The College Basketball Real-Life Top 25

16. Maryland (24-9) After the Terps ended Duke's 46-game home winning streak last month, nearly 1000 Maryland students engaged in a rowdy celebration on fraternity row, lighting a bonfire and stealing one of the goalposts from the school's football stadium. Police in riot gear were called in to disperse the crowd. (Graduation rate, all students: 63%; basketball players: 13%; black players: 9%)

17. Indiana (20-8) Walking powder keg Bobby Knight shot a friend while grouse hunting in the fall—unintentionally, of course. He was cited for failure to report the incident and hunting without a license. The friend suffered back and shoulder injuries. (Graduation rate, all students: 68%; basketball players: 77%; black players: 67%)

18. Texas (23-8) This fall, Texas officials found themselves defending their decision to give former coach Tom Penders a $900,000 buyout when he departed in 1998. Penders left after allegations surfaced that he had orchestrated the release of former Longhorn Luke Axtell's grades to a local radio station. The deed was allegedly an effort to get back at Axtell, who complained to UT athletic director DeLoss Dodds about the coach. Penders is now coaching at George Washington. Axtell has since transferred to Kansas and Texas has apologized for wrongly suspending him in 1998. (Graduation rate, all students: 65%; basketball players: 17%; black players: 10%)

illustration: Tom Nick Cocotos

19. Tulsa (29-4) Former Oral Roberts coach Bill Self has built Tulsa into a major power. Now fans hope Self doesn't leave for any of the half dozen or so offers that are buzzing around him. He did just sign a seven-year extension. But so did Steve Robinson, just three months before he left Tulsa for Florida State in 1997. (Graduation rate, all students: 56%; basketball players: 56%; black players: 78%)

20. Kentucky (22-9) Coach Tubby Smith suspended Desmond Allison on Selection Sunday after the sophomore forward was arrested on drunken driving and marijuana possession charges. Allison is expected to miss the entire NCAA Tournament. (Graduation rate, all students: 50%; basketball players: 55%; black players: 43%)

21. Connecticut (23-9) Husky point guard Khalid El-Amin marred his team's championship celebration last April by getting arrested for marijuana possession the day after his home state of Minnesota observed "Khalid El-Amin Day." Coach Jim Calhoun called it a "sneaky sting operation," alluding to the fact that Hartford detectives acted on a tip from an on-campus informant. El-Amin pleaded guilty and was sentenced to community service, which he spent speaking to schoolchildren about the perils of drugs. (Graduation rate, all students: 68%; basketball players: 47%; black players: 42%. Athletes make up 24% of all black male undergrads.)

22. Auburn (21-9) A preseason pick to win it all by several publications—including Sports Illustrated—the Tigers have fallen on hard times since star forward Chris Porter's suspension late in the regular season. Porter admittedly accepted $2500 from a Las Vegas?based agent—the senior swingman said he needed the money to help his mother escape eviction. The NCAA is not expected to clear Porter to return in time for the Tournament. (Graduation rate, all students: 66%; basketball players: 27%; black players: 13%)

23. Illinois (21-9) Head coach Lon Kruger dismissed reserve center Fess Hawkins last fall for reportedly failing to attend workout sessions and missing curfews. Hawkins was also overweight and his grades were being reviewed by the NCAA. (Graduation rate, all students: 78%; basketball players: 50%; black players: 67%)

24. Purdue (21-9) Last June, the NCAA punished the Boilermakers' program for violations in connection with the recruiting of former player Luther Clay, who was reportedly given a $4000 "loan" by a booster. As punishment, Purdue will lose a scholarship in the 2000?01 and 2001?02 seasons and was forced to repay a portion of its revenues from the '96 NCAA Tournament—about $80,000. The school also forfeited 24 games it won while Clay was on the team during the 1995?96 season, when the Boilermakers won the Big Ten championship and finished 26-6. (Graduation rate, all students: 67%; basketball players: 53%; black players: 50%)

25. Miami, Fla. (21-10) Known for its troubled football program (the early-'90s Pell Grant scandal is just one example), Miami has also had a tough time with discipline on its hoops team this season—if on a smaller scale. Coach Leonard Hamilton suspended star player Johnny Hemsley twice this season, once for kicking a chair during a game and the second time for unspecified reasons. (Graduation rate, all students: 59%; basketball players: 44%; black players: 42%. Athletes make up 26% of all black male undergrads.)

This poll combines the ESPN/USA Today rankings with NCAA findings on institutional ethical conduct, graduation rates, and exploitation of African American athletes. Graduation rates and enrollment data cover entering freshmen from '89?'90 through '92?'93, all given six years to get degrees.

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