Flagrant Fouls

The College Basketball Real-Life Top 25

16. SYRACUSE (24-8) "The sport is simply too popular to regain its innocence," 'Cuse chancellor Kenneth Shaw told the press in December upon the release of a report by the NCAA's Basketball Issues Committee, which he chaired. The committee proposed changes to clean up college basketball's summer recruiting process, which the NCAA expects to have in place by next fall. If approved, new rules would limit the amount of time coaches can scout players over the summer and prevent coaches from attending summer hoops camps not certified by the NCAA. (Graduation rate, all students: 70 %; basketball players: 27 %; black players: 25 %.)

17. TEXAS (25-8) With lackluster attendance (6195 attended a game against rival Texas Tech in February) and even worse atmosphere (Horns fans were passive even before George W. Bush gave up his courtside seats), UT is looking to renovate its on-campus arena. Plans include putting seats closer to the court and moving the student section nearer to the action. To pay for these improvements, however, the school plans to charge as much as $20,000 per season for the courtside seats. (Graduation rate, all students: 65 %; basketball players: 22 %; black players: 13 %.)

18. UCLA (21-8) Coach Steve Lavin, the Whipping Boy of Westwood, has been under fire throughout his five-year tenure at UCLA, despite his 111-45 record. Most recently, rumors persisted that the school would fire him and hire Rick Pitino. The situation reached its nadir when AD Peter Dalis acknowledged publicly that he had spoken to Pitino about the job (and the AD called ESPN commentator Dick Vitale a "bootlicker" after Dickie V. demanded on the air that the school give Lavin a vote of confidence). Dalis reversed field late in February and promised Lavin that he would remain in his job next season. (Graduation rate, all students: 78 %; basketball players: 60 %; black players: 50 %.)

19. NOTRE DAME (19-9) Irish All-American Troy Murphy should act his age. In October, the 20-year-old was arrested during a police sweep for being in a bar under age. He claims he wasn't drinking, but admits to having had a fake ID. Murphy paid a fine and agreed to perform 40 hours of community service to have the citation removed from his record. He was held from the starting lineup, but played most of the game, in Notre Dame's 73-64 loss to Miami (OH) in November. (Graduation rate, all students: 94 %; basketball players: 86 %; black players: 71 %. Athletes make up 26 % of all black male undergrads.)

20. GEORGETOWN (23-7) The National Invitation Tournament (NIT) was once the class of college hoops postseason tournaments, but it is now a poor stepchild to the NCAAs; just witness Georgetown's reaction to its participation in the smaller tourney. Following three straight trips to the NIT, Hoya coach Craig Esherick hung a banner commemorating his team's invite above the urinals in the locker room. Needless to say, Esherick was somewhat happier to cop an invite to the Big Dance this year. (Graduation rate, all students: 90 %; basketball players: 63 %; black players: 67 %.)

21. INDIANA (21-12) Murray Sperber, an IU English professor and critic of ousted Hoosier coach Bobby Knight, is back on campus this semester. Sperber, a sports fan and chronicler of corruption in college athletics, was among those on the IU faculty calling for Knight's firing last fall. As a result, he received death threats from IU hoops fans who supported the Blowhard of Bloomington despite his various transgressions (among them: choking one of his players). Sperber is teaching two courses this spring, but is not identified as the professor in the course catalog for his protection. (Graduation rate, all students: 68 %; basketball players: 64 %; black players: 25 %.)

22. WAKE FOREST (19-10) How low is the Demon Deacons' profile? Starting forward and hometown boy Josh Howard told Sports Illustrated earlier this season that he didn't even know that Wake Forest was a college growing up. "It's funny, but as a kid I saw the sign for Wake Forest and probably thought it was just a bunch of trees." (Graduation rate, all students: 84 %; basketball players: 44 %; black players: 42 %.)

23. ST. JOSEPH'S (25-6) Each year, the student who dresses as the St. Joe's Hawk at basketball games receives a full scholarship and travels with the team. They should also receive combat pay. In addition to being required to flap the wings of the silly costume throughout each contest (some estimate as many as 4000 times a game), the student/Hawk is a sitting duck for opposing fans. This year, fans at Rhode Island, Drexel, and St. Bonaventure accosted the Hawk—sophomore Sara Brennan—during games. (Graduation rate, all students: 71 %; basketball players: 50 %; black players: 60 %.)

24. WISCONSIN (18-10) A national championship wasn't in the stars for the Badgers last season, but their loss to eventual champion Michigan State in the Final Four sent many of their fans to the moon. Literally. More than 1500 or so Badger fans gathered in downtown Madison to watch the team's 53-41 loss to the Spartans. After it was over, many in the crowd mooned each other and chanted for women to lift their shirts. Meanwhile, in a downright odd ruling, the NCAA suspended sophomore Ricky Bower for four games and 17 practices last month because the school failed to file his high school transcripts with the NCAA eligibility clearinghouse. Under the bizarre penalty, Bower was able to play in games before he could practice. (Graduation rate, all students: 73 %; basketball players: 36 %; black players: 40 %.)

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