November 29, 2012

By Kenneth Miller

LAWT Staff Writer

 

The fists full of mud began slinging in the direction of the high school basketball phenom and UCLA star recruit before the ink could dry on his National Letter of Intent.

Shabazz Muhammad, a 6'6 wunderkind had just concluded one of the most celebrated high school careers since LeBron James, but the NBA imposed age limit prevented him from taking his talents straight from high school to the NBA.

He had just polished off a prep career where he averaged more than 25 points per game, was 2011 Nevada Gatorade Player of the Year, 2012 Morgan Wootten Player of the Year, 2012 McDonald's All-American MVP, 2012 Jordan Brand High School All-American co-MVP, 2012 Naismith prep Player of the Year, 2012 Mr. Basketball USA, was the ESPN ranked number 2 high school senior and participated in the prestigious 2012 Nike Hoop Summit.

Muhammad had narrowed his final college choices to three of the most powerful programs in the nation; Kentucky, Duke and UCLA.

Muhammad decided to attend UCLA, lifting the Bruins' already elite recruiting class to No. 1 in the nation and thus increasing the already lofty expectations of the most storied college basketball program America even higher.

A newly renovated Pauley Pavilion awaited his arrival and coach Ben Howland and Bruins fans breathed a collected sigh of relief because in Muhammad UCLA was getting its most promising recruit since Baron Davis.

Similar to Davis more than a decade ago, Muhammad's flight to UCLA was grounded before it took off by the NCAA.

The governing body that rules collegiate sports had open an investigation into a possible amateur rules violation alleging that Muhammad had received improper benefits because a close friend of the family supported him in making an unofficial visit to Duke and North Carolina.

Muhammad's father is former USC star Ron Holmes and his mother Faye Muhammad was a track standout for Long Beach State University.

One would think that with two educated parents who are quite familiar with the NCAA that they would not do anything that would jeopardize their son's collegiate future.

After all we're not just talking about some future college kid, we're talking about a projected lottery pick, a basketball player who could have easily took millions to play overseas before landing in the NBA.

To Muhammad's credit, both he and his family did not take the money and run, but instead played by the rules for their son to achieve college eligibility.

Instead of allowing Muhammad to play after he enrolled at UCLA and then rendering a decision, the NCAA decided that he was guilty before allowing him to prove his innocence.

Kyle Anderson, his high school friend was also subjected to the NCAA's rush to judgment but was allowed to travel to China for an exhibition tour with the team before he was subsequently cleared.

Meanwhile, Muhammad was left in limbo while the legal bills continued to mount.

As the season approached, the NCAA ruled that he was ineligible on Nov. 9. To their credit the administration at UCLA immediately appealed.

Three games were gone and seemingly the whole season of Muhammad's freshman season before it was revealed that the NCAA was intending to keep Muhammad from playing the entire season.

Memphis, Tenn. attorney, Florence Johnson Raines, said she heard a man who said he was dating "an NCAA attorney" loudly telling people around him that his girlfriend had said Muhammad would never play college basketball this season because he broke rules.

Parent Category: News
Category: Sports

November 29, 2012

By TIM REYNOLDS 

Associated Press

 

LeBron James is atop the NBA's jersey-sales list once again.

The Miami Heat star has the league’s hottest-selling jersey, marking the third time the NBA’s reigning MVP and Finals MVP has held that distinction. James was No. 4 in the most recent rankings, released in April.

Since then, all he’s done is win his third MVP award, a second Olympic gold medal and help the Heat win the NBA championship — the franchise's second and his first.

“It’s an honor to be No. 1,” said James, who last had the league’s best-selling jersey in April 2011.

The league released its latest sales-rankings list on Wednesday, with the New York Knicks leading the team-sales category for the first time since December 2004.

On the players’ list, Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant checked in at No. 2, six spots higher than where he was in April and likely buoyed by the Thunder reaching the NBA Finals. Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers has the league’s No. 3-selling jersey, followed by New York’s Carmelo Anthony, Chicago’s Derrick Rose, Boston’s Rajon Rondo, Miami’s Dwyane Wade, the Los Angeles Clippers’ Blake Griffin, the Lakers’ Dwight Howard and the Clippers’ Chris Paul at No. 10.

Brooklyn’s Deron Williams is No. 11, followed by Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook, the Lakers’ Steve Nash, Boston’s Paul Pierce and Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki.

The list is based on sales at the NBA Store in New York and NBAStore.com from April through Nov. 26.

“I give all of the credit to the fans,” said James, whose Cleveland jersey topped the league sales charts in 2004. “I would also like to thank all of my supporters and the Miami Heat organization. Let’s keep it going.”

In the team sales rankings, the Knicks were one spot ahead of the Heat. New York was No. 2 in the April rankings, with Miami then at No. 4.

The Lakers are No. 3 on the new list, followed by Chicago (which was No. 1 in April), Boston, Oklahoma City, Brooklyn, the Clippers, San Antonio and Dallas.

