Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Harvard Back in the News Again

After the Ivy League Office cleared Harvard's basketball program of accusations of recruiting violations during 2008, Harvard coach, Tommy Amaker told the media, "It's been unfortunate that we've had to go through those things when they've been wrong, but that's the way of the world. We're pleased that we were able to go through an extensive review and a detailed report by the Ivy League and everything turned out the way we knew they would from the very beginning - that we were doing things the right way at this great institution." Amaker and Harvard also issued an official press release which quoted Amaker as saying, "`I am pleased that the comprehensive review by Harvard and the Ivy League has confirmed that neither I nor Coach (Kenny) Blakeney committed any violations of NCAA or Ivy League rules. When this issue was raised, both my integrity and that of Harvard were called into question."'

Amaker and Harvard spoke too soon.

Two years later, during 2010, the NCAA opened its own investigation and disagreed with the Ivy office's findings. The resulting penalty was a minor secondary sanction, but the message was clear, Harvard had violated NCAA rules in its recruiting efforts.

Amaker's responsive 2010 statement to the Harvard Crimson noted, “These events occurred three years ago, and I’m pleased to bring this two-year review to a conclusion."

Now regardless of whether Harvard ever wins an Ivy League title (it has yet to do so in more than 100 years of basketball in Cambridge), any championship will come with a footnote of how it was achieved.

This week,'s Andy Glockner, profiles Harvard's new emphasis on winning at basketball. Glockner writes:
"[Harvard's building basketball program] has carried a whiff of controversy, both overtly in the form of a secondary recruiting violation involving now-assistant coach Kenny Blakeney and more opaquely in comments from around the league concerning the Crimson's newfound emphasis.

In a 2008 New York Times story on the Crimson, Yale coach James Jones said there had been a drastic shift in Harvard's admissions philosophy and that Yale 'could not get involved with many of the kids that they are bringing in.' Two of [former Harvard coach, Frank] Sullivan's former assistant coaches echoed that sentiment. Almost three years later, as Harvard continues to win recruiting battles, that perception still exists, despite denials from the school that it relaxed its standards for Amaker. Princeton coach Sydney Johnson said this week that he has noticed increased determination all around the league, leaving it somewhat unsaid that the signs coming from Cambridge were the boldest.

'I think it's very, very clear that Harvard's signaled to everybody that they want to be good in men's basketball, and you can either sit by and let it happen or react,' Johnson said. 'Whether it's recruiting, whether it's marketing of the program; I definitely think it's admissions, I definitely think it's financial aid.'


'We think there are more kids out there [that fit the Ivy League] than some people initially think,' Amaker said. 'I've been around other schools, high-academic institutions, and I think there are a lot of kids who fit the profile if you can present who you are, your vision, and obviously your university.'


Unlike Cornell, which became the league's first Sweet 16 team since 1979 last winter, this season's Ivy is the toughest in recent memory. According to, the league is 12th in conference RPI, ahead of the Missouri Valley, Western Athletic and West Coast conferences. Six of the league's eight teams are in the RPI's top 175 and at least four has a shot to win the league title. That makes this easily the best Ivy season since 2002, when there was an unprecedented three-way tie at 11-3 between Penn, Princeton and Yale.


Can Harvard end its drought [of never winning and Ivy League title] this year? While balanced and talented, the departure of star Jeremy Lin leaves Crimson lacking a player who can consistently create his own offense. There's also an unwritten rule in the Ivy, with its quirky Friday-Saturday league schedule and lengthy, late-night bus rides between road games, that good, experienced teams beat good, young teams. That's why Princeton, which returns all five starters from last year's squad that pushed Cornell to the wire twice on its way to a second-place finish, is viewed as the favorite, as much for its ability to grind out the necessary wins in a very deep league as for its own talent. Of course, there's also the incentive of a long-standing legacy for the traditional powers to protect.

'As a Princeton guy, my love is for this program, so let's have a response,' said Johnson, who was the league's Player of the Year in 1996. 'Make sure we respond to somebody trying to take what we established. That's the fun part. The fun part is competing. You don't want to just walk your way to a championship. You want to compete.'"
Below are links to the New York Times news stories referenced in Glockner's article.


Anonymous said...

Where did Ben-Eze end up playing?

Stir that beanpot.

Beating Harvard would be very sweet.

The Cornell Basketball Blog said...

Ben Eze is at Davidson.

But Keith Wright is at Harvard, and if you read the Times articles, you will see that Wright is the player (along with Max Kenyi) in which Harvard committed recruiting violations.

So... Harvard's unethical conduct led to its best player.

Anonymous said...

