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Big 4 hoops roundtable: The coaches speak out on the issues affecting college basketball

Big 4 hoops roundtable: The coaches speak out on the issues affecting college basketball

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In advance of the 2017-18 season, the Big 4 basketball coaches joined The Buffalo News for a conference call on a variety of subjects. Mark Schmidt discussed the different culture surrounding St. Bonaventure compared to what Nate Oaks experiences at the University at Buffalo and Reggie Witherspoon sees at Canisius. Niagara coach Chris Casey spoke about overcoming the mass exodus of players after he arrived and how he built a competitive program. It was a rare chance for the four coaches to exchange ideas and talk about the game and how it fits into Western New York.

All four addressed recruiting, the money involved in college basketball, the ongoing FBI investigation into players receiving illegal payments and more. Is there any way they could build the Big 4 into what the Little Three was during the glory days at sold-out Memorial Auditorium.? The short answer: No. They'll tell you why.

Question: You are all opening up on separate days. You have Niagara going to Bonnies and UB and Canisius playing each other. One is on a Friday, the other is on a Saturday. In a perfect world, we would have all of you in the same group,  how it used to be when it was the Little Three. Do you see any way we could build this in a way - - college basketball in Buffalo -- where it becomes a main attraction, something where it becomes big on the radar?

Casey: I think you have to make it a yearly event, to be in the arena and play each other. What happens is that it happens sporadically, and a lot of it is tied to the NCAA Tournament. When the MAAC has to host the NCAA Tournament, we generally get those Big Four games in there. But I think it needs to be a yearly event that people look for every year. Right now, they don't know when it's coming, you know? People look forward to it a little bit more if they know it's coming every year. If you put it around the same time every year, if we opened the season with it, I think it would add a little more pop to it. People would get excited about it.

Witherspoon: I was going to ask Jerry Sullivan to answer that question (laughs).

Q: Reggie, you know. You're old enough to remember when Canisius and Niagara was a big deal or Bonnies and Canisius or whatever the case may be. There have been times in the past few years, even the Koessler Center wasn't full when Bonaventure comes in. That would have been ludicrous 20 years ago.

Witherspoon: A couple things: You're right. You're right. I think we have to do more to make these games, from a marketing standpoint, about more than just basketball. I said this when the arena first opened, and I was downtown. I said, "There's a lot of talk about alums, getting the alums there. If we're not careful, our alums, and maybe for our fans, they'll have a greater affinity for the games that are on TV." It's a lot easier to sit home and watch those games on TV.

You have to try to make it about more than basketball, so you can get casual observers to the game. And what might those things be? They might be getting events that are already on our campuses to become part of a basketball game, so you have more than just a basketball game. And the other thing, I think, and I've had an interesting conversation quite a few years ago ... and this was before the Big East, that he kept his season tickets. When I asked him why, he talked about all of the teams that were coming in that conference. He was very familiar with the players. It helps to familiarize the local fan base. We can't change our teams to be an old Big East. It helps to familiarize the local fan fans with who is and isn’t unique.

What I found to be a challenge in Western New York is that they're fighting with you guys – the local media – to get more coverage for their own schools. In many ways, you get this by familiarizing people with who it is that you’re playing.

Q: Hey, Mark, it's different for you, right? It's a slightly different culture down in Olean because, when you're talking about the A-10, and you do well attendance-wise, those fans down there do know the A-10. They know the other coaches and players. They're prepared for those Saturday afternoon games.

Schmidt: I think our community is a little bit different. When people talk in Olean and Allegany, they talk about, "Are you going to the game tonight?" There's only one game, and that's Bonaventure basketball. When you're in Buffalo, and Canisius is playing and Buffalo is playing, Niagara is playing and the Sabres are playing. There's much more to do there. Here, when it's game night or game day, that's all there is. And that's why people come out and cheer for us. It's a little bit different.

And I agree with Reggie. There's so much, college basketball is just so saturated. There are so many games on television, even here in Olean. When we have a 9 o'clock game, and we have a 9 o'clock game this year against Davidson, well, the older people, they won't come. They'll sit and watch on TV because it's too late. So I think the television hurts a little bit, too. There's so much going on.

