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Scandals overshadow joy as NCAA prepares to celebrate Final Four

April 03, 2013|By Chris Dufresne
  • Mike Rice has been fired as Rutgers' basketball coach, four months after the athletic director became aware of videos showing Rice hurling basketballs and homophobic slurs at players during practice.
Mike Rice has been fired as Rutgers' basketball coach, four months… (Kevin Rivoli / Associated…)

The NCAA tournament, celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, is desperately hoping to get to this weekend’s Final Four before another scandal breaks.

The odds right now in Las Vegas, where the Pac-12 Conference recently held its postseason championship, stand at about 50-50.

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday have been public relations disaster days for a control-freak NCAA that micromanages the tournament down to the kind of drinking cups (NCAA logo only) that can be carried to press row.

Three events spread out over three days have undermined the soft, piano music backdrop the NCAA so carefully crafts for the Final Four.

Feel-good stories like Wichita State and the broken-leg recovery of Louisville guard Kevin Ware have been overshadowed by shame and embarrassment.

1. Mike Rice and Rutgers. This is administration incompetence at its worst. Athletic director Tim Perenitti sat for months on videotape that showed his basketball coach hurling basketballs and homophobic slurs at players. Pernetti thought a three-game suspension in December would make it go away?

Wrong. Only after ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” revealed the tapes this week did the school wilt to overwhelming pressure and fire Rice.

It’s also interesting that ESPN is the same network that employs basketball analyst Bob Knight, the godfather of tough love who was fired at Indiana for his “outside the lines” behavior.

This appears to be an inside job at Rutgers and all that’s left now is to see how many more officials fall. The “shocked” school president said he didn’t see the tapes until this week. The AD says the president knew months ago of the incidents.

Someone is not coming clean.

The website ajerseyguy.com nominated Rutgers grad James Gandolfini of “The Sopranos” fame to take over as AD. After all, wasn’t Gandolfini’s TV character in the “waste management” business?

2. The Pac-12 and Ed Rush. Larry Scott has enjoyed a near-flawless reign as commissioner but he botched this one. CBS Sports reported Monday that Rush, the league’s coordinator of officials, put out a bounty on Arizona basketball Coach Sean Miller at the Pac-12 Tournament. Rush offered officials $5,000 or a trip to Cancun if they ejected Miller from the game. The Pac-12 conducted an investigation and concluded Rush was joking.

Even if true, Rush’s comments were unacceptable. The problem was Scott issued a tame statement that underplayed the seriousness of the comments.

Scott said things like “discussed the matter with Rush” instead of saying “these comments, even in jest, will not be tolerated by this league.”

Scott got lucky in the sense his crisis came the same day that the Rutgers story broke. Whew. The issue with Rush is probably not over, though, and it’s hard to fathom Rush returning next year in a league that still includes Arizona, Arizona’s fans and Sean Miller.

Expect Rush, who is 72, to quietly retire on a Friday afternoon in May.

3. The NCAA. Don’t worry, the organization in charge of overseeing all these problems is on the case. Oh, wait. USA Today is running a series this week on NCAA President Mark Emmert, and it’s not exactly a clip-and-save for his scrapbook.

Wednesday’s headline, “Troubling Pattern Follows Emmert,” was accompanied by the subhead, “He left scandal in wake on path to NCAA presidency.”

On his way to the top, it seems Emmert left a trail of problems as the former chancellor at the University of Connecticut and Louisiana State.

Jason Lanter, a former president of the Drake Group, which seeks reform in college sports, is quoted in USA Today saying of Emmert, “He is a product of that same system with which he is trusted with reforming.”

Yeah, that pretty much sums the NCAA up.

Now, can we please get to the games, CBS pitchman Jim Nantz and that soft piano music?

ALSO:

Mike Rice fired as coach at Rutgers

Fired coach Mike Rice apologizes for behavior

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