Thursday, December 27, 2007

Lesson Not Learned

On December 26, Eddie Sutton was named head coach at the University of San Francisco. Current coach and former Arizona assistant Jessie Evans announced he was taking a leave of absence.

Sutton's basketball coaching abilities cannot be denied and even this website in a previous blurb acknowledged as much. Sutton has 798 wins at the division I level. This is the fifth most wins by any division I coach. He trails only Bob Knight (896), Dean Smith (879), Adolph Rupp (876), and Jim Phelan (830) on the all time list. Between coaching at the College of Southern Idaho, Tulsa Union high school and at the division I college level he has exactly 1000 victories.

Sutton's coaching career came to an all to abrupt end in February of 2006 when he was charged with driving under the influence after an accident in which his sport utility vehicle rear-ended another car and went off the road. Sutton pleaded no contest to drunken-driving charges, and as a result of the incident took a leave of absence from his coaching duties before retiring three months later.

Prior to coaching his alma mater Oklahoma State Sutton had been the coach at the University of Kentucky. Sutton's tenure at Kentucky ended with a scandal that badly damaged the school's basketball program. It broke out when an express package sent to high school prospect Chris Mills from Kentucky assistant coach Dwane Casey popped open and $1000 in fifties popped out. Another player, Eric Manuel, was believed to have received improper assistance on his college entrance exams and was ultimately banned from NCAA competition for life. The scandal roiled the Wildcats to the point that they suffered their first losing season in 63 years. The NCAA seriously considered hitting the Wildcats with the "death penalty", which would have shut down the entire basketball program (as opposed to simply being banned from postseason play) for up to two years. However, school president David Roselle forced Sutton and athletic director Cliff Hagan to resign. Sutton later admitted that he didn't have enough control over the program, although he personally committed no wrongdoing. The scandal, combined with Sutton's alleged drinking and drug use, led to his forced resignation.

Sutton's latest return begins December 29th against Weber State at the Dee Events Center in Ogden, Utah. His team loses the game 62-54. Sutton will have another chance at winning number 799 on Monday night when the Dons take on Utah Valley University in Orem, Utah. However, there is a bigger story here.

If any school has gone through the aftermath of resurrection it is the University of San Francisco. The University of San Francisco basketball program has won three national championships. The first came in 1949 in the NIT. USF was coached by legendary Pete Newell and the sports information director was future NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle. USF followed it with national championships in 1955 and 1956 while being led by future Boston Celtics Bill Russell and K.C. Jones. In the 1956 title game, Jones outscored LaSalle's star -- Tom Golla. In 1957 the Dons lost in the semifinals to Wilt Chamberlain and Kansas. During the 1955 and 1956 seasons, the Don's posted a then record 60 game winning streak. Only John Wooden's UCLA teams' 88 game streak is longer.

The school continued its success during most of the 60's and 70's earning NCAA tournament bids in 1977, 1978, 1979, 1981 and 1982 while winning five consecutive West Coast Conference Championships.

Yet all the success couldn't eclipse a growing list of irregularities and abuses. Star player Quintin Dailey was alleged to have been paid for a summer job he never performed. Then Dailey was charged with rape, (he subsequently pled guilty to sexual assault charges). Additional allegations of alumni interference with the program and recruiting improprieties by coaches followed. The NCAA began an investigation, but facing additional scrutiny President Lo Schiavo said "enough." The allegations, investigations, and criminal charges were damaging the university's most priceless asset -- its integrity and reputation. In 1982, then President Father John Lo Schiavo shut down the program.

Unlike the SMU football program which received the "death penalty," USF shut it's program down on its own accord. Father John Lo Schiavo described USF's dilemma as follows "how are we teaching the building of a decent, law-abiding society in this country if educational institutions are willing to be prostituted and involve young people in that prostitution for any purpose, and much less for the development of ill-gotten recognition and income."

If it seems that Sutton is being fed to the University of San Francisco through the coaching fraternity it should. Former Oklahoma State players like ESPN's Doug Gottlieb, Joey Graham, Brooks Thompson and former coach Jerry Tarkanian and current Kansas coach Bill Self are all selling Sutton to the city of San Francisco.

