Go Duke! And Go UNCW — except when you’re playing Duke

My first job after Duke was in Wilmington, and I lived just a few feet away from UNCW’s campus. So I wrote something for my old paper about my split loyalties when Duke and UNCW were paired up in the NCAA Tournament.

Source: Two trips down memory lane | StarNewsOnline.com

March 15, 2016

Did I waste my college opportunity?

I actually wound up not going to my Duke reunion, for reasons that had nothing to do with this piece in which I question how I spent my time in college and which classes I took. I hope Duke’s advising has improved since then. But I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. (Well, almost anything.)

Source: Did I waste my college opportunity? | Mostly Modern Media

Feb. 17, 2016

Duke apparently not destroyed by lacrosse backlash

To recap the Duke lacrosse case in brief: Team members accused of rape, media firestorm ensues at Duke, evidence emerges that they couldn’t possibly have done it, students exonerated, district attorney disbarred.

Most people then moved on. The exceptions were the families of the team members who were not accused of rape, claiming the school and others didn’t do enough to protect them. That case, we learned in March, has lost steam.

The other people who did not move on: The cottage industry of people with an ax to grind against Duke, political correctness, “liberals,” academic elites or others who have supposedly wronged them in some way. They insisted Duke’s response to the case represented PC anti-masculine anti-athlete bias, and it would kill Duke’s ability to attract students, let alone student-athletes.

Here’s a quick look at application data (up from 19,358 to 31,785 in last eight years).

And here’s a look at how student-athletes are faring:

So in short: I think those folks were wrong.

Duke, Lance Thomas and the NCAA’s “strict liability”

Could Mike Krzyzewski’s program get the same scrutiny as John Calipari’s? Dan Wetzel asks this question at Yahoo.

From the headline and the first few paragraphs, you might think it’s simply a question of whether the sanctimonious NCAA will look the other way when a case involves a much-touted model program like Duke. But Wetzel isn’t one of these knee-jerk Duke-bashers waiting to see Coach K and company get their come-uppance. (Disclaimer, in case you don’t know: I have two degrees from Duke.) He raises much more difficult questions.

First, shouldn’t athletes have a little more freedom to cash in on the money and prestige they’re bringing to their schools? That’s a big one addressed only in passing here, and Wetzel focuses on the next one:

Second, is the NCAA’s “strict liability” policy simply overkill?

That question is usually raised in more sympathetic circumstances. A 17-year-old kid gets stranded without a ride or without dinner money, a booster gives him a ride or a hamburger, and voila — the school’s in trouble.

Thomas, at least as portrayed in this lawsuit, isn’t a kid stuck without a ride. The suit says he had money for a lot of jewelry and insinuated he could pay the rest. (Bear in mind: I don’t recall people talking up Thomas, a good college role player, as a sure-fire NBA prospect.)

This isn’t the first time Duke has been in this situation. Corey Maggette had a much more damaging case against him — taking money directly from the wonderfully named AAU hoops coach Myron Piggie. That money would theoretically make Maggette ineligible. And so people often ask: Why are other schools punished for “strict liability” while Duke isn’t?

Wetzel, again, didn’t write his column to snipe at Duke. He doesn’t think Duke knew about Thomas’ jewelry or gained any competitive advantage from it:

It’s unlikely Krzyzewski knew about this purchase. Smart money says Thomas hid the jewelry from any member of the Duke staff. Right now Coach K is probably furious and mortified. There is very little benefit to having a starting forward blanketing himself in jewelry and winding up embroiled in a lawsuit. The diamonds didn’t draw Thomas to Duke. They didn’t maintain his academic eligibility. They didn’t make him stronger or faster.

And the same is likely true for the Maggette-Piggie case. But it was likely true for Memphis and John Calipari when it had results stripped away because of a recruit’s test scores were fishy.

Wetzel thinks the Thomas case may be enough to more people question the mighty NCAA:

The NCAA can’t ignore this because it’s Duke, but if it’s Duke that loses its national title over a jewelry-store loan, of all things, how can the NCAA continue to ignore that its entire busted rulebook?

I’m a little more skeptical just because I’m used to seeing people gloat over my alma mater’s problems — to my knowledge, there’s no book called “Memphis Sucks” — but I can also imagine Dick Vitale screaming for years if Duke loses its 2010 title over this case.

Here’s the underlying problem: The NCAA can only punish athletes while they’re still playing in college. If the NCAA knew Maggette had taken money from Piggie before he finished his one year at Duke, Maggette wouldn’t have finished out the season.

