Thursday, September 11, 2008

Michael Glover, Seton Hall, and Diploma Mills

The NCAA is almost invariably reactive rather proactive when dealing with serious problems. That said, they should be applauded for their moves to reject high school transcripts from a number of private schools which have been tarred, in most cases not unjustly, as Diploma Mills. For background see these articles in the Washington Post, and the New York Times. Now, Seton Hall recruit Michael Glover, whose senior year coursework at American Christian Academy was invalidated, is suing the NCAA and the Big East:

Michael Glover, the Seton Hall basketball recruit who was unable to play last season when the NCAA declared him an academic non-qualifier, is suing the NCAA and the Big East in an effort to get himself declared eligible to play for Seton Hall this upcoming season.

According to the lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Providence -- where the Big East offices are located -- Glover is seeking to have the NCAA reverse its prior ruling and declare him qualified to play, and to receive an athletic scholarship. He is also seeking to be awarded financial damages equivalent to the cost of four years' tuition at Seton Hall, plus punitive damages for his having missed the 2007-08 season.

Last fall, the NCAA decided to invalidate Glover's senior year at American Christian.

That made Glover a non-qualifier, but after he appealed the decision, he was allowed to practice with the team for a while at the start of the season. However, in December, the NCAA denied Glover's final appeal, making him ineligible to play and ineligible to receive scholarship money from the school. According to NCAA rules, the only way for Glover to qualify to play Division 1 would be to go to a junior college and receive his associate's degree, then transfer to a four-year school. . . .

Unsurprisingly, the story is rather deeper than the academic, eligibility, and legal travails of one prospective student-athlete. American Christian Academy closed its High School this summer:

American Christian Academy, a tiny private school in Aston, was known nationally last winter for having one of the best high-school-age basketball players in the country.

On Thursday, the school is expected to eliminate its high school academic and athletic programs - including basketball - in a swirl of controversy.

American Christian, which officials said would continue to operate its day-care center and programs for youngsters in pre-kindergarten through sixth grade, allowed postgraduates to play on its teams for the last two years. School officials were expected to leave postgraduates off the teams next season. Now, it seems, there won't be any teams at all. . . .

"We have not been given any reason whatsoever of why the school is closing except that it's financially better to close the school," boys' basketball coach Tony Bergeron said. "In my estimation, that doesn't make any sense."

Bergeron helped develop Tyreke Evans into one of the nation's top players. Evans, the most valuable player at this year's McDonald's All-America Game, is expected to play next season at Memphis.

But the boys' basketball program has drawn criticism. Former coach Ray Carroll publicly criticized American Christian's academic standards for many of his former players, including Evans, after he was fired in June 2006, after one season. Carroll suggested that the school was a diploma mill.

Recent comments made by Seton Hall coach Bobby Gonzalez to Andy Katz at ESPN also illustrate the primary thing driving all of this. In the hyper-competitive world of revenue NCAA sports, coaches choose, or are forced, to take both short cuts and risks with athletes who are academically marginal:

Bobby Gonzalez is clear that in order for Seton Hall to be competitive in the 16-team Big East, he's got to take a gamble or two.

The third-year Pirates coach isn't hiding from his objective. He accepted two high-profile transfers within the past week -- Keon Lawrence from Missouri and Herb Pope from New Mexico State -- with the hope that both will be eligible for this season. . . .

"If you want to get into the top six or seven in this conference, you've got to be creative and you've got to take transfers. I'm not sure what they're saying about Gonzo, saying that I'm taking too many borderline guys, a gamble. But the [Seton Hall] president backs me, and I feel they're all worth the gamble.". . .

Gonzalez said Lawrence won't be academically eligible until after the first semester because the junior doesn't have enough transferable credits from Missouri. He would have to pass 15 credits in the first semester to be eligible by mid-December, the coach said. . . .

Meanwhile, Gonzalez is waiting to see if Michael Glover, who was declared ineligible last year at Seton Hall, would win his lawsuit against the Big East and the NCAA to gain eligibility.

"If he were eligible last year we would have won 20 games, not 17; he could have been an all-rookie Big East [player]," Gonzalez said of the 17-15 Pirates last season. "He definitely would be a major impact guy. Who knows? We could believe in miracles and get Keon Lawrence, Michael Glover and Herb Pope [this season]."

It would be great for Seton Hall basketball. It would be great for Bobby Gonzalez. Who else does Gonzalez's gambling serve?

University of Nevada: In the Clear on Gambling Allegations?

Yep. According to the University of Nevada at least:

The University of Nevada athletic program said Tuesday that the NCAA's 10-month investigation into the university's athletic program has found no lack of institutional control and no gambling-related issues.
"Obviously our department is elated with this decision," Nevada athletic director Cary Groth said. "We feel that we do an excellent job with compliance, and integrity is at the forefront of everything that we do and we were pleased with the findings." . . .

