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Will the NCAA punish North Carolina basketball?

The NCAA was more than happy to deny USC and Ohio State chances to play in football bowl games, but will they take on North Carolina basketball? Remember that the NCAA has a financial interest in March Madness, but not in the BCS or the bowls.

The academic scandal at North Carolina appears to go back decades, but the latest report doesn’t even go into whether specific athletes at North Carolina were involved. The report looks like a joke for trying to avoid the issue of athletes taking fraudulent classes.

Now, will the NCAA even bother taking a look?

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Money talks in college football

With the announcement that Maryland and Rutgers will be joining the Big Ten, we have yet another example of how tradition and the needs of student athletes no longer matter at all in big time college sports. It’s all about money. In this case, it was all about the Big Ten Network and gaining exposure to large TV markets on the East Coast.

On one level the entire situation is pathetic. Does a weakened Big Ten football conference really need to add a weak Maryland program or a Rutgers program that will struggle to stay competitive in the Big Ten? Adding Nebraska made sense from a football standpoint. But this is all about money and markets. I guess once we all acknowledge that it’s a little easier to accept. There’s an arms race going on and the Big Ten sees these dollars as adding to their muscle for the long term.

Meanwhile we have more stories of academic fraud at North Carolina. Read this article and it will make you sick, especially when you consider that UNC hoops is the darling of the NCAA and the national media. Will the NCAA be just as hard on this basketball program? Will it dare vacate a National Championship for the NCAA Tournament that the NCAA controls? How much has money corrupted the holier-than-thou NCAA? With a whistle blower coming forward at North Carolina the NCAA may be forced to address one of its sacred cows.

If Ohio State, Penn State and USC can get crushed by the NCAA for football violations, then North Carolina should get punished for basketball violations and academic fraud.

But frankly the whole system of punishment sucks. Ohio State had a minor scandal over players getting tattoos, and now they might be shut out of a national championship game against Notre Dame. Maybe the NCAA doesn’t care as the BCS controls football championships, but a matchup between Ohio State and Notre Dame in the National Championship could have been the most watched college football game ever give the huge followings from both schools.

Meanwhile, the NCAA is strong-arming former Miami football players in their investigation of a rogue booster there. What’s worse – some Miami kids getting free steaks and yacht trips or “student-athletes” at North Carolina taking no-show classes where a student adviser wrote their papers?

Finally, ESPN has won the rights to televise the new college football playoff for 12 years for a reported fee of $470 million per year. Does anyone expect things to get better? At least the BCS will get better as we can have four teams fighting it out instead of only two. Hopefully it will expand to eight teams at some point. But the dollars keep getting bigger for what’s supposed to be amateur sports.

Les Miles very nearly sealed his own fate and other Saturday thoughts

TUSCALOOSA, AL - NOVEMBER 07:  Head coach Les Miles of the Louisiana State University Tigers against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Bryant-Denny Stadium on November 7, 2009 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

There have been rumblings in Louisiana that Les Miles has worn out his welcome as coach at LSU. Some have written this off as ridiculous — “He won a national title in 2007!” — but Saturday night was a harsh reminder of why the LSU faithful have lost a lot of, um, faith, in Miles.

The Tigers survived Saturday night in a 30-24 win against half of North Carolina’s team. And it really wasn’t even the good half. Worse still is that LSU very nearly blew a 30-10 lead in the fourth quarter to do it.

Give a lot of credit to the North Carolina players who know the NCAA rules. They played with a lot of heart down the stretch and were two dropped passes and a probably-missed pass interference call away from winning a game nobody gave them a chance in.

But the story here is Miles and the Tigers nearly blowing the game. The Tigers failed to put the game away, and star defensive back Patrick Peterson’s postgame quote said a ton. When asked why he wasn’t on the field for a 97-yard touchdown pass that gave North Carolina life, Peterson responded, “I guess he thought we had a comfortable lead.”

The “he” in that sentence is defensive backs coach Ron Cooper, but how does that decision not go through Miles? If it doesn’t, it should. The head coach doesn’t need to micro-manage his assistants, but he does need to make sure his best players are on the field while the game is still in any kind of doubt. Miles needs to at the very least contend for an SEC title this year, or it could be his last.

Now some other thoughts on the first Saturday of college football. Read the rest of this entry »

Decade Debate: 6 Greatest Sports Rivalries

The word rivalry is defined as “competition for the same objective or superiority in the same field.” Rivalries exist in all facets of life, but they are no more apparent than in the world of sport. With the end of the decade looming, here are the six most intense rivalries of the last ten years.

6. Tiger Woods vs. Phil Mickelson

Competition between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson may not produce the mystique that Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus once did, but their rivalry has been exciting nonetheless. Without Tiger Woods, professional golf’s popularity would be a mere morsel of what it is today. The man has won 14 majors, holds his own tournament (the AT&T National), designed two beautiful courses, is the only golfer with his own video game, and garners public intrigue on the same level as world leaders. Still, his status as figurehead of professional golf wouldn’t have any merit without some stiff competition. Enter Phil Mickelson, Tiger’s only adversary with any staying power. When Mickelson won the 2000 Buick Invitational, he also officially ended Tiger’s streak of consecutive tournament wins at six. Over the years, Mickelson would hire Butch Harmon, Tiger’s former coach, and joke about Tiger’s use of “inferior equipment.” Still, their rivalry always remained amicable, even as Phil won his first major in ’04 (The Masters), the PGA Championship in ’05 another Green Jacket in ’06. During this year’s Masters, Tiger and Mickelson were finally paired together in a major event. Trudging down the final back nine at Augusta, the two golfers put on a show that thankfully lived up to the hype. –- Christopher Glotfelty

Read the rest of this entry »

The ACC takes a hit with NC’s upset of VA Tech

In the past two weeks, Frank Beamer’s Hokies have seen their season implode. After winning five straight to get to 5-1 on the season (they dropped the opener to Alabama), Virginia Tech was soundly defeated by Georgia Tech last Saturday and then was shocked last night by North Carolina, 20-17.

How do the Tar Heels walk into Blacksburg and earn a victory you ask? Well it helps when quarterback Tyrod Taylor starts the game 3-for-9 passing and finishes with only 161 yards and no touchdowns. He was highly inaccurate all night and often put the Hokies in third-and-longs by taking unnecessary sacks instead of getting rid of the ball.

That said, North Carolina’s defense deserves credit for pressuring Taylor the entire night and not allowing freshman running back Ryan Williams to run wild. He finished with 96 yards on 23 carries and no touchdowns, which is certainly respectable, but a far cry from some of his previous outings.

The Tar Heel defense stepped up big time in the first half while their offense sputtered, and then held on in the second half when the Hokies tried to make a run. Jheraine Boyd’s 13-yard touchdown pass from T.J. Yates right before the half gave North Carolina the momentum and confidence it needed to compete with the Hokies in the second half.

Not to crap on North Carolina’s accomplishment, but this wasn’t a favorable outcome for the ACC. VA Tech’s loss will likely drop them out of the top 25 and probably out of the top 15 of the BCS standings. That leaves Georgia Tech as the only ACC team in the top 15, and chances are the conference won’t have two BCS bowl teams.

But as they say: Oh, well. For a struggling North Carolina team to upset Virginia Tech on the road is quite an accomplishment and the bigger picture in the ACC shouldn’t tarnish what the Tar Heels did last night.

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