What the new Yahoo!!! college basketball report says about Michigan State

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Yahoo!, which somehow still staffs a sports department and definitely isn’t a Jeb!-like holdover from the Web 1.9 days, has a new college basketball report out today that is Very Important. I know it’s Very Important because “federal investigation,” “meticulous,” “prominent,” and “underbelly” all appear in the first sentence.

Cutting through the heady haze of college athletics journalism, this is an article based on expense reports from a sports agency called ASM Sports. Those reports apparently document “cash advances, as well as entertainment and travel expenses for high school and college prospects and their families.”

The only document– and please know that the tireless staff of Yahoo! Sports “viewed hundreds of pages of documents,” according to Yahoo! Sports– mentioned that references Michigan State’s men’s basketball program in any respect is an expense reimbursement request Christian Dawkins, a former ASM agent, filed with the agency. One of those requests was dated May 3, 2016: “Redwood Lodge. Lunch w/Miles Bridges Parents [sic]. $70.05.” Another was from the same date: “ATM Withdrawl [sic]: Miles Bridges mom [sic] advance. $400.” The article also states: “According to the documents, Dawkins has dinners listed with plenty of boldface names in the sport – Tom Izzo . . . .” That’s everything on the Spartans.

As one possible starting point, we can acknowledge that the NCAA prohibits student-athletes from receiving money from agents. Whatever the wisdom behind or efficacy of that policy, I’m not sure we even have evidence of a payment to Bridges, the Spartans’ premier player, here.

First, despite that exhaustive (well maybe not quite that exhaustive: “Yahoo[!] did not view all of the documents in the three criminal cases tied to the investigation, but . . . .”) doc review, Yahoo! declined to publish the records referencing Bridges. They published multiple pages of reports mentioning other players but, for some undisclosed reason, decided not to publish those that mention Bridges (or Izzo). That means we have to take the authors’ word that the records they saw but did not include with their article said what they say they do.

Second, assuming those records exist and are as described, I don’t think they actually evidence payments to Bridges himself. A– and perhaps the only– reasonable reading of the two entries are for a lunch with Bridges’ parents and a payment to Bridges’ mother. The negative implication is that Bridges himself did not attend the lunch and did not receive the payment. This distinction is significant in light of the NCAA’s prior case against Cam Newton. There, the NCAA suspended Newton on multiple occasions arising out of allegations that Newton’s father, Cecil, tried to secure a pay-for-play agreement on Newton’s behalf with Mississippi State but ultimately reinstated him based on Auburn’s successful argument that Newton was unaware of his father’s efforts. If Dawkins, in treating Bridges’ parents to lunch and giving Bridges’ mother cash, acted without Bridges’ knowledge, there would appear to be no basis for the NCAA to punish Bridges.

Third, a technical but not legally insignificant point is that these records are, at most, indirect evidence of payments to Bridges’ family. They’re good evidence, but they aren’t direct evidence that the payments actually were made. Even if Dawkins had a receipt of the ATM withdrawal, for example, we don’t have direct evidence that he provided that cash to Bridges’ mother.

Finally on the direct issues, the passing reference to Tom Izzo obviously is meaningless, but it’s good for SEO. There is no indication or allegation that any MSU official had any knowledge of or involvement with these payments. Continue reading

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Churchill Downs to initiate NASCAR-like regular season in 2013

The Courier-Journal reports:

In one of the most significant changes in the 139-year history of the Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs will determine the 20-horse field for next year’s event through points accrued in selected prep races.

The points system, to be known as the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” and intended to build advance fan interest, will begin this fall, with 2-year-olds able to earn points for the May 4 Derby in designated races.

Churchill’s management believes the new structure, which it plans to announce today, organizes the preps into the equivalent of a regular season and playoffs, to which fans can relate. Ever since the field has been limited to 20 horses, some form of earnings has been used to determine the field. Since 1986, Churchill has used graded-stakes earnings.

The plan calls for 36 races, as opposed to about 185 races worldwide that counted toward Derby selection under the previous arrangement.

The campaign of races leading up to the Derby is being divided into four phases with different point scales.

The first is called the Kentucky Derby Prep Season, typically spanning stakes from late September through late February. That will offer a 10-4-2-1 point scale for the top four finishers.

Next is the first of a three-phase Kentucky Derby Championship Season, which typically will span the 10-week run-up to the Derby. Races in the first phase of the Championshp [sic] Season will offer a 50-20-10-5 point scale.

That’s followed by the most important part of the Championship Season. These races will encompass the biggest events: the Florida Derby, Wood Memorial, Santa Anita Derby, Arkansas Derby, Toyota Blue Grass and Louisiana Derby, while also including the $2 million UAE Derby in Dubai. Those races will offer a 100-40-20-10 point scale.

Finally, there’s a last chance “wild-card setup” — Keeneland’s Lexington Stakes two weeks before the Derby and Churchill Downs’ opening-night Derby Trial a week before the Run for the Roses. Those points (20-8-4-2) could put a “bubble” horse over the top.

I like this idea. I don’t know if the audience for horse racing is growing, and I suspect it is not, but this will help in two ways: 1) it will help people focus on and understand the value and importance of certain pre-Derby races, and 2) it will enhance the experience of watching the Derby and the other Triple Crown races by contextualizing them, familiarizing fans with the participants further in advance of the big races. The further hope is that this will lead to broader television coverage. I look forward to learning more about Saratoga, Santa Anita, Arkansas, and, of course, Keenland. Not so much Pantoji.

…and down the stretch they come: ALDLAND’s 2012 Kentucky Derby Preview

Horse racing is an intriguing pairing of human and bestial talent. And money. The preparation that lasts years is tested in two minutes. Like any endeavour that involves large amounts of resources, extensive preparation, and flashpoint testing, predictability is highly prized. Here, however, it remains elusive. It is that absence of ultimate predictability, however, that keeps the sport and its accordant culture alive.

Since my only possible qualifications for writing a substantive post on horse racing at this juncture come from an evening watching harness racing at Vernon Downs five years ago and spending last week in Lexington, during which I saw plenty of horses and horse farms, but no horse racing, let me direct you to a collection of stories and other online features that will help you get ready for this year’s Kentucky Derby:

Beyond this pre-race coverage (such as it is), we will be live blogging the event beginning sometime on Saturday afternoon. Stay tuned for more details.

Finally, my win-place-show prediction, based on the same thing for which war is good, is:

  1. Union Rags
  2. Gemologist
  3. Take Charge Indy

Two other horses to watch are Daddy Long Legs and Bodemeister. Of course, you can watch all of them at once, and I’d advise that. It isn’t too difficult.

No matter what your style, be sure to check back here on Saturday afternoon for ALDLAND’s live blog of the 2012 Kentucky Derby.