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Duke, North Carolina, Virginia and Gonzaga
[Posted Sun. p.m.]
NCAA Basketball Tournament Quiz: Richmond (1991), Santa Clara (1993) and Coppin State (1997) were the first three 15-seeds to win a first-round game. Name the teams they defeated. Answer below.
Selection Sunday...Let the Madness Begin....
[The following was written prior to the release of the official bracket.]
--When your school isn’t in the conversation, as in my case with Wake Forest, it’s tough to get real fired up about the tournament, and at a certain point the conference tournaments carry little interest, though I followed San Diego State (21-13, 11-7) and its game against Utah State (28-6, 15-3) for the Mountain West tournament championship because that would have been a classic case of a bid stealer had the Aztecs prevailed, after taking out Nevada in the semis. But Utah State won it, 64-57, allowing the likes of Belmont to still have hope...slight as it may be.
And Oregon-Washington for the Pac-12 tournament championship was big, as described further below.
Auburn’s win over Tennessee in the SEC title game today was slightly meaningful if you thought the Vols had a shot at a 1-seed.
--But the last few days have really been about one thing...one man...Zion Williamson.
Williamson returned from a nearly six-game absence from his sprained MCL to play Syracuse in the ACC Tournament quarterfinals and all the dude did is go 13-for-13 from the field, 29 points, 14 rebounds and 5 steals. [He was 21-9-5 in the first half!] It was truly spectacular. Great fun for any fan of the sport.
Then we had a game for the ages, Friday, Duke beating North Carolina 74-73, as described below; Williamson with 31 points and 11 rebounds.
And Duke won the ACC tourney title, 73-63, over Florida State, Zion with 21 points and 5 rebounds.
Overall in the tournament, Zion was 33-for-43 from the field, and Duke wrapped up a 1-seed.
Dan Wolken / USA TODAY Sports
“Consider this a plea to the basketball gods, a prayer to the cosmic keepers of The Bracket.
“Three times seeing Duke-North Carolina this season is not enough.
“Over the many years of your tournament in its various forms and field sizes, never have we had an opportunity to see these two great Tobacco Road rivals play in a Final Four. In an event that has given us everything from the randomness of VCU-Butler to the unbridled heat of Louisville-Kentucky, it’s high time we get a chance to see Duke-North Carolina playing for everything.
“So why not now – or, more specifically, three weeks from now in Minneapolis? If it’s anything like Friday, when Duke held on for a 74-73 victory in the ACC tournament semifinals, it is more than worthy of your consideration.
“ ‘I’m not going to say like, ‘Oh, my God, I hope we play them again,’’ Duke freshman Zion Williamson said, splashing a dose of cold water on the prospect. ‘I’m not going to start no extra drama. They’re a great team. If we see them, we see them. If not, oh well.’
“But as Williamson’s put-back off his own miss gave Duke the lead for the final time with 31 seconds left and North Carolina point guard Coby White couldn’t make a hurried jumper as time ran out, it felt like there was still some unfinished business.
“Duke can say it might have won either or both of the first two meetings against North Carolina had Williamson not been forced out with a knee injury. North Carolina can say it might have swept three in a row had it not suffered an uncharacteristically poor 4-for-27 shooting performance from the 3-point line.
“Of all the years North Carolina and Duke have played each other while both were highly ranked, this season as much as any feels like we need to see it one more time to get the final word.”
Ed Hardin / Greensboro News & Record
“Anyone for a fourth?
“We can argue to the end of time whether this was the greatest Duke-Carolina game ever, and you could even move into a higher realm of one of the greatest games in the history of college basketball.
“Time will tell.
“But with the seconds winding down on Duke’s 74-73 classic win over rival Carolina, there was more than tension in the air. The building was shaking as the teams went back and forth in the final minutes, the atmosphere electric and the two best college basketball programs in America near exhaustion.
“What was in the air wasn’t nervous energy or even the passion of two fan bases standing shoulder to shoulder. It was a palpable feeling that no one wanted it to end. This was a game we actually wanted to last forever....
