Thinking out loud … while wondering whatever happened to Irving Fryar?
— The latest in a seemingly long line of sordid collegiate scandals has surrounded Louisville in a spirit of “What’s next?” Former Providence and Boston Celtics coach Rick Pitino is in the spotlight again, with the release of a book alleging one of his former players and staff members arranged for prostitutes to help in recruiting players. Wow. All I ever saw when I was in school 30-plus years ago was a bunch of guys getting free pizza and beer, and the drinking age was 18 then.
— I really don’t mean to have fun at someone’s expense like this, but in reality here, we all know the answer is somewhere in the middle. Pitino says he had no idea this was going on, but when coaches are held to a standard of responsibility by the NCAA — if not by their own institutions — over governing their program, it’s hard to feel much sympathy here. You’re paid an ever-growing amount of money to coach, manage, instruct (i.e. RUN) a team, and you don’t know something like this is going on? I have some swampland in Florida I’d like to sell you.
— Think Pitino will step down as coach? Think again. He said in a radio interview this week it would be “the cowardly way out.” And why would he, when a sex scandal and extortion case in 2009 couldn’t bring him down? The Cardinals claimed a national title just a couple of years ago. No, he won’t run from this, and if he’s truly unaware of the misdeeds of those beneath him, he’ll regroup. But recruiting will take a hit — and not just because there won’t be any more hookers at the next party, either. Former UL recruit JaQuan Lyle, now at Ohio State, allegedly confirmed much of the tale is true.
— Is that the sound of crickets I’m hearing coming from Celtics rookie and former Louisville guard Terry Rozier? There is a passage in the book that refers to a recruit from Cleveland named Terry (Rozier did attend high school in a Cleveland suburb), and Rozier told The Boston Globe from Milan, Italy, “When that time comes to answer that, I will.” So, when is that time, Terry? The timing of training in Europe seems a bit fortuitous.
— Who’s got next? Might be time for the academic scandals at North Carolina to begin tarnishing the reputation and legacy of Roy Williams. Or we’ll get something else salacious from Rutgers. You can almost set your clock by the regularity of the Scarlet Knights’ ineptitude.
— I’ll go ahead and say what you’re thinking: Is the Big East better off without schools like Louisville and Rutgers bringing the house down for everyone else? Check your morals at the door. This is the big time, like it or not, and big-time athletics often aren’t pretty. Nor are they for everyone. Especially at Rutgers.
— Is the University of Rhode Island better off without varsity football? Another black eye has been pounded into the Kingston campus with this past week’s dismissal of two players from the program after a fight occurred at a fraternity house. Five other players have been suspended for this week’s game against Delaware. How can anyone realistically believe this is a program (4-36 over the past 40 games) on the right track?
— This is a debate we’ve had before in these parts, and the school continually insists it’s a non-starter. When you look at the bigger picture, however — a losing program, some players (not all) of questionable character, financial drain on the athletic department, little game-day support on or off campus from alumni — and also figure into the equation that URI is the only state university in New England without varsity ice hockey, isn’t about time to change this equation? It doesn’t add up.
— I certainly support football, and its importance to the overall energy that can be experienced on a campus. I don’t support the continuation of a program, however, that adds little more than trouble and a bad reputation to a school and community at large that doesn’t deserve it. This isn’t an necessarily an indictment on coach Jim Fleming or his staff. It’s an indictment on the continuous repetition of making the same mistakes over and over again. That’s the very definition of insanity, isn’t it?
— Do we need to go back to 1996, when almost half of the team jumped into a fray at another fraternity house on the URI campus? Then-President Dr. Robert Carothers forfeited the next game against UConn at that time. It was a bold move then, but now a bolder step needs to be taken. Or we’ll meet here again someday soon.
— What’s more likely to happen first? URI fields a winning football team, or URI manages to make more bad news for itself thanks to the actions of a half-witted few?
— Hey, at least the team scored 31 points in a 41-31 Governor’s Cup loss to Brown last Saturday. The Rams had scored 34 in the previous four games combined. Basketball season can’t come soon enough.
— For a while there, the Red Sox‘ end to the season couldn’t come soon enough, either. A second straight last-place finish, three in four years. But the World Series in 2013 wasn’t a fluke? I’d say by these numbers, it was the very definition of “fluke.”
— Classy move, though, for the players to come out of the dugout after the last game in Cleveland and tip their caps upstairs to Don Orsillo. Nice to know some in the sports world actually appreciate good people, who also happen to have the ability to do their jobs well for 15 years. San Diego fans will be the winners here.
