Reality television may be all the rage these days, but you won't see much of it in CBS's coverage of the NCAA college basketball tournament. For a look at the reality of college hoopsthe bloated coaching salaries, the player arrests, the questionable fan behavior, the anemic graduation rateslook no further than the real-life top 25.
1. DUKE (29-4) The Blue Devils have been the NCAA's angels in recent years, but an indiscretion by a former player may cost Duke $180,000 in tournament winnings. According to grand jury testimony, former Dukie and current L.A. Clipper Corey Maggette accepted $2000 from his former AAU coach, Myron Piggie. In pleading guilty in May to a federal conspiracy charge, Piggie admitted to paying five ballers to play on his teams while they were in high school. Maggette, who left Duke after his freshman season, has denied involvement, but federal prosecutors intend to ask him to testify. Depending on his testimony, Duke may have to return money it received for its trip to the 1999 Final Four if it is ruled that Maggette committed an infraction. (Graduation rate, all students: 92 %; basketball players: 75 %; black players: 83 %.)
2. STANFORD (28-2) Stanford athletics is the class of the NCAA. Unfortunately, the same can't be said of the school's basketball fans, who are known for their over-the-line behavior and exhaustive research of opposing players' personal lives. In addition to throwing coins and other objects on the floor at Maples Pavilion when calls don't go Stanford's way, the fans in Palo Alto have been accused of aiming downright offensive vitriol at opponents. Two seasons ago, for instance, the student section chanted "Your son hates you" at USC coach Henry Bibby, who has been estranged from his son, Mike (a star NBA point guard), since the latter was a young boy. This year, a fan reportedly directed a profanity-laced, personal verbal attack at UCLA senior guard Earl Watson as he walked to the team bus following the Bruins' 79-73 upset win over the Cardinal. (Graduation rate, all students: 92 %; basketball players: 100 %; black players: 100 %.)
3. MICHIGAN STATE (24-4) Spartan fans just can't handle success. During the team's 1999 visit to the Final Four, as many as 10,000 people ran through the streets of East Lansing after Michigan State lost to Duke in the semis, setting fires, throwing bottles, and tearing down street signs. According to reports, 136 were arrested during that melee. Last year's championship celebration was much calmer, but still, 61 were arrested after the semifinal and final games. Head coach Tom Izzo has no problem with success, however. The coach was given a new, seven-year contract worth $1.1 million a year for taking the Spartans to the 2000 championship. (Graduation rate, all students: 65 %; basketball players: 80 %; black players: 67 %.)
4. ARIZONA (23-7) Call Tucson "Suspension Central." Center Loren Woods has been suspended twice this yearonce for six games by the NCAA for accepting money from a family friend and again last month by coach Lute Olson for missing practice. Teammate Richard Jefferson was also suspended by the NCAA (for one game) for accepting airfare and tickets to the NBA Finals from NBA legend and NBC announcer Bill Walton, who is also the father of Jefferson's best friend and teammate Luke Walton. Jefferson will also have to pay $281 to a charity of his choice by the end of the season as restitution. Finally, Arizona coaches suspended Wildcat Gene Edgerson for two games in January for complaining about playing time. (Graduation rate, all students: 52 %; basketball players: 17 %; black players: 11 %.)
5. NORTH CAROLINA (25-6) Rival Duke fans are known as the "Cameron Crazies," but it was some 6000 Tar Heel hooligans who started a bonfire and flipped a parked car in Chapel Hill after UNC's surprising 85-83 win at Durham last month. New Carolina coach Matt Doherty, meanwhile, abandoned his duties as the headman at Notre Dame with four years remaining on his five-year contract. Doherty partisans argue that his South Bend deal included a "Carolina clause" that allowed him to leave once a job opened up at his alma mater. (Graduation rate, all students: 82 %; basketball players: 62 %; black players: 44 %.)
6. ILLINOIS (24-7) The Fighting Illini are among the few teams that still cling to their highly offensive mascots. But a group of Illinois faculty, working with the National Coalition on Racism in Sports and Media, is leading a campaign to retire Chief Illiniwek, a student clad in headdress, war paint, and an Indian costume, who performs at Illinois football and basketball games. Faculty activists are threatening to contact potential incoming Illinois student-athletes and dissuade them from attending a school that is so insensitive to Native Americans. The group claimed victory last summer, saying their arguments persuaded Oklahoma coach Kelvin Sampsonwho is part Native Americannot to take the Illinois basketball coaching position, which was open at the time. (Graduation rate, all students: 77 %; basketball players: 40 %; black players: 50 %.)
7. BOSTON COLLEGE (26-4) Coach Al Skinner has led the Eagles to a remarkable turnaround, from 11-19 a year ago to 10th in the country this year. But in college hoops, to paraphrase a popular cliché, comeback's a bitch. Two playerssenior guard Kenny Harley and freshman forward Andrew Bryantwere arrested in January on assault charges stemming from a barroom brawl. The school has said it will not discipline the players until the case has been resolved. At press time, the charges were still pending (a hearing was postponed until April 9) and the Bronx-born Harley was still playing; Bryant is being redshirted. (Graduation rate, all students: 86 %; basketball players: 64 %; black players: 60 %. Athletes make up 46 % of all black male undergrads.)
