Villanova celebrates its Big East title

Noah K. Murray/USA Today Sports

Thinking out loud: What is state of amateur athletics?

John Rooke
March 22, 2019 - 3:16 pm

Thinking out loud…while wondering whatever happened to Ira Bowman…

  • Sometimes, I fret over the state of amateur athletics as we presently know them.  There’s nothing amateur about them and hasn’t been for a long while.  Most colleges and universities are huge business entities, relying on the backsides of “student” athletes to gain fame and potential fortune within the everyday world.


  • On one hand, college football and basketball players now regularly turn their backs on schools, coaches and teammates who help them get to where they want to go by turning pro before their eligibility is finished – like this week with Arkansas’ Daniel Gafford.


  • And on the other hand, a guy like Phil Martelli – the 24-year head coach at St. Joseph’s in Philadelphia – gets handed his walking papers and treated like another simple business transaction, after giving so much to his school, the athletic department and the sport.


  • He didn’t win enough.  At least not lately, with three straight losing seasons.  And isn’t it a shame when all we care about are the W’s and L’s?  Whatever happened to character-building?  To creating loyalty?  Or pride? 


  • Nope.  It’s all about me now.  Dollar signs.  Branding.  Same for many schools.  It’s business, nothing more.  You’ve seen or heard the phrase “There ain’t no “I” in T-E-A-M”?  It should also include “There ain’t no “WE” either.”


  • In Gafford’s case, you can almost see why he did what he did.  Hey, the school used him, so why shouldn’t he ‘look out for me?’  But the school also gave him a chance to display his talent.  It developed that ability.  It gave him room and board, and an alleged ‘education,’ too.


  • Ultimately, the system as it presently exists is set up to fail.  Period.  What happens when these athletes ultimately fail at the next level or opportunity?  They aren’t prepared to handle it.  For every success story out there (and there are some good ones), there are many more who fall into the cracks of what has been created.


  • Now, it’s all about entitlement and enabling this generation of athlete, with little-to-no repercussion.  Or have you not been paying attention to the college admissions’ scandal lately?  And what about the hundreds of college athletes who transfer every year because their playing time is reduced?


  • Brown’s USBWA all-District 1 and all-Ivy guard Desmond Cambridge is in this group, along with URI’s Omar Silverio.  Both announced their intentions this week to leave their current teams to ostensibly find greener pastures elsewhere.


  • Sometimes, the grass isn’t greener on the other side.  Life is tough and going through adversity has always been a sure-fire way to learn.  Seems to me that’s the lesson we should be teaching, and students should be learning.  Not “I’m gonna go get mine.”


  • Schools dismiss loyal, hard-working and popular coaches because they lose and can no longer generate the interest (or $$$) needed to keep their teams relevant, and their school name on “Big Monday” or some such outlet.


  • Like I said, we’re setting ourselves, and our future selves, up for repetitive failures.  Money always wins.  Gotta get mine while I can.  Someday, the money won’t be there.  And what will we be left with?


  • I could make the argument we’ve already failed – long ago – and today’s trends in sports are a continuing example of that failure. 


  • But I have a game to go watch, so…


  • We should have seen the Friars’ quick exit from the postseason coming.  Fans wanted to believe.  Media thought they knew.  The hype was real, amiright?


  • Except that it wasn’t.  And the Friars became a victim of expectation, including their own.  The reality is this – A.J. Reeves’ stress injury slowed his development, and the teams’ development.  David Duke may, or may not, be a point guard.  Alpha Diallo, for all of his uncanny ability to play bigger than he is, needs a touch to his game that has been hard to find.


  • For those thinking Diallo needs to be the Alpha male – ‘the man’ – that may not be in his personality.  A 6th year for Emmitt Holt could help in the leadership department, but only if the NCAA approves.  For everyone else, it’s simply personal accountability.  Growing pains are inevitably a part of this.


  • None of this is bad stuff, however.  To the contrary, there is now focus on where improvements need to be made. It’s up to the players – and the coaches – to recognize it and embrace it.


  • Not a big fan of ‘hype.’  I prefer the “let’s wait and see how this turns out” point of view.  ‘Hype’ needs to be ‘hope’ instead, with a little bit of trust mixed in.


  • Arkansas’ ability to use their speed and quickness was glaring.  They weren’t even a very good shooting team during the year, but they bombed away from outside with open shots.  And that’s another thing.


  • Got shooters?  Not just threes, but open 15-footers, too.  It was a rare year to see a team play at the Big East level be SO overmatched when it comes to simply shooting the ball.  The team was dead last in the league in field goal, three-point and free throw percentages.


  • That’s the name of the game, basketball.  Put the ball in the basket.  Got athleticism?  That’s nice and all, but if you can’t shoot, you can’t win.  It’s the same thing at URI, too, with a team that was at or near the bottom of the country in three-point shooting.  Just sayin’.


  • There remains tremendous promise within both programs at PC and URI.  But both coaches know there is work to do, and no time to sit still.  The “Help Wanted” sign is dangling out there.