“We saw the first conference semifinal in history to send three of the top-five schools in the country into the final weekend. [Ed. The other Florida State’s win over Virginia]. Not just the ACC. Any conference. Ever.
“And what we’ll see now is how the NCAA Committee makes sense of what happened Friday.
“No one who watched this could possibly believe there’s a better league out there. No one could possibly say there are teams better than North Carolina and Duke. Florida State’s win over Virginia, if anything, is a testament to what we saw all year....*
“A fourth game between the two rivals would be something too big to imagine. But for a while Friday night, we could imagine this game lasting forever.”
*Mr. Hardin isn’t being honest on the quality of the ACC this season. It was the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’...with some truly awful play by the likes of Pitt, Wake Forest, Notre Dame, Miami, Boston College and Georgia Tech.
--The Pac-12 entered the weekend in danger of becoming the first power conference since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985 to only have one bid (Washington won the regular-season title, but only the winner of the conference tournament gets an automatic bid).
So Oregon (23-12, 10-8) won the Pac-12 tournament championship, 68-48 over Washington (26-8, 15-3).
A Pac-12 (Pac-10) team hasn’t won the NCAA championship since Arizona’s 1996-97 squad.
The conference also hasn’t won a football national championship since USC won back-to-back titles in 2003-04 (though the latter was vacated by the BCS for NCAA violations.).
--One more, congratulations to Colgate, which defeated Bucknell for the Patriot League title, thus securing its first NCAA tourney bid since 1996.
--So then the Selection Committee weighed in....
The ACC did receive 3 #1 seeds, along with Gonzaga.
And the Pac-12 received 3, which is kind of outrageous. [Washington and Arizona State joining Oregon.]
But Belmont got in! Yippee! [Though in a play-in game against Temple.]
And I can’t believe my “Pick to Click,” Nevada, is a 7-seed! C’mon. They are a Sweet 16 lock, for starters.
Much more next time...including your #14-15 can’t miss upsets....cough cough....
If you don’t love The Players Championship, the legitimate fifth major, you aren’t a golf fan. I love this course more and more with each year. As the players all say, it’s difficult, but good play is rewarded, and it is perfect for final-round excitement.
And that we had today...Rory McIlroy, after all his final round issues, picked up his 15th career tour victory with a one-shot win over 48-year-old Jim Furyk.
The final-round action was tremendous, including Eddie Pepperell’s phenomenal birdie putt on 17, only to be matched at the same hole by Jhonattan Vegas, the two finishing tied for third at -14.
After two rounds we had....
And then at one point in the final, we had five golfers tied for the lead at -13, Rory and Fleetwood off to iffy starts.
But Rory prevailed, and it is great for the sport that he did. Golf needs likeable, talented lads like him. The Masters, a tradition unlike any other, on CBS, is setting up to be beyond special.
More next time.
--Tiger Woods, who finished T-30 at -6, hit two balls in the water at the par-3 17th in the second round for a quadruple bogey 7, which matched his highest on any par-3 in 24 years on the PGA Tour.
--Jordan Spieth missed the cut. Since he won his third major title, at the 2017 British Open at Royal Birkdale, to move to within a PGA Championship victory of a career Grand Slam, he has been winless in 38 worldwide starts.
At the start of the year, Spieth said he was enjoying the challenge of putting his game back together. But now, three months into the year and zero improvement, Spieth said Friday, “I’m getting tired of it now.”
--McIlroy wasn’t happy after his second round, finished in the glom due to the slow play.
“They don’t do anything about it. It has become an epidemic on the Tour,” he said in his press conference. “Look, it’s our livelihoods and people are going to take their time, but someone didn’t finish yesterday. That is unacceptable.
“I mean, I am here five hours, 40 minutes after our tee time. Honestly, I think they should be getting a little tougher and start penalizing shots. That would be an easier way to fix it.”
--Then there’s Phil Mickelson, who like Jordan Spieth missed the cut at The Players, some saying he had to be distracted.