You hear the stories about the Aud and the doubleheaders downtown, it's never going to be like that again. Just like Bonaventure isn't going to play in the Final Four against Jacksonville. It's changed.

Q: Is that because Jacksonville's not going to be in the Final Four?


Schmidt:  Yeah, right. But it's just because there's so much more for people to do. Reggie is right in terms of trying to tie it into other things on campus to get better crowds when we do play those games.

Q: How much is it, and Chris maybe you can help answer this, is because there's money involved, too? In order to use the arena, it costs money. Rather than have that revenue generated at Niagara – every dollar is precious with teams – to give up that money by playing downtown, is that an issue? Or is the greater good that we need to reach another generation of basketball fans? It seems younger kids haven't grown up with local college basketball.

Casey: I think you do have to reach a younger fan base. One of the challenges with that, when we were younger, you didn't have much else to do. You know, it was all about sports, getting outside, seeing your local teams play. Now you have 150 cable channels. You have video games, your iPads, your laptops, Instagram. There's a lot more that occupies kids and younger people.

I can't tell you that I know the financial spreadsheets of our university, but I know private schools are working and struggling for students and to pay the bills. You have the cost of opening the arena based on what you're going to draw at the arena, and then you have the cost of opening your own place and what you're going to draw there. How much are you going to walk away with? I definitely think that that's a factor and is involved in decision making.

Witherspoon: One thing, about the revenue and the fight for it as opposed to going downtown, that's the one thing I think it's the same as it was before. Even when there was sellout crowds and doubleheaders in the Aud, the local schools were quarreling over who was getting what. It was never a peaceful co-existence in those doubleheaders in the Aud back in the '60s. There are some arguments going on.

And when the (new) building was built, and we were doing it then, there wasn't as much argument because, what were you sacrificing?  There's always been some. As Mark alluded to, they've always been able to sell out their building and do great without bringing their games to downtown Buffalo. There was discussion then about why was that good for their basketball program. Some of that has sustained itself, and I understand.

But the other part is that it's not easy. It is costly to open the building and to pay people to work in the building, and around the building, and security and all of that. It doesn't mean it cannot be done. It can be done. But it's definitely not free.

Q: Nate, now that you've been here for a few years and know the basketball culture, and Reggie can speak to this, too, is it tough when you really don't have anything in your own backyard in terms of local players with name recognition to help with recruiting?

Oats: You know what? There are some players in Buffalo. It's just a matter of whether they get the grades. There was a kid here who I think broke the Western New York scoring record last year, but he had to go to prep school. There's a few. I know before I got there that Niagara Falls had all those players, and it was a little bit better. We're trying to recruit the area a little bit. But I do think, with the local fan base, most of our players are from out of the area. We've got one kid from in the state, and the rest come from around. They have to familiarize themselves with the players once we get them here. And then it takes a year or two. We get some junior college kids and, by the time (fans) get to know (the players), they've only go one year left. It probably doesn't help in some regards.

Mark and Reggie have been around a lot longer than me in this area. They know the history of basketball in this area. But there are players here. It’s whether we can get them to stay here, whether they qualify, if they're the right fit, and sometimes players are trying to get away from home. They want to go somewhere outside of home. When I coached high school in Detroit, you had kids that were not going to stay there because they wanted to get away from the area they had grown up with. For whatever reason, there hasn't been that many. I can't give you the best answer, to be honest with you.

Q: There used to be, in the '70s and '80s, a lot more legitimate Division I basketball players that came through here. For whatever reason, it has been down. I don't know if it's because – and I've often attributed at least part of it was because when the Braves were in town there was more interest in basketball overall – and when the Braves left it kind of fizzled out. There just weren't as many. Look at what happened in Toronto when they added basketball. All of a sudden, you had tons of kids coming out that area that can really play.

