”Yoni over at College Basketball wrote a little blurb a while back about the new contract that Coach Jimmy Collins got from Illinois-Chicago. There’s nothing too exciting about what Yoni wrote or the article he linked to. A good small-school coach got an extension.
To me though, it brought back an old memory.
[cue wavy memory lines here and Wayne’s World-style music – doodle-do, doodle-do, doodle-do]
As I alluded to in my What’s This? page, I went to college at Washington University in St. Louis. I lived in Virginia, but decided to spend most of my summers in St. Louis because my that’s where my girlfriend lived. I had a job on campus, so it made sense to just stay there instead of going back home. One summer, I think it was 1990, my girlfriend (now my wife) had a job as a campus tour guide. She’d give tours several days a week to prospective students and their families. One night a week, the tour guides hosted an open house on campus. There would be cookies and soft drinks and prospective students and their parents could meet all the tour guides and grill them. My girlfriend made me go to these things.
I didn’t really want to go. I didn’t know all the facts about the school, like when it was founded, who the first Dean was, or how many Nobel Laureates it had. I did know what fraternities threw the best parties and what bars were easy to sneak into, but no one ever asked me those things. So, mostly, I would hang out and eat cookies. Occasionally, a prospective engineering student would track me down and ask some questions. Somehow, it turned out that none of the gregarious tour guides were in the Engineering school. Go figure.
So, one night I’m there hanging out and stuffing myself on free cookies (for a college student, that’s like fancy dining) and one of the parents, a dad, came over to chat with me. Actually, I don’t think he really came over, but we both drifted out of the conversation clusters and found ourselves by the cookies. He was there with his wife and daughter and was about as interested in talking about Wash U as I was. So, we talked sports.
He and his family were from Champaign, Illinois. He told me this after I asked about his University of Illinois polo shirt. I believe he said that he worked for the school, but it may just be that he was a big fan.
Now, this summer, Illinois had been in the news a lot. The St. Louis papers always followed the Illini fairly closely. The school wasn’t too far away and it is a big rival of The University of Missouri. This summer though, the news wasn’t about Illini wins and losses; it was about the big recruiting scandal. Illinois basketball was in the midst of a good run of years, including a Final Four in 1989. They had some great players like Kendall Gill, Kenny Battle, Nick Anderson and Marcus Liberty. And Deon Thomas.
Deon Thomas. He was the one that the news was about that summer. Specifically, allegations were flying around that his recruitment had been tainted. The rumors were that Illinois had offered him a large sum of money, something like $50,000 and a car, a Chevy Blazer I think. The man at Illinois that was being blamed was assistant coach Jimmy Collins. Collins had been given credit for bringing most of the Illini talent, particularly players from Chicago. Deon Thomas was one of those Chicago players.
So back to that night – there was no way that summer to talk about Illinois sports and not bring up the scandal and the ongoing NCAA investigation. So, I asked this guy, we’ll call him Bob, about this. He smiled at me as if he’d been waiting for me to ask. “Oh yeah, I know all about it. Jimmy Collins is a good friend of mine,” Bob said. “We play racquetball a couple of times a week.” Bob was a fit-looking guy, a black guy if that matters, so this seemed reasonable.
Now I was curious. His mischievous grin told me that he had a story. “So,” I asked, “is it true?”
Bob barely let me finish the question before he blurted out, “Oh yeah. It’s all true, the 50 grand, the Blazer, all of that. In fact, they don’t know all of it. But they’ll never find anything. They won’t find any evidence. Jimmy’ll get off.” Bob was positively beaming with this news. He thought it was pretty damn funny. His boy was gonna pull the wool over the NCAA’s eyes.
Later that summer, Bob was proven right. The NCAA never did come up with a smoking gun in the Deon Thomas case. The closest they got was a phone conversation that Iowa assistant coach Bruce Pearl recorded with Deon Thomas. Thomas told Pearl that Illinois had offered him illegal benefits. Legal proceedings about the legality of the phone call tied the case up in court for a while. In typical NCAA fashion, they couldn’t find the big stuff, so they found a lot of little things instead. Eventually, the NCAA handed out their findings, finding Illinois guilty, but not hitting them hard. Illinois couldn’t play in the postseason for a year and they lost some recruiting privileges for a few years. Collins was placed under some sort of probation as well, but didn’t lose his job.
Every time I read stories about Jimmy Collins now, especially when he complains about Bruce Pearl, I think about Bob. His boy got off and is now a head coach with a bright future. I think Bob

Vick To Transfer?