Alex Miceli / Morning Read
“Trouble seems to find Phil Mickelson more often than it does any other professional golfer, with the possible exception of Tiger Woods. With Mickelson, though, the issues carry greater significance than the salacious missteps of Woods in years past.
“Mickelson has a history of skirting the legal lines.
“Seven years ago, Mickelson received a tip via text message from Billy Walters, a gambler and friend from Las Vegas, to buy stock in Dean Foods. The origin of the tip may or may not have been known by Mickelson, but on July 30-31, 2012, Mickelson purchased a total of $2.4 million in Dean Foods shares. On Aug. 7, he pocketed $931,000 when the dairy company announced a spinoff of a major subsidiary.
“After federal securities investigators probed the ill-gotten gains, Mickelson paid back $1.03 million, which represented the profit and interest. He was classified as a relief defendant and was not charged with any crime. He maintained that he was an innocent bystander to the fraud perpetrated by Walters and the source of the tip, Tom Davis, then chairman of Dean Foods. Walters and Davis served time in federal prison.
“The first time Mickelson discussed the matter in public, soon after the story broke, was after the first round of the 2016 Memorial Tournament. He took no responsibility for the legal transgression.
“ ‘Well, I have to be responsible for the people I associate with,’ Mickelson said. ‘Going forward, I’ll make the best effort I can to make sure I represent myself, as well as my family, as well as my companies, in the way that I want to, and they deserve.’
“Less than three years later, Mickelson and his family find themselves in the middle of another fraudulent activity.
“Like many families of means, Phil and Amy Mickelson used William ‘Rick’ Singer’s college consulting company, The Key Worldwide, to help their three children find their best college fit. The Mickelsons’ oldest child, Amanda, 19, is a sophomore at Brown. Their other two children, Sophia, 17, and Evan, 15, attend high school in California....
“On Thursday after the first round of the Players Championship, Mickelson was left to explain his involvement with another associate involved in a fraudulent scheme. This time, it was Singer, the mastermind who pleaded guilty Tuesday to racketeering conspiracy and other federal charges in a college-admissions scandal that has rocked schools and implicated wealthy families across the country.
“ ‘Along with thousands of other families, [we] hired his company to help guide us through the college-application process,’ Mickelson said. ‘We’re probably more shocked than anyone, and we have been dealing with it the last few days.’
“Like the Dean Foods scandal, Mickelson has taken the position of being an innocent victim. Nothing in the legal filings suggests that the Mickelsons are anything other than guiltless individuals, just trying to do the best for their family.
“Mickelson confirmed that he has worked with Singer and his company for three years for all three of his children, but never was asked whether he paid any money in perpetration of Singer’s fraud.
“ ‘Schools are like fighting to get them,’ Mickelson said of his children. ‘I hate to say that as a proud dad, but their grades and their outside activities and their worldly views on things have colleges recruiting them.’
“Proud dad or not, Mickelson clearly is not the best judge of character. His goal of not getting involved with questionable people, as he said he would attempt to do three years ago at the Memorial, has failed.
“On the golf course, Mickelson plays with an aggressive, gambling style. More often than not, he has pulled off the shot in a career highlighted by 44 victories and $90.2 million in earnings on the PGA Tour. This second brush with fraudulent schemes has to make you pause.”
--In a 122-110 loss to Portland on Friday night, what New Orleans player had his third consecutive triple-double?
Elfrid Payton?! Yup. The serviceable point guard who has hardly been a star nonetheless had 14 points, 12 rebounds, and a career-high 16 assists. [His previous two efforts were 14-15-11 and 15-10-10.]
Also for the Pelicans, Julius Randle had a career-high 45 points, with 11 rebounds. I mention this because I had noted the other day how Randle was one of the Lakers the team let get away, Randle signing a free agent deal with New Orleans, after four years with the Lakers, and all he’s doing is averaging 21.1 per game in a breakout season.
Well, Saturday, the Pelicans lost to Phoenix, 138-136 in overtime, New Orleans’ sixth-straight defeat, but Payton went 16-13-16. Four in a row for the dude.
