Calamity, Corruption & Collusion: Repairing The Fantasy Of Amateur Basketball

University of Arizona head coach Sean Miller (via Arizona Daily Star)

Don’t blame Dwane Casey. 

Casey, the Toronto Raptors’ longest-serving and winningest head coach, who is enjoying a notably good season. He recently celebrated his 300th win with the franchise and is seen by many as as a top contender for the NBA’s Coach of the Year. But at one point, he was an assistant at University Of Kentucky, where he had played for and captained the National Champion Wildcats under Joe B. Hall. Then a Fed Ex envelope addressed to a recruit split open mysteriously revealing $1,000. Though the University and Casey both denied that they had any role in this incident, the NCAA banned Casey for five years and he would spend his basketball exile in Japan, where he coached for 6 seasons all the while expressing no remorse, and claiming it was a set-up. Coaches all over the country took umbrage and most immediately took the opportunity to remind their base that “we do it the right way,” even as their top players tooled around campus in new luxury autos, including one notable freshman who arrived in a drop-top Ferrari, fully loaded with a sticker price of 89K and not an eyebrow raised.

Maybe it was Chuck Taylor, the great basketball player of the early 1900’s who would, after his playing career ended prior to the existence of the NBA we know today, convince a sneaker company to put his name and a star on the side of their shoes. He would become synonymous with basketball and one of the most recognized names in America as he spent the next forty years criss-cross in America selling sneakers out of his car to teams, while simultaneously running  clinics on each campus. What we know today is that Chuck used these clinics to develop relationships with the top high school athletes and coaches. Taylor became the de facto agent for these high school All-Americans, and if your University wasn’t wearing Converse, and running Chuck Taylor clinics annually, you had no shot at the top players. But don’t blame Chuck, I just like get to play the begat game, and Chuck fathered Nike, Adidas, and ultimately the seven figure shoe deal that provides generational wealth for the athlete whose skills and personality are marketable to a global audience of “sneaker heads” hungrily buying these iconic shoes via the Internet, and lining up hours before the shoe is released to drop a paycheck for them.

Lew Alcindor aka Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at Power Memorial High School (via Getty Images)

Pay to play, despite the phony outrage accompanying each new disclosure, isn’t new! We’ve all heard tales of families wooed by street agents when their teenager reaches 6’5″ in 7th grade. You’ve heard the rumors of certain schools who suddenly have a national ranking because of one amazing freshman who changes the arc of a mid-major school while everyone wonders why they chose Anonymous U. Think back to 1969, when a 7-foot phenom out of Power Memorial High School in NYC turned down a million-dollar offer from the ABA to sign the next day with UCLA. Yes, they had a incredible run of NCAA titles and the legendary John Wooden at the helm, but today we know that Sam Gilbert, a wealthy booster, matched the ABA offer to Lew Alcindor, aka Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and had been doing so with other players throughout the course of the “dynasty” shepherded by the “Wizard of Westwood.” Not to single out UCLA, but just to point out the fallacy and fantasy of the “clean” and amazingly successful college program. Everyone is dirty. Believe it or not, they all cut corners, otherwise they wouldn’t recruit a player who they KNOW is only staying for a season, with no pretense of being a student-athlete. The entire team wouldn’t be wearing sneakers provided by one company in exchange for “promotional consideration” and coaches wouldn’t have contracts that are far more lucrative than the university’s president.

Meanwhile, the NBA sits atop this conspiracy. The collusion, calamity, and criminal acts committed along the way all have the same end goal. While we knew that the odds of all the manipulation, shenanigans, and flat out deceit that are perpetuated along the way are paying off at about a million to in, it hasn’t stopped it. In fact, the basketball community has mostly been able to turn their heads away as long they weren’t getting caught themselves. The NBA cannot. Their desperation to maintain control over the entry and distribution of talent into the league has been massaged, manipulated, and re-fashioned as they felt necessary to stay one step ahead of the courts. From the “hardship rule” of the 70’s to Moses Malone and Bill Willoughby coming straight out of high school, to today’s 2-round edition. The National Basketball Association has exhibited a deathly fear of a player challenging the draft’s legality, (highly unlikely, considering it would wend its way through the courts for years and an athlete would be finished by the time he won) and having their process abolished. What other professional cannot choose where they hone, or practice their craft? Engineer? Pharmacist? Sanitation Worker? Nurse? Nope. Their ability as a league to slot their picks and control their location and income is something most fans take for granted, but the league doesn’t. Not for a moment. The NBA owners, watching the cost of contracts skyrocket over the last 3 seasons to ridiculous levels, need desperately to control entry level costs. Which also drives the value of the first ten picks in the draft. It’s a complicated but simple machine that’s lead to where we are today. Kids, parents, coaches and hangers on committing criminal, selfish acts to preserve and further the NBA dream. Can it be fixed? Yup. I’ll do it now. Here at N THE ZONE NETWORK we play chess, not checkers.

