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Thursday, April 10, 2014

NCAA title game, Julie Hermann's idiocy and other stuff

The NCAA men's basketball tournament lived up to its nickname as always. It's not called "March Madness" by mistake, because it truly is pure bedlam, unpredictability and excitement throughout.

But the title game proved to be the NCAA's biggest nightmare, pitting a program in Connecticut that the holier-than-thou, money-grubbing institution wanted to damage by leveling a probation against it versus a Kentucky program that basically laughs in the face of the NCAA with its "one-and-done" philosophy.

Neither UConn nor Kentucky embody what the NCAA wants from its universities. They're far from being the clean cut, bookworm nerds that the NCAA would love to have. In fact, those two programs are the exact opposite of what the NCAA strongly desires.

Before we go any further, kudos to the performance of UConn's brilliant guard Shabazz Napier, who was clearly the best overall player in the entire tournament.

I told some of my colleagues that I would have voted for Napier as the tourney's Most Outstanding Player win or lose Monday night. He was that good. Napier dominated play more than any March Madness performer since the days of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. When the ball was in Napier's hands, the game was totally in control. You didn't even notice the other nine players on the floor.

However, Napier had his chance to shine after the game and totally flubbed it. Standing next to Jim Nantz in the post-game celebratory confetti, Napier grabbed the mike away from Nantz and asked for everyone's attention _ both inside the "Palace outside Dallas" and the millions still glued to their televisions at home.

"Can I have your attention?" Napier asked. Seriously, I was anticipating him saying something about his mother, who raised Shabazz and his two brothers on her own with a strict, yet soft hand. Nope, that wasn't it. He went off on a very wrong tangent.

Napier said that "you guys put a ban on us and that made us hungry for two years. We were a hungry bunch."

Oh, really? Let's put the blame on the NCAA for the probation and postseason ban. Shame on the bad NCAA for trying to hurt poor old UConn.

In my opinion, the NCAA went too soft on UConn with the one-year probation for the program's failure to live up to the NCAA's new academic performance quotient for graduation.

It was actually part of a three-year probation penalty that the NCAA placed on UConn in 2011 for a ton of recruiting violations, including monetary gifts, free airplane tickets, illegal phone calls, and according to the NCAA's own release "a failure to monitor, by the university, and promote an atmosphere for compliance by the head coach (Jim Calhoun)," as well as "unethical conduct and some secondary violations."

It's a program that has seen its basketball players commit serious crimes while at the school, including sexual assault, theft, you name it.

So Napier blames the NCAA for the ban? Sorry, try blaming UConn for the ban, cheating, lying, stealing, doing whatever it could to get ahead. It started with the administrators who turned a blind eye to the problem child players, went down to the coaches who were doing all the illegal recruiting and continued on down to the players who were stealing laptops and beating up women with no fear of any recourse.

UConn did all those hideous things _ top to bottom _ and deserved a much stiffer penalty from the NCAA. The one-year ban was nothing, because it didn't really hurt the program, considering that the Huskies managed to win the whole thing just a year later.

And are we ever going to find out what the school did under the table to keep people like Napier and Ryan Boatwright at UConn when the sanction was imposed? What would make a kid want to stay when kids nowadays transfer because a girl looked differently at him or he didn't like his philosophy teaching assistant? Something was extremely fishy about those kids remaining there. You can't say it was to get an almighty UConn degree.

So please, Shabazz, if you felt cheated about missing the NCAA Tourney last year, blame the real villains that are still bouncing around Storrs or glorified in retirement like Calhoun. UConn is the main reason why UConn was banned from the 2013 March Madness. Not the NCAA.

And as long as the NCAA enables players to leave after one year of college to apply for the NBA Draft, then coaches like John Calipari will continue to recruit players with the "one-and-done" mentality. And sorry, that's just not good for collegiate athletics, promoting the idea that kids can leave after just one year of school.

Let's face facts. Julius Randle has already left Lexington. There's no need to go back to take final exams. In fact, the future NBA star is a Dallas native. He might have just stayed there after the loss to UConn.

Randle knew he was coming out after one year before the year began. Heck, Andrew Wiggins announced before the Big 12 Tourney that he was not returning to Kansas after his one year. These kids are getting lured by big-time NBA money even if they're not at all ready to play in the NBA.

So those six top Kentucky players all knew they were "one-and-done." Is that college sports? It's certainly not what the NCAA wants to promote.

In that respect, then the March Madness finale was not what the NCAA could have imagined, pitting two of the worse examples of college basketball programs. Maybe the money-hungry, greedy NCAA got what it truly deserved.


Julie Hermann really did it now.

First, the embattled Rutgers athletic director didn't remember being part of her assistant coach's wedding party, the same woman who she threatened to fire at Louisville if the coach managed to get pregnant (the coach did and was fired by Hermann).

Then Hermann said that she didn't know anything about a letter that was signed by the entire Louisville volleyball team, criticizing Hermann's behavior toward the players, using derogatory terms.

Hermann then didn't remember if she spoke to the actual parent of a disgruntled Rutgers football player, who was reportedly bullied and harassed by an assistant coach. She said that she actually spoke to the kid's father _ and those claims were denied by the father. She said it was a "problem in communication."

But there were no problems with Hermann's communication skills last week, when she spoke to a Rutgers Media Ethics and Law class and told them that the world would be a better place if the Newark Star-Ledger would die.

Here's an excerpt of what Hermann told the class:

"If they're not writing headlines that are getting our attention, they're not selling ads – and they die,” Hermann said. "And the Ledger almost died in June, right?”
“They might die again next month,” a student said.
“That would be great,” she replied. “I'm going to do all I can to not give them a headline to keep them alive.”

It would be great if the Star-Ledger, the state's largest newspaper, would die. This comes on the heels of the Ledger having to lay off 167 employees, 40 of which were reporters, some of whom are good friends. Yes, it's real great when newspapers die, Julie.

I have had the misfortune of working for some newspapers when they folded, namely the old Hudson Dispatch in 1991 and the Daily Journal of Elizabeth in 1992. It's not fun. In fact, the feeling is beyond funereal. You walk out of the building for the last time, carrying a box of your belongings and a slice of history with you.

Without question, the newspaper industry is struggling. A lot of papers are now working on shoestring budgets. Since she was hired in controversial fashion by Rutgers last year, Julie Hermann has angered so many people with her words and actions. She certainly hasn't made many friends, especially in the media business.

Simply put, Hermann deserves to be shown the door, but there's no chance she's going anywhere soon, because Rutgers would have to pay her a lot to go away. This was a mistake from the start and it just keeps getting to be even more of a disaster every time she opens her mouth. She must like the taste of her own toes.


Dean Anna hit a home run tonight for the Yankees. I have one question. What's a Dean Anna? I know Dean Martin. Dean Jones, sure. But Dean Anna? That's a new one.

The Mets opened the 2014 season in fine fashion by losing. It's certainly a trend that we're bound to see often this year. GM Sandy Alderson said the team would win 90 games. One scout in Sports Illustrated said they would win 63 games. I tend to think it's somewhere in between there, probably closer to 63 than 90.

Have to give former St. Patrick's of Elizabeth guard Derrick Gordon credit for becoming the first NCAA basketball player to admit that he is gay. Gordon was first at Western Kentucky, then transferred to UMass last year and came out earlier this week. It comes on the heels of Jason Collins of the Nets and future NFL player Michael Sam coming out within the last year. There will be a day when an athlete's sexual preference is not newsworthy. The more that people like Gordon make their feelings public, then perhaps the general public will become more acceptable.


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