Tate: College basketball needs some fixin'

“This soundtrack is out of sync.” — My view from inside

Times change, and it’s hard to pinpoint exactly when it happened ... like realizing that a land line was no longer needed ... or when the 6 o’clock TV news lost its relevancy ... or when I soured on basketball.

It was left to a terrific writer, ESPN.com’s Dana O’Neil, and her interview with Mike Krzyzewski, to explain my feelings. Quoting O’Neil:

“Sure, high school kids play for their school, but the real aim isn’t to win a state title; it’s to star in the summer.

“Kids play here, there and everywhere, yet rarely does anyone talk about who actually won a tournament. They talk about which player ‘blew up,’ about who made the biggest name for himself — not for his team.”

This diva attitude flows into the college game, where offseason movement resembles the Oklahoma land rush. Krzyzewski discussed college as an “extended-stay hotel” for players:

“You see it sometimes with a one-and-done type of thing,” the Duke coach told O’Neil. “A kid can enter school and just be thinking he’s in a sort of extended-stay hotel instead of unpacking his bags and being part of a culture. That’s what they’re accustomed to with AAU. Where is my home? Who am I? Who am I playing for? They come to college, and where have they played? They’ve played in Venice Beach or been to the Nike Global Games, but who have they played for? Usually themselves.”

We now are moving through a three-month period of massive shuffling. What are we supposed to think when another 400 collegians transfer and 40-odd underclassmen elect to turn pro? The college game goes forward without more than 100 of its premier players having abandoned their degrees. Nobody can wait to find his level. And college coaches, including the UI’s John Groce, would miss an opportunity if they didn’t try to patchwork their teams the way Wichita State and Iowa State and Missouri did. The right combination of transfers can work wonders.

This soundtrack is out of sync. The culture doesn’t fit in with the real world.

Recruiting emphasis has gone completely out of whack. There’s something wrong when Kentucky becomes so dominant in one-and-done madness. The win-now expectations of fans have lost touch with reality. Coaching salaries have gone over the edge. And the rush to build costlier facilities than your neighbor is extravagant madness.

My early years trained me for this rat race, but I now find myself habitually chasing a foreign-to-me model where most of the participants, down deep, are busting to be somewhere else.

Let me start over and I, like them, would be somewhere else, too. But how do you escape this whirlwind?

Purdue’s hot topic
It’s unfortunate that Purdue’s backup center, Croatian Sandi Marcius, got caught in a bind, but reasonable folks will side with AD Morgan Burke and coach Matt Painter on this Boilermaker controversy.

Marcius, one of thousands desiring more playing time, elected to take advantage of the post-graduate transfer rule. And Purdue gave Marcius his release. OK, so far.

Only one problem: Marcius hasn’t quite graduated. He needs two summer courses for his degree and thereby gaining eligibility somewhere else. The extra schooling reportedly will cost about $7,000. And Burke said simply (pardon the paraphrase):

“If you ain’t playing, we ain’t paying.”

It’s not that they can’t afford it. But why should Purdue be loyal to someone whose loyalty is being exported? On the UI campus, some $10 million is annually handed out by the DIA for scholarships, and part of that might go to athletes who have completed their eligibility. That’s fine. But if they’re going to play for someone else, that should conclude the UI’s responsibility.

Around the horn
Illini non-revenue sports are battling treacherous outdoor conditions and, if they aren’t winning, they’re making it interesting.

— Mike Small’s golfers possess another Big Ten title as they head for a difficult regional that requires them to finish in the top five in order to reach the 30-team NCAA finals. Illinois is one of six to make the last five NCAA finals.

— With Mike Turk’s trackmen vaulting to No. 22, both UI men’s and women’s teams will be ranked as they take a week off before competing at the Big Ten Outdoor Championships in Ohio.

— Terri Sullivan’s softballers, mired earlier in a nine-game losing streak, carry nine straight wins into the weekend series here against Ohio State. See you there.

