by Kent Sterling
If you talk to ten people who earn money from working within college basketball or the media covering college hoops, you will get ten reasons why the former head of the NCAA Championships – including the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament – is one of the best guys in college sports.
They use words like passionate, diligent, self-effacing, funny, invested, caring, and honest. They all trust him, and tomorrow at 12:30p, he will be a guest on “Ahead of the Curve,” on 1070 the Fan, and I cannot wait.
It would be easy to book a flamethrower who would lash out at the inequities of college athletics and call the guys running the NCAA a bunch of addlepated dolts feasting at a table set by student-athletes who go by and large unrewarded for their efforts, but inflammatory rhetoric is no match for informed insight, and that is what Shaheen always brings whether in a Facebook message or in his work for ESPN.
Over two years ago I wrote a post that reflected my frustration with the construct of college athletics. I blamed virtually everyone involved in college athletics for not being able to hold renegade programs responsible for their corruption, the injustice of not allowing athletes to share in the receipts for their image, and all kinds of other madness. As I do with a few posts each week, I posted a link on Facebook.
The response from Greg read, “Kent, with all due respect, do you have any idea how legislation works? How the decision making process works? You can be critical of the NCAA all you’d like, I’m a complete advocate for free speech and your right to any opinion, but your writing on the NCAA implies the national office in Indianapolis controls football, casts the deciding vote on legislation, ignores academic priorities. For what its worth, the writing just lacks any understanding of how the process works. If at some point you’d like to know, I’d be pleased to arrange for that discussion. You can be assured there are a number of people attempting to bring about the very kinds of things you suggest. The issue is that the answer is more complex. Best, g”
I’ve been called a ranting idiot before, but never with that level of grace and decency. My Dad was always much more blunt. Greg was right, I did not have any idea how the NCAA operated, and my understanding is still rather shallow. I know the right answers, but that’s the easiest part of the process of correcting problems.
Everyone knows the correct end result for every problem in business, but navigating the steps needed to bring about the right outcome is tough stuff.
Tomorrow, I will look forward to asking Greg, who is no longer with the NCAA, about how things work, where collegiate athletics is headed, and whether playing a tough December schedule or a bunch of cupcakes is better for building the resume’ of a program hoping to earn an at-large bid in the NCAA Tourney.
This will definitely be one of those shows I wish could last another hour. The toughest part for me will be remembering that my job isn’t simply to listen to a great guest as he shares wisdom but to ask questions that makes it worthwhile for you to listen.