Archive for the ‘Sports’ Category

Growing up Penny was one of my favorite players. Before his injuries he was a legtimate heir apparent to MJ with his incredible athleticism, unselfish play, and daily highlights.

However, this story is by far the his best ever  highlight.  Hopefully, this can make SportsCenters Top 10 list, and inspire others who have the capacity to inform, inspire, and empower our inner-city youth!


While attending the NCAA conference panel discussion about the student athlete experience I was fortunate to capture on video Michigan State all-conference QB discussing the hardships faced by major college football players in relation to obtaining a meaningful education while competing at the highest level. Take a listen for yourself from Wednesday January 11, 2012 event

“Damario dont you ever forget that what you do in the dark will someday, someway come to the light” This was a lesson that my grandma would drill into my head time and time again.  Vernice “Mama” Brown made it clear that I understood that God and the University had a way of catching up and balancing things out.  This is the lesson that we all should learn from Yale Universities coach Tom Williams situation. Coach Williams was forced to resign because it came to the “light” that he was not ever a finalist for the one of the most pretigious academic awards–The Rhodes Scholarship–in the world as he claimed on his resume.  It was also discovered  and he had to admit that he had not spent time with the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers as a free agent as he had previously stated in media interviews.

This is sad because by all reports Coach Williams was very accomplished person (played and graduated from Standford under the great Bill Walsh), a great leader, teacher, and role model for his team, and good coach that was turning around the Yale program.  Additionally, I doubt very seriously that either misrepresentation actually was a deciding factor for Yale hiring him as their football coach.  I sincerely hope he is able to rebound from this, continue his coaching career, and, most importantly, learn from this experience.  I know have.

The economic reality is that every year Big Time D-1 football and basketball programs continue to earn more and more revenue.   Without a doubt, the more the revenue increases, the more egregious the exploitation of the on-field participants becomes.  Worse as the universities and the NCAA continue to reap  increased revenue (in 2008  the NCAA’s March Madness  alone brought the NCAA $636.2 million in revenue in 2008.).  The so-called student athletes whose labor generates the billions of dollars in revenue continue to get poorer and poorer.

In fact according to the seminal study “The Price of Poverty in Big Time College Sports” (Huma and Staurowsky) the average D-1 “full ride scholarship” student-athletes actually owe $3222.00 annually to the university to their university.   In fact, Huma and Staurowsky further explained that 85% on D-1 “full scholarship” student-athletes live below the U.S. poverty line.  For those athletes that actually stay off campus the numbers actually increases to 86%” that have the so-called “full ride scholarships.”  C’mon, how can 8 out 10 student-athletes live below the poverty line, while the average D-1 football and basketball coach easily makes more than 1 million dollars!

How does the NCAA respond to this fact of poverty and average $3220.00 annual scholarship deficit?  The NCAA authorizes universities to provide scholarship athletes up to $2000.00 additional dollars a year to cover the $3222.00  average deficit. This so-called reform is a joke and  absurdly stupid on two fronts: 1) it does not cover the known deficit; and 2) the additional $2000.00 is optional at the Universities discretion.  In other words, the NCAA ha made it clear the that the sharecropping punk-feast system is still in play for Universities (although i believe that most BCS schools would gladly pay their players just compensation, but that’s for another time to discuss) and the NCAA

The good news is the veil of secrecy is rapidly being stripped away from the NCAA’s oppressive and exploitative system, and just like every other oppressive regime it will have to substantially  reform or be swept away completely.

Last night  Xavier’s Kenny Frease (#32), was sucker punched by Cincinnati’s   Yancy Gates (#34) and then stomped in the head while he was on the ground by #13 Cheikh Mbodj.  Both Gates and Mbodj have been suspended for six (6) games, and both of their actions are regrettable.  However, I believe that Mbodj’s actions were much more egregious than Gates. In fact,  I consider Mbodj’s kicking Frease in the head as he lay defenseless on the ground thug like behavior and  has absolutely NO place in college athletics.  Due to the attacks, Frease (pictured below) sustained a badly bloodied black-eye. 

Now please know that i have been involved with on-field fights and brawls during my time playing at Univ. of Oklahoma (like the infamous  1998 TCU v. OU), and understand how emotions can get the best of you quickly during high level competition.  This is why  eventhough I think he deserves more, I can live with six (6) games for Gates since he was actually on the court when the fight started. However, for Mbodji to unnecessarily come off the bench to commit an intentional battery (unlawful touching of another) has to be strongly condemned and punished to send a message of strict  intolerance for such behavior.