Witherspoon: You're right. When you have the sports being exposed at that high level, the highest level being the NBA, it helps the grassroots part of as well because of the exposure to the sport. A couple of things, from a historical perspective – and people had this discussion down at the area, "How come we can't have what we had with (Bob) Lanier and (Calvin) Murphy?" – those were the glory years. There's no argument about that. Those were two of the top five consensus All-Americans, and Bob Lanier was the No. 1 player picked in the NBA draft. But there was a different dynamic back then that some people don't quite understand.

No. 1, you didn't have as many conferences. Conference affiliation was different. ... Probably, No. 1 is that, like, Bob Lanier couldn't go play in the ACC, and neither could Calvin Murphy, or the SEC. Their choices, and there were less than a hundred Division I schools, so their choices weren't as great. And they stayed locally. At least in the case of Bob Lanier, he stayed locally. Calvin was from Connecticut. Automatically, who you have in your programs, they're pretty good, obviously. From a local standpoint, yes, there was more local talent, without question. It was getting the local kids to want to stay because the schools were playing on such a big stage, wasn't as hard. It started getting a little bit harder as you began to have more Division I schools, they had more games on television, and conference affiliation began to set in.

If you get to the mid-'70s, and there were some more options available that weren't available earlier, in the late '60s. So if you get to anything really past the mid-'70s – '74 or '75 – Syracuse is a different-looking Syracuse. Jimmy Williams came out of East High in Buffalo, and he goes to Syracuse. He graduated from East High in 1973 and was the New York State Player of the Year. Before he leaves, (Syracuse) is in the Final Four and Syracuse starts to look a little bit different with the Big East coming. Jimmy was really strongly considering staying here and playing locally. He had a brother that came out the next year. Those guys started spreading out. By the end of the decade, you have more games on TV, you had conference affiliation, a lot more Division I schools, and black kids could go play basketball in the South.

Now, you have a couple things working against you. Although we still had a lot of really good talent, and really good balance in the '70s – Ray Hall was able to stay locally – by the mid-'80s, you had a lot more options. You have slightly less kids that could play at that level and more of them not wanting to stay home.

Q: But if you look at Cliff (Robinson) and Christian (Laettner), those kids were going to go play anywhere. It's almost like the mid-major kids kind of dissipated. We don't really even see them. Those are the guys that fit the schools that are (in the Big Four).

Witherspoon: You're right. There aren't as many of those. Cliff and Christian and Keith (Robinson). What you're saying is the Gary Bosserts, guys like Vory Billups and Mike House, you're absolutely right on about that. There's no doubt about that. I will say this: The kids at that level want to be at the same level as Keith Robinson and Cliff Robinson and Christian Laettner. And because those schools are on TV so much, you can't tell them that they're not. They're trying to leave.

Q: Mark, the trickle-down effect, as this goes for all the schools (in the Big Four), and you've been huge in this, and that's finding players from places where you wouldn't normally recruit. You've gone overseas. You've gone places beyond where St. Bonaventure would go (previously) to find players, and you're starting to see more of them come over. Is that a necessity? It seems all four of you are on the same spot in that you have to find players who will stick around and then develop them. That means those players have to be patient, unlike a lot of players today who want to play right away, start right away, and if they're not starting, they're transferring.

Schmidt: I think the stat is that 40 percent of incoming freshmen will leave by the end of their sophomore year. It's just the generation and instant gratification. Look at AAU stuff. If they're not playing on one AAU team, they're going to look to play for another one, then leave again. There's kids who will play for two or three AAU teams in the summertime because they're not getting the amount of minutes they think that they deserve.

We've done it differently. You have to do it differently here or we're not going to be able to compete with the Daytons and VCUs for players. My assistants do a good job of trying to evaluate and look at kids who: they're not there yet, but they're going to get there. We gotta do it differently. I think since I've been here, I think we've had three kids on our team that had another Atlantic 10 offer, in our 11 years.

We just gotta do it differently. I'm not saying it's bad. You have to find your niche in how you're going to get players. And that's how we try to do it.

Q: That's an interesting topic relative to the approach you take or how you try to approach recruiting differently. I'm curious whether across the board what the philosophies are and how they're different from each other.

