clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Well Let's Just Get Them All Mad...

After getting hammered by the NCAA, Memphis fans and some journalists wonder why Duke didn't get the same thing after the issue with Corey Maggette and his AAU coach, Myron Piggie.

Among the journalists are Gary Parrish and Gregg Doyel. Just for the record, while Doyel has acknowledged he has an axe to grind with Duke in the past, he doesn't manage to work that into his most recent screed. It would have been nice had he acknowledge his bias, but perhaps that's asking for too much.

Parrish more or less presents the case from the point of view of Memphis and asks: what the hey? Why didn't Duke get hammered?

We'll take a moment here and join in the general bafflement that the NCAA so often provokes. When it came out that Maggette had taken money from Piggie for perhaps more than expenses, we figured, one way or another, that Duke was going to get it.

As Parrish points out and as everyone surely knows, nothing ever came of it. So what's the difference?

Let's start with one basic fact. The NCAA is not run like the court system and they're not out to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. They lack the ability to subpoena, for one thing, and for another, the organization's rules are set up by member schools who either basically are okay with how it's run or who lack the willpower to make significant changes. They tend to do more or less the opposite than the courts, and when they find enough evidence to suggest guilt, act accordingly.

Memphis has had significant NCAA trouble before, including the notorious shoebox of money given to Keith Lee in the 1980s, when $20,000 was a big figure for a cheating program.

Former Memphis star Larry Finch was much more ethical during his tenure as coach, but graduation was rare. He was brutally fired in 1996, supposedly fired before he could leave the gym after his last game as coach (very sadly, a stroke has robbed him of most of his mobility and he now lives in a nursing home).

Memphis then brought in John Calipari, who already had a reputation as a slick coach who probably got away with things but who nonetheless stayed a step ahead of the NCAA gumshoes. He's a guy who provokes strong reactions - remember John Chaney threatening to kill him in a crowded room after a game? Did you get the feeling that there was more than just a game behind that threat?

He wasn't personally tarred when UMass got in trouble and had to vacate their Final Four, but suspicions have always dogged him, and in the Rose situation, there were things that really taxed credulity. We've gone over them extensively and you can search the site to read them again. But in a nutshell, there's no way that a coach doesn't know exactly what's going on with a players SAT scores, and if a sudden spike in a score after a trip to Detroit doesn't catch your interest, then you probably don't want it to.

Then there was the other kid on the Memphis roster who had a questionable SAT that Georgia wouldn't accept yet Memphis did. These things add up, and there's no way that the NCAA can overlook serious academic fraud and maintain any semblance of credibility.

And the Maggette case?

As we said, we expected Duke to get hammered too and were surprised when it didn't happen. We don't know why, but we can surmise a few things.

First of all, despite the lazy media template, the cases are not at all that similar. In the Maggette case, Maggette took $2,000 dollars from Piggie in 1997, when he was, if we're correct, a junior in high school. Piggie later was tried and convicted on a conspiracy charge. In all, he distributed around $35,550 to his AAU players. Kareem and JaRon Rush and Andre Williams were suspended by the NCAA. Maggette had already declared for the draft and therefore could not be suspended.

It's worth mentioning that this happened before Duke was even recruiting Maggette (they got in fairly late), and they told the NCAA they were not aware of it. John Burness, formerly senior vice president for public affairs, said this at the time: "At no time when he was associated with Duke did [Maggette] take the payments. It is very different when someone is enrolled."

For what it's worth, while Maggette has been the focus of the questions then and now, the Rush brothers also competed in college and Andre Williams went on to play for Oklahoma State.

JaRon Rush, who ended up at UCLA after a comic recruiting episode with Roy Williams at Kansas, was suspended for the final 12 regular season games of 2000 and also sat out nine games the following season (he was originally suspended for 17). Kareem Rush, a freshman at Missouri, was ruled ineligible and sat out for nine games. We're not sure what happened to Williams, but he only got $250, so realistically, not much should have happened.

Of the total $43,500 Piggie was loaned by agent Jerome Stanley, $17,000 went to JaRon Rush and $14,000 to Korleone Young, who stupidly applied for the draft and never got much more than the $14,000 for his trouble.

JaRon Rush admitted to taking money directly from Stanley.

So just to recap, Maggette, a fine student who seriously considered Stanford along with Duke, took $2,000 before Duke even entered the picture. Rush, by comparison, took $17,000, was rightly suspended, but in all of this, what do you hear of UCLA forfeiting those games that he played in? Not one word.

The focus is on Maggette, and Duke, and it's worth pointing out that no one has ever conclusively proven that the $2,000 he took was more than expenses justified, although it's reasonable to argue that if that was the case then he shouldn't have denied it in the first place. And what was reasonable for expenses? $1,000? $1,500? The whole $2,000? Remember that AAU teams travel the country and things are likely to add up. Whatever else you say, reasonable expenses, whatever they were, should be deducted from the total.

And it's about time somebody said this, just in a basic, free-market economics sort of a way, who in their right mind thinks they're buying a share of a future NBA player for $2,000 dollars? We never thought Piggie was a genius, but is anyone really that stupid? Even Lee got $20,000, and that was in 1980s money.

We don't have any problem with anyone being irritated with the NCAA being dense. They are dense. We would have preferred a clearer resolution.

But the suggestion that the cases are identical is just foolish. Both players were ineligible - (well all of the AAU teammates were) but only one was permanently disqualified. Had Maggette returned, his case would have been treated the same as the Rushes and Williams. There's no reason to think the NCAA would have penalized Duke any differently than they did UCLA.