May 13, 2008

The meme on how loaded the Big East will be in basketball for 2008 continues to worm its way around. Per Jay Bilas at ESPN (insider subs.)

It’s still too early to put together a coherent Top 25 for next year, but it is not too early to determine that the Big East will be the best league in the country.

By October, expect the backlash. At the first stumble of an expected top team in the Big East there will be the “ah-ha, see the BE isn’t that good!”

One of the stories I have always been fascinated, because of the consequences and that shows how effed up college sports can be has been the Baylor-Dennehy scandal. This was where a Baylor basketball player was shot by one of his teammates in the off-season. As the investigation was getting underway, the then coach, Dave Bliss, wanted to cover-up how he was secretly paying the way for walk-ons who had transferred — including Dennehy. That included trying to mislead investigators that Dennehy was shot because of a drug deal — despite Dennehy having no involvement in that. He even wanted the assistants to help with the cover-up. One young assistant and former Baylor player was so disturbed by this, he taped one of the conversations.

He went to see a lawyer who eventually leaked the tape, and helped blow the whole thing up. In the fallout, Abar Rouse became blackballed in D-1 because he “betrayed” his head coach. This long piece on what has happened to him is a hell of a read.

Many coaches, including Hall of Famers Jim Boeheim and Mike Krzyzewski, have said that Rouse had crossed the line. “If one of my assistants would tape every one of my conversations with me not knowing it, there’s no way he would be on my staff,” Krzyzewski told “Outside the Lines” in 2003. The rank and file has fallen in step.

Despite beating down seemingly every door and mailing out countless résumés, Rouse has had only one basketball job in the past five years, a graduate assistant position at Division II Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls. In October he made the agonizing decision to quit, unable to survive on the $8,000 annual salary.

Assistant coaches are basketball’s Secret Service, there to step in and take a bullet when one is fired at the man in charge. Indiana’s Senderoff was sent packing long before the NCAA’s tentacles reached Sampson; Dwane Casey took the initial heat for Eddie Sutton at Kentucky in 1989. Taking the fall is an act of honor, despite the fact it usually means some sort of violation occurred.

Turning a coach in, deservedly or not, is viewed through an altogether different prism. Among coaches who pontificate about integrity and ethics — the NABC, then headed ironically enough by Sampson, called an emergency summit the fall after the Baylor scandal to discuss the very thing — there is a hypocritical silent code: Thou shalt not drop a dime on one another. Or at least get caught doing so.

And in a career in which networking is critical for job placement, those who go against the silent code are exiled, left to scrap their way back or wait in hope that someone offers a lifeboat.

Bliss, by the way, got to coach in the NBDL for a year and actually felt like he has re-habbed enough to start showing up at the Final Four once more. Read it all.

East Carolina desperately has wanted in to the Big East since the re-formatting a few years ago. They still want to find their way in. Even if just in football.

OK, but what if a deal too sweet to beat existed? Just for kicks, let’s put one on the table in the form of, say, a job application. The school should be willing to:

• Play a conference football schedule with zero compensation from the Big East so current members don’t have to give up any of their share of revenue.

• Be responsible for negotiating a television contract for home games until the league wants the school to be a part of its package.

• Not expect any of the league’s BCS revenue until earning a BCS bid of its own representing the conference.

• Come in as a football member only. Other sports would play in another league in order to not interfere with the league’s current 16-member setup for all other sports.

• Show a solid track record of putting fans in the seats at home, on the road and at bowl games — all on a trial basis for a few years.

The Big East still won’t bite. They don’t have to. As much as it makes things difficult to schedule in football,  even a provisional, part-time new member would likely upset the delicate balance with the basketball schools. Until the conference realizes it has to split, ECU has no chance.

Finally, congrats to Dick Groat and Pitt great Don Hennon on being included for induction into the WPIAL Hall of Fame. That they weren’t been inducted years ago is more of a shock than anything else.

The piece on Abar Rouse is heartbreaking. Nobody likes a snitch, obviously, but he did the right thing. Goes to show you that college sports has an ugly side, that many, including myself, rather not see.

Comment by Panthoor 05.13.08 @ 6:38 pm

The reason Groat & Hennon were not in the WPIAL Hall Of Fame yet is that the Hall is only in its second year of existence. Guys like Dorsett, Marino & Billy Knight are not in yet either.

Comment by Al From Harrisburg 05.14.08 @ 5:33 pm


Ah. That would explain it. Thanks.

Comment by Chas 05.14.08 @ 6:38 pm

[…] And then there’s stories of the Crimson Permanent Assurance corporate raiders otherwise known as BCS conferences raiding smaller conferences for their best teams. Only this time that story is in reverse as both Memphis and East Carolina are chomping at the bit to get into the Big East. East Carolina desperately has wanted in to the Big East since the re-formatting a few years ago. They still want to find their way in. Even if just in football. […]

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