Thinking Out Loud: Chaos ensuing in the NCAA

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Thinking out loud ... while wondering if I must choose between two evils, shouldn’t I pick the one I haven’t tried before?

The smoke signals have been sent from Mount Indianapolis, the headquarters of that erstwhile collegiate pseudo-governing body, the NCAA.

NIL, you’re officially on notice. Boosters, beware, if you know who you are.

Not that it will mean anything in the immediate picture, really. The tendency to view the NCAA with skepticism is a long-held character trait, considering the lack of real oversight over their membership in an ever-changing landscape.

Name, image, and likeness (NIL) – which allows current student athletes to literally “cash in” on their own identities without risking eligibility – has been a part of the college sports world since last July. Good for the student athletes to be able to earn a buck off their own backs…but a nightmare for the world of amateur sports.

For the most part schools and athletic departments seem to have handled their business as best they can – with zero guidance from Mount Indianapolis.

But true to form, the NCAA – a reactionary organization if there ever was one – finally mashed some guidelines together for schools to follow…or at least attempt to follow. And only because the cry from most of the membership, including a few in the Power 5, was getting louder.

More specifically, the NCAA is attempting to rein in boosters from “play-for-pay” schemes in some places that have deeper pockets than others. These “collectives” that have sprung up around the country are usually put in place by boosters who want nothing more than to secure a highly rated athlete for a chance at gridiron (or hardwood) glory.

Boosters are not allowed to contact recruits. Student athletes are not supposed to play for a paycheck in college. Most assuredly, that has already happened in many places…and it will be hard to undo what has already been done.

Thanks for that, NCAA. But now, before it gets completely out of hand, drawing a line in the sand over what is permissible and what isn’t had to be done. The trouble here…is it seems the very definition of just who qualifies as a ‘booster’ and what constitutes ‘play for pay’ remain unclear.

The NCAA sez their new goal is not to go after student-athletes accepting these deals, but rather to curb the enthusiasm of the boosters willing and able to pay it out. There are always going to be rogue boosters, fighting for the alma mater’s glory and bragging rights over their rivals...if nothing else.

NIL deals struck before this week will largely be left untouched unless an arrangement appears to be particularly egregious.

And what exactly is egregious? I fondly recall the good ol’ days of simple $100 handshakes by rich alumni to running backs who scored touchdowns on a Saturday afternoon or hit the game-winner on a basketball court Saturday night. Sigh.

Back to the netherworld we go. Big East commissioner Val Ackerman and Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith have co-chaired the working group established to keep fixing what the NCAA itself can’t – or won’t – do.

In the meantime, lawyers and agents representing athletes and boosters are drooling at the prospect of going to court to defend their clients’ “rights.” Yeah, this’ll go well.

Pardon the skepticism, but there isn’t much of a track record for success here. The cat’s out of the bag. Ever actually tried to put a cat back IN a bag? Just sayin’.

Deion Sanders, aka “Coach Prime” and the head coach at Jackson State, tweeted this week: “When you start paying athletes like they’re professionals, you get athletes acting like they’re professionals.” He also said, “money makes you more of who you really are.”

Hmmm. Anyone else detect the irony here?

Love the symmetry involved with Brown’s NCAA lacrosse tournament matchup with defending national champ Virginia Saturday in Providence. The Bears are seeded 8th after having won the Ivy regular season title and are one of six Ivies to reach the postseason.

Brown alumnus and former head coach Lars Tiffany won the men’s lax natty last year at UVa and coached the Bears to their last Final Four in 2016 before bolting to Charlottesville.

The local nine at Bryant is gearing up for another postseason push. The Bulldogs have a streak of winning at least a share of the NEC baseball title over nine straight seasons…the current edition is in 3rd place, two games out of first with five league games remaining.

As the portal turns: St. John’s this week added 7-1 NBA Africa product Mohamed Keita, who prepped at Winchendon Academy and averaged more than three blocked shots per game last year.

Seton Hall added Pitt transfer guard Femi Odukale, a 6-5 sophomore who was also considering URI among his destinations. He played with the Pirates’ Kadary Richmond at Brooklyn’s South Shore High School.

Don’t look now, but Butler has also loaded up for next season under new/old coach Thad Matta. After adding former NC State big Manny Bates last week, this week it was ex-Purdue guard Eric Hunter deciding to become a Bulldog. Hunter led the Big 10 in shooting threes last year, hitting 52%.  He’ll ostensibly take over at the point for Aaron Thompson.

UConn has added former Texas A&M guard Hassan Diarra to the backcourt, joining East Carolina transfer Tristen Newton and ex-Virginia Tech guard Nahiem Alleyne. Diarra will have three years of eligibility remaining, after averaging just over six points per game this past year.

