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Sunday, November 17, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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What is that old saying about a leopard and its spots?

A GRIP ON SPORTS • Every once in a while the NCAA does something that seems attuned to the needs of the people the organization should really serve: the students who are also athletes. But usually it doesn’t last long. The point was driven home again yesterday. Read on.

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• The NCAA instituted a rule a few years ago that flew somewhat under the average fan’s radar. In a fit of sanity, the organization allowed football coaches to hold camps off campus. What did that mean? And why was it a big deal? First things first. The NCAA allowed someone like Mike Leach at Washington State to gather up his staff in June and fly to California. Working their way up the state, the Cougar coaches held football camps at three or four different stops. They would instruct the high school players who paid the entry fee and showed up, sure. But they would also evaluate talent, oftentimes talent that wouldn’t have been able to afford a trip to Pullman. Or that WSU couldn’t afford to bring in. The NCAA limits how many football players a school can bring to campus on a paid visit. So most everyone, WSU included, brings in the best players the school feels it can induce to attend its university. The less-talented prospects who couldn't afford to pay for their trip? Over the years, they would often slip between the cracks. Film is great in evaluating players, but there is nothing better than spending a couple hours with a high school kid, seeing how he takes instruction, seeing how he reacts to adversity, just seeing him, if you get my drift. Which is why the NCAA liberalization of the off-campus rules a few years ago was such a big deal. Yes it helped schools like Washington State or Oregon State or Iowa State or New Mexico State and the like, schools not located in talent hotbeds, but it also helped a lot of kids who may not have been seen in person. Oh sure, they may have ended up playing college football at another level (more on that in a second), but they may not have reached their potential through no fault of their own. It seemed like a common-sense rule that actually helped high school football players. Which put it on the hit list. The schools that, you know, actually occupy territory over-populated with players, like the members of the SEC, didn’t like the rule one bit. It smacked of carpetbagging, something that doesn’t go over well in SEC country. From the beginning, the conference fought the practice. It wouldn’t even allow its schools to take advantage, banning the practice for conference members. You don’t think Mississippi State wouldn’t benefit from holding a camp in Dallas or Los Angeles? And you don’t think there isn’t a player or two in those cities that just might impress a Vanderbilt coach in person? But the SEC is run by the top echelon – just like the big dogs of the Pac-12, the Big 12, etc., have an inordinate amount of influence within those conferences – and the more powerful schools are invested – heavily – in keeping the status quo intact. This rule threatened that, if only a little. So the powerful schools in just about ever conference fought back. Yesterday they got their way. The NCAA banned satellite camps. Effective immediately. So the four camps WSU was holding in California this June? They have to be cancelled. And another playing-field leveler is torn asunder. But most importantly a rule that served a group of kids who could use the help, the lower-income athlete who isn’t a can’t-miss prospect, is tossed away to keep the powerful happy. Which made a lot of people unhappy, Mike Leach among them. He weighed in on the rule change yesterday, texting Stefanie Loh of the Seattle Times his thoughts. He talked about expanding opportunities instead of limiting them. He talked about the best interests of the potential recruit. And then he hit the nail on the head. “It appears to me that some universities and conferences are willing to sacrifice the interests of potential student-athletes for no better reasons than to selfishly monopolize their recruiting bases,” Leach wrote. Bingo. And he had a word of advice for the NCAA, which is supposed to serve its student/athletes above all else. “We need to rethink this,” Leach wrote, “if we are actually what we say we are.” Sorry Mike, but once again the NCAA and its member schools showed what they really are, not what they says they are.

• By the way, the rollback doesn’t apply to everyone. Only to FBS schools like WSU and Nevada and Iowa State. It doesn’t apply to FCS or Division II schools. So Eastern Washington could, if it wishes, fill the void, holding three or four camps in the Golden State this June. See, schools such as Alabama, Texas and Florida State don’t see Montana or North Dakota State as a threat to their hegemony, so it’s OK if those schools hold camps. But Michigan or Nebraska? Stay out of my backyard. The real intent of this rule change is revealed in how it is applied. Off-campus camps aren’t bad, per se. They are only bad if schools that could, you know, unearth a player who might help LSU win another national title, holds them. Good to know.

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• WSU: Jacob Thorpe has a story on five players worth keeping your extra eyeball on during spring camp. ... The satellite-camp ban is explained well in Ted Miller’s weekly mailbag on ESPN.com’s Pac-12 blog. It is also the subject of a lot of discussion around the nation. ... A former California assistant landed on his feet in a hurry.

• Gonzaga: Former Bulldog basketball player Demetri Goodson was suspended four games yesterday by the NFL for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy. ... The baseball team has won five consecutive games.

• EWU: There is a new voice around the practice field for the Eagles. Jim Allen introduces us to quarterbacks coach Troy Taylor in this piece.

• Chiefs: Everett took a 1-0 lead over Seattle in their second-round WHL playoff series last night.

• Empire: Colorado has yet to win a game this IFL season but that doesn’t mean Spokane is expecting an easy win tonight. Jim Meehan has an advance of the Arena game.

• Skating: The squads for the Team Challenge Cup competition later this month are complete after on-line voting. Tom Clouse has more in this story.

• Seahawks: So are the Hawks going to target the defensive or offensive line in the first round of the draft? How about neither?

• Mariners: Bummer. Watched the M’s game last night all the way until the ninth inning. When Steve Cishek gave up a solo home run to put the A’s up 3-2, I gave up and went to bed. Call me soft if you will, but I figured it was over. It was. Too bad, because all the pomp, circumstance and people in the crowd made it enjoyable to watch. ... John Blanchette was in Safeco for the opener to see Ken Griffey Jr., throw out the first pitch and to watch Scott Servais manage. The latter is the subject of his column. ... Nori Aoki continues a long Seattle tradition. ... Ryan Divish has a nice piece on Felix Hernandez's evolution as a pitcher.

• Sounders: Ozzie Alonso is more relaxed this season. ... Real Salt Lake and Colorado face off today.

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• Most of my day yesterday was spent watching the Masters on my computer and television. Is there another storied course in the world that is more affected by the wind than Augusta National? OK, St. Andrews. Maybe Pebble Beach. But if the wind is calm in Augusta, the scores are usually low. If it blows, as it did yesterday, the scores soar. Which makes it fun. Yes, I will be glued to the TV set today when Rory McIlroy and Justin Spieth tee off on “Movind Day.” Who do I expect to make the biggest move? Jason Day or Dustin Johnson. Until later ...




Vince Grippi
Vince Grippi is a freelance local sports blogger for spokesman.com. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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