Thursday, August 11, 2011

News and Notes: Thursday Edition

Above, Cornell's Jack Sheehy shooting against Harvard in 1952. Below, some news and notes for Thursday...
  • Legendary Philadelphia University head coach, Herb Magee is nominated for the Naismith Hall of Fame. Magee is among the mentors for former Cornell head coach, Steve Donahue. "To think a guy you worked with is getting that honor is pretty remarkable. What Herb did was create another vision of offense for me," Donahue said. "It wasn't what most people did. It was kind of something people did in the '50s and '60s. To me, it's back now."
  • Ballin' Is a Habit published a feature focusing on Harvard basketball but writes of Cornell, "Perhaps the most relevant recent postseason run [in the Ivy League] is Cornell's 2010 Sweet 16 run...Cornell and company have proven its possible to have great success on college basketball's biggest stage despite coming out of the small conferences." In discussing the Crimson's improvement as a program, Ballin Is a Habit asks the question, how has Harvard suddenly become competitive within the Ivy League? The actual answer is as follows: a calculated decision by the Harvard administration to aggressively lower its admissions standards for its men's basketball program. While Harvard's academic reputation has not improved or declined in the last hundred years (Harvard was always an outstanding school, a brand name University, something that was not created by the current basketball coaches at Harvard), what has changed in Cambridge is the administration's desire and commitment to admit and secure basketball recruits that clear only the very minimum floor Ivy League admissions requirements. Now, is this just a fiction created by jealous rival Ivy League institutions? Not at all. Even former Harvard basketball coaches, Bill Holden and Lamar Reddicks said on the record that Harvard reduced its admissions standards when it hired current coach, Tommy Amaker. This aggressive recruiting tactic was noticed around the Ivy League as far back as 2008, well before Harvard started winning basketball games, and certainly well before any rival Ivy League program could be perceived as "jealous" of a doormat program. But more concerning, Harvard has also risen up the conference standings through violations of NCAA regulations and continues to benefit from its violations. In fact, the current reigning Ivy League Player of the Year, Harvard senior center, Keith Wright (along with former guard, Max Kenyi), was the central figure of Harvard's 2010 secondary violation issued by the NCAA. Aside from the reduced academic standards and recruiting violations, Harvard has engaged in other practices to make itself quickly competitive, such as the documented mass player cuts from its roster in 2008-2009 (seriously, not even a brilliant Hollywood writer who hates Harvard could make this stuff up). So there is your answer to Harvard's quick rise in the Ivy League: (a) Documented NCAA violations, (b) mass player cuts from the roster (Harvard has "lost" an incredible fourteen (14) players from its roster since 2008), and (c) on the record statements from former Harvard coaches acknowledging reduced admissions standards. We close with this question for Ivy fans: is it merely a coincidence that with Harvard's recent aggressive recruiting in basketball that in June 2011 the Ivy League suddenly raised its minimum league-wide Academic Index score from a 171 to a 176? What do you think? (Note: the academic index is a formula utilized by the Ivy League to develop a minimum floor score which all Ivy recruits must obtain to compete in the league, the "A.I." factors in grade-point average, class rank and standardized test scores.)


Anonymous said...

Everything that you say about Harvard is factually true, although you choose to say it with an air of histrionics which is uniquely yours.

The article in Ballin' Is A Habit perfectly corroborates your point of view, but in a more composed tone of voice. As BIAH says, Harvard is not cheating. The administration is simply driving a tractor-trailer-sized truck through the same "loophole" which exists for all Ivies, namely, that any school has always had the ability to funnel all its low AI admittees university-wide into one single sport.

Previously, Harvard did what every other Ivy did: one low AI student goes to lacrosse, another to basketball, maybe two more to hockey.

One day, Bob Scalise woke up and said, "Screw that. I'm firing Frank Sullivan and hiring the single best recruiter I can find and then giving him ALL my low AI admissions slots."

Who can blame Scalise? What public relations value is there in having a slightly better basketball team, a slightly better lacrosse team and a slightly better hockey team? He came to the correct Machiavellian conclusion that only one sport can get you Dick Vitale shouting your school name on national television.

Tommy Amaker is beautifully executing the game plan which Scalise devised. And it is paying off right on schedule. The only delay was caused by the fact that Sydney Johnson can do more with less talent, but Johnson got out because he recognized Amaker's hand would get stronger with every recruiting class -- which it has.

Scalise and Amaker are not breaking rules; they're taking advantage of them.

What's the rest of the league going to do in response? Step one: raise the minimum AI. Check.

Step two: tell Scalise and Amaker that, if they don't cut this s--t out, men's basketball will be treated like football, with its own separate AI banding scale, independent from the other 31 Ivy championship sports, which have a single AI pool.

(That's a credible threat. Once Amaker doesn't have an AI advantage, he will go back to the kind of mediocre performance which got him fired from Seton Hall and Michigan. He's a great, great recruiter and always has been, but that is his only competitive advantage as a coach. Though if you're only going to have one skill, that's the one to have.)

Scalise and Amaker are bad for the conference. Taking advantage of the rules is legal, but it threatens the whole point of having an Ivy League. If you're going to game the AI system, you may as well play in the SEC. It's as simple as that.

The Cornell Basketball Blog said...

Correct, Harvard is not breaking any rules with respect to the academic index (i.e. admissions standards). We never suggested they broke any rules on the admissions requirements. We just noted they lessened their standards to the bare minimum.

But Harvard did break rules in recruiting and was busted in a public fashion by the NCAA. Harvard recruited at least three players- Zach Rosen, Keith Wright and Max Kenyi during a no-contact period. Harvard was caught after 3 years of denial and resistance.

Anonymous said...

It's sad to see Harvard bend and, in the cases CBB points out, actually break the rules this way. The Ivies thought that Penn did the same thing back during their great run in the 1970s, which led to the implementation of AI in the first place. But that was Penn, at the time widely considered to be academic doormat of the Ivy League.

C'mon, Harvard, you're better than this. HYP are supposed to pull the other five up, not lead all eight down.