Since the 1983-84 season, only 4 other players have recorded a triple-double streak that long.
Russell Westbrook 11
Michael Jordan 7
James Harden 4
Magic Johnson 4
And that is more than I’ve ever written on the New Orleans Pelicans. There’s a first for everything.
--Today, the Lakers squared off against the Knicks at The Garden...
The Lakers were without forward Brandon Ingram, who had thoracic outlet decompression surgery on his right arm Saturday, the team said, with the hope of being ready for next season. Ingram was diagnosed with deep venous thrombosis, after experiencing pain in his shoulder due to a blood clot. Ingram has averaged a career-best 18.3 points and 5.1 rebounds this season.
--As part of a deal between Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association, a number of changes are in the works for the game, both this season and in 2020.
The two sides have also agreed to commence mid-collective-bargaining-agreement negotiations, the CBA not expiring until Dec. 2021, spurred by labor relations discord amid a second consecutive free-agent market that has left the players disappointed. The talks are encouraging.
In place for this season is a single July 31 trade deadline, an All-Star election day and a Home Run Derby with the game’s biggest stars (both sides hope) vying for a $1 million bonus. Trades after the non-waiver deadline made August a hotbed for incremental upgrades by teams, and the union’s hope is that getting rid of them will cause teams to be more aggressive in the offseason knowing that the fallback for August deals is no longer an option.
We’ll have more on the All-Star Game selection changes and the home run derby as the season moves into May, but in the agreement between MLB and the players, the changes for 2020 are significant. There will be a three-batter minimum for pitchers (which I can’t stand), while regular-season rosters are expanded from 25 to 26 players, and September rosters will contract to a maximum of 28 from the current 40. No argument from me on either of these. A committee between the two sides will study the issue of how many pitchers should be allowed on the rosters. In negotiations, MLB has proposed 13 during the first five months of the season and 14 in September.
Other tweaks are in the works, such as limiting how position players are used as pitchers, such as allowing this in extra innings or when their team is ahead or behind by more than seven runs.
--Yankees ace Luis Severino, he of the new four-year, $40 million deal, will be out until at least May with his right shoulder inflammation.
And center-fielder Aaron Hicks, he of the new seven-year, $70 million contract, will miss Opening Day because of his bad back, though he should be available shortly thereafter.
Funny how these things work. CC Sabathia isn’t expected to be ready to go until late April, so the Yanks rotation is going to be kind of a mess beyond Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton and J.A. Happ.
--The Dodgers acknowledged Clayton Kershaw is unlikely to be ready for Opening Day. Kershaw has been slowed by shoulder inflammation this spring and has yet to pitch in an official exhibition game.
But All-Star shortstop Corey Seager, who missed most of last year with Tommy John surgery, is expected to be ready for the opener.
--The first game in London, featuring the Red Sox and Yankees, is the best-selling game of the 2019 regular season, according to StubHub.
Fans from 44 different states in the U.S. and 27 different countries have already purchased tickets for the MLB London series, June 29-30 at Olympic Stadium.
Separately, Phillies’ ticket sales are up 93 percent from the same time last year and up 157 percent over the last three seasons, following the signing of Bryce Harper.
--Le’Veon Bell spoke to the press for the first time since signing his four-year, $52.5 million deal with the Jets, and he was ebullient...pumped to be a Jet, being a fan in his youth because his favorite player was Jets great Curtis Martin.
But his comments on taking a year off were interesting. Bell gambled on himself, and he said he was totally content with the decision, including the one to turn down a $14.5 million franchise tag for 2018 from the Steelers.
“The decision I made is the decision I would do all over again,” Bell said. “I don’t regret anything that happened. Everything has happened for a reason up until this point. Who’s to say if I played last year, if I do go out there and play on a one-year franchise tag and I do get hurt, do I end up in this position today, being with the New York Jets on a beautiful deal?
