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Friday, July 10, 2020

College Basketball

Report: Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott could be pushed out by school administrators

Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott has become increasingly unpopular with the conference’s fans, and he may be losing the confidence of its administrators as well.

Scott informed staffers for the Pac-12 as well as the Pac-12 Network that anyone making over $100,000 or more annually would see their salaries cut as part of the conference’s operating budget for the next year, according to John Canzano of the Oregonian. Employees learned of the cuts via email last Wednesday at the start of a scheduled 4th of July holiday, and the nature and timing of the news has left many angered.

The conference’s financial situation has also raised questions about Scott’s future. Internally, some are wondering whether the Pac-12 CEO group, which consists of the league’s chancellors and presidents, may move to release Scott from his contract early. Scott’s deal expires in the summer of 2022, but league administrators have their eye on 2024, when the current media rights deals expire. The state of the Pac-12 Network, which reaches fewer than 18 million households and laid off eight percent of its staffers in April, is worrisome to those at the top.

“There’s serious talk amongst the Pac-12 CEO Group to end his contract ahead of the expiration date to have a fighting chance to save the (conference) Networks,” one high-level administrator told Canzano.

The gap between the Pac-12 and other Power 5 conferences is at least partially down to the Pac-12 Network’s limited reach and the lack of revenue it subsequently generates for the conference’s schools. On-field results have reflected that, as the league has only had two teams selected to the College Football Playoff since its inception in 2014. Washington’s 2016 selection is the league’s most recent, while the 2014 Oregon Ducks are the only Pac-12 school to have won a College Football Playoff game. Those struggles have become apparent in men’s basketball as well, with the 2017 Oregon squad serving as the conference’s lone Final Four team since Scott became commissioner in 2009.

In the end, it’s all about the money. The Pac-12 isn’t making enough of it compared to what it should be making. That’s part of why Scott is disliked by fans, and why he appears to be growing increasingly unpopular with school administrators as well.

Kentucky transfer Jacob Toppin reportedly planning to sit out season

Kentucky Wildcats logo

Jacob Toppin, the younger brother of reigning National Player of the Year Obi Toppin, announced back in April that he is transferring from Rhode Island to Kentucky. However, Wildcats fans are not going to get to see him play during the upcoming season.

Toppin is planning to sit out the 2020-21 season, Chris Fisher of CatsPause.com reports. The 6-foot-7 forward would need an eligibility waiver to play, and he doesn’t really have a case that he should be granted one under current transfer rules.

Toppin averaged 5.1 points and 3.9 rebounds in 30 games for Rhode Island last season. He will still be able to practice with Kentucky even if he does sit out.

Kentucky head coach John Calipari has been very active on the transfer market in recent years. The Wildcats also added All-ACC former Wake Forest star Olivier Sarr, who is seeking an eligibility waiver to be able to play this season. Kentucky lost a big transfer earlier this year, so they are hoping Sarr can contribute right away with Toppin now sitting out.

Five-star recruit Makur Maker chooses Howard over several top programs

Five-star high school basketball recruit Makur Maker committed to a college program on Friday, and his decision came as a shock to many.

Maker announced on social media that he will be attending Howard.

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Committed Howard U. Let’s get it!!

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Maker, a 6-foot-11 senior, was believed to be leaning toward UCLA as of less than two months ago. He also gave consideration to Kentucky and Memphis. Maker explained on Twitter why he committed to Howard and thanked Kentucky coach John Calipari and UCLA coach Mick Cronin.

According to ESPN’s Jeff Borzello, Maker is the highest-ranked prospect in the ESPN database to ever commit to a historically black school. He is ranked No. 16 in the ESPN 100 for 2020. Maker previously entered his name in the NBA Draft, but he is likely to withdraw it now that he announced he will attend Howard.

Maker was born in Kenya, grew up in Australia, and then moved to the U.S. and was home-schooled in California during high school. The 19-year-old averaged 14.7 points and 7.9 rebounds last year with Dream Vision on the Adidas grassroots circuit. You have to admire the risk he is taking with his career by committing to Howard over some elite programs.

Rick Pitino offers suggestion for college basketball season

Rick Pitino

Rick Pitino offered a few suggestions Wednesday for how the NCAA should run the 2020-2021 college basketball season.

Pitino, who was named Iona’s head coach in March, thinks the NCAA should push back the start of the season to January and only play conference games.

