There’s no getting around it, Monday’s National Championship game between Louisville and Michigan was one of the greatest college basketball finals ever played. Unlike many games of the past, it was truly an event.
Spike Albrecht’s first half sent everyone to Google to figure out who he was and what unique obscure reference they could tag to his name. He was destined to be the storyline until, well, he wasn’t. Hardaway’s powerful dunk midway through the second half ejected half the country out their respective seats. Russ Smith’s head case of a game, Peyton Siva’s passion and drive and Shane Bohanan’s muscle in the paint, down low combined to give Louisville the victory. Even watching the injured Kevin Ware cut down the nets and Rick Pitino ducking for his life at the sound of the fireworks at the end of the game added to the event value long after the final horn sounded.
But hanging over the game and NCAA was a week’s worth of scandals that pushed the student-athletes to the background and placed the adults in the spotlight.
All the talk of social media and sports media were of two scandals surrounding college basketball. One controversy involved referee Ed Rush for all intents and purposes placing a bounty on Arizona coach, Sean Miller. The other involved the release of a videotape where Rutgers head coach Mike Rice was seen physically and verbally abusing his players. The pressure of bad publicity forced Rush and Rice to resign.
Cover-ups and double speak by University Administrators were at the heart of these controversies. When the curtains were yanked and the public broke through the fourth wall, the administrators continued the show as if nothing happened. Fingers were pointed, responsibility dodged, men lost their jobs and once again the semantics overshadowed the greater point:
The NCAA, the organization that demands such strict control of the students, had lost control of oversight and has lost control of the narrative.
We didn’t speak a word of the game until Saturday night. Names like Rice and Pernetti became more household names leading up to the NCAA championship than Burke or Magary and Smith or Siva.
The phrase amateurism makes us all roll our eyes. The double speak in press conferences and interviews are more scrutinized than ever. Every word uttered by anyone with a prominent title and the brand “NCAA” is dissected and criticized more than Boeheim’s 2-3 Zone.
That reality has led many to compare the NCAA system to the brutal slavery and sharecropping institutions of America’s shameful past. The extremist policies have illicit extreme reactions.
It took an all-time performance by the players to overshadow the damage done to the NCAA brand in the week leading up to the Final Four. When the adults need to be saved by the kids, the system is broken. The kids saved the adults for a night and possibly a few days. For now, stand up and applaud one of the great games of all-time.
Until the next NCAA scandal.
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