The College Basketball Real-Life Top 25

It’s tourney time again—that slice of the sports calendar when most of us turn into casual gamblers without a second thought. But as we fill out our brackets and lay down our cash—embracing vice without hesitation or punishment—let’s remember those college athletes who were penalized for their vices this past year. That is, if you consider taking money for tuition to be a vice or accepting cash for the rent to be improper. As St. John's fans know well, the NCAA sure thinks so, and many collegiate ballplayers have been duly disciplined. (One wonders how that sort of logic extends to an organization that is getting paid $6 billion to televise its amateur tournament.) Other transgressions have occurred, too. Collectively, they are the stuff of the Real-Life Top 25.

1. Duke (27-4) Despite the school's reputation for academic excellence, it is the basketball coach, Mike Krzyzewski, who is its highest-paid employee. Coach K earned a $360,000 salary last year while university president Nan Keohane made $315,000. Krzyzewski is also in the middle of a 16-year, $6.6 million personal contract with Nike. Last summer, three players—Elton Brand, Corey Maggette, and William Avery—left the Blue Devils early for the NBA, the first time that any player has left Krzyzewski's program before their eligibility was up. Coach K was OK with Brand's departure, but whined about the other two, Avery's in particular. "I'm not in favor of William's decision," he said at the time. "We have done extensive research into the NBA for William, and my conclusion was that entering the draft now would not be in his best interest." The response drew anger from Avery's mother, who accused Krzyzewski of selfishness—a rare accusation for the squeaky-clean coach. He shot back with a nasally defense of the campus where they used to shoot the J. Crew catalog: "I think we have allure here. We have one of the great schools, we have an outstanding basketball program and we have great people. To me, that's a heck of a thing to be a part of." (Graduation rate, all students: 93%; basketball players: 82%; black players: 80%. Athletes make up 17% of all black male undergrads.)

2. Michigan State (26-7) State rewarded coach Tom Izzo with contract revisions that will raise his annual salary to more than $725,000 after he led the Spartans to their second straight Big Ten title and a berth in the NCAA Final Four in 1999. But all the money in the world couldn't help the coach keep his star player out of trouble. Last spring, guard Mateen Cleaves was charged with misdemeanor larceny of property worth less than $200 after he allegedly stole a 40-ounce bottle of Bud from an East Lansing 7-Eleven. Former Spartan Antonio Smith, who was with Cleaves, was also charged with malicious destruction of property for allegedly breaking the lock on the store's cooler. The team's fans aren't so disciplined either. Roughly 10,000 Spartan backers were involved in a riot following the team's loss in the Final Four last spring, causing an estimated $145,000 worth of damage. (Graduation rate, all students: 67%; basketball players: 73%; black players: 67%)

illustration: Tom Nick Cocotos

3. Stanford (26-3) Stanford freshman forward Casey Jacobsen dyed his hair blond last summer but let it return to its natural brown before the start of basketball season. "I love dyeing my hair, but there is no way coach [Mike] Montgomery is letting me walk on the court with it like that," he said. Perhaps that kind of discipline is what has kept Cardinal players in the classroom and out of the police blotter. Since Montgomery arrived on campus in 1986, no Stanford recruit has left school early for the NBA or been suspended for any significant amount of time. Ironically, Montgomery succeeded Tom Davis, who reportedly left Stanford because he felt the school's academic standards limited his chances of building a top hoop program. Davis went on to coach at Iowa but is now out of basketball. (Graduation rate, all students: 93%; basketball players: 100%. Athletes make up 15% of all black male undergrads.)

4. Arizona (26-6) In November, a Tucson judge ruled that former Arizona basketball star Miles Simon couldn't sue the school over the leak of his academic records to a newspaper, which Simon claimed caused him public humiliation. Tom Penders left his coaching position at Texas in 1999 after being accused of the same thing by a former player. Meanwhile, Wildcats coach Lute Olson remains in his $500,000-plus position. (Graduation rate, all students: 51%; basketball players: 29%; black players: 22%)

5. Temple (26-5) Owls starting center Kevin Lyde missed a game down the stretch while the NCAA investigated possible rules violations regarding a class he took in high school. At issue is whether his AAU coach paid for the course. The Washington Post last month reported that Lyde, a D.C. native, had admitted that his coach paid for the course. Coach John Chaney questioned the NCAA's nit-picking ways: "Why don't they go back and see if the kid changed his diapers in the crib?" Then again, Chaney also said this when asked about his team's chances in the tournament: "If we believe in God, we believe in God, and that's final." (Graduation rate, all students: 43%; basketball players: 15%; black players: 10%)

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