“Even on the other side of it, if I go out there and play on the franchise tag and I get another 400 carries...and I come out of the season healthy, who’s to say what team is going to take me after another 400 carries? So, like I said, I’ve contemplated everything I’ve done. ...I don’t regret one thing. I’m happy where I’m at and the decision I made and I’m glad I’m here.”
Bell had 5,336 yards rushing, with 312 receptions for 2,660 yards in five seasons for the Steelers. His 128.9 yards from scrimmage per game over his career is the best in the NFL since the 1970 merger.
Meanwhile, Jets fans weren’t happy to see both All-Pro special teams players sign elsewhere; kicker Jason Myers, who signed a four-year deal with Seattle, and kick returner/WR Andre Roberts, who signed a four-year contract with Washington.
The Jets haven’t replaced Roberts yet, but signed kicker Chandler Catanzaro, who had been with the Jets and did OK, 2017, after three seasons with Arizona. Last season he split his time between Tampa and Carolina.
--Giants fans are still scratching their heads, and worse, in trying to figure out their team’s “plan.” GM Dave Gettleman says he has one...only he hasn’t spelled it out. Saturday was the deadline for the Giants to decide whether to keep Eli Manning, because he was due a $5 million roster bonus, and the day passed with Eli, 38, still in command, and major questions on whether the Giants are committed to taking a quarterback in the draft.
The outrage over the trade of Odell Beckham Jr. only grew when the Giants sought to replace his production, in part, by signing Golden Tate, a 10-year veteran with 611 career receptions for 7,214 yards and 38 TDs. He’s a possession-type threat, not a threat to shred defenses.
Steve Politi / Star-Ledger
“The latest Giants offseason move reminds me of a moment this summer during my fantasy football draft – bear with me, I swear, there’s a point. Sort of.
“The draft was buzzing along in the fifth round when I realized that I hadn’t picked a wide receiver. All of the good ones, of course, were long gone, so I looked at the list of players, saw the clocking ticking down to :00, and announced the decision to my empty living room.
“ ‘Oh &@#$, I guess I’ll take Golden Tate.’
“I wondered, late Thursday afternoon, if some variation of those words were uttered in the East Rutherford offices of the New York Football Giants.
“Dave Gettleman had insisted in a press release a day earlier that he did, in fact, have a plan – an odd thing for an NFL general manager to say, but this is an odd general manager in the middle of a very, very odd offseason.
“After several hours of deep reflection, I thought that I at least had an idea what Gettleman was trying to do with these moves. Get younger. Build through the draft. Make the painful decisions necessary to reboot a franchise that had chosen players poorly for years.
“Then, one day after trading away a 26-year-old receiver with 44 touchdowns in 59 career games, he signed one who will be five years older when the 2019 season starts with 38 touchdowns in 137 career games. To a four-year contract.”
--Miami Dolphins fans won’t have Ryan Tannehill to kick around anymore, the team trading him to Tennessee, along with a sixth-round pick; the Dolphins receiving a fourth-round 2020 selection and a seventh-rounder this year.
Tannehill’s contract was to balloon to $18.7 million in base salary this year, and he would have counted $26.6 million against the salary cap, so it was assumed he would be traded. Now he’s backup to Marcus Mariota.
Tennessee released QB Blaine Gabbert in a corresponding move. And Miami signed Ryan Fitzpatrick, 36, to hold down the fort until the ‘franchise quarterback,’ whoever that may be, is drafted, and ready.
--The Saints and Teddy Bridgewater both made the right decision, Bridgewater, a free agent, opting to stay in New Orleans as Drew Brees’ backup, and perhaps heir apparent.
--As expected, the NFL suspended former Kansas City Chiefs star running back Kareem Hunt without pay for the first eight games of the regular season. The NFL had been conducting a review into two physical altercations last year.
Hunt, who joined the Cleveland Browns in February, will not appeal the suspension.
--We note the passing of Johnny “Lam” Jones, the former Univ. of Texas wide receiver and track standout, who won an Olympic relay gold medal in 1976, and then played five years in the NFL, all with the New York Jets. He died after a long bout with cancer at the age of 60.