Findings, that is, that have not been released by the NCAA. Of course Groth's statement leaves the possibility that there WILL be findings in this investigation which go beyond gambling and the dreaded 'lack of institutional control'.

The NCAA launched an investigation into the program after the women's soccer coach filed a whistle-blower complaint alleging she was fired in retaliation for reporting rules violations within the Nevada athletic department. The most damning allegation claimed that men's golf coach Rich Merritt, who has since resigned, bet on sports. . . .

This is the most interesting angle on the story that remains. For her part, the women's soccer coach has not one, but three blogs up and running here, here, and here, where her side of the story has been extensively detailed. Her current reaction?

The women's soccer coach said Tuesday that "given all of the information concerning gambling and the lack of institutional control provided to the NCAA, this news is unbelievable."
She said she supplied the NCAA with information she believes supports her claims, and that the university is not completely out of the clear.
"The NCAA Committee on Infractions has the final say and can hand down additional charges," she said. "I look forward to what the NCAA Committee of Infractions has to say about this information."
When asked if she had contacted the women's soccer coach since being cleared of the two main allegations, Groth said: "She has nothing to do with this. This is an NCAA investigation."

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

NCAA talks the talk on Junior College Transfers

Coaches attempting to strengthen teams whether for routine purposes, or to fill gaps caused by transfers, coaching changes, or academic disqualification have increasingly turned towards recruiting players from two-year colleges. This process is often not in the best interests of the student-athletes involved, and has placed several Universities in hot water, most recently the University of New Mexico. This is one of several issues upon which the NCAA is now talking the talk. Do not hold your breath on them walking the walk:

Division I Academic Cabinet members determined that transfers from two-year colleges, nontraditional coursework and academic support services at institutions are among their top priorities in the coming months.

The new cabinet met for the first time September 8-9 in Indianapolis.

One of the major issues the group will tackle will be the challenges presented by student-athletes who transfer from a two-year to a four-year institution.

Cabinet members will examine the recommendations of the Division I Transfer Issues Ad Hoc Group, and consider items like additional core-course requirements for 2-4 transfers, the idea of an academic year in residence and other recommendations. The cabinet emphasized the importance of data on which to base decisions, and went so far as to ask the Committee on Academic Performance to collect more data related to the academic profile of a successful 2-4 transfer.

The group would also like to learn more about nontraditional coursework on campuses, including best practices, and academic support programs available to student-athletes. The cabinet identified a few members to work with the NCAA research staff and representatives from academic partner organizations on developing a survey to find out more about academic support programs in Division I.

Cabinet members also said they would focus on student-athlete time demands and degree-selection issues.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Advocacy or Coverup?

There is a very interesting article in the Des Moines Register on how Universities react to allegations of misconduct by their athletes. It deserves a full reading. Some excerpts:

Iowa City, Ia. - At a time when college football programs like those at the University of Iowa and Penn State are working to put public, off-the-field struggles behind them, others are working behind the scenes to make sure new allegations involving athletes and criminal behavior never make news.

My real successes are the ones you never hear about," said Alfredo Parrish, a Des Moines attorney who is representing former football player Abe Satterfield in the alleged sexual assault of a U of I female athlete last fall. "In my view, I've already lost once something gets into the newspaper."

Parrish and other defense lawyers in Iowa who routinely represent athletes say it's seldom possible to keep arrests out of the headlines, but sometimes they succeed. Advocates say athletes, coaches and university officials in college towns across the country have a vested interest in keeping such damaging incidents quiet. The problem, they say, is that athletes often benefit from their efforts to quietly resolve alleged crimes, and victims don't. . . .

The Iowa Board of Regents has initiated this summer a second inquiry into the alleged sexual assault of the U of I female athlete, after learning the victim's mother had accused athletic department officials of mishandling the case. The out-of-state investigators are expected to report to the regents by the Sept. 17-18 board meeting. . . .

Parrish said cases involving sexual assaults are particularly sensitive, and university attorneys and administrators also have a vested interest in trying to resolve issues discreetly. One reason is the university's own legal liability - a specter that has been raised in the alleged U of I assault because the athletes involved apparently had keys to an empty room on university property where the fellow athlete said she was raped, he said.

Last December, the University of Colorado at Boulder agreed to pay $2.85 million to settle a lawsuit brought by two former students, bringing closure to one of the past decade's more sensational cases of sexual abuse. A federal appeals court had ordered the university to stand trial on charges that it failed to do enough to prevent the rapes of the two students at an off-campus party by high-school recruits that was supervised by CU football players.