Given his multiple run-ins with the law and current suspension, it’s not surprising to hear rumors that Marcus Vick will transfer. In this article, Georgia Southern’s coach says he knows nothing about it.
It’s probably just an unfounded rumor, but really, it wouldn’t be surprising. I’m sure he thinks he has the talent to get to the next level regardless of where plays college ball and things haven’t gone well in Blacksburg.

Good Take On Willie Williams

The SportsProf has a very nice article up on what he calls the interesting tale of Willie Williams. He makes a lot of great points. I completely agree that this is a risk that a university shouldn’t be taking. Football is important, but it’s not that important. It’s not fair to the other students in school and the parents of those students who are paying tuition. Would you want this guy living in a dorm with your kid?

Failing For Your Future

This is yet another warm and fuzzy story about NCAA recruiting. Apparently, there is a little loophole in the NCAA eligibility rules that sometimes makes it advantageous for recruits to fail out of school in their senior year. They then reenroll at some prep school, get their grades up and voila, they’re eligible!
Here’s a nice quote from the article concerning soon-to-be ACC member Boston College:

Jones’s mother, Shannon, said she was advised by Boston College assistant coach Keith Willis and the coach at the Connecticut prep school at which Jones eventually would enroll that it would be in her son’s best interest not to graduate from high school. Andre Jones said he intentionally failed English during the second semester of his senior year to not meet graduation requirements.

Student-athletes indeed.

State #1?

I missed this from a few weeks ago. Gregg Doyel puts forth a decent argument that NC State could be #1 in the ACC this next year and possibly some years after. They definitely have a chance, but the conference will be very competitive. There may well be four or five teams separated by just a game or two at the end of the year.

Shocker! Miami Admits Williams

You might want to sit down for this one (as if you’re standing at your computer). Miami, that paragon of prudence, that citadel of civility, has decided to admit Willie Williams despite his rather lengthy rap sheet and current probation. Did I mention that Williams was rated as the top high school linebacker in the country last year?
Don’t worry though. Miami is burdening him with some “academic conditions.” That’s tough that a college student should have to deal with “academic conditions.”

More Fifth Year Talk

It’s possible that a fifth year of eligibility for football could come as early as next year. A great point brought up in this article that I missed in my earlier writings is that a large percentage of football players already play five years. They redshirt their first year and then play four, many as grad students in their last year. So an extra year of eligibility isn’t that earthshattering. It might help guys who don’t redshirt and don’t graduate in four years – that extra year could be huge for them. The big question would be what to do about career records, but honestly that’s a minor deal. There’s been some discussion of the five year stuff in the Sports Shack.
Another section of this article talks about choosing a site for the upcoming ACC football championship game. They list several possible cities, including Baltimore and Washington, DC. Let me tell you, it’s NOT going to be in either of those places. They’re too cold and not central enough. My guess is they’re just in the list to appease sponsors and maybe to finagle some extra free trips.

Urine Luck

I have seen ads for these products before – stuff you can drink to ensure a clean drug test – but I never believed they’d work. I just figured that they were to scam nervous pot heads. According to Ricky Williams, I was wrong. Ricky claims that the reason he failed a test is that one time he neglected to drink his Urine Luck. Ricky also said that lots of NFL players use the stuff. Pretty interesting. I wonder if it would work for steroid testing as well? I bet it would, because it sounds like it saturates your system so that you’re basically peeing water and whatever else this stuff includes. These potions include enough stuff that looks like normal urine to the tests and you come out clean.
Maybe it’s time to give up on pee-in-a-cup drug tests.