Arizona freshman standout and potential #1 overall NBA draft pick DeAndre Ayton (via USA Today)

Here’s your solution. Thank me later.

Eliminate the fantasy of the “amateur” NCAA basketball player. The NCAA and it’s member teams are raking billions of dollars off the play of these teenagers. It’s time to compensate them, thus eliminating the possibility and/or necessity of them being corrupted. Here’s the scale. Pretty simply, each athlete on scholarship would receive a monthly stipend based upon the cost of living. THAT plus their academic scholarship would allow for a comfortable collegiate life equal to that of their on-campus academic peers. When they’ve graduated or completed, whatever commitment the player made to the university, they would receive a check equal to the tuition average of every member school on the NCAA times the number of years they spend academically eligible in school. This guarantees that every school’s compensation is equal, eliminating any incentive to go where the payoff is better. This ensures and encourages the kids to work towards a degree, while being able to do so without financial pressure. Simple way to finance. Each member school donates 5% of their basketball revenue to a pool. When a school wins an NCAA tournament game, 10% of their winnings go into the pool. Do the math. You could build a league. No one is going broke in this machine. Time has come to stop pretending and fix what has been broken for years on end. The NCAA also will contribute. The TV contracts are ridiculously lucrative. Thus, we’re going to need this association of dedicated institutions to kick in 5% of the TV money, and a share of the commercials featuring these kids in their promos. That money can buy an island and start a league now and no one has missed a meal. But we’ve gotta compensate these kids above the street money.

Here’s where the true payoff comes. Now that we’ve figured out how to pay the elite, and those who we know are in it only for basketball, let’s address the true student-athlete. Each member school will be required to maintain 4 roster spots for walk-ons. Those kids for whom a scholarship was not offered, who may never play but are more reflective of what the collegiate athletics experience is alleged to be. However, once this kid makes the roster he’s compensated the same as the McDonald’s All American. Graduates and receives the same check from the same financial pool as the kid who’s going first in the draft. Now we’re making progress.

Sports agent Christian Dawkins (via NY Daily News)

Finally, it’s time for the NBA to right their wrongs. Step in and help fix what’s so horribly broken. Here’s what the league can do. Expand the draft from two rounds to 7. Why? Because we’re going to open a true developmental league. I’m not talking about that “G” League that’s going now. But every NBA team will have a farm team. They can choose their geographical location. But the team must underwrite it 100%. Stop whining. The NBA’s new TV deal is worth 29 billion dollars over 8 seasons. That’s 3.5 billion per team spread over the length of the contract. That’s more than enough to stock, maintain and develop a roster of 12 “minor leaguers” and actually utilize the opportunity to refresh their talent pool from within, and just maybe find and build a late round gem instead of whispering “go to Europe, call me in 2 years, work on …….” Each player will receive 100k per season plus insurance and housing. This will prevent kids from having to schlep around Europe, China, and other foreign outposts to keep their NBA dream alive. The deals will all be uniform. Two years at 100k each, team and player option for year 3. I don’t see how this isn’t successful. Now we’ve provided a landing spot for all the kids dedicated to getting better over the course of their college careers and beyond, lessened the need to be “one and done” and disrupted the narrative that a player who stays four years in college isn’t NBA material. You can graduate from your school, play two years in a “REAL” developmental league and still be just 24 years old and ready to contribute to an NBA franchise. This is progress. Will it eliminate all the problems, kill off the parasites? Probably not.

Here’s the final step.

Keep it real.

Create a real ZERO tolerance policy in NCAA.