Who bought this sale? Debra-Gore Mann is the current athletic director at the University of San Francisco, she got the job on August 1, 2006 after serving as Senior Associate Athletic Director at Stanford University. Her resume includes an MBA from Stanford, work at Bechtel Enterprises, Morgan Stanley and Raychem Corporation. She was also the business developer for the City of Portland on the Portland Light Rail Project. She has a masters of business administration, her interest is in profit.

Her husband is former USF player Anthony Mann, who was a member of the 1985-86 team. USF's first team following shutting down its program. Their only daughter's name is Quinci.

Perhaps this is what makes Eddie Sutton an odd match for the University of San Francisco. It seems the last place Eddie Sutton would be resurfacing is at the University of San Francisco. Sutton is looking for a second chance, USF is on its second chance. Perhaps Gore-Mann has missed exactly what Father John Lo Schiavo found 25 years ago.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Where Have You Gone Frank Selvy?

In the history of college basketball only two players have ever scored 100 points in a college basketball game. Many would guess Pete Maravich whose career scoring average of 44.2 points per game over three seasons will never be topped. Wilt Chamberlain who holds the NBA single game mark averaged only 30 points per game over his college career at Kansas. The two players who accomplished the feat make a great trivia question. Only Bevo Francis and Frank Selvy can lay claim to having scored 100 or more points in one college basketball game.

On December 20th and 21st Utah State hosts the Gosner Foods Classic among the teams appearing is Selvy's alma mater Furman University. Furman, enrollment 3349, enters the tournament with an 0-8 record, a far cry from the glory days during which Selvy led the program to national prominence.

When I was a boy living in North Carolina, my father took me to see Selvy play, and his smoothness on the court seemed ethereal. When he shot a basketball, it was like he was folding silk scarves to put in a drawer. Conroy on first seeing Frank Selvy play.

Selvy accomplished the feat against tiny Newberry College on February 13, 1954. Selvy's effort was in response to Bevo Francis of Rio Grande College who had scored 113 only two weeks prior against tinier Hillsdale College. Essentially, the storyline of the 1954 season was the Bevo Francis vs. Frank Selvy scoring race.

Francis played at the NAIA level, his scoring barrage over the previous season against obscure schools of over 50 points per game was met with skepticism. In response, Rio Grande upped it's level of competition and played NCAA schools including Butler, Wake Forest, Miami, and North Carolina State which was led by Conroy's future coach Mel Thompson in 1954. In spite of the upgraded schedule, because of the questionable compeition from the previous season, much of Francis' accomplishments go almost unnoticed. Selvy, playing at the division I level averaged a Maravich like 41.7 points per game during the 1954 season.

Although the crowd, television crew on hand, and opposition is mesmerized by Jaycee Carroll during the two games of the tournament -- Carroll scores 32 points in the opening night game against Utah Valley and then follows it with 33 points in the championship against Northern Arizona, he is less than two thirds of the way to what Selvy did in one game!

After I shook Dick Esleeck's hand (a Furman player Conroy had squared away against) someone slapped me on the behind and said, 'Good game, Pat'.

When I turned to see who it was, it was a startling encounter for me. I am the first novelist in the world who has ever been slapped on the fanny by the incomparable Frank Selvy." Conroy on his second encounter with Frank Selvy.

Selvy has long been forgotten by anyone in the Dee Glenn Spectrum and Furman drops it's opening game against Northen Arizona and it's second game against Utah Valley. The two losses drop the Paladines season record to 0-10.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

All About the Number$$

The NCAA tournament has catapulted obscure schools in unknown locations into the living rooms of Americans across the nation. Every year, unknown schools like Valparaiso, Santa Clara, and George Mason pull monstrous upsets that become the talking point of the country. Certainly, this year will be no different.

In the Rocky Mountain region there are approximately twenty division I basketball programs competing for spots in this tournament. Besides the exposure mentioned above, the schools and member conferences receive a huge financial burst when they appear in the tournament and even more when they win. Ultimately, the notoriety, prestige and money that come with winning in the NCAA tournament make schools spend time, money and resources.

The largest basketball budget in the Rocky Mountain region is the University of Colorado which spent over 3 million dollars last year. Keep in mind Colorado won seven games last year and their coach announced he was leaving before the season even started! If this seems like a waste of 3 million dollars you might be right. CU's combined conference record over the past 15 years is 88-134.