The college basketball season typically begins in early November and crowns a Division-I champion in April after the NCAA Tournament ends. This year, the NCAA Tournament and most conference tournaments were canceled due to COVID-19.

College football is planning and attempting to play a season this fall. Whether college football and college basketball are able to play seasons in the upcoming academic year remains to be seen.

Emoni Bates commits to Michigan State, leaves door open to skip college

Michigan State

One of the top college basketball recruits in recent memory has announced his college choice — with a pretty big caveat.

Emoni Bates, the consensus No. 1 recruit in the 2022 class, announced Monday on ESPN that he has committed to Michigan State. However, Bates is so highly regarded that many doubt he’ll even attend college — something Bates himself alluded to in making his announcement.

Bates has been described by some as the most talented basketball prospect since LeBron James. That’s partially why there is still so much uncertainty here. The 16-year-old Ann Arbor native has options, and could even reclassify for the 2021 class and play for the Spartans a year earlier than anticipated.

On the other hand, that could all go out the window if the NBA repeals its rule requiring all draftees to be 19 years old. If the one-and-done rule goes out the window, Bates could skip college and enter the draft and potentially be the No. 1 pick in 2022. This had been viewed as such a significant possibility that few top programs even bothered to recruit him. The Spartans were the exception, as Tom Izzo had been recruiting Bates since the forward was in 7th grade. There had been widespread speculation that rule could be repealed by the time Bates graduates high school, but that may not be quite as certain anymore.

If Bates does attend college, he’ll be a must-watch player and one of Michigan State’s best recruits ever. Spartan fans will be desperately hoping he goes that route.

Cal becomes latest school to vow to fight Under Armour termination threat

Cal Golden Bears logo

Under Armour continues to attempt to escape its west coast college apparel deals, and the schools involved are vowing to fight it.

The brand is reportedly seeking to get out of its deal with Cal, the second Pac-12 school with whom Under Armour is trying to sever its business ties. Michael Smith of Sports Business Journal reported Saturday that the brand was eyeing the Cal deal for possible cancellation, and both Cal and UCLA have been removed from the brand’s website.

On Sunday, Cal’s athletic department released a statement saying that they had no reason to believe they had violated the terms of the deal on their end, and that Under Armour did not have grounds for termination.

This is threatening to turn into a messy situation. Under Armour signed a 10-year, $86 million deal with Cal in 2016. That was around the same time they made an even bigger deal with UCLA — another deal Under Armour is trying to get out of.

Under Armour’s financial situation was not great even before the pandemic badly hurt global business. It seems as though the brand is trying to get out of some bad deals that they overpaid for citing the fact that they are not receiving marketing benefits that were part of the deal. Expect both schools to do everything they can to prevent this from happening, perhaps even taking legal action to try to uphold the contracts.

Maurice Clarett working as UConn men’s basketball consultant

Maurice Clarett has found a job in sports again, but probably not the one you’re thinking of.

Clarett is serving as a consultant for the Connecticut men’s basketball team. The former Ohio State running back was initially asked by coach Dan Hurley to come talk to the players last summer, but it went so well that Hurley asked Clarett to become a consultant full-time.

Clarett told players the story of how he had gone from college football star to imprisoned for armed robbery, and the steps he has taken to rebuild his life. That story resonated with many of the players.

“When he told his story, I was just in shock how he bounced back,” senior Tyler Polley told Zach Braziller of the New York Post. “He pretty much lost everything. It’s inspiring.”

Clarett spends up to three days a month with the players in person and also makes himself available by phone. He essentially frames his role as something of a therapist, helping players mentally and counseling them through on- and off-court issues.

“I’ve built a trust I think with the guys. We’ve been able to get together and work one-on-one and have started to explore what does life look like outside of basketball, what encourages and motivates them,” Clarett said of his role. “At the state that America is in right now, I’m pretty sure a lot of what I said to these guys resonates. Life is a lot bigger than basketball. It’s a lot bigger than going out there and getting in shape, running and dunking and jumping. It’s about the impact you have on people. The impact you have on the world.”

The former BCS champion has been very open about his struggles once his football career went off the rails. Between being dismissed from the Ohio State team and never even making it to the NFL to his prison sentence, he’s experienced highs and lows in sports and life that few others have. It’s very easy to see why Hurley and the Huskies could view him as a valuable resource for young athletes.