It goes like this. If you get caught cheating, your basketball program is closed for three seasons. Period. That’s progress. This is my solution and I believe it is viable. Simple, yes, but that’s just what we need to create an umbrella that protects everyone, establishes an environment of healthy sports at the collegiate level and not a dumpster fill if used up broke 20 year olds wondering “what’s next for my life if the NBA can’t use me.”

Your thoughts are as always welcome, but that’s my theory and I’m all in with it…..

Follow me on Twitter @MtAiryPhil

Girl Chat Sports – Episode 40

300x300_11658322ICYMI: (@GirlChatSports) Jessika Ward is the guest for Episode 40 of Girl Chat Sports. Jessica is a broadcast journalist and sports reporter for FSU and FAMU. We learned yet another young woman’s love and upbringing in sports and how that tailored a love for journalism, asking questions and talking Sports!!! Jessika also now hosts her own show on YouTube called #JessikaWardTV. The GCS Ladies and Jessika discuss the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history, as well as some of the other records that were broken and/or tied during the game. What happened to the Falcons the 2nd half? Is Kyle Shanahan the blame? Who took Tom Brady’s jersey and will anyone give James White the winning game ball he left behind? The difference between Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd, and Melissa finally links Howie Long and Chris Long (DUH!!! smdh) and enjoys the time that Martellus and Michael Bennett were able to share post game interview. Now what about those commercials!!! SB 2017 came with some great commercials, and MANY with great meaning behind them (slight punch at the orange guy lol). What about the halftime show? Our thoughts on GAGA’s performance take? But lets really talk about what everyone wants to know, no not #ArmsoftheNFL *which we cover* BUT are the Simpsons really predicting major life events? Seahawks/Broncos SB, Twin Towers, Trump and now the Falcons/Patriots SB? We continue to monitor that one. And of course the latest top 5 of Women’s and Men’s NCAA hoops and a heart felt Ahhhhhhh moment. Go down to the link below and check out the show! 

Girl Chat Sports: Episode 40

Girl Chat Sports – Episode 36

640x640_11899227Have you checked out the latest edition of @GirlChatSports?

Their special guest is Reggie Watkins…they learn about his podcast FranchiseSportz “with a Z”, congratulate him on his new engagement and get his take on prenups. They also talk recap the College Football Playoff championship and Odell Beckham, Jr. and his recent antics as well as the Miami trip and touch on “What would Reggie Do?”

The ladies also discuss some men’s and women’s college hoops, and Melissa circles back to Seattle every chance she gets, while Steph is adamant about her Cowboys coming out on top of Aaron Rodgers & the Pack, and brings BREAKING NEWS about the Raiders and Las Vegas!! Melissa also makes a plea to Ref Ed Hochuli (#RefArmsOfTheNFL) to perhaps date her mom, she’s single & loves football!!! Plus #ArmsOfTheNFL and more “Ahhhhhh” moments.

Click the link below and check out the episode.

GirlChatSports Episode 36

The Three Days Of Awesome

BCS-logo-Black_Background nfl-playoff-logo

Happy New Year to you all. If you hadn’t caught the last three days in sports…WHERE IN THE HELL HAVE YOU BEEN HIDING?

It’s the “Three Days of Awesome” rant:

  1. No more BCS. Thank God.
  2. The final BCS national championship game had the best ending since Texas-USC in 2005. I hated USC ever since. So glad they aren’t winning like they used to.
  3. Auburn losing is retribution for Mizzou. Great effort but they failed like Kansas City. Speaking of KC…
  4. Great job hiring Andy Reid, Kansas City. He’ll never win a Super Bowl with KC. Don’t believe me, look at his resume with Philly.
  5. Andrew Luck has got crazy confidence. I actually thought he couldn’t make the comeback. Thanks for my near heart attack.
  6. New Orleans finally got over the hump and got a playoff road win. Damn shame because the Rams beat the Saints and the Colts.
  7. Shame for Marvin Lewis…best coach in Cincinnati history and still can’t find his first playoff win.  If he gets fired, I won’t be surprised.
  8. The Cotton Bowl had Big 12 written all over it.
  9. Ric Flair must have really whipped the Niners into shape or Jarrett Bush really sucks as a football player. I dislike the Niners but after that, I see why the Packers defense was so bad.
  10. Mizzou’s 2013 team reminds me of the 2007 team…only difference was that this Mizzou team had a better defense.
  11. Clemson and Ohio State equally had enough offense and enough drama for every fan.
  12. A.J. McCarron’s mom needs to shut up. Get over it, your boy’s team got beat and yet you had to watch the national championship because of Katherine Webb’s alma mater.
  13. Somehow it was easy to figure that people would not take too well that a black man would be the head coach at University of Texas-Austin. That’s why boosters and others that donate should NOT have any power. Texas will mess around and do Charlie Strong like how Notre Dame did with Tyrone Willingham, Mississippi State with Sylvester Crooms, and even Kansas with Turner Gill. Racism is still in sports, folks. This needed to be said.