The summer before his freshman year at Texas, just 18, Jones ran the second leg of the U.S. men’s winning 400-relay at the Montreal Games. He finished sixth in the 100 meters.
Johnny was the second overall pick by the Jets in the 1980 NFL Draft, but he was a huge disappointment, his career beset by injuries, and he had just 138 receptions for a 16.8 average and 13 touchdowns.
Premier League / Champions League
--There was limited Premier League action this weekend, with only Liverpool and Chelsea in action among the Big Six. Liverpool beat Fulham 2-1 to regain the top, if briefly, while Chelsea suffered a brutal 2-0 loss at Everton. Just when the Blues looked to be on the verge of moving into the top four, they’ve had a draw and loss.
So the standings...after 30/31 of 38...
1. Liverpool 31* – 76
2. Man City 30 – 74
3. Tottenham 30 – 61
4. Arsenal 30 – 60
5. Man U 30 – 58
6. Chelsea 30 – 57
--Manchester City and Liverpool clinched their spots in the Champions League quarterfinals this week; Liverpool taking out Bayern Munich, 3-1 (3-1 agg.), behind two goals from Sadio Mane, after Man City had blasted FC Schalke 04 7-0 (10-2 agg.)
So the draw was held for the quarter-finals....
Ajax v Juventus (April 10, April 16)
Liverpool v Porto (April 9, April 17)
Tottenham v Manchester City (April 9, April 17)
Barcelona v Manchester United (April 10, April 16)
And the semi-finals....
Tottenham/Man City v Ajax/Juventus
Barcelona/Man U v Liverpool/Porto
FIS / World Cup Alpine...Shiffrin!!!
--Mikaela Shiffrin finished her record-setting season this weekend in style at Soldeu, Andorra, winning both the slalom and giant slalom races, with the slalom her 40th career victory in that discipline, tying her with Swedish great Ingemar Stenmark.
Shiffrin won the overall title, her third in a row, by almost 850 points. [And slalom, giant slalom and Super G titles]
Petra Vlhova 1355
Shiffrin also extended her record for wins in a single season to 17. And she now has 60 wins overall!
On the men’s side, Austria’s Marcel Hirscher won his eighth straight overall World Cup title, winning the slalom and giant slalom titles as well. His career win total is up to 67.
The U.S. men did not have a single podium finish all season. Yikes.
We are now just two months away from the Kentucky Derby and the sport continues to be roiled by the happenings at key track, Santa Anita. Saturday, the Thoroughbred Owners of California and Santa Anita reached an agreement to allow the track to reopen for racing March 29. The track has been closed since March 5 after a dramatic rise in horse deaths, which is at 22 since Dec. 26.
Santa Anita had laid out a plan to ban all race-day Lasix, under a proposal by the Stronach Group, which owns and runs the track. But a compromise was reached that has the prohibition only applying to 2018 foals, or horses that won’t race until next year. Horses currently on Lasix will be allowed to continue to receive the medication on race day but in a maximum dosage that ends up being half that currently allowed.
If racing doesn’t resume soon, TOC members said 140 horses were ready to leave California.
Another rule that will go into effect when the track reopens is not allowing jockeys the use of the whip unless for safety reasons. Currently a jockey can use the whip three times in succession before having to allow the horse a chance to respond.
Meanwhile, trainer Bob Baffert sent two top favorites for the Derby to Oaklawn Park in Arkansas, Saturday, for prep races, specifically in two divisions of the Rebel Stakes, and both Improbable and Game Winner finished second, after both had been undefeated and entered prohibitive favorites. Improbable was beaten by a neck by Long Range Toddy (trained by Steve Asmussen), while Game Winner lost by a nose to Omaha Beach (trained by Richard Mandella and ridden by “Money” Mike Smith). It’s easy to YouTube them. Very entertaining.
So this leaves the Derby totally up in the air.
--Back to the admissions scandal, anyone who follows college sports closely understands that USC athletic director Lynn Swann should have been history long ago. He’s been a disaster.