The NBA said it had record-breaking sales over Thanksgiving weekend, saying sales on the so-called Cyber Monday were up more than 10 percent over last year. Cyber Monday last year fell two days after the league and its players announced a tentative end to the NBA lockout.

It was Westbrook’s first time on the list. Rondo and Paul each moved up four spots, and the Lakers were the only team with three players among the top 15 best-sellers.

Rose was No. 1 on the most recent list, released April 26. Houston guard Jeremy Lin, whose now-former Knicks jersey was No. 2 in the April rankings, fell out of the top 15.

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November 29, 2012

By DOUG FERGUSON  Associated Press 

 

Tiger Woods is more driven to catch Jack Nicklaus than to try to emulate Luke Donald and Rory McIlroy.

Woods made it clear recently that he had no interest in taking up membership on the European Tour. He had floated the possibility last month in Turkey that he would look into dual membership with Europe counting the Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup toward the minimum requirement of 13 events.

"I'll make it real simple — I'm not going to play the European Tour next year," Woods said.

Woods is starting next season at the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship. Throw in the four majors and four World Golf Championships, and he would need only three more events to become a European Tour member.

"It's a bit much for me still," Woods said, adding that his focus is squarely on the record 18 majors won by Nicklaus.

Donald last year became the first player to win the money title on the PGA Tour and European Tour in the same season. McIlroy matched that feat this year, even though three of his five wins were regular PGA Tour events.

On the strength of majors and WGC events, which are every bit part of the European Tour schedule as the PGA Tour schedule, Woods could have won both money title at least four times in the last decade if he had been a European Tour member and added a couple of events. Europe used to require only 11 events to be a member.

"Certainly, I've had opportunities over the years, especially when it was at 11 events," Woods said. "I was very close a couple times and could have taken membership up and played it. But still ... I enjoy playing around the world, and I still always will. But I am going to play this tour."

When asked why he never bothered becoming a dual member, Woods said, "It wasn't important to me."

"I think I could have won it a few times," he said of the money titles. "I don't know what that number was. But it just wasn't important to me. My main concern was winning major championships, and I've won 14 of them, and I'm very proud of that."

Asked whether adding a few European events would have detracted from his preparation for the majors, Woods nodded.

He remains stuck on 14 majors, winning his last one in 2008 in the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. Woods has failed to win the last 14 majors he has played, the longest drought of his career. Next year's rotation of majors include Merion for the U.S. Open, a course he has never seen, and Oak Hill for the PGA Championship, the only time Woods has played all four rounds at a PGA without breaking par.

Woods said winning a major makes it a great year, which in his mind means that four players had a great year — Bubba Watson (Masters), Webb Simpson (U.S. Open), Ernie Els (British Open) and McIlroy (PGA Championship).

"That's something I haven't done since '08, so it's something I can do next year," he said. "I've won golf tournaments; I've had some really nice years, some really good years in there. But as I said, winning a major championship just takes it to a whole new level."

That doesn't make his year a total loss.

Woods played his most complete season since 2009, and the World Challenge that starts Thursday at Sherwood Country Club will be his 24th week of competition, which includes the Ryder Cup and an exhibition in Turkey.

The only stumble was at Doral, where he withdrew in the middle of the final round when his Achilles tendon flared up on him. He won in his next start, at Bay Hill, and then added wins at the Memorial and AT&T National.

"I'm very excited because last year at this point in time I was still not quite where I wanted to be physically," he said. "I ended up having a little bit of a problem at Doral at the beginning of the year, but did the prudent thing in not playing at the end. This year has been fantastic in that regard. I've felt good. I've played a full schedule for the first time in a very long time, and just very pleased with what I've done overall with my game."

Parent Category: News
Category: Sports

November 29, 2012

By BEN WALKER Associated Press 

 

Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa are set to show up on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time, and fans will soon find out whether drug allegations block the former stars from reaching baseball's shrine.

Longtime members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America will vote through next month. The much-awaited results will be announced Jan. 9, with players needing to be listed on 75 percent of the ballots to gain induction.

The upcoming election is certain to fuel the most polarizing Hall debate since career hits leader Pete Rose's betting problems put him on baseball's permanently ineligible list, barring him from the BBWAA ballot.

Bonds, Clemens and Sosa each posted some of the biggest numbers in the game's history, but were all tainted by accusations that they used performance-enhancing drugs.

Bonds is baseball's all-time home runs leader with 762 and won a record seven MVP awards. Clemens ranks ninth in career wins with 354 and took home a record seven Cy Young Awards. Sosa is eighth on the home run chart with 609.

Fans, players and Hall of Fame members have all chimed in about whether stars who supposedly juiced up during the Steroids Era should make it to Cooperstown.