Other than that, the last 3 days were still awesome. More to come soon and Happy New Year.

The A-Train

THE A-TRAIN RANT 3.0!!

It’s time for another great rant coming from the A-Train…you should love this one. Here we go.

  1. Josh Morgan…you are “The A-Train Rant” DUMMY OF THE WEEK, WEEK, WEEK! Hope and pray that Mike Shanahan give you the pink slip and tell you, “Today is your last day as a Redskin, please turn in your playbook.”
  2. Speaking of football, good win for the Jeff Fisher and the St. Louis Rams. Got that first win and RGIII took his first loss, also means that you shut up John Madden…at least for this week.
  3. Andrew Luck is a beast? Too soon???
  4. Good Sunday to have Cardinals at the end of it. The St. Louis baseball team beat the Dodgers keep a one game lead for the second wild card spot (may have meaning after all). Shoutout to the Arizona football team (too young to really remember the team being in St. Louis), going into Foxboro and knocking off the New England Patriots in their home opener. 1st time any team has beaten the Pats on their home field for their opener. Tom Brady still wondering, “We lost to Arizona? In our home opener?” Yeah, Tom. You did.
  5. Mizzou will be get the tar and feathers beaten off them for the next two weeks. They are about to learn what the SEC really feels like.
  6. Speaking of the SEC, one of those teams will be in the national championship, again. If not careful…it’s LSU/Bama part 2. People will hate that for life! I for one, would love it all over again. Just keep showing how flawed the NCAA system really is.
  7. After watching Peyton Manning against the Falcons, (BOLD STATEMENT TO MAKE) I think Eli Manning will be better than his brother. At least he’s got one thing on Peyton…more Super Bowls.
  8. The New Orleans Saints need some serious help. But thanks Roger, you screwed up not only them but the NFL as well with your patty cake approach to protect your precious golden-arm quarterbacks. In the illustrious words of Tia and Tamera, “GO HOME ROGER!” I know it was bad. So what!
  9. Back to the NFL, these replacement refs have got to go. I tried to support them last time and now I can’ t take it anymore. I think it was FoxSports.com columnist Jason Whitlock that said on Twitter…”the refs don’t understand the NFL philosophy.”
  10. LA Lakers center Dwight Howard had stated through “a source” on ESPN.com that he never wanted to be hated…Brother, that’s all you did was cause hate. People will hate you regardless. If you are successful or better yet, just because you are black. Yeah I said it. The race card still plays in this world that you and I live in. It’s sad, but true.
  11. Speaking of LA Lakers, Ron Artest (I refuse to call him Metta World Peace) said that he believes the Lakers can go 73-9. Hey Ron, why don’t you just say 82-0? I mean you got the right coach to do it, right? You got Phil…eh…Mike Brown to do it. Plus all those injury-plagued players on your team like Pau Gasol and hell, even Kobe Bryant. What other bums, I mean players do they have…well there is Steve Blake, Jordan Hill, and my favorites Dwight Howard and Steve Nash. Looks like you got all the right pieces in place. All you have to do now is get past the Spurs and Thunder and the Miami Heat (paper champs) and you’re in. Well, that was a good dream to not see unfold. I know we have a season coming up but that damn sure won’t happen. Sorry Laker fans. Keep dreaming!
  12. Oh yes…this is a must. After watching Night of Champions I have come to the conclusion that the WWE wants CM Punk to fight The Rock at Wrestlemania. Just to give this idiot the main event he deserves. Otherwise, he’ll lose the belt at Hell In A Cell. (SIDEBAR NOTE) Good to know that Jerry Lawler is OK and released from the hospital. It would have been a sad day if it was more severe. Now lay off the ropes and just commentate.