Instead, the NCAA goes after the institution. Even if the institution had nothing to do with it.

Let’s toss out a solution and see if any lawyers can speak up:

Suppose the NCAA and all its colleges included a clause in scholarship offers stating that any misrepresentation of their “amateur” status would result in a forfeiture of their scholarship money plus fines.

So in that case, the NCAA would tell Maggette to pay up. And Maggette, who has carved out a long NBA career racking up big stats for bad teams, would need to send a check. Thomas’ jewelry would be a matter between him and the jewelry store.

And let Duke, Memphis or every other school worry about the normal business of college sports — practicing only during prescribed periods, meticulously counting the text messages they send recruits, that sort of thing.

When a shocking event hits you at home

Terrific read here: A Penn State alumna on a community’s heartbreak – espnW

I’ve had a few misgivings about the reactions in all directions on the Penn State saga. Those who actually rioted — a small percentage of Penn State students and community members but still a substantial group — are going to regret it. (Imagine a job interview in which an employer recognizes the dude who celebrated on top of the toppled news van.) But I’m equally skeptical of the piling-on against Penn State as an institution.

Two reasons for the misgivings:

1. I distrust howling mobs in general.One reason I love The Simpsons is that the show has done such a good job in so many situations skewering our tendency to get irrational at the drop of a hat.


Even if many people have good intentions, they end up fueling those who don’t. And you simply cannot have a rational conversation with someone who is caught up in it.

2. I’ve been through this. You know my school? Duke? Right. First, we were the evil Southern country-club school that looked the other way while our lacrosse team did everything up to and including rape. Then, when it turned out the rape story was fabricated, we were the bastion of political correctness that threw everyone under the bus so the African-American Studies department wouldn’t get offended. A couple of writers turned the latter into a nice little cottage industry.

But you don’t have to go through such a thing to put yourself in other people’s shoes. Picture the most admirable person in your community or someone you admire in the world at large, perhaps even a member of your family. Now suppose you’ve just learned about that person what we’ve learned in the past couple of weeks about Joe Paterno. You may be angry, yes. But you’ll also be shocked. And saddened. In some cases, you may not even want to believe the worst, clinging to any shred of exonerating evidence. (In the Penn State case, that would be the notion that Paterno only heard part of the story and didn’t realize how serious it was.)

When you walk that mile in someone else’s shoes, you still won’t be ready to forgive a decade of inaction among a handful of people. You’ll still scoff at Mr. Celebrating On Overturned News Van Guy.

But you’ll also be a little less inclined to pile on everyone at Penn State. The players. The fans who wore blue to yesterday’s game. The alumni who are more than 60% of the way to an ambitious goal of raising $500,000 for sex abuse-survior support group RAINN.

And you might even remember that coming to terms with what happened at Penn State will require a calm, patient investigation. Engaging in a contest to see how loudly you can denounce everything at Penn State won’t help a single abuse victim.

Tuesday tribalism (and news, not all about Duke)

We’re Americans, with a capital ‘A’, huh? You know what that means? Do ya? That means that our forefathers were kicked out of every decent country in the world. We are the wretched refuse. We’re the underdog. We’re mutts! … We’re mutants. There’s something wrong with us, something very, very wrong with us. Something seriously wrong with us – we’re soldiers. But we’re American soldiers! We’ve been kicking ass for 200 years! We’re 10 and 1!

– John Winger (Bill Murray), Stripes

America may be the biggest and most powerful country the world has seen since Britain decided to quit naming most of the world after its monarchs, but we still love the underdog. No one’s making a movie about the big school with the great facilities that won the Indiana high school basketball championship as expected.

Once upon a time, Mike Krzyzewski and Duke were the underdogs challenging the long reign of Dean Smith and North Carolina in the ACC. No one had a clue of what was to come. True story: In a freshman dorm at Duke in the fall of 1987, someone said it was a shame we had all arrived after all the good basketball. And no one doubted it.

That’s changed a bit. The well-mannered runners-up with the unruly trend-setting crowd have become champions once, twice, three and now four times. By 2001, most people were sick of seeing Shane Battier on ESPN, no matter how likable and admirable the guy was. And seriously, what was up with that “Who’s your daddy Battier” chant?

Duke is also seen as a place of privilege, and as a standout Salon piece points out, Americans have mixed feelings about that. They’re not even consistent in how they apply that prejudice to basketball. Why would Duke be any more evil than Georgetown, another private school where the rent is a lot higher than it is in the crime-infested neighborhoods around Duke?

Continue reading Tuesday tribalism (and news, not all about Duke)