Kabongo case highlights need for NCAA reform, weekend picks, more
Is NCAA dragging its feet with Myck Kabongo? NCAA president Emmert says no
UCLA and Texas are both in need of a win, but the Bruins will come out on top
Michigan St. AD Mark Hollis has Texas-sized idea for a season tip-off tournament
NEW YORK -- Texas' 64-41 loss to Georgetown Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden was even uglier than the score. The Longhorns, who are ranked 337th in the country in turnovers per game (19.1), coughed the ball up 22 times against the Hoyas. If it sounds like this team must be playing without a point guard, that's because it is. Myck Kabongo, a 6-foot-1 sophomore from Toronto, has not played yet for Texas this season because the NCAA is investigating whether he received extra benefits from an NBA agent last summer. Kabongo is technically eligible to play, but in reality Texas has no choice but to hold him out. If he plays and is later found to have committed these violations, the Longhorns could be forced to forfeit the games in which he played.
The fact that we are now into December and this case still has no resolution has understandably been a focus of much consternation and criticism. Yet, when I spoke with Texas coach Rick Barnes after the loss Tuesday night, he did not add his voice to that critical chorus, on or off the record. "I honestly don't blame the NCAA for taking so long. They have a tough job to do," he told me. "They want this thing over with just as much as we do. We've just got to do the best we can in the meantime."
It is indeed troublesome that this case is dragging out so long, but that is not the main problem here. The real concern is, we don't know why it's taking so long. Is the NCAA sitting on information in hopes that something else will magically turn up? Is Kabongo, his school or his lawyers holding something back? What information has the NBA agent in question, Rich Hall, turned over or not turned over? If he's the problem, is the NBA Players' Association stepping in? In short, are we witnessing a bravado-infested game of chicken here, or is this a case of an innocent young man mired in red tape? Inquiring minds want to know, but no one is giving us answers.
On Wednesday morning, I brought these questions to NCAA president Mark Emmert, who was in New York to speak at the annual IMG Intercollegiate Athletics Forum. "It's not in our interest to have this drag out," he said, "but it's never the case that people [at the NCAA] sit on all this information, dilly dallying around from August to October, waiting for just the right time to determine whether somebody is going to sit or not. That's not how it works. Sometimes people aren't as forthcoming with the information. I don't mean they're being deceitful, but they're not providing you stuff as readily as you'd like to settle those cases. It's like tax day. I gotta file my taxes, better hurry up and do this. Well, it's time to play, so I better hurry up and give them the information they were looking for. So we get a flood of information at the end."
Is that what is happening with the Kabongo case? Emmert couldn't say. "We have this curious set of bylaws that prohibit our talking about cases in any kind of detail," he said. Notice he is not talking about federal privacy laws, which forbid schools from releasing a student's academic information and other information. He's talking about NCAA rules that don't allow for basic disclosures about the enforcement process. This is foolish. If we don't know what's going on and where things stand, how will we know whom to blame?
Emmert agreed this is something that needs to be changed. As part of the reforms he is trying to get passed early next year, he wants to establish mechanisms that will yield a lot more transparency. The public doesn't need to know all the details about the information that is traveling back and forth, but we do need to know whether said info is currently back or forth.
Here's how Emmert envisions the new setup. "Let's say, and I'm making this up, that we determine there are four stages of reinstatement," he said. "It involves this filing, it involves this kind of solicitation of information, and this kind of response, and this kind of finalization, and then there's a decision. We want to be able to say to the public, this is in stage three. We're waiting for information from the parties at hand. Or I can say, 'It's in stage four. We're cogitating on it and we should have an answer soon.' If it's sitting on our desk, then you are perfectly right to say, 'What are you doing? We're eight games into the season.'"
This idea makes a lot of sense. So why hasn't it been done yet? "Not all members like this idea because they want to control the messaging," Emmert said. "They don't want you [in the media] going to them and saying, 'So you're sitting at stage three. What's the holdup?' If they said, 'it's the NCAA's fault,' then you could say, 'Well, actually they're waiting for something from you.' Some of [the member schools] might not feel quite as warm and fuzzy about that as others."
Keep in mind that as NCAA president, Emmert can't vote on rules, he can't sign anything into law, and he can't stop legislation with a veto. He can only suggest ideas and try to rally spheres of influence to get them passed. He's throwing down the gauntlet on this one, and I hope the schools have the guts to pick up. Everybody agrees that this whole enforcement mess is broken, but nobody can agree on why or how or where. We're enshrouded in too much darkness, which makes the solution obvious: Let there be light.
Creighton at Nebraska, 8 p.m. Thursday. Sneaky good intrastate game. Huskers are coming off a nice win at home over USC, but the Bluejays have too many weapons, especially in the frontcourt.
Creighton 74, Nebraska 69
Temple vs. Duke, Saturday, 3 p.m. Remember when the Owls knocked off Duke last year in Philly? So does Duke.
Duke 78, Temple 65
Arkansas at Michigan, Saturday, Noon. The Razorbacks needed a career-high 33 points from Marshawn Powell to overcome Oklahoma at home and snap a three-game losing streak. Not exactly the kind of momentum you want heading into a road game against a Final Four-caliber team.
Michigan 80, Arkansas 70
Colorado at Kansas, Saturday, 2 p.m. Wait a minute, didn't Colorado leave the Big 12? So hard to keep track of this stuff. This will be the Jayhawks' first game in 10 days, so don't be surprised if they show a little rust.
Kansas 74, Colorado 68
Illinois at Gonzaga, Saturday, 10 p.m. Sure, Illinois is undefeated, but its best win came over Butler in Maui. The rubber hits the road in Spokane, where unlike the Illini, the Zags can beat people inside and out.
Gonzaga 79, Illinois 68
Minnesota at USC, Saturday, 10:30 p.m. I keep waiting for the Trojans to show signs of life, and they keep rolling over and playing dead. Meanwhile, Gophers guard Andre Hollis is evolving into one of the most explosive scorers in the country.
Minnesota 69, USC 60
UCLA vs. Texas in Houston, Saturday, 6 p.m. Both of these teams have been playing terribly of late, so they're both in dire need of a win. The difference is, UCLA has the talent to get it.
UCLA 65, Texas 56
Virginia Tech at West Virginia, Saturday, 4 p.m. The Hokies are undefeated and riding high. The Mountaineers have been struggling. This game is in Morgantown. The pendulum always swings back.
West Virginia 66, Virginia Tech 60
Northern Iowa at George Mason, Saturday, 6 p.m. These teams have six losses between them, and every one has been respectable. UNI lost three during the Battle 4 Atlantis, and the Patriots only lost by one point to New Mexico in the Virgin Islands and by seven to Maryland in D.C. I like the Patriots because they're at home and have a rising star in junior guard Sherrod Wright.
George Mason 64, Northern Iowa 60
UNLV at California, Sunday, 6 p.m. Mike Moser missed UNLV's last game with a hip injury and will get his MRI results today. Even without him, the Rebels' defensive toughness should carry them to a win.
UNLV 74, Cal 68
Last week: 8-2
Season record: 19-11