Therefore, I believe Mbodji’s actions actually warrants a full season’s suspension, mandatory anger management training, and he should be found civilly liable (ordered to pay the medical bills and pain and suffering) for injuring Xavier’s Kenny Frease (#32).

Lastly, just because this attack occurred in the context of a college basketball game,  make no mistake about it, Mbodji’s actions were criminal.  However, I do not  advocate for criminal charges against Mbodj because I think he could learn from this mistake without the “scarlett letter” and prevention of life opportunities  that a criminal record brings.  But, once Mbodji is reinstated he should be on a very “short lease.”

During  the last twelve months, the NCAA has arguably received the closest scrutiny ever regarding student-athlete recruiting and extra-benefit scandals costing  prominent, successful football and basketball coaches at powerful universities their jobs (Jim Tressel Ohio State & Bruce Pearl Univ. of Tenn), seemingly endless (proposed or actual) conference  re-alignments and discussions that appear to disregard the ethics of amateurism in order to satisfy an insatiable appetite for lucrative television revenues, and allegations of major recruiting violations and embarrassingly low graduation rates that taint the accomplishments of the two 2010 BCS championship teams (Auburn graduated exactly 0 of their African-african american athletes!).

 Such negative publicity has increased the assault on the NCAA as the sole arbitrator of major college athletics, which is driven by a wide range of critics, including  scholars, the media, state legislators, Congress, the courts, U.S. Secretary of Education Arnie Duncan and even President Barack Obama.  As a result, the NCAA has once again discussed introducing surface “reforms” that hardly substantially address the situation such as increasing “full” scholarship amounts by $2000.00.

After extensive qualitative study of the literature, the law, NCAA rules and policies, court cases, interviews with former and current major college student-athletes, and my personal  experiences as a former D-1 football player at the University of  oklahoma.  I am convinced that the NCAA governance system is fundamentally flawed and divorced from the realities of today’s collegiate landscape.  Further,  the NCAA’s own rules and policies, and/or the lack of enforcement thereof, actually undermine their own antiquated  ideals of “amateurism” and “student-athlete” expressed in the NCAA’s mission and core values. In fact, I argue that the NCAA itself substantially interfere with the ability of student-athletes to holistically
develop and fully prosper in the current collegiate model of athletics.

The NCAA must significantly reform its policies and rules in order to improve its student-athletes’ academic performance, life skills development, economic opportunities, and graduation rates.  Therefore, I propose a number of specific new
policies and rules for careful consideration and adoption by the NCAA, including without limitation the following:

  • Extend athletic scholarships for greater than the five-year  undergraduate period;
  •  Increase the amounts of athletic scholarships to cover all living and student expenses since there is no time for outside employment;
  • Require each school to have the same ratio of academic coaches to student-athletes as it has athletic coaches to student-athletes in each
    particular sport;
  •  Require that the academic personnel working with student-athletes not
    be athletic department employees;
  • Enlarge amounts of athletic scholarships to cover all living and student expenses, WITHOUT ANY ARBITRARY CAP;
  • Provide  life-time injury and disability benefits for student-athletes injured while participating in their sport;
  • Allow student-athletes to take personal advantage of their own
  • Provide student-athletes with an equitable share of the revenue produced by their participation within their sport.

Without a doubt,  There are substantial legal,  equitable, financial, academic, and socio-cultural reasons for each proposed new policy and rule to implemented immediately.

The Scarlet Sweater Vest

Posted: March 12, 2011 in Justice, Pop Culture, Sports

Just weeks before the 2010 Sugar Bowl, it was announced that 5 Ohio State football players college eligibility was in jeopardy because of selling their property (that they lawfully earned), in violation of NCAA rules.   Eventually the student-athletes were allowed to play in the Sugar Bowl, but were suspended 5 out 12 scheduled 2011 games (40% of the season)  after they were publically extorted by their coach, Jim Tressel, who forced the players commit to returning to Ohio State for the 2011 season so, according to Tressel, the student-athletes wouldn’t “skirt the consequences” by playing in the Sugar Bowl, then declaring for the NFL draft and avoiding any punishment” for their transgressions.    

