player since Matt Leinart and Mark Sanchez has been an immense disappointment throwing countless interceptions and suffering an embarrassing defeat against arch-rival Notre Dame.

Washington’s Jake Browning has been uninspiring this year, crushing their National Championship in a humiliating loss to lowly Arizona State in which they only put up a measly 7 points.

Stanford has been the same team they have been since Andrew Luck left, consistent, and might get a cute bid to the Rose Bowl, but they still lack the all-around skill and speed to dominate a season from start to finish.

In order for the Pac 12 to return to the respected conference they once were, they must establish a dominant team capable of consistently competing with the likes of Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State.

Until then, the Pac 12 will continue to occasionally submit apathetic teams to the playoff that are not truly taken seriously.

Saying Goodbye To An All-Time Great

 

Photo via Charles Krupa/AP Photo

Yesterday, the career of an NBA great came to a close when forward Paul Pierce and the Los Angeles Clippers lost Game 7, 104-91 to the Utah Jazz.

However, what Pierce will be remembered for is his time spent wearing green. The Kansas product was selected No. 10 overall in 1998 by the Boston Celtics and would go on to play 15 seasons in Boston.

Aside from a 2002 playoff run, Pierce was surrounded by marginal talent for much of the first half of his career. 10 years into his career Pierce was a perennial All-Star, however, being a member of the winningest franchise in the NBA, Pierce was viewed through a different lense. Being quartered in a city renown for athletic success, Pierce was seen as perhaps the best Celtic without a ring.

At this point in his career, Pierce had noticeably less bounce, more weight, and less quickness. However, Pierce still withheld deceptive speed and enjoyed an arsenal of potent old-man scoring moves. Every step Pierce took was calculated; using his strength and wits to get to where he needed to on the floor. 

On the other end of the floor, Pierce was quick enough to guard shooting guards like Dwayne Wade and Kobe Bryant and also strong enough to cover small forwards like LeBron James.

Pierce was never considered one of the top 3 individual players in the league, but, he was consistently a top-10 player. One of Pierce’s defining features was his ability to take over in big games. It was visible when Pierce was on his game, it was all in his body, as after a made basket he would leisurely bound down the court, his head slightly tilted upwards and a half grin shining across his face.

When he had it going, Pierce’s success seemed to bother his defenders an exceptional amount. Pierce’s game and swagger will forever cement him as one of the NBA’s most unique talents.

Pierece Garnett Allen win in 2008.jpg
Photo via the NBA’s official website

Fortunately, in the summer of 2007, general manager Danny Ainge engineered a number of moves to lure superstars Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to Boston.

Pierce and the “Big 3” were coupled with a young pass-first point guard, Rajon Rondo, along with defensive stalwart Kendrick Perkins. Off the bench, the 2008 Celtics featured a high sock wearing spark plug-in Eddie House, lockdown defender Tony Allen and reliable, modest forward, Leon Powe.

Unlike many teams experiencing significant roster turnover, the Celtics suffered no “growing pains” and cruised to the number 1 seed, winning 66 games along the way.

Nonetheless, one thing was apparent, this was Pierce’s team. When they desperately needed a bucket, the ball went to Pierce, when the game was on the line, the ball went to Pierce and when they finally won the championship, Pierce was the first to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy.

Winning the championship was a defining moment for both Pierce and the city of Boston. For many of the younger Celtics fans, Pierce was the “Larry Bird” of our generation. His win solidified him as a Celtic great and united him with all of the Celtics who won a championship in green before him.

Your Favorite Athletes Who Are Probably Celebrating 4/20

Every year millions of people celebrate America’s unofficial marijuana holiday, 4/20. In honor of today’s special day, here are four athletes who love the mary-jane.

C Bill Walton

Bill Walton, funky outfit.jpg
Photo via Ron Chenoy, USA Today Sports

Type of Stoner:

Everyone knows a guy like former Portland Trailblazer Bill Walton; he’s always wearing tie-dye, he probably likes to play ultimate frisbee and is still complaining about Bernie Sanders not getting the Democratic nomination.

Athletic Accomplishment:

If it weren’t for chronic foot problems, Walton very well might be regarded as one of the top ten players of all time.

Most NBA players are known for one elite skill; Kawhi Leonard can defend anyone, Michael Jordan could score at will, and Rajon Rondo can find an open man against any defense. However, Walton could do it all; his elite shot-blocking, passing and rebounding subsequently elevated the play of his teammates.

There is no greater testament to Walton’s prevailing impact on his teammates than winning the 1976-77 MVP and his championship campaign with the Portland Trail Blazers. Walton became the first, one of only two all-time, to win the MVP with less than 60 games played.

Portland’s deficiencies without Walton were transparent. They limped to a 5-12 record in the games in which Walton missed.

Injury-free once the playoffs came around, Walton shined. Most notably, he averaged 18.5 points, 19 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 3.7 blocks leading the Blazers to a 4-2 series win over Julius Erving and the Philadelphia 76ers. Walton was the only Hall-of-Famer on his own team.

What Walton could have accomplished with an injury-free career is unknown, however, it is clear that his transcendent skill-set is something that might never be seen from a seven-footer again.

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Celtics look to rebound after game 1 loss

Photo via Michael Dwyer/AP

After the Boston Celtics game one loss, there is a multitude of questions surrounding the team.

Can the Celtics solve their rebounding woes?

The Celtics were outrebounded 53-36 by the larger and more physical Chicago Bulls. Center Robin Lopez (7 rebounds) and guard Rajon Rondo (5 rebounds) crushed the Celtics on the offensive boards.

In order to take full advantage of the Bulls inability to hit the 3 ball, it is crucial for the Boston will need to rebound the ball effectively.

How can the Celtics mask their rebounding deficiencies? 

Kelly Olynyk and Amir Johnson rank near the bottom of the eastern conference in rebounding rating. Therefore, the best response would be to play small-ball and have more athletic players, like guard Jaylen Brown and forward Jae Crowder, play at the four and five spots.

This move should improve their ability to track down long rebounds that are a by-product of poor three-point shooting.

Are the Celtics a regular season team?

Many NBA teams, like the Cavaliers and Spurs, have the talent to cruise through much of the regular season and then turn up their focus once the playoffs come.

The Celtics, in the Stevens’ era, bring 100 percent effort for all 82 games of the regular season.

Guard Isaiah Thomas and forward Al Horford do not get the LeBron James and Tony Parker treatment, resting when healthy.

As a result, Boston suffers from fatigue that looked to negatively impact them in game one.

It is important that the Celtics make a statement in Game two in order to prove that their 53-win season was not a fluke.

Can the Celtics find a reliable 2nd scoring option?

During the first playoff game, it became clear, in the fourth quarter, that Thomas was the only Boston player who could consistently get to the rim. 

Throughout the regular season, Brad Stevens employed a “Popovich-ian” type offense where fast-paced ball movement opened up an array of looks for consistent three-point shooters like Crowder and Avery Bradley.

However, the fourth quarter in a playoff series typically relies on an isolation offense and a players ability to get to the rim or free throw line. Crowder, Horford or Marcus Smart are going to have to step up by consistently getting to the rim if the Celtics want to win. 

The Bulls are built well for the playoffs and might force this series to go seven games. However, the Celtics will be better prepared to handle the emotion of Thomas’s sister’s death and it is a must-win game at home. Those two reasons will help Boston get the win in game two. 

Celtics 98 Bulls 91