  • Brown’s win over Alabama-Birmingham in the CBI was the 20th win of the season for the Bears, a new single-season record.  Yes, congrats to coach Mike Martin and the program for achieving a watershed moment. They will now go west, young men, and face Loyola Marymount.


  • The Bears did it without all-Ivy guard Desmond Cambridge, too…who announced he would be transferring prior to tip off.  That deserves a fist-bump.


  • Another fist-bump to Jim Crowley and the Providence women’s team in the WNIT…their first postseason appearance (and victory) since 2010.  The first-round win over Hartford this week is gravy. 


  • Current performance aside, 10 Big East teams are/were all playing postseason basketball.  It’s unprecedented in the 40-year history of the conference.  And it happened in a supposed “down” year, too.  Thanks, Dave Gavitt, for what you hath wrought, and for what we enjoy/agonize/talk about/build-our-lives-around today.


  • But the Big East is rebuilding.  Isn’t that evident now?  Three ugly losses in the NCAA’s.  Three more losses in the NIT first round.  Every program has work to do, but all things are cyclical.  Ask the Big 10 about that one.


  • DePaul defeated Keno Davis’ Central Michigan team in the CBI, 100-86, in case you missed it.  The Blue Demons next play Longwood on Monday, at home.


  • Sure, the NCAA bubble was as soft as Charmin this season, but what should we expect next season – when everyone in this league should be L-O-A-D-E-D?


  • Want a “way too early” preview for 2019-20?  Marquette, Creighton and Providence each return their present starters – all five of them.  Georgetown replaces Jesse Govan with NC State transfer Omer Yurtseven…and Yurtseven may be a better player. 


  • Villanova reloads with one of the nation’s top recruiting classes.  Seton Hall returns Myles Powell, we think.  Xavier has four starters back.  Butler keeps Kamar Baldwin, plus three more starters.  DePaul has a big recruiting class coming in.  St. John’s?  Only three starters will likely return, as of this moment.


  • A couple of final notes from the Big East Tournament – nearly 100,000 fans attended the five sessions over four days at Madison Square Garden.  Four of the five sessions sold out, and the building played to 99.3% capacity.  It was the most-attended tournament in the nation, again.  The place was jumping.  You should get there someday, if you’ve never been.


  • And it was cool to see former Friar guard Kyron Cartwright start his media career by working with the Big East Digital Network throughout the week.  Cartwright just completed his first pro season in Hungary.


  • Serious question.  Do they simply grow players on trees at places like Wofford (Fletcher Magee) and Murray State (Ja Morant)?  Those guys know how to capture the moment.  Just goes to show you – there are players everywhere. 


  • Oh, and how’s your bracket looking?  That bad, already?


  • The NCAA Selection Show on CBS was like a breath of fresh air, compared to the monstrosity produced a year ago, lasting two hours.  The entire bracket was presented in 36 minutes.  The way it should be – here are the teams, show a little celebrating, and we move on. 


  • The Sports Business Journal reports the American Athletic Conference – which will eventually move from its’ still-current Providence offices to Dallas when their lease expires in another year –has their new media rights’ deal with ESPN in place. 


  • 12 years, $1 billion.  Or about $83.3 million per school over the lifetime of the contract.  That comes in roughly $20-$30 million per year SHORT of what schools in the Football/Power 5 conferences earn.  $40 million short of Big 10 schools, give or take.


  • Not for nuthin’, but if I’m not mistaken, that’s roughly the same amount of money the old Big East schools could have had about eight years ago – before Big East presidents, led by Pittsburgh and Georgetown, voted against accepting ESPN’s contract offer at that time.  Pitt and Syracuse bolted for the ACC, as did Boston College.


  • Not included in this deal is a ‘grant-of-rights’ clause, which essentially means that no school is tied through media rights to stay in the league.  Expect UConn, Cincinnati, Houston and others to continue lobbying for Power 5 inclusion when the next go-round of expansion becomes a possibility in 2023-25. 


  • This is a step forward for the AAC?  Just asking the question.  It appears to be nothing more than a quick money fix (about $4-5 million more per year, per school) for membership, with school athletic budgets shrinking by the day.  UConn’s athletic department is running at a $41 million annual deficit from 2018. 


  • And in the new deal a majority of games will be moved from the traditional ESPN TV outlets to the ESPN+ streaming service.  Fans need to pay $4.99 a month to access that service.  Yikes.


  • Maybe that’s the way to go these days.  By 2023, ESPN+ reportedly will be carrying more than 1000 AAC events in 17 sports.


  • Scuttlebutt to share:  One-time Friar basketball assistant Carmen Maciariello could be promoted to head coach at Siena says CBS’ Jon Rothstein, as Jamion Christian heads to George Washington…and the Red Sox are reportedly close to a contract extension with Chris Sale.  That’s good, right?


