May 27, 2008

Welcome to this week's installment of the Dean's List. It just wouldn't be Memorial Day in America without Slick Rick receiving a pardon from the governor of New York and a Knievel jumping 24 delivery trucks on a motorcycle.

• Anybody who covers college basketball in the midwest knows IUPUI coach Ron Hunter is the coolest cat south of Milwaukee. (Why Milwaukee? Because it's the Barcelona of Wisconsin.) Pacing the sidelines, there's no coach in America that's more animated, but Hunter's greatest trait is that he cares. And it's not a Kelvin Sampson act. Last season, I saw the Jaguars play on senior night and Coach Hunter ran onto the court and bear hugged his sweaty players after the game. He also cried. Hunter first gained national attention back in January when he coached a game barefoot to collect shoes for African children living in poverty. Now he 's back in the news after announcing that he'll take his team to Nigeria in July to deliver some of the 200,000 pairs of shoes that were donated as a result of his campaign. I love this guy.

• UCLA doesn't need another championship, but the Bruins will take one, especially when it's a title they've never won before. UCLA's women's tennis team beat arch-rival California 4-0 last week to win the school's 102nd championship, but the first women's tennis title. Of course, it helps when the team's coached by the older sister of the best tennis player ever. Stella Sampras, sibling of Pete Sampras, led the Bruins to second place finishes