Casey: For us, we try to recruit guys that we feel can impact us right away. I think you have to take your shots and see if you can sneak a guy that maybe somebody doesn't pay attention to who can impact you. By and large, it's difficult for us to get those guys. It's extremely difficult. What Mark says, and for us, is 100 percent true. We try to find guys that we feel have the makeup and personality to show some stick-to-it-ness, who want to hang around, want to make a place a home. It's very difficult to figure that out. You look at backgrounds. How many AAU teams did they play for? How many high schools did they go to?

It's not only an issue with college guys transferring – and Mark is right, there's 40 percent of kids will transfer after their sophomore year – on a yearly basis. If you look at the numbers, it's over 20 percent of college players will transfer every year. That's a couple guys per team, on average. You have to try to find guys that you believe, based on their background and what people tell you about them, that want to hang around and make a place a home and just want to get better. You gotta figure out the guys that will put in the time, that are coachable, that are going to get better, that are going to jump up.

They might not be what you want them to be right away, but you feel like in a year or two that you might have something. You have to make your best educated guess. That's what we try to do, to figure that out. And we have some of what Mark is saying, that not a lot of his roster has been offered Atlantic 10 scholarships. A lot of our roster had not been offered Division I scholarships or had Division I visits. A guy like Matt Scott, he has the potential to be a first-team all-league player this year. He just stuck it out. There's a lot of value to do that.

A lot of times, the storyline of guys that transfer, you hear about the three or four guys that do transfer and make a huge impact right away. It's out there, and it happens, but the vast majority of guys don't do better and don’t increase their numbers. They only increase their exposure and the level that they're playing at. The kids don't pay attention to that. They see more so the small percentage of impact guys and feel like that could be them. It causes guys to want to get on the list. It's another recruiting tool. They want to be on the list and see where they can go.

But I think there's a lot of value in guys like Matt Scott. He averaged like 5 points and 2 rebounds his freshman year. It might have been 4 and 2. Now he's poised to average maybe 20 this year. And he was fourth in the league – I know it was top 10 in the league – in rebounding, too. Guys like that that stick it out, they get better and develop. That's really what you have to find here.

Q: Nate, how about you?

Oats: The recruiting, for us, I'm thinking about two kids. Nick Perkins and CJ Massinburg were both picked first team all-East (in the MAC). We go back to relationships we have in different places. Perkins came from Michigan, where I was from, and he played on a small AAU team and got recruited by bigger ones. He never left. He was on a little non-shoe company team. In some regard, you gotta find a kid like that once in a while. It's like what Mark said. They've done an unbelievable job on player development, with guys that they bring in that maybe didn't play on a big shoe-money AAU team, or whatever, but they turn out to be borderline pros or pros later. We've got to do a little bit of that. Sometimes, we've just been fortunate.

We’ve kind of gone all over. We've kind of gone the junior college route a little bit with some of our guys, like Blake Hamilton and Willie (Conner) and (David) Kadiri last year. CJ, a contact in Dallas let us know about the kid. We went down and got him. We didn't have to do anything. It came down to us and Prairie View A&M, who was really awful the year before. In some regards, you have to look at kids who were overlooked by somebody else. A lot of times, we'll look to them and develop some players. We’ve gone after some bigger guys and have been a little bit successful lately, but we're a little bit different than most of the other teams in our league.

We're the biggest public university on the State of New York. Nobody else in our league says that, so we sell a little bit different on some of it. We've been fortunate enough with some relationships that we've had to get a couple of the players we've gotten.

Witherspoon: I haven't been here that long, but I think, like everybody else, if we can get a guy that can have an immediate impact, we're trying to do that. Obviously, if can have an immediate impact for us, he can have somewhat of an impact at a bigger school. It's also respective of what positions we're talking about. There's more people, more human beings, walking around the face of the earth, who are the size of guards. You might be able to find guards who can be pretty good and can play. It's harder as they get bigger because everybody wants them.

When I got to Alabama, it was amazing how in need we were of a good big player, so it's harder to get them. Even for the guys we talked about who hadn't been given Division I offers, there was a guy who came here with one offer and transferred to Missouri. I just think now it's gotten to a point where taking in transfers is just like taking everything else into account.