247sports.com has a “quality” ranking of the top 50 teams in the transfer portal over the past six weeks – Providence ranks #2 nationally (behind Texas Tech), with Georgetown 4th, Creighton 6th, UConn 9th, St. John’s 10th, Butler 12th and Seton Hall 31st. Bryant made the Top 50 at #40, with UMass at #15.

URI added a commitment from 6-9 forward Rory Stewart, a London native and former teammate of new Ram recruit Jeremy Foumena. Stewart played at Orangeville Prep in the Toronto area, which was the one-time pre-Providence stop for former Friar big man Kalif Young.

Big ups to former Friar cross country star Emily Sisson, who last weekend won the USATF Half Marathon in a time of 1:07:11, setting a new American record.

My buddy “Big E” sez he and Mrs. E got a new puppy this week. Named it “Six Miles.” So he can tell his doctor he walks six miles every day.

Think the whole TB12-to-Miami story was a farce? Was it just a coincidence that both he and Sean Payton showed up at Stephen Ross’ F1 race in Miami last week?

Not for nuthin’, but Ross reportedly generated as much money from hosting that race than he earns from a full season of hosting fans at Dolphins’ home games.

Wonder if TB12 kicked himself over attending the auto race rather than the Kentucky Derby…where 80-to-1 Rich Strike became the second-highest longshot to ever win at Churchill Downs in 147 years.

I will say this for the GOAT – he’s stuck around long enough to finally learn what it’s like to sign a contract that pays him more than he’s worth. Ten years and $375 million from Fox – to call games (once he finally retires) that we’d all watch anyway.

Brilliant. And Fox? Stupid is as stupid does. Signing him for that kind of quid because if they didn’t, someone else would.

What jumps out about the Patriots’ schedule? Three of their first four games are away. There are six 1:00 pm kickoffs at home. They have four primetime games in a row (and five overall) later in the year, which means the TV types think the Pats will improve – or at least be in the hunt – as the year goes along.

And Buffalo still has zero punts. Too early?

Initial thoughts: The Patriots will be fortunate to be 10-7 like they were a year ago. But Rookestradamus pegged them for 9-8 last season, and they finished slightly better…so is 11-6 doable? The schedule is similar in set up to 2014…which WAS a Super Bowl year, ya’ know.

Ready for the Globalization Partners Atrium at Gillette Stadium? Construction is officially underway on the $225 million project, with the anchor to be a new, 218-foot lighthouse tower and a completely glass-enclosed atrium with unobstructed views of the field. Membership in this “club” will be offered to all season ticket members.

Very saddened to learn of Gino Cappelletti’s passing this week at age 88. My goodness, what a career and life The Duke had – the AFL MVP in 1964 and that league’s all-time leading scorer as a receiver and kicker…Mr. Patriot…broadcast partner with Gil Santos. How he is not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame is a travesty.

Cappelletti was one of three players who played in every game (as a Patriot) in the AFL’s history, along with George Blanda and Jim Otto – two Oakland Raider Pro Football Hall of Famers.

Gil and Gino. They were the radio duo for 24 years. We grew up with them. And those of us old enough to recall the American Football League knew Gino could play. I have enjoyed the stories posted in (and off) social media this week about the many friendships he forged through his 60-plus-year association with the Patriots.

The stories he told. The things he saw and knew all about. The people he met and played with. The advice he gave. He was the “gentleman’s gentleman,” an apt description of his demeanor and the way he lived his life.

Imagine the shock and surprise when a poll of MLB execs this week revealed the Red Sox’ near-historic fail thus far to be the biggest overall disappointment this season. And that tops the Cincinnati Reds’ 6-23 start out of the gate, too.

This week, MLB.com reminded – in Boston’s 121-year history, only 16 teams have managed to win just 11 of their first 30 starts, including this one. Those first 15 teams didn’t reach the postseason. Gee, thanks. The summah is ovah.

Bradfo wrote about it this week, and he is right – the time is now for the organization to make its intentions known on the contractual futures of Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers. The silence is deafening…and quite ominous.

It’s embarrassing for a team with that kind of payroll to be this bad. It’s embarrassing for players with ability and hefty paychecks to ALL be underperforming, except for Bogaerts and Devers. And you don’t want to pay to keep the achievers/overachievers around?

A big market team with a small market mindset. It’s what we have now. We’re Northeast Cincinnati.

The same poll of MLB execs also said they would not be surprised to see Bogaerts traded (traded!) before the deadline this summer. St. Louis could be an early candidate as a landing spot. Say it ain’t so, Chaim.

But you go right ahead and spend your money on those expensive tickets and concessions at Fenway, and sing “Sweet Caroline” till you’re blue in the face with the pink hats. While ownership sings “show me the money” and says bye-bye to Bogey.