 Ironically, earlier this week we learned that Tressel knew about the possible rules violations 6 months before it became public, and knowingly and willfully concealed that information despite his contractual duty to report to school officials and the NCAA.  He alleges he keep quite because he did not “want to interfere in a federal criminal investigation” and thought that he was “prohibited from doing so because the information was confidential.”    BALDERDASH!!!   Now it’s not proven that Tressel’s true reason for not fulfilling his duty was because he didn’t want to interfere with his possibilities for almost half-million in bonuses his contract guarantees for milestones his team could not have reached without those 5 suspended players.   But it is proven this is not the first time Tressel has been involved in controversies of this nature.

 While he was head coach at Youngstown State University – Tressel was found to have conducted an incomplete investigation of star quarterback, Ray Isaac, for receiving improper financial benefits.  During his tenure at Ohio State, phenom running back Maurice Clarett who helped lead the Buckeyes to a National Championship was suspended by the NCAA in 2003 for receiving improper financial benefits that Clarett maintains came from Tressel himself!!! 

 It seems logical that Tressel, a multi-millionaire coach with a contractual duty to know and report NCAA and institutional rules and track record of previous mis-conduct would at least, receive the same punishment (five game suspension) as his teenage, unpaid student-athletes who may or may not have known it was against the rules to sell their own property.  Wrong!  So far, Tressel has only be suspended for the 2 out of 12 2011 scheduled games (16% of the season) against traditional doormats Akron and Toledo and fined $250,000 (roughly 7% of his 3.5 million dollar annual salary).  

 So, by far, the more compelling aspect of this story is the blatant double-standard in treatment by universities and the NCAA regarding rules violations by multi-millionaire coaches and so-called student-athletes.    For example, last fall University of Tennessee’s head basketball coach, Bruce Pearl, was suspended for 8/31 scheduled games (25% of the season) by the Southeastern Conference for knowingly lying to NCAA officials about hosting recruits and their parents at his own personal residence which he knew was a  violation of NCAA Bylaws.  So far the NCAA has not punished Pearl at all.

             Now compare those actions with how the NCAA treats student-athletes. For example, University of Kentucky baseball player, James Paxton, was removed from the team and had his scholarship stripped for refusing to meet with NCAA officials regarding his relationship with attorney and sports agent Scott Boras. Paxton had a lucrative offer to play professionally for the Toronto Blue Jays but instead returned to Kentucky to play for the Wildcats (without any monetary compensation by the way).

 The NCAA or University of Kentucky never asserted any accusations that Paxton had violated any rules or regulations, they only wanted to discuss his dealings with Boras. Paxton refused to accept the NCAA’s “invitation” to discuss Mr. Boras on grounds that such information was confidential under the attorney-client privilege. The NCAA countered that the NCAA Bylaws superseded Paxton’s constitutional rights to such privilege and that the assertion of such right was seen as non-cooperation!!  So, without ever speaking with Paxton and without providing any evidence to support their position, the NCAA ruled Paxton permanently ineligible for violating the NCAA’s “No Agent Rule”.    The NCAA sent a clear message that student-athletes are entitled to no due process rights under their Draconian methods of governance.

 We also have the case of former Oklahoma State University football standout Dez Bryant. Bryant was “invited” to speak with the NCAA regarding his involvement with Deion Sanders and sports agent Eugene Parker and whether or not the two ever acted as his agent during his time at Oklahoma State. During the NCAA’s interrogation of Bryant, he lied to NCAA officials concerning whether or not he had dinner with Sanders.  When the NCAA issued its decision it found that Sanders and Parker had not acted as Bryant’s agent, but yet they suspended him for his entire senior season because he lied about having dinner!   Of course, lying is never acceptable.  But to suspended a suspend a nervous college student because he   lied out of fear, ignorance and/or confusion of a rule while being interrogated by professional investigators, for an entire season is ridiculous.  Then only suspended wealthy, professional, and represented head coaches for knowingly and willfully lying to NCAA investigators about engaging in activities they knew were not  permitted by the for only a hand full of games is just shameful. Do you see the problem?!?

 In closing, while this ordeal is embarrassing for Tressel, before any meaningful games are played by Ohio State we’ll see him roaming the sidelines of The Horseshoe in his trademark sweater vest, and his lucrative coaching career will continue as usual.    Meanwhile, student-athletes like James Paxton, Dez Bryant, and Ohio State’s Terrel Pryor will forever have their collegiate experience and lives altered for the same or even less offenses.  Why we hold young student-athletes to higher standards than the sophisticated head coaches (entrusted with the development of their student-athletes) of major college athletics programs is beyond me. The truly disturbing aspect of this entire story is that there is no end is in sight to such egregious and disappointing conduct on the part of the NCAA and its member institutions.