Many of those opposed say drug cheats should never be afforded baseball's highest individual honors. Others on the opposite side claim the use of performance-enhancing drugs was pervasive in the 1980s and 1990s, and shouldn't disqualify candidates.

If recent voting for the Hall is any indication, the odds are solidly stacked against Bonds, Clemens and Sosa.

Mark McGwire is 10th on the career home run list with 583, but has never received even 24 percent in his six tries. Big Mac has admitted using steroids and human growth hormone.

Rafael Palmeiro is among only four players with 500 homers and 3,000 hits, yet has gotten a high of 12.6 percent in his two years on the ballot. Palmeiro drew a 10-day suspension in 2005 after a positive test for performance-enhancing drugs, and said the result was due to a vitamin vial given to him by teammate Miguel Tejada.

Parent Category: News
Category: Sports

November 29, 2012

By KYLE HIGHTOWER  Associated Press

 

A study of the racial and gender makeup of leadership and coaching positions among the Football Bowl Subdivision membership showed it remains largely white and male.

The report recently released by the Institute for the Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida said that 100 percent of FBS conference commissioners, 76 percent of school president positions and 84 percent of all athletic director positions were held by white men at the beginning of the 2012-13 academic year.

It also showed a decline in the percentage of women in campus leadership positions with a slight increase in the representation of people of color, especially for Latinos and Asians.

Among the FBS’ 120 institutions, there were 18 minority head coaches to begin the season, down from an all-time high of 19 last year. That total included 14 African-Americans, two Latinos and two Asians.

“For me as somebody who has worked on college campuses for 30-plus years it’s especially discouraging that in terms of hiring practices they are far behind the professional levels,” said primary study author Richard Lapchick. “I would have hoped that colleges would have at least kept pace, but they are clearly behind in hiring practices.”

For the position of faculty athletics representative, 94.4 percent are white and 31.7 percent are women.

According to 2011 data compiled by the Chronicle of Higher Education, 6.3 percent of full-time faculty members are Asian, which is 1.2 percentage points less than the 2007 data reported in last year’s study. African-American and Latino faculty members have grown by 1.6 and 0.6 percentage points respectively, to seven and 4.2 percent. Forty-seven percent are women.

For coaches, the study’s numbers don't reflect the recent dismissals of Joker Phillips at Kentucky, and Jon Embree from the University of Colorado, who drew attention to the poor rehire rate for minority coaches.

During his final news conference earlier this week, Embree hinted at a double standard for African-American hires after they are fired from a head coaching job.

Tyrone Willingham is the only African-American coach to be hired for another head coaching job (by Washington in 2005) after having been fired (by Notre Dame in 2004).

“We don’t get second chances,” Embree said. “And that’s OK, you know it going into it ... But every minority coach knows that going into it. Eventually that'll change.”

The numbers show that change is coming at a slow pace.

Since 1982, there have been 546 head coaches hired in the FBS and 41 African-Americans since Willie Jeffries became the first at Wichita State in 1979. There have also been three Latino and two Asian/Pacific Islander head coaches hired in FBS history.

“Our representation is not consistent on the court or on the playing fields,” Black Coaches and Admini­strators executive director Floyd Keith said. “You have to look at the numbers.”

Keith noted that a pair of other African-American coaches have been fired from FBS jobs and rehired, though not on the FBS level.

“Turner Gill was fired at Kansas but ended up at (Football Champion­ship Subdivision) Liberty. We had Tony Samuel at New Mexico State and he ended up at Southeast Missouri State. With only 41 individuals hired in history, it’s not a very good record,” he said. “You have to say getting back in the cycle is difficult. So you have to make the most of your first chance.”

Keith also echoed the importance of getting more diversity at the leadership positions.

“I think in total it’s about college athletics,” he said. “When you’re making decisions, there was the old term ‘Out of sight, out of mind.’ If you aren’t represented around the table, your concerns aren’t heard. And that’s at all levels.”

Both Keith and Lapchick continue to advocate for an “Eddie Robinson Rule,” which like the NFL’s Rooney Rule, would mandate that minorities are included in the interview process for open head coaching and key front office positions.

Since the BCA started putting out its hiring report cards in 2004, the number of minority coaches in the FBS increased 600 percent from three to last year’s high of 19.

BCA partners with Lapchick to put out the report cards and said that in the latest one, which is scheduled to be released this week, three schools that hired black coaches received poor grades because they didn’t invite more minority candidates to the interview process.

“If they continue to be excluded from that interview room, not much is going to change,” Lapchick said.

Keith said the process of bringing a Robinson Rule to college athletics continues to be a slow process.

“We’ve had meetings, and I don’t think anything has ever seriously developed out of it ... they simply have been discussions,” he said. “We keep talking about it. We see minor advances in terms of overall landscape, but there’s hasn't been a watershed change.”

He said his resolve to see it happen won’t be affected by the pace, though.

“Perseverance. We’ve got to keep being advocates,” Keith said. “We have to continue it and keep it going.” 

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