In the meantime, if you care to watch decent baseball this summer at the least…try the New York Yankees. Gulp. Excuse me while I throw up. NY has won 22 of its first 30 for the first time since ’03…the season Aaron “F******” Boone’s big knock against the Sox sent them to the World Series.

Think Aaron Judge regrets turning down the Yankees’ contract extension offer he received before opening day? Neither do I.

Bob DeFelice is the only baseball coach Bentley University has ever had. He’s 80 years old and announced his retirement this past week after 54 years on the job. Qualifies as this weeks’ “wow” and “whoa,” don’cha think?

Love to say I was wrong about the Bruins. I wasn’t. They did come up with strong, gritty, bounce-back games at TD Garden, but they simply don’t have the youth and the speed overall to match what Carolina has. Or had.

The perfection line? Cool to see those guys out there together again, at times looking just like they used to. And therein lies a big part of the problem for the immediate future – they simply aren’t like they used to be.

Blow it up? Not quite. They did reach a Game Seven in the Canes’ series. But I’d ask if Don Sweeney and Cam Neely are the right guys to crawl under the hood for the coming repairs.

Spoken in my best “old man” voice: “35-year-old Al Horford became the oldest Celtics’ player to score 30+ in a postseason game since John Havlicek (at age 37) did it in 1977.” Now, get off my lawn.

Certainly, his performance in Game Four against the Bucks was remarkable, meaningful, necessary…and unexpected. Guess he’s no longer just “Ordinary Al.”

But the Celtics’ inability to rebound…plus Marcus ‘not so’ Smart’s two turnovers in the clutch against Jrue Holiday…cost the C’s dearly in Game Five Wednesday night. A rare case of the moment being too big for the player. Holiday is the first player in 25 years to record a block and a steal (Marcus, hello!) in the last 10 seconds of a postseason 4th quarter.

Please tell me Ime Udoka didn’t draw up those last two plays for Smart. Please tell me a sudden case of stupid didn’t just overwhelm the moment. Don’t you need the ball in the hands of your best player(s) with the game on the line?

The NBA announced this week a whole mess of new awards and trophies, with MVP awards for the Eastern and Western Conference finals named for Larry Bird and Magic Johnson.

But how cool is it though, to have those trophies manufactured by Tiffany & Co. in Cumberland, Rhode Island?

Basketball Hall of Famer Bob Lanier passed away this week at age 73. His left-handed hook shot is one of my favorite memories from learning the game at a much younger age – yes, I still learn today – as I used to mimic his style while beating my brother playing one-on-one in our driveway.

Lanier and his size 22’s (!) nearly willed St. Bonaventure to a natty in 1970, losing in the semis to Jacksonville and Artis Gilmore before the Dolphins lost to powerful UCLA in the championship game. What a battle of big men in that one. Lanier spent 14 seasons in the NBA with Detroit and Milwaukee as well.

The Class of 2022 for the Rhode Island Radio and Television Hall of Fame was named this week – and it has some names you’ll know. Veteran TV sportscasters Frank Carpano (WJAR) and Ken Bell (retired from WLNE and WJAR) will be inducted, along with WPRI Channel 12 meteorologist Tony Petrarca, former WPRO-FM personality David Simpson, former exec and on-air personality Joanie Pfeiffer, long time WLNE news anchor and show host Truman Taylor and the late Doug White from WJAR.

The induction will take place September 15th at the Crowne Plaza in Warwick – for tickets, check the Hall’s website at www.rirtvhof.com.

Speaking of hall of famers, a tip o’ the hat to one of the best – WCVB Channel 5 chief meteorologist Harvey Leonard is retiring from his day-to-day routine after 50 years in the TV biz, which for him got started in Providence at WPRI Channel 12 in the 70’s.

Got this note from reader Ira, on Shohei Ohtani’s batting in the top four of the order at Fenway for the first time since Babe Ruth: “Reminded me of a Jimmy Fund game back at Fenway in the early Sixties. Warren Spahn – a fairly good hitting pitcher – led off for the Braves and pitched the first.”

Love it. Can’t sneak a fastball by anyone these days. If this were an exhibition, I would understand why it wouldn’t have been mentioned. And, because it involved the Braves…not the Red Sox. Great note, Ira.

Interested in having your questions on local Rhode Island sports (and yes, that includes the Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics) answered in a somewhat timely fashion? It’s your chance to “think out loud,” so send your questions, comments and local stories to jrbroadcaster@gmail.com. We’ll share mailbag comments/Facebook posts/Tweets right here!  Would appreciate the follow on Twitter, @JRbroadcaster…and join in on Facebook, www.facebook.com/john.rooke ...

Don’t forget to tune into Providence’s 103.7 FM, every Saturday from 7:00-9:00 am for Cordischi and CoitCall in at 401-737-1287 or text at 37937.