— Brad Dancer’s unranked tennis team probably will  have to beat No. 16 Vanderbilt on the Commodores’ courts in Nashville next weekend to reach the 16-team NCAA finals here. That is assuming the UI and Vandy pass opening tests next Friday.

— The Parr twins are batting up a storm as Illinois — at Michigan State this weekend — seeks one of the six spots in the Big Ten tournament at Minneapolis. Jordan drove in seven runs, smashing two monstrous homers against SIU on Tuesday, and Justin is batting .430 with a 28-game hit streak. Since 1950, only two Illini have topped .430, Larry Sutton at .434 in 1991 and Darrin Fletcher at .497 in 1987. Enjoy them while you can. Like Thomas Pieters, they’ll soon be pros.

Loren Tate writes for The News-Gazette. He can be reached at ltate@news-gazette.com.

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calvin wrote on May 03, 2013 at 7:05 am

agree to all Loren........think I lost my appetite when Memorial Stadium cost 115 million to renovate......probably a bargain by today's standards............and do I really give a damn what a 16 or 17 year old thinks about this college or that college

smokn69 wrote on May 03, 2013 at 9:05 am

Welcome to the 21st century this is not 1950's anymore.

OKOMIS wrote on May 03, 2013 at 10:05 am

Most old-timers think things were better in the old days…. “they don’t make cars like they use to”… thank God… there is 100 times more parity now… now the right aggressive AD and/or head coach can turn a program around quickly…. I guess some like the old days ( big 2 little 8 ) days of the past….

jjohnson wrote on May 03, 2013 at 1:05 pm

Yes, they can turn a program around, but to call it the "University of [whatever]" can be nothing but a fraud. How many of those Kentucky one-and-done's ever attend a second semester class?

OKOMIS wrote on May 03, 2013 at 2:05 pm

It goes both way…. Leaning on players to transfer “out” to make room on your scholarship cap…. Or head coaches whoring themselves out to the highest bidder doesn’t exactly encourage a rah rah loyalty…  and I wasn’t talking about one and done’s… but how many of those old Bear Bryant 4 year guys ever attend any class… Joe Namath was treated just like any other student???

IlliniMike05 wrote on May 04, 2013 at 1:05 pm

Pretty much all of them, because Kentucky's APR is pretty good. They know their players are going to be one-and-done so they do a good job of making sure they complete that final semester so they leave "on track" to graduate.

People need to quit making Kentucky out to be the boogeyman of college basketball. The one-and-done isn't a rule Calipari came up with; it's not even a rule he likes. (In fact, it's not even an NCAA rule; it's an NBA rule, one that not even THEY like, owners or players, but since it was a minor issue it was shelved during the lockout negotiations). They're probably cheating *less* than anyone else, since more blue-chippers want to play there than he has scholarships for.

AlamoIllini wrote on May 03, 2013 at 1:05 pm

Don't always agree with Loren Tate, but this "new culture" hit a cord with me. 

I am old enough to remember the last time the ILLINI won a national championship in football in the 50's and when the pro's were hyped in a few pages in the back of the Street & Smith's College football mag, about the only one on the stands.  Been to Rose Bowls and Super Bowls.  But about 10 years ago mentally walked away from pro sports, especially football, the millionaire pre-madonna's, not all but many, who are or look like thugs with long hair and beards, the drugs...my Sunday afternoons now are void of this past ritual.

I have found that my interest in the college game is going the way of the pro's too. As Tate said, it to has become more about the individual players than the team and getting ready for the pro'$.  I watch less and less of it. I eagerly awaited the BTN to eliminate the need to go to sports bars down here in SA to watch the ILLINI, now I barely turn it on. Like the pro's, it is becoming more  about entertainment, individual promotion, and money both for the programs and the players.  Some feel it is better game today, I don't .  