— John Farrell‘s return as manager — should he be healthy enough to do so — is the smart move. But is it the right move? Three lasts in the past four years with this payroll?
— I actually almost feel some empathy for Yankees fans, after CC Sabathia checked into alcohol rehab. That’s a tough call — he couldn’t have waited two or three days to make this decision, and check in after the season had ended? Or even if the Yankees had beaten Houston, then made his choice? There is no good time, other than the present time, however, to address alcohol or drug abuse.
— Not for nuthin’, but I don’t like the one-game wild card play-in. It cheapens the regular season and should be extended to a best-of-three at the least, where the better measure of a team potentially can be discovered. But congrats to the Astros for sneaking in the back door, and to the Cubs for keeping the World Series dream alive.
— The Cubs winning the World Series? If the still-unlikely event occurs, well, it would make director Robert Zemeckis a real soothsayer. You’ll recall in “Back to The Future, Part II,” they predicted the Cubs would win the series in 2015. And also that we would now have flying cars. Still waiting for that one.
— Who knew? Mookie Betts once bowled two perfect 300 games while in high school, so the Pro Bowlers Association has invited him to compete in the World Series of Bowling in December. Is this like giving up his day job? If Betts finishes in the top quarter of all finishers after rolling 36 games, he would advance to the World Championships.
— With the latest spate of missed kicks flying through the air in the NFL, it appears the Patriots made a rather shrewd investment this past offseason when they made Stephen Gostkowski the highest-paid placekicker in NFL history. Money in the bank.
— How ’bout them Cowboys? A month ago, this weekend’s game in Dallas (well, technically Arlington) looked like it could have been a Super preview. Now? Might as well name the score, partly because Brandon Weeden is the Dallas starter in place of injured Tony Romo. Weeden has lost 10 consecutive games he has started at QB, dating to his time in Cleveland.
— There might be a little bit of actual concern in the Patriots’ corner, however, if Weeden goes down or is ineffective. The Cowboys signed one-time New England starter (and primary backup) Matt Cassel last week.
— Here’s the book on beating the Patriots: Control the clock, keep the ball out of Tom Brady‘s hands. Brilliant, right? Teams will need to run the ball to do that, and the Patriots know this — hence the recent trade of tight end Michael Hoomanawanui for defensive tackle Akiem Hicks. The Pats still need to tighten their run defense up front.
— Rex Ryan‘s bullies are off the charts in the penalty department. The Bills lead the NFL in penalties accepted by opponents, and the 17 flags last week took away several opportunities in a 24-10 loss to the Giants. Buffalo’s penalties through four weeks are the most accumulated in at least 10 years. Love Rex, but no one has accused him of having Rhodes Scholar thinking. A little dose of discipline might be helpful, coach.
— Miami’s Joe Philbin met the unemployment line this week, replaced by a coach who has never been a coordinator, much less a head coach, in Dan Campbell. And the coordinators under Philbin now are under Campbell, and the defensive coordinator is out the door? Oh, this’ll play well on South Beach.
— Cue the Nick Saban to return to Miami rumors in 3-2-1 — oh, they’ve already started? Why in the world would he leave Alabama? One reason: Ego. But I believe when (not if, but when) he returns to the NFL, it won’t be for South Florida.
— Did you see the story where a security guard in Indianapolis last weekend kept three female reporters out of the Jacksonville locker room just because they were women? Even though they were credentialed properly and women have been allowed equal access in pro locker rooms for 30 years? Well, there might have been naked men in there.
— Reminds me of a saying my buddy Statbeast once told me: “A naked man fears no pickpocket.” Hard to argue with that one.
— Cool to learn that Ernie D is back in basketball. Former Providence College star Ernie DiGregorio is the new director of operations for the Buffalo 716ers of the ABA — the league that also houses the Providence Sky Chiefs. Ernie was selected in the 1973 NBA draft third overall by the then-Buffalo Braves, and he won Rookie of the Year honors in 1973-74. His new duties will revolve around marketing and building interest in the new pro basketball franchise, but he told the Providence Journal he won’t have to relocate for his new gig.
— Fantastic story in USA Today this week about former Friars walk-on, Rhode Island College assistant coach, Bryant guard and now-assistant coach Chris Burns. Burns was one of the stars of the Bulldogs’ run to the NCAA Division 2 title game 10 years ago, and he recently told his team — and others — that he is gay. Burns is the first assistant or head coach in major college basketball to be openly gay, and he should be applauded for his obvious bravery on so many levels.