ONE LAST THING…SHOUTOUT TO MY HOMEY Twillie Cottingham celebrating a birthday today! Make sure you follow her @MissESPN34…fellas, if  you looking for a lady who knows her sports…she’s one of them. Die-hard fan! (She’s going to hurt me for this)

I’m done. More to come soon. Hopefully a radio show soon. Stay tuned.

Please post your comments below. Greatly appreciate it. Bad comments (that will depend on how I feel) will get the boot.

The A-Train

THE A-TRAIN RANT 2.0!

Time now for another great rant from the A-Train and it goes a little something like this…

(Clears throat)

  1. RGIII is a beast! That’s tough luck for the Rams (PLEASE prove me wrong St. Louis, PLEASE!)
  2. Jay Cutler just needs to shut the HELL up and play some football. BEARS FANS YOU CAN THANK ME LATER.
  3. Dwight Howard will be a hinder the L.A. Lakers…which means no championship for DH12…don’t believe me, ask James Worthy.
  4. The Mizzou Tigers might get only 1 win in the next three weeks…and I’m a Tiger fan.
  5. If the St. Louis Cardinals continue to keep playing so pitiful (yeah even the 2-1 win was pitiful…yet helpful), the Atlanta Braves will have a good laugh and sweet revenge. Trust me…they have not forgotten about last season.
  6. THE WASHINGTON NATIONALS ARE PURE IDIOTS! PURE IDIOTS! You have a top pitcher in Stephen Strasburg and say…”Well, let’s shut him down for the season. Don’t mess up that golden arm.” Manager Davey Johnson seriously doesn’t believe in this theory. He just fooling people that he is for this. Either way, I hope they get swept in the division series.
  7. Gary Bettman and David Stern are the dumbest commissioners in the four major sports.
  8. Bud Selig and Roger Goodell (BELIEVE IT OR NOT) are the smartest commissioners. Sad part…I can’t stand any of them, yet I’m stuck with them. A friend of mine is going to love these previous two statements. I can feel it. **Kanye shrug**
  9. I still have hope for the Baltimore Orioles winning the AL East…baseball needs a true shakeup and Baltimore is it. Hey, it’s going to happen in Boston, except in a bad and negative way.
  10. If replacement refs are keeping the NFL afloat, then just take it and leave them alone. It could be worse, no refs, no NFL games. SO BE THANKFUL.
  11. So Jim Calhoun retires…I wish the best for him. 29 seasons, 3 national championships…a good legacy for the most. Now, the stuff behind the scenes that were not so great, is between him, the University of Connecticut, the NCAA and God. Well…good luck to Kevin Ollie. But seriously though, a one-year trial??? He only gets one year to prove himself…C’mon man!
  12. As a sports gamer (person who plays sports video games for slow ones) I like EA Sports…BUT if they dare put out NBA Live 13 this fall, they should never make basketball video games again. IT’S ATROCIOUS, IT’S AN ABOMINATION TO FANS! Plus, that interview w/ the Live engineer…FORGET IT, I REFUSE TO DO IT, don’t ask why. Thanks.
  13. Speaking to EA Sports games…this is directed to EA Sports: If you know how to make good football games, WHY DO YOU KEEP COMING UP SHORT ON BASKETBALL, WHY? ASK YOURSELVES THAT, PLEASE! IT’S A DAMN SHAME!
  14. On a lighter note, shoutout to Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls…I’ll let you see it for yourself. He’s a class act in my opinion. More athletes need to be humble. REAL TALK. Here you go: http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/nba-ball-dont-lie/derrick-rose-breaks-down-tears-shoe-company-product-130215847–nba.html
  15. UPDATE: Good to hear that Jerry “The King” Lawler is back after having a heart attack on last Monday’s LIVE Raw broadcast. The thing I don’t like is that the doctors that treated him said…HE CAN WRESTLE AGAIN? You’re serious? King, listen. You have had a storied career, but it’s really time to hang it up. Go back to the announcer’s table and stay there. GLUED TO THE SEAT! THANK YOU!

After that, I’m spent. Good day, folks.

The A-Train