Great Hall of Fame receiver for the Steelers, great former Trojan, but an incompetent, out of his league, AD.
And so now, no school is featured more prominently in the scandal than USC, and, you know, he’s in charge.
Arash Markazi / Los Angeles Times
“(Swann) was in bed Tuesday when he received the call about the college admissions bribery scandal that would rock USC and several other schools around the nation. His phone rang twice around 7 a.m. before he finally picked it up the third time.
“ ‘The head of professionalism and ethics at the university [Michael Blanton] gave me a call and obviously when you get a call this early in the morning more often than not it’s not good news and it wasn’t,’ Swann said Friday in his first public comments on the story. ‘He explained to me what was going on and I was blindsided. I was looking at my emails and I saw that the partner of one of my senior executive administrators [Donna Heinel] had said she wouldn’t be in this afternoon and, of course, Michael explained why that was the case.’
“Heinel, a senior associate athletic director, had been taken into custody after prosecutors announced a dozen indictments in U.S. district court in Boston, alleging a $25 million racketeering conspiracy. Heinel is alleged to have received bribe payments totaling more than $1.3 million while facilitating the entry of more than 24 nonathletes into USC.
“Meanwhile in Honolulu, USC’s men’s and women’s water polo coach Jovan Vavic, who was on the island to coach the women’s team, was arrested for allegedly receiving $250,000 in bribes as part of the scheme. Swann fired Heinel and Vavic before the end of the day.
“ ‘I think everybody was blindsided by this,’ Swann said. ‘The fact that it was a senior member of the staff and also our men’s and women’s head water polo coach. ...These are people that have been here a long time and people who had been here during difficult times and had seen bad things done and knew better. Everyone was completely shocked, caught off guard and taken by surprise.’
“Swann, who took over as USC’s athletic director a little under three years ago, has come under fire for not being aware of what was taking place within his department and for giving so much power to one person with seemingly little to no oversight.
“ ‘The reason why no one would know that this was happening is because we had one person in charge of submitting the academic records to our admissions department,’ Swann said. ‘And that one person was in charge of getting that information back and distributing it to the coaches and letting other people know. So when there’s trust that this one person is doing the right thing, which Donna had been doing for years, there’s not a problem. ...So a coach could give her a lst of five names and she could add a sixth name, give it to admissions, have it go through, admissions gives it back to her, she gives it back to the coach with only the five names that the coach gave her. The coach doesn’t know, no one knows, except for the person who added the extra name.’
“While other schools such as UCLA, Stanford, Yale and Georgetown were caught up in the scandal, USC was the only athletic department that had a senior administrator allegedly involved in the scheme.”
Swann claims that many of the transgressions in the department occurred on his predecessor, Pat Haden’s watch, Haden a teammate of Swann’s at USC.
The thing is, for one of the 4 or 5 most high-profile positions in college athletics, neither Swann nor Haden had previous athletic director experience before being hired by the school. It has been an absolutely disastrous stretch for the entire program.
“In the last 18 months, three USC athletic department employees who were working under Swann have been arrested by the FBI. The first was Tony Bland, a USC assistant men’s basketball coach who pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bribery in connection with the college basketball corruption scandal. While Heinel, Vavic and Bland were hired before Swann got there, many are placing the blame on him for leading a department with so little oversight that it would be a part of two federal investigations in less than two years.”
Swann says he’s in it for the long haul.
Bill Plaschke / Los Angeles Times
“Swann needs to go, now, for the sake of a world-class university with an otherwise sterling academic reputation that has been soiled by an athletic director who behaves like a dummy.
“Athletics used to be one of the school’s major selling points. It’s now an embarrassment.
“The national success of Trojans teams used to attract the smartest of kids longing to study at the coolest of places. Now, surely, the thought of going to a school where admission could be gained with a fraud photo and a fat check makes a National Merit Semifinalist think twice.
“USC’s academic reputation is spiraling because of athletics, and that’s on Swann.”
Meanwhile, aside from Phil Mickelson, we are learning of another high-profile figure who used William Singer.