The largest basketball budget in Utah is the University of Utah which spends 2.5 million dollars on its basketball program. This isn't much when you consider that Duke's budget topped 8 million last year.

Three main conferences touch Salt Lake City - the Mountain West, WAC and Big Sky. Mountain West schools spend roughly 2 million on dollars on their basketball programs. This ranges from CSU's 1.7 million to 2.7 million at UNLV and New Mexico. Utah State's budget is 1.3 million which places it roughly in the middle of the WAC. Interestingly, Utah Valley which has no conference affiliation and therefor no NCAA tournament bid, spent 525k on chasing a dream which doesn't even exist last year. That was more than Weber State whose expenses totaled only 507k a year ago yet actually reached the NCAA tournament.

If you think Montana dominates in the Big Sky because of it's great recruiting base, think again. Montana's basketball program spent 1.4 million last year. Those are typical expenses for a WAC school and almost triple what Weber State spent. If you want an up and coming school in the region look at Denver University which spent 1.4 million dollars trying to get to the NCAA tournament last year - not much less than CSU's 1.7 million or Wyoming's 1.8 million. Big Sky newcomer Northern Colorado spent 655k last year.

The point of all of this is that when you watch the games this year see more than the names on the jersey's or the flashy suits the coaches are wearing and realize that behind every school and every program is money. And although this all might seem like a reason why the bigger schools should always beat the little schools remember in 1999 Weber State (507k) beat North Carolina (4.7 million) in the first round of the NCAA tournament 76-74.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Land Grant Institutions

Utah State University and Michigan State University share the common bond of being their state's specific land grant institutions. A land grant institution is an institution that has been designated by its state legislature or Congress to receive the benefits of the Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890.

Senator Justin Smith Morrill of Vermont saw the need for land grant legislation as a way to allow a university education for the industrial and working classes. Essentially, after the revolutionary war, private education at such schools such as Harvard, Yale and William and Mary allowed education to only an elite few. Publicly controlled institutions were not much different from their private counterparts and Morrill saw a need to educate those members of the working class who were missing out on these same opportunities. Morrill's first attempt at legislation was in 1857, however, after being passed by congress the bill was vetoed by President James Buchanan.

The Civil War commenced and Morrill sought another avenue to the passage of his idea, this time instead of focusing primarily on agriculture and technical education or mechanical arts, Morrill added a provision that the land grant institutions were to teach military tactics. Congress and then President Lincoln also saw the need for increased military training in the Civil War effort. The exact language of the bill stated the purpose as,

the endowment, support, and maintenance of at least one college where the leading object shall be, without excluding other scientific and classical studies, and including military tactics, to teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and the mechanic arts, in such manner as the legislatures of the states may respectively prescribe, in order to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions in life.

Morrill's new found emphasis on military training with the Civil War just beginning was quickly passed and President Lincoln signed the bill into law on July 2, 1862. The military curriculum at all land grant institutions led to the establishment of the Reserve Officers Training Corps, an educational program for future Navy, Army and Air Force officers.

Kansas State became the first land grant college, but was quickly followed by a plethora of other land grant schools. At present, every state and the District of Columbia have at least one land grant institution. Seventeen southern states have an additional land grant institution due to the second Morrill Act of 1892 which expressly allowed for all black land grant institutions with the same mission.

In Utah, the land grant institution is Utah State University which was founded in 1888. Sister land grant institutions in the west include Colorado State University, Washington State University, the University of Arizona, New Mexico State University, Montana State University, the University of Idaho, and Oregon State University. Utah State and New Mexico State in fact nickname themselves "Aggies" as a short term for agricultural students. The schools traditionally are looked down upon by their usually larger and often more prestigious brethren -- as the agricultural schools developed research, law, engineering and other academic programs later than their more prestigious brethren if they have developed them at all.

On Wednesday night, Utah dumps it's land grant counterpart 72-48 as the Utes hold Jaycee Carroll to only 7 shots. On Saturday Brigham Young University opens up a ten point halftime lead against Michigan's land grant institution -- Michigan State University (founded in 1855, but made Michigan's land grant insitution after passage of the Morrill act), but the 7th ranked Spartans rally to win 68-61 at EA Solutions Arena.

To think none of this could have existed had Senator Morrill not seen the need for agricultural, mechanical and military colleges 145 years ago.