8. FLORIDA (23-6) UF just can't keep its athletes away from agents. The school plagued by football-player-paying agent Tank Black was at the center of another investigation when New Jersey-based sports agent Andy Miller called former Gator Mike Miller (no relation) 45 times while the latter was still in schoola violation of Florida state law. Prosecutors OK'd a deferred prosecution agreement and the agent paid $1500 in investigative costs (among other small punishments), but the matter still cost him his client. Miller the player was referred to Miller the agent through a summer team coach, and Mike originally agreed to sign with Andy when the small forward turned pro last spring. The summer coach, Bret Bearup, extended Mike a $50,000 line of credit and signed on as his financial adviser. But when the controversy erupted, Miller opted for another agent. He is currently a rookie with Orlando. (Graduation rate, all students: 65 %; basketball players: 55 %; black players: 29 %.)
9. IOWA STATE (25-5) Cyclone coach Larry Eustachy, the highest paid state employee in Iowa, took the concept of March Madness a little too seriously last year. The coach went ballistic at referees during his team's Midwest Regional Final loss to eventual champ Michigan State after he was whistled for his second technical foul. Eustachy unleashed a lip-readable, obscenity-laden tirade on national TV for which the NCAA reportedly planned to suspend and/or fine himuntil the coach apologized. Now, he's a rumored candidate to fill the legendary, and loud, shoes of ousted Indiana coach Bobby Knight. Coincidence? (Graduation rate, all students: 60 %; basketball players: 55 %; black players: 40 %.)
10. KENTUCKY (22-9) Under a stringent alcohol policy adopted by former UK athletic director C.M. Newton in 1998, athletes with pending DUI cases or those convicted of DUI must be suspended from all team practices and competition. The Wildcats applied the policy in the case of Desmond Allison, a starting guard on last year's team, after he was charged with DUI days before the 2000 NCAA Tourney. He has since pled guilty and transferred. This year, though, after junior forward Jules Camara was convicted of DUI in October, the school decided to suspend him for one year and allow him to continue practicing with the team while he appeals the conviction. He can return to action next season with two years of eligibility remaining. (Graduation rate, all students: 51 %; basketball players: 45 %; black players: 29 %.)
11. MARYLAND (21-10) The Terp Twerps got a little carried away in January when ACC rival Duke visited Cole Fieldhouse. As time expired, Renee Boozer, mother of Blue Devil center Carlos, was hit in the head by a bottle thrown by a UM fan. She suffered a concussion. The school issued an apology, but it probably wished its team had shown as much passion on the court that night. Maryland blew a 10-point lead with 54 seconds remaining, eventually losing 98-96 in overtime. (Graduation rate, all students: 63 %; basketball players: 20 %; black players: 11 %.)
12. KANSAS (24-6) The Jayhawks lost out on highly touted recruit DeShawn Stevenson when the Educational Testing Service questioned his SAT scores, which jumped from 450 his junior year to 1150 last year. Even though he claimed he took a test prep course, Stevenson opted not to appeal the decision and entered the NBA draft. He was first-round pick of the Utah Jazz. (Graduation rate, all students:54 %; basketball players: 64 %; black players: 67 %.)
13. MISSISSIPPI (25-7) Apparently, hoops coach Rod Barnes and his fellow Ole Miss coaches wish they weren't in Dixie. Last spring, he and his colleagues endorsed a proposed change to the Mississippi state flag that would remove the symbol of the Confederacy from the upper left-hand corner. The flag became a sports issue at Ole Miss because fans had been seen waving it at sporting events for years before the university opted to ban the practice in 1997 (the ban was challenged and upheld in court, but the flag is still seen at some games). The coaches now say the flag tarnishes the school's image and hinders the recruiting process. The state legislature, however, never acted on the redesign proposal and the controversial symbol remains. (Graduation rate, all students: 49 %; basketball players: 56 %; black players: 50 %.)
14. OKLAHOMA (26-6) Sooners starters Nolan Johnson and J.R. Raymond were arrested on misdemeanor larceny charges in June for allegedly stealing three DVDs worth about $60 from a local Wal-Mart (the charges are still pending). Raymond was suspended for three gamestwo of them exhibitionsfor the incident. Later, he was dismissed from the team indefinitely for an undisclosed rules violation (speculation is that he may have failed a team drug test). Johnson was not suspended. (Graduation rate, all students: 45 %; basketball players: 0 %; black players: 0 %.)
15. VIRGINIA (20-8) College coaches have all kinds of perks in their contractsfrom radio and TV shows to dubious teaching postsbut Cav coach Pete Gillen was promised a building when he signed his seven-year, $3.8 million contract in 1998. A new arena for UVA, which plays in the smallest (and, perhaps, loudest) arena in the ACC (capacity: 8457), is apparently a priority for Gillen. The school is looking for private donors to fund a 15,000-seat, on-campus arena (estimated price tag: $125 million), even though the Cavaliers only have 4500 season-ticket holders. (Graduation rate, all students: 92 %; basketball players: 55 %; black players: 55 %.)
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 Hawksophomore Sara Brennanduring 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 %.)
25. IOWA (22-11) From the Grass-Isn't-Always-Greener Department: Hawk- eyes headman Steve Alford shocked the hoops world last fall when he said he wouldn't be interested in succeeding his former coach Bobby Knight at his alma mater Indiana. Truth is, he could never match his current deal elsewhere. His contract, which runs through 2004, reportedly pays him a base salary of $585,000, plus $950,000 in incentives based on regular-season wins (minimum 22), Big Ten regular-season and tournament championships (the latter of which Iowa won on Sunday), NCAA championships, and graduation rates (at least 70 %). That's a possible $1.535 million per annum for those of you scoring at home. (Graduation rate, all students: 63 %; basketball players: 42 %; black players: 50 %.)
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 '90-'91 through '93-'94, all given six years to get degrees.
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