Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Should Duke have their 1999 season vacated?

In case you missed it, over the weekend Gary Parrish filed an excellent column comparing the punishment Memphis received for using an ineligible Derrick Rose to Duke's use of Corey Maggette.

If you remember, Maggette admitted to taking money from Myron Piggie, his AAU coach in high school.

The gist of Parrish's column is this: Memphis was penalized retroactively for using an ineligible player even though they initially had cleared Rose to play. But Maggette, who admitted to taking money that was in part supplied by agents, also could have had his eligibility revoked retroactively, but Duke's 1999 Final Four season still stands in the record books.

Corey Maggette received money from an AAU coach before enrolling at Duke.
(photo credit: AP)

As I'm sure you could have guessed, this upset some Duke fans. Big Duke Balls (for you Duke haters out there, BDB is probably the most intelligent and least homer of the Duke blogs out there) posted a response to it.

Essentially, what BDB says in their post is that the two offenses are not comparable. Maggette took money from an AAU coach that was completely unaffiliated with Coach K or the University. Rose had failed the ACT's three times before someone took the SAT's for Rose in Detroit, some 283 miles from his Chicago home, a few months before he was due to enroll at Memphis. Detroit also happens to be where William "Worldwide Wes" Wesley, basketball's biggest power broker who happens to have a strong connection to Coach Cal (many believe that he was behind guys like CDR, Tyreke Evans, and DaJuan Wagner eventually choosing Memphis for school), resides.

Both sides have a valid argument, but both also miss the point.

Parrish is correct in one thing - Maggette's amateur status could have been in question. He received money from a summer coach that was provided by an agent. Both sides admitted it after the fact, which means it definitely happened. Taking handouts from agents pretty much eliminates your standing as an amateur, meaning that before Maggette enrolled at Duke, he was ineligible to play college basketball.

As the Derrick Rose situation has made abundantly clear, the NCAA reserves the right to retroactively revoke a player's eligibility and vacate the games he participated in. They haven't in the case of Duke and Corey Maggette.

But BDB also makes a valid and completely correct point. These two violations are not the same. Maggette pocketed a couple grand from his summer coach, which, sad to say, is not an uncommon occurrence. Derrick Rose had someone else take the test that qualified him to be eligible, and enrolled in school with the knowledge that he should not be allowed to play. He also reportedly had some grades changed while in high school to keep him eligible. Oh, and his brother got a couple free rides on the team's chartered jet.

What happened with Rose and Memphis was much more egregious than what occurred at Duke with Maggette. Shouldn't the more serious crime get the harsher punishment? Isn't that how it, ideally, is supposed to work?

The bottom line is that while both sides make valid arguments, both of them miss the most glaring issue here. The NCAA Infractions Committee is a farce, and it is becoming abundantly clear that the NCAA has little to no control over these schools and these kids.

Let me preface this next paragraph by saying that none of it has been proven to be true, but if you read between the lines, what happened with Rose is an enormous problem. Derrick Rose had failed the ACT's three times. Seeing that his star recruit was on the brink of being denied entrance to Memphis, Coach Cal called up his buddy Worldwide Wes, who was able to get someone who could pass as Rose to take the SAT's in his stead and earn a qualifying score.

That is about as bad it gets when it comes to NCAA violations.

It isn't difficult to infer that Coach Cal helped Rose get the qualifying SAT score.
(photo credit: JohnClay)

Granted, to get to that point, you have to connect a whole bunch of dots and answer a bevy of "What ifs?", but if that is what, in fact, occurred, would anyone be surprised?

If so, what can the NCAA actually do about it?

Vacate a season?


Vacating a season means one thing, and it rhymes with hack spit. It doesn't erase the memories that Memphis fans have of their run to the NCAA championship game. You can still watch CDR's dunk over Kevin Love on youtube. Derrick Rose is still in the NBA making millions. Coach Cal still has a contract worth almost $32 million. Sure, he may never make the hall of fame, but he can probably dry those tears with hundred dollar bills.

And it is so much worse than just one instance of a fudged SAT score.

Would you be surprised if Renardo Sidney was able to afford the rent on his house in Southern California because he was being funneled money by a shoe company?

Would you be surprised if Reggie Bush or OJ Mayo were getting paid to play at USC, or if Tim Floyd was passing out envelopes full of money to runners?

Would you be surprised if UConn was knowingly dealing with an agent during their recruitment of Nate Miles?

That's just from this summer. Would anyone be surprised if these violations were just the tip of the iceberg?

I wouldn't.

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