I'm a Cornell fan, not a Harvard troll, but this post seems a bit excessive. For one, most fans of Cornell bball don't need extensive re-reporting of Harvard's controversial and possibly/probably shady recruiting. What's new here is an article from CNN/SI that covers that.

Also, statements like this are pretty mean spirited:

"Now regardless of whether Harvard ever wins an Ivy League title (it has yet to do so in more than 100 years of basketball in Cambridge), any championship will come with a footnote of how it was achieved."

This sort of makes Cornell fans seem like turds who are looking forward to an excuse as to why we lost to Harvard this year.

Let's just let the kids play and leave Harvard reporting to Ivybbn or to when we play them.

At least no one around here has stooped to "J-Lin sent to D-league lolz" yet.

The Cornell Basketball Blog said...

This is a very fair post and only states the facts.

Harvard was caught violating NCAA Rules.

Not only was Harvard caught, they were caught recruiting Keith Wright during a no-contact period.

For more than a month, Kenny Blakeney was traveling several hundred miles from D.C. to Norfolk to recruit Wright to Harvard.

Wright is now Harvard's best player and leading their so-called "resurgence."

Should we give Harvard a "pass" and just look the other way? No. This is a program that landed a star player by breaking the rules.

And the rules violations become more relevant when/if Harvard wins a title as a result.

Anonymous said...

It always worries me when any Ivy League coach successfully recruits a big-time player that no other Ivy pursued. The number of kids in this country who can play Division I basketball and have Ivy-caliber academic credentials is very limited. There are eight Ivy staffs of several coaches each whose full time jobs it is to find these few high school students. If any recruit has legitimate Ivy grades and SAT scores, he should come up on more than one, if not all, Ivy radar screens.

I have noticed that, in the press releases or subsequent newspaper articles which announce individual player signings, Harvard recruits more often than not choose the Crimson over other Divison I programs but not other Ivy suitors. That troubles me greatly. In contrast, the Sports Illustrated article states, "Harvard beat Penn for highly touted big man Kenyatta Smith." So, as far as I'm concerned, Smith is a legitimate Ivy recruit. If he goes on at Harvard to become the second coming of Michael Jordan (or better yet, Bill Bradley), good for him. But I don't like the fact that so few Harvard players were pursued by other Ivy coaches.

If any high profile player is signed by any Ivy coach without a sniff of competition from another Ivy, it's almost certainly not because the other Ivies didn't notice him, it's because the other Ivies decided that they COULDN'T go after him.

The Cornell Basketball Blog said...

Upon Amaker's arrival, Harvard now has the lowest academic standards for its basketball players.

Amaker is receiving a level of admissions cooperation that no other Ivy is receiving.

This is not the case for all of his players, but some could never get admitted to the other Ivies.

Anonymous said...

Jeremy Lin needs to go, along with his "traveling road show," to the H league.

H = Hubris.

Let Amaker break all of the rules that he wants. All of this stuff just puts him in a no-win situation. If he wins, it is tainted. If he loses, he can add it to his resume of disappointments. He crossed the line, others may have, but they have not been caught.

Frankly, he can't hold a candle to Jones or Johnson. He knows it. Haaaavaad knows it. Any recruit with a brain should know it, and they should go elsewhere if they want to be a better player.

The rules are stupid any way, and all of these kids should be getting scholarships, but that is another debate.

Anon 212: Did Wittman have other Ivy interest? Foote? Dale? Reeves? Jacques?

Donahue thrived on getting kids that were overlooked by other schools, including the Ivies. The genius of his recruiting was that he did not have to go head to head with the Ps for blue chip eastern Ivy-type prospects.

Haaavaaad "interest" gets tossed around a lot, to be fair.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 3:12 PM,

Anon 2:12 PM here responding to your point. I don't recall which programs Wittman and Dale turned down, but I don't think that Louis was a big deal coming out of high school. Foote of course was an unnoticed transfer student who blossomed at Cornell. In either event, I am not talking about lightly recruited guys who become stars in college. More power to them and the coaches who find these diamonds in the rough.

I'm talking about players who were highly recruited coming out of high school. If a superstar has legitimate Ivy academic credentials, more than one Ivy program should be after him. It's as simple as that. If there's only one Ivy coach -- whether that's Amaker or Courtney or anybody -- who is chasing a bona fide high school star, that's a red flag.

Anonymous said...

Anon 503: Respectfully disagree. Coaches recruit kids that they need and/or kids that fit into their scheme.

Blogmaster may know, but I doubt that Princeton and Harvard recruit a lot of the same kids. Just a random thought.

Dale had interest from Columbia, and that was it from the above list, to my recollection.

It is not a flag if only one coach or program show interest, even if it is a highly touted recruit - it is a function of what works for their program.