San Francisco 49ers legend Joe Montana acknowledged he used Singer’s services, but he wanted his fans to know his kids got into college based on “their hard work and their merit,” not because they falsified applications.
Montana, like Mickelson, was not named by federal prosecutors, and said his family used Singer as a consultant, but did not engage in illegal activity.
“Mr. Singer’s company provided nothing more than minimal consulting services to our family, like so many other families, with the college application process. Fortunately our kids were able to pick from a number of schools to attend due to their hard work and their merit.
--ESPN had its annual ranking of the 2019 World Fame 100, which uses metrics such as ‘Google score,’ social media following, and endorsements.
1. Cristiano Ronaldo...Soccer...Portugal
2. LeBron James...Basketball...U.S.
3. Lionel Messi...Soccer...Argentina
5. Conor McGregor...MMA...Ireland
6. Roger Federer...Tennis...Switzerland
7. Virat Kohli...Cricket...India
8. Rafael Nadal...Tennis...Spain
9. Stephen Curry...Basketball...U.S.
10. Tiger Woods...Golf...U.S.
As ESPN The Magazine notes, kind of interesting how Ronaldo can remain the world’s most famous athlete, while eluding fallout from a rape investigation.
--The Atlantic magazine has a regular feature, “The Big Question,” and in the April issue it asks, “What was the best sequel in history?’
Among the answers from readers...
Dennis A. (Paducah, Ky.): “The U.S. Constitution. Twelve of the original states (all but Rhode Island) sent delegates to the 1787 convention in Philadelphia to fix the Articles of Confederation, which was then deemed unfixable. The sequel, ratified in 1788, has stood the test of time.”
David C. (Los Angeles, Calif.): “Four days after throwing a no-hitter against the Boston Braves on June 11, 1938, the Cincinnati Reds’ Johnny Vander Meer followed that up in his next start with another no-hitter, against the Brooklyn Dodgers . It is the only time a pitcher has thrown two consecutive no-hitters in the history of Major League Baseball.”
Barry C. (Palm Desert, Calif.): “The best sequel in the history of cinema is The Godfather: Part II. However, the danger of The Godfather: Part II being the best sequel ever is that it tempts you to watch The Godfather: Part III, which may be the worst sequel ever.”
Kevin M. (Edinburg, Texas): “The resurrection of Jesus Christ on the third day. Talk about a plot twist.”
--The prequel for the “Sopranos” has a title, “Newark,” and it will be released on Sept. 25, 2020.
The film, co-written by “Sopranos” creator David Chase and Lawrence Konner, is reportedly set in the 1960s during Tony Soprano’s childhood, circa the time of the Newark riots. ‘Sopranos” (and “Game of Thrones”) alum Alan Taylor is directing the movie for New Line.
The cast of “Newark” will feature 19-year-old Michael Gandolfini, James Gandolini’s son, as a young Tony. Alessandro Nivola will play Dickie Moltisanti, father to Christopher Moltisanti, who serves as a mentor to young Tony. Ray Liotta is among the others in the film.
Top 3 songs for the week 3/15/69: #1 “Dizzy” (Tommy Roe) #2 “Proud Mary” (Creedence Clearwater Revival) #3 “Everyday People” (Sly & The Family Stone)...and...#4 “Build Me Up Buttercup” (The Foundations) #5 “Traces” (Classics IV featuring Dennis Yost) #6 “Crimson And Clover” (Tommy James and The Shondells) #7 “This Girl’s In Love With You” (Dionne Warwick) #8 “Indian Giver” (1910 Fruitgum Co.) #9 “Time Of The Season” (The Zombies) #10 “This Magic Moment” (Jay and The Americans...only a B+ week...)
NCAA Basketball Tournament Quiz Answer: Teams beaten by the first three 15-seeds to win.
Richmond (1991) 73-69 over Syracuse
Santa Clara (1993) 64-61 over Arizona
Coppin State (1997) 78-65 over South Carolina
Next Bar Chat, Thursday.