  • Mike Trout money is now the new standard for mega-rich, mega-dumb pro sports contracts.  We’re getting to the point where new deals might as well be paid out in Monopoly money – it’s just not real.  Not to me, or you, or even most pro athletes. 


  • Yeah, but he’s getting what the market says he can get.  Sure.  What the market doesn’t say is that baseball is trending downward.  So what do owners do?  They throw more money at the problem.


  • And what does Mike Trout Money do for Mookie Betts’ future?  It means…if you hope to see him stick around the Hub, you had best start saving your Quan.  ‘Cuz it gonna go quickly.  Somebody will have to pay.  Will it be you? 


  • Tweet of the Week, from @Steve_Perrault: “Sources now expect Mookie Betts to sign a 50-year/$800 billion deal with the Red Sox.”  This is not far-fetched fantasy at all, based on current trends. 


  • Did you know the Major League Baseball season opened this week in Japan?  Guess I missed that.  Were you up in the middle of the night watching the Mariners and A’s do battle?  Nope, me neither.  Thanks for letting us know, baseball.  Helluva marketing strategy, right there.


  • My buddy “Big E” sez he had his grandson with him at the drug store last week, when they decided it would be a nice idea to buy Mommy a card for her upcoming birthday.  “E” showed him where the cards were located and told him to pick one out for mom. 


  • After a couple of minutes, “E” came back to the greeting card aisle with his grandson still there, hurriedly looking through the cards by the handful.  “Didn’t you find one for mom, yet?” he asked his grandson.  “No,” came the reply.  “I’m looking for one with money in it.”


  • Cool deal for Salve Regina goaltender Blake Wojtala.  The Newport Daily News reported this week just a couple of days after the Seahawks’ hockey season ended, he got a call from the Worcester Railers of the ECHL.  And then he played in just his second game on the roster.  Welcome to the pros.


  • Six hockey Friars earned all-Hockey East recognition this week, but it’s still very much sweaty-palm time around the ice at PC.  After losing two straight to BC last weekend and not reaching the Garden this week for the Hockey East championships, the Friars are teetering on the edge of NCAA Tournament extinction. 


  • If either BC or Boston University wins this weekend, it could bump the Friars from the tourney.  The NCAA draw is Sunday.


  • URI President David Dooley and athletic director Thorr Bjorn took to writing an editorial published by the Providence Journal this week, essentially explaining their vetting process for hiring tennis coach Gordie Ernst, who has been placed on leave for his alleged involvement in the national college recruiting and admissions scandal while at Georgetown.


  • While I believe URI earnestly did what they could, I also get the sense that Georgetown never indicated there might be trouble coming because they simply wanted Ernst to ‘go away.’  Or, they didn’t care.  Could that have been part of this story?


  • Who remembers the name Ira Bowman?  Ira played basketball at Providence for two seasons in the early ‘90’s under Rick Barnes before transferring to Penn and finishing his career in the Ivies with a fair amount of success, gaining Ivy Player of the Year honors in ’95-96.  After a seven-year pro career that got him a cup of coffee with the Philadelphia 76ers and Atlanta Hawks, Bowman then turned to coaching.


  • Starting at NJIT, then moving onto Penn, Bowman most recently has been an assistant at Auburn under Bruce Pearl.  And that’s where trouble caught up to him.  At least publicly.  Bowman has been suspended by Auburn indefinitely and placed on leave after it was discovered he was involved in a bribery scheme at Penn several years ago.


  • Bowman, working for then-Penn coach Jerome Allen, was allegedly part of receiving a $300K bribe from the father of former player Morris Esformes, so Esformes would have a place on the Quakers’ team and admittance into the renowned Wharton Business School.  Allen recently testified Bowman was aware of the scheme and took it over after he had been fired at Penn.


  • If true, well…Bowman’s coaching career in college most certainly has hit a road block.  Allen has pleaded guilty to bribery and will be sentenced next month.


  • @ThePhantomFriar tweeted at me following the NCAA 1st round showing by the Big East: “Getting embarrassed in March. Hoping that Nova can be our one team to escape opening weekend.”


  • I understand the angst, Jeremy.  But like most things in sports and life, this too shall pass.  If you go by the eye test, the league has a lot of talent.  The Friars also have talent.  It’s simply young talent that needs to grow and mature.  I need patience, you need patience, the coaches need patience, we all need patience.   Remember, patience is a virtue.  My mom told me that.  Didn’t yours, too?


  • Interested in having your questions on local Rhode Island sports (and yes, that includes the Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics) answered in a somewhat timely fashion? Send ‘em to me! It’s your chance to “think out loud,” so send your questions, comments and local stories to We’ll share mailbag comments/Facebook posts/Tweets right here! Follow me on Twitter, @JRbroadcaster…and on Facebook, ...


Don’t forget to tune into Providence’s 103.7 FM, every Saturday from 7:00-9:00 am for the newly re-named Cordischi and Coit!  Call in at 401-737-1287 or text at 37937.

Comments ()