— But let me ask the obvious question here: When do we get past someone’s sexual orientation being a story? When we become more accepting of people in general as a society? I know I answered my own question, but it seems to me we are already traveling this road to acceptance. The younger generations (especially the players he coaches) are accepting, and they are affected most, perhaps. We should all take note.
— The biggest burden in this story, however, now reverts back to Burns’ shoulders. Can he recruit, and recruit effectively for his program, now that he’s “out”?
— PC’s Kris Dunn just received a little more burden to shoulder, with practices getting underway for the upcoming season. CBS Sports — primary home for the NCAA Tournament — has named Dunn a first-team preseason All-American. Joining him on the first team are Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield, LSU forward Ben Simmons, Gonzaga forward Kyle Wiltjer and Kentucky forward Skal Labissiere.
— Big East Media Day in New York is coming up this week. Expect the Friars to wind up in the middle of the pack, somewhere in the fourth, fifth or sixth preseason spot. Dunn will be a favorite to repeat as Player of the Year, which shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone.
— Please let me know when I can turn my TV back on. Especially to ESPN, maybe to watch a game or two? Stephen A. Smith’s “threat” to NBA star Kevin Durant of, “You don’t want to make an enemy of me,” is a joke. When “reporters” purposely become part of the story, I’m out. Smith simply is nothing more than a sycophantic loudmouth seeking attention and ratings for his employer, and his employer embraces this type of “celebrity.” Stupid is as stupid does.
— Smith engaged Durant in a Twitter war, started by saying he was hearing reports KD was headed out of Oklahoma City when his contract expires. It was dumb — and wrong — if he didn’t do his homework on the story. Perhaps he did, but it was made worse with Durant’s accusing Smith of lying. Back away from the keyboard, fellas. Someone take the high road, and let the truth set you free. Just sayin’.
— You’ve probably been sickened by now with all of the commercials: DraftKings vs. FanDuel. Do you play on either of the sites? I don’t. I’m apparently one of the very few among millions who get into the fantasy sports world, but I’ve never felt the need nor had the time or wherewithal to jump in myself. Besides, I like to keep what little money I have.
— These businesses are smart, aligning themselves as sponsors with major professional teams. DraftKings is a Patriots sponsor, and has a pavilion at Gillette Stadium with its name and logo prominently displayed. You can make the assumption these are the first steps toward legalizing sports gambling throughout the country, beyond the four states (Delaware, Montana, Oregon, Nevada) that currently allow it to occur. They were “grandfathered” into being allowed to keep their sports betting laws on the books when Congress passed the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act — which allegedly keeps states from entering the bookmaking biz.
— Somehow, our politicos will figure out a way to regulate the DFS (Daily Fantasy Sports) industry, and they probably should. It is a form of “gaming,” although I will admit some skill is required to be successful, and that’s what differentiates DFS with actual gambling. Here’s what is similar, however, about DFS and gambling: having a DraftKings employee with his “knowledge” winning $350K on competition site FanDuel. How is this not similar to insider trading?
— There are some others starting to ask that question. MLB has inquired about the practice of allowing DFS employees to play, and so has the New York Attorney General’s office. A class-action lawsuit has been filed against both companies, alleging “insider trading” taking place. DraftKings and FanDuel have temporarily suspended employees’ ability to play DFS games on any site. Uncle Sam is going to get his piece of this pie, or stick his finger in it to ruin it for everyone else. Count on it.
— I am saddened with the news that former Patriots wide receiver-turned-pastor Irving Fryar has been sentenced to five years in prison for his part in a mortgage-fraud scheme. With his mother, no less, and she received three years of supervised probation for her role. While with the Patriots in the late ’80s, Fryar joined our sports team at Channel 12 in Providence at the time as an on-site reporter for a few road games, providing insight into the team and telling some pretty good stories. I’ll wager he could tell a good one, if he wanted to, right about now.
— Edward from Johnston, Rhode Island, posted on Facebook this week: USA Today College Basketball preview newspaper does NOT have Kris Dunn on 1st team All America nor 2nd team All America, Nor 3rd Team All America. He’s on the Best of the Rest. Edward: That must be some team, if Dunn is merely “best of the rest.” Honestly, I missed that preview. But if true, someone should lose a job over not doing their homework. Every other major publication has Kris as either first- or second-team All-American in the preseason. Hey, he’s still got to go out and have the kind of season that is worthy of such praise, but this oversight simply tells me the writer — or the editor, or both — doesn’t really “cover” the sport. Probably a football guy. Or gal.
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