So Rupert Murdoch, international media czar, is The Sporting News’ most powerful person in sports. Like this is a surprise?
The man spent $1.58 billion for the broadcast rights to the National Football Conference. You spend $1.58 billion on anything, even if it means first dibs on Tampa Bay Bucs telecasts, and you deserve somebody’s No. 1 ranking.
But not even Murdoch could crack the first and soon-to-be prestigious 15 Least Important People in College Basketball - though, for $1.58 billion, I’d reconsider.
1. The Student Athlete. You’re right, you can’t put a price on a free education. For the chance at a diploma, today’s scholarship player ought to be forever thankful. However, you can put a price on the cost of a movie, a pitcher of beer, a load of laundry, a tank of gas, a pair of jeans and other assorted incidentals not covered by a grant-inaid.
Maybe Louisiana State coach Dale Brown is right. Maybe one day the players, tired of being left out of the NCAA’s economic food chain, will boycott the Final Four. No monthly stipend, no permission to work during the season, no piece of the huge NCAA financial pie … then no play.
2. Big Eight Commissioner Carl James. James, who deserved better, wasn’t anywhere near the information superhighway when the Pacific 10 Conference was busy trying to raid his league of longtime Big Eight member Colorado and soonto-be member Texas. Instead, he was at Stuckey’s having a malt.
It wasn’t until James saw a press release from Colorado acknowledging the Pac-10 invitation that he knew all the details. Nice league.
3. Big East coaches. Ask Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim to list the advantages of Notre Dame joining the Big East and you find yourself listening to the gentle hiss of a longdistance phone line. In fact, if a confidential poll of league coaches were taken, chances are Notre Dame’s entry into the conference wouldn’t rank as a defining moment. The coaches are convinced the move helps the Irish more than it helps the established Big East teams.
Then again, apparently nobody asked the coaches what they thought.
4. Rollie Massimino. From national championship in 1985 to semi-disgrace in 1994. Massimino, along with former Nevada-Las Vegas President Robert Maxson and UNLV athletic director Jim Weaver, promised to rescue the Runnin’ Rebels image. Instead, they put another layer of dirt on the controversial program.
Even if he wanted one, it’s difficult to imagine Massimino earning another high-profile coaching position.
5. Baylor’s admissions office. Got a transcript from Mount Olive Air Conditioning & Bible College? Welcome to Baylor, where there’s a scholarship and a uniform with your name on it.
At least there was until the latest academic scam was uncovered.
6. Kentucky’s wardrobe consultant. The Wildcats’ new gamewear looks like a circus tie-dye experiment gone awry. Bring back the classic K on the shorts and lose the Barnum & Bailey stuff.
7. The University of Dayton. When it came time to form a new all-sports league, guess which Great Midwest Conference member was left out of the mix? These days, loyalties go only as far as TV markets and dollar guarantees. Ask Dayton for the details.
8. DePaul coach Joey Meyer. Cut off at the knees by DePaul athletic director Bill Bradshaw, this is probably Meyer’s last season as the Blue Demons coach. All Meyer did was devote his entire adult life to the program and win 200 games in 10 years.
Unfortunately for Meyer, DePaul failed to reach the NCAA Tournament the last two seasons. Trust us, if he does leave at season’s end, it will be more DePaul’s loss than Meyer’s.
9. Arizona coach Lute Olsen didn’t want to play in the early season Great Eight. Said it wasn’t fair to his players, who would miss all sorts of class time. Said the program could do without the guaranteed money, especially considering the team’s travel schedule. Said it was just another example of TV running the sport.
On Nov. 30 at the Palace in Auburn Hills, Arizona defeated Michigan in the second game of that night’s Great Eight game.
10. Texas El-Paso Coach Don Haskins and Missouri coach Norm Stewart. Let me get this straight: Sergei Belov is in the Basketball Hall of Fame, but Haskins and Stewart, each of whom reached the 650-victory plateau this season, aren’t? Hey, Springfield, wake up and smell the records.
11. National Association of Basketball Coaches. The NABC means well - very well - but until it starts making a dent in the NCAA’s decision-making process, the coaches’ group will remain a legislative middleweight.
12. North Carolina sophomore Jerry Stackhouse. We checked our supply of preseason hoops periodicals and not a single one had the North Carolina sophomore forward on its All-America first team. There was one yearbook that failed to find a place for Stackhouse on its first five teams. Someone owes him a major apology.
13. Indiana’s postgame microphone engineer. No need to plug that in. Coach won’t be talking to the media tonight.
14. St. John’s University officials. Red Storm? That sounds like a dust cloud, a Tom Clancy novel or a USFL team from Shreveport, La.
15. NIT organizers. Some fun, getting the NCAA’s leftovers.