Q: When you talk about transfers, what is the way to negate that? Should the NCAA consider a stiffer – I don't want to call it a penalty – but you have to sit out one year. If they made it two years, would that change some minds? Maybe more kids would stay in one place, although that's a big ask to have two years.

Witherspoon: The way it has been explained to me, is that the NCAA is not inclined to penalize the student-athlete more because they don't think they'll win that legal fight. What has been explained to me is that they're looking down the avenue of making it a little bit more difficult for institutions to take in transfers, especially of the graduate-transfer variety. The complication is that people were naïve to think that these transfers would be more inclined to be academic more than anything else. Lo and behold, after years of having it, they're now seeing it.

Initially, they said graduate transfers could transfer if the graduate program was not being offered on your campus. Upon further review, they said most of the kids who are graduate transfers don't get a graduate degree. There is some talk about maybe, if they don't, that you have to lose that scholarship for two years. Now I don't know if that will go through, but that's going more along the lines of the institution.

Q: Can I ask each of you about the LaVar Ball factor? Do you see the trickle-down effect? In other words, you have kids who have their parents or people around them who are constantly in their ear like, "Hey, if you moved out of here, you could go somewhere else?" Do you deal with that on a certain level or a high level?

Schmidt: No question. It's funny, in the recruiting process, you try to find out who the hammer is. Who is the person who is going to help that kid decide? A lot of times, it may not be Mom and Dad. It may not be the AAU coach. It may be the guy at the barber shop. Kids have a lot of noise going around. Everybody is trying to tell them what they think and where they should go. When you're 18 years old, it's going to matter – You should go here or you should go there or it's not a high enough level – because those kids are impressionable. They're going to go, for the most part, where people tell them to go. It's not necessarily Mom and Dad.

We tell kids all the time, when we recruit them: "There's only so many people in your life that really know you, that really care for you." They couldn't care less if you go to Bonaventure, Niagara, Canisius or Buffalo. They want you to go to the place where you're going to be happy. But there's other people in this process that they want the kid to go to the highest level so they can tell people, "My boy went here" or "my boy went there." For the most part, these young men that we recruit have to listen to the people that really care about them. Sometimes, it's trying to find out who really cares about him and who doesn't.

Q: Chris, did your head explode when I asked that question? You've been hit harder than anybody (with transfers).

Casey: We got hit a couple times. When I first got here, there was an exodus. I took the job in May. By the end of May, there were five guys on the team. Now you're recruiting in July and August and trying to find players. We retooled the roster to some degree, and then at the end of 2015, it hit us again. Last year, we lost one guy, which I thought was significant improvement. It's part and parcel of what the climate is, I mean, Memphis lost six guys. Some of the bigger schools can lose a chunk of guys, too. That's what it's so important to do the best you can with the makeup of who you're bringing onto your roster.

It's so important to have carryover from year to year. Otherwise, you become like a prep school or a junior college. You're recruiting almost a whole new crew every year. Our league is full of good players, just like Nate's league and Mark's league. Our league is full of good players, and it's all really good coaches, too. You're not getting by with smoke and mirrors. You need good players. You have to be able to track good players on your roster and guys that want to win and are committed to it. You have to coach them hard, and you have to get a little lucky.

It's an issue, but you know on the other side of that, guys, players have a right to go wherever they want. This is America, you know? If they want to go somewhere for a year and leave, that's what they want to do. You can't really turn around and stop them from doing it just like you can't stop a coach from taking a new job when he wants to move his family and take a new job.

I just think it's unfortunate, and I'm being a little redundant here, but I think we're losing the value of perseverance and stick-to-it-ness and understanding that you have to fight through some things to get what you want. There's a large tendency in a large group of players that will not do that and think the grass is greener at the next place. What's not realized is that all your issues and things you have to conquer come with you. They're not left behind. I go back to what was said previously, that only a small percentage of guys make a big impact when they transfer.

There are some guys who there who have done it. You applaud them. It's good for them. But the majority of guys don't improve their numbers, don't improve their level they're at and in a lot of cases worsen their situation. Those are the situations that you don't hear about and read about.

