Arts & Entertainment, Sports

Picking Splinters: Harvard’s Headache and Snip City

What do Cinderella, vasectomies and Tommy Amaker have in common? They all appear in Mike Hume's monthly magical mail bag.

Mike,

What are your thoughts on this news item: The Oregon Urology Institute is promoting an event for men to get vasectomies prior to the NCAA Tournament. I think this is wonderful, but do you think this is a good idea?

Lorena

Look, if this is the sort of deal you need to negotiate with your spouse to watch the tournament in peace, you need to seriously reevaluate your relationship.

That said, if you do go through with the procedure, see if you can get one of those plastic cones they give to dogs post-operation. I think that would be a great accessory to tourney watching. You put that bad boy on and fill it up with popcorn, Crackerjack, a calming libation, whatever your heart desires. That's livin' right there.

 

Hume,

Harvard got nailed by the New York Times for some questionable recruiting practices, and since hiring Head Coach Tommy Amaker they've admittedly dropped their academic standards for basketball recruits. The questionable practices include hiring a coach a few days after he played pick up ball with two recruits and Amaker bumping into a recruit's parents at the grocery store. Does the Crimson deserve a scarlet letter for this behavior?

Hester

Much like the shadowy recruiting practices Amaker and his staff have allegedly been engaging in, there are some shades of gray here. Was it poor form for Harvard to fire former coach Frank Sullivan after holding his recruits to higher academic standards and then turn around and give Amaker carte blanche? Yes. Does lowering the academic bar to compete in their own league make the school a shameful scourge? I don't think so. Saying Harvard is gravely compromising its reputation to get onto the athletic fast track is a little extreme.

Look, some schools consider extracurricular skills like basket weaving or interpretive dancing huge pluses on college applications. Those skills can and do compensate for grades or scores below those of most admitted students. The PC crowd loves this because it shows that schools are embracing diversity. When the standards are lowered for athletes though, somehow it's seen as an evil practice.

Think about it, Ivy League schools can admit celebrities and the offspring of tycoons, but they can't admit kids who play basketball? Kids who might give something back to the school community besides daddy's six-digit checks? Please.

One more thing, one of recruits mentioned in the Times article was Bishop O'Connell's 6-foot-10 center Frank Ben-Eze. The article states that Ben-Eze has yet to reach the required minimum for acceptance to Harvard. It also notes that he was being recruited by “traditional power” Penn. Last I checked, Penn was an Ivy League school. If other Ivies are recruiting kids like Ben-Eze — who has since decommited from Harvard — there is no reason for Harvard to be chastened for it. 

The recruiting tactics noted in the article might not be legit, and if they are dirty then the NCAA will certainly act. However, the standards of a university's admissions should be determined by the university alone. If its alums (read: donors) disagree with this new approach to the basketball program, then I suspect Harvard will reverse its course rather quickly … Oh, wait …

Looks like that didn't take long. As I write this Tuesday morning, the Washington Post's Josh Barr has just reported that the reason for Ben-Eze's decommitment was that Harvard revised its academic requirements for him. Initially they told Ben-Eze he needed to score just 30 points higher on his SAT. After the Times article broke, that goal was revised by the school to a 90-point improvement, according to Joe Wooten, Ben-Eze's coach at O'Connell. If that's true, that's just pathetic and a lot worse than lowering the bar in the first place. Now Harvard has wasted this kid's time and gone back on its promises. I'm sure the Harvard campus will be a much better place for it.

 

George Mason's back in the Dance, baby! That's Awesome with a capital A, baby! Can the Kryptonite Kids make a run to the Final Four, baby? Baby!!!!

Richard V.

I'm not sure if Cinderella's glass slipper still fits the Patriots of 2008. I hear late-game collapses (see losses to Georgia State and Delaware this season) can make your feet swell. This is a very different George Mason team than the 2006 squad, but that won't stop the Patriots from being the chic upset pick of the first round. And who knows? Once you're in the bracket, anything can happen. That's what makes March so awesome — Oh, what the heck — baby!