                                                                                                                               

There is a quote the movie, No Country for Old Men...You can't stop what coming, it ain't all about you.  That's vanity.  Bingo, you got me!  

                                                                                                                                         

smokn69 wrote on May 03, 2013 at 2:05 pm

So if i have long hair and have a beard I'm a thug uh oh maybe i have a few tatoo too boot . And also Alamo sir were you the same person that yelled at me and my son last year at the Illini vs Western Michigan to sit down when we were standing up and cheering for the Illini football team....... Dang young   Whipper snappers anyways!!!!!!!

OKOMIS wrote on May 03, 2013 at 4:05 pm

Some people long for the “good ‘ole Kentucky” days… you know… Adolph Rupp’s time… when everyone knew their place….

AlamoIllini wrote on May 03, 2013 at 7:05 pm

Smokin69: 

I didn't know we had anyone on the board who played in the NFL or NBA, if you do please read my comment, I said not all, but many who are or look like thugs....  In your case without seeing you on the field or the court as to appearance and conduct, it is pure conjecture. But with the beard, long hair, tatoos, and if you by chance have an earing, based on the authority on the subject, who was at Texas Tech, he might say, you're possibly....a pirate.  Just pulling your leg..ah, your beard!

No that wasn't me, I didn't get up the CU for any games.  But, if I had at 73, I still stand through FB/BB games. Have friends who are Aggies, you know the 12th Man, stand before, during, and after their games. 

Maybe next year at MS or AH, we stand together.  GO ILLINI!!

AI 

namber wrote on May 04, 2013 at 9:05 am

I know that this would never happen and the law suits over it would be never ending, but I would love to see college go back to freshmen ineligibility.  I think this would put the games back into the hands of college students.  I would also like to see Knight's ideas on scholys base upon graduation be implimented.

IlliniMike05 wrote on May 04, 2013 at 1:05 pm

Illinois didn't win a national championship in the 1950's. As for the rest of what you said, it reminds me of a Ned Flanders quote about a "simpler time that only exists in the minds of us Republicans."

AlamoIllini wrote on May 04, 2013 at 11:05 pm

The 1951 ILLINI football team  is recognized as national champion with one or two other teams.  Wikipedia as well as other sites indicate such. 

I don't know what your quote referencing politics has to do with the discussion of the topic of Tate's article on the changing college game?  Since, I watched J.C. Caroline, Johnny Unitias, Dick Butkus, Charley Taylor, Jim Brown...in the pro's and had friends play on the Packers under Lombardi and on the Lakers and Knicks, in my opinion, I  prefer that era of players and the game over  today's.  If you think today's NFL and NBA is now or changing for the best, fine!  You can have my Super Bowl and NBA championship seats.

AI

 

 

IlliniMike05 wrote on May 06, 2013 at 10:05 am

The Simpsons quote had nothing to do with politics besides the fact that yes, it referenced them. It was about not being able to deal with a changing world and romanticizing previous eras to the point where you completely ignore that there were lots of problems then, too: point-shaving scandals, racial segregation that in some segments of the sporting world lasted longer than in society at large, rampant on-field violence, and more fundamentally, generally speaking a much more crude, unrefined, almost infantile style of play compared to today, whether you're talking about football or basketball.


If it's better or worse isn't really the issue. Look, I don't care if you don't like the current product. You gotta do you. (Personally, as popular as it is I don't really love the NFL myself these days. NBA is obviously a tremendous product, though, the best it's been since '93.) But you're making a choice to not enjoy a product specifically because it isn't what it used to be. I have some breaking news: athletes have always been prima donna jerks. There's just more different kinds of media exposing it, now.


And seriously? You're gonna claim that based on what some obscure governing body awarded as a national title? C'mon, dude. Illinois wasn't even claiming that title until 2006. Weak sauce. That'd be like me saying Illinois is really the sixth-best basketball program ever because that's what Jeff Sagarin's computer ratings said a few years ago.