I agree with Mark: There's a lot of people in their ear. The message now in large part is, "I can move here" or "you can move here" and "this will be better for you." It's not, "Hey, stick it out. Stick it out and persevere and try to conquer it, and it will make you a stronger person, and it will make you a better player" like Matt Scott did. That's less of the message now. I'm not saying it's good or bad. I'm saying that's what the climate is. That's what us, as coaches, have to work under, and we have to find ways to continue to evolve. The more guys we keep, and the more guys we're able to develop, as evidenced by Mark, the better your team is going to be.

Q: As you try to identify that hammer, or the person who is the deciding vote for a kid, are you finding that it's less often Mom and Dad, as it used to be, and it's more often the guy at the barber shop or the AAU coach?

Casey: Honestly, and I don't mean to dominate this part of it, but I think the hammer changes. It can be one guy, but it could be a different person sneaking in who's just going to tell you what you want to hear – when you're not getting minutes, maybe, that you think you deserve, or you're not getting enough shots that you think you should get. You've got to find guys, and that's important to a certain degree, but it's more important to find a home and develop. I think the hammer can change. It can be different people at different times.

Oats: We had one significant transfer, and I agree with Chris 100 percent. Parents are the ones we dealt with getting it done here. When it became time to decide whether he was going to leave or not, it was somebody in his ear. His parents were adamantly against him leaving and didn't want him to leave. It was somebody else who convinced him that he could get X, Y and Z from somewhere else. He listened to them and, I think, regrets it. He tried to call back and come back, but at some point kids need to grow up and be their own man and not listen to mom and dad. Sometimes, the hammer changes, kind of like Chris said.

Q: The people at the FBI might have a strong opinion on what's going on here in your sport. I'm wondering what how the FBI investigation with Louisville is affecting you.

Oats: I think it's great. I think it's the best thing to happen. Maybe it affects Mark a little bit more at the A-10, I don't know. At this level, nobody is getting paid, but I think it cleans everything up. It's probably the best thing that's happened to our sport as far as cleaning it up, in my opinion.

Q: Do you think, at your level, it's possible for what's happening at the high level. In other words, what's happening at the high level could affect the MAC in some way.

Oats: I don't feel like that. I don't feel like the kids we're recruiting, and are coming here, nobody is offering any money for them. Maybe some of the other guys have other opinions, but I don't feel like we've ever lost out on a kid. If you look at where the money is going, it's going to the top 20-25 players in the country that are supposed to be one-and-done. Agents aren't going to put money into a kid that's supposed to be in school for three or four years. They're going to put their money in a kid that's one year in college, then the pros.

I don't really feel like it's affected us, but I do feel like it's cleaned up the sport immediately, and I think that helps everybody on every level.

Schmidt: Everybody knows in the business, for the most part, who does it right and who doesn't. I think with the FBI coming in, I think it's like a shot to the jaw. As coaches, you always know if you cheat, and you get caught, you could get fired. The NCAA is going to bring you out there, and you're going to sit in front of them, and be grilled. You just never knew that the FBI would get involved. They're treating the coaches like they're mafia. Instead of getting fired, you can do prison time.

That just changes the ballgame. Is it going to clean things up? It's never going to fully clean it up. Whenever money is involved, with the billion-dollar business that we're in, whenever there's that amount of money, there's always going to be guys who shortcut. Certain guys aren't going to do it the right way. With this investigation, it's really made people think twice about doing it. Rather than getting fired, you're going to do prison time. I don't care if it's six minutes or six days, no one wants to be involved in that.

It's been happening. Everybody knows it's been happening. It happens at different levels with different price tags. In the long run, everybody has a black eye now. That's the shame of it all, in my opinion. You got really good coaches that aren't coaching, who got fired because they wouldn't cheat. That's the sad part about this thing. You've got really good coaches that did it the right way and aren't coaching, anymore, and to me that's the shame of it.

Q: Like who, Mark? Who do you have in mind when you say that?

Schmidt: I don't want to bring up names, but everybody knows good guys that got fired because they had character and wouldn't do it.

Witherspoon: I wonder, and a lot of this remains to be seen, is if this FBI investigation reveals more than what we think really happened, I don't know. None of us were born the first time there was a gambling situation in our sport. Maybe people thought we were going to clean it up, but every so often there's a gambling problem. Right now, there are four different coaches and a resignation of an administrator.

I'm certain that they're still sorting their way through it. Those things specifically related to an FBI investigation and findings, but I don’t know, but I'm certain that they're not finished. Based on what has happened already, I'm not certain it will have the kind of impact that people think.

Q: Sometimes I wonder, because there's so much money involved, under the guise of amateur basketball and what it has become, that it comes back to some of the stipend stuff and whether players should be paid. What are we doing here in the first place? You four gentlemen understand your positions and your positions at the school and what the school is for and emphasizing education. That seems to have been lost.

Casey: It's not lost by those who emphasize it. Our business is no different than any business. You can have all the rules you want on Wall Street, but somebody is going to try to cheat the rules and scam to make more money.  You can have all the rules you want in the corporate world. Somebody is going to try to scam and cheat to make more money. Just like in our business, no matter what rules you have with the governing body, it's going to be an individual choice whether you're going to follow the rules or not. Some get caught, as evidenced by the recent findings, and some don't. It's unfortunate because the wrong things get emphasized.

The thing that bothers me the most are subjective opinions of most of those in college basketball because of the deeds of a few. I think that's wrong because I think there's a lot of people doing great work in college basketball and actually place a value on education, and going to class, and making sure guys do the right things and preaching the right thing. You may not always get that from them, but you try to instill that every day. It's an individual choice. I don't care how many rules you make. There's always going to be somebody that's going to circumvent the rules.

The NCAA is somewhat handcuffed in that they don't have powers of subpoena on certain things. That's why the FBI is there, maybe at first without the knowledge of the NCAA. I think it's an individual choice. I think there's a lot of coaches doing great work. But like anything else, the bad is going to get the press. I hope it all gets cleaned up. I think it's a better sport if it's all cleaned up, but I think it's very difficult to do.

Witherspoon: On that issue, I think you're going down the road of the stipend, and there's a lot of talk about paying players. I think there are some schools that generate enough revenue, but there's a lot of schools that don't.

Q: A one-liner from everybody. Is 68 the right number (of teams) for the (NCAA) Tournament?

Witherspoon: No.

Casey: Yes because of what the NIT takes in, too.

Witherspoon: You heard a "no" from me because the NIT went from 40 to 32. There are so many more Division I schools now than there used to be, and the list keeps growing and growing and growing. I think March Madness is great. It's so great that people – you could have a really good year and get overlooked. The last couple years, St. Bonaventure has had a great, great, great, GREAT year. I love college football, but you can go .500 and get in a bowl game. And they had a great year, and if they win the bowl game, they might get a parade.

Schmidt: They need more teams. The way it's going now with all these power conferences, they going to go to 20 games in the conference. We still need to make it a tournament. You can't have all the high majors take most of the spots because you're going to lose out on the underdog and lose what March Madness is all about, or was all about. I don't know what the right number is, but it needs to be more than 68.

Oats: You know what, I kind of agree. I don't know what the right number is, but I will say this: When they reduced the NIT, and the women's NIT is double what the men's is, so if they don't put more in the NCAA Tournament – and the NCAA runs the NIT now – they need to put the men's NIT up where the women's NIT number is, at least. Some places won't go to the CIT or the CBI because it's a lower-level tournament, which I understand. But your women are never going to turn down an NIT bid. Well, the men's NIT doesn't equate to the women's.

If they don't decide to put more teams in, which I do think they should because these bids are going to all these high-major teams, it would be nice, like Mark said. The reason so many people watch March Madness is because you get to see a Hampton upset an Iowa State, a 15 over a 2, or you get to see all those upsets all the time. It barely happens anymore. I shouldn't say they barely do, but you have high-majors getting 10, 11, 12 seeds now because there's so many high majors in there. St. Bonaventure got screwed. They should have been in the tournament, 100 percent, so somehow they have to figure out ways to get teams like that into the tournament. I definitely think they need to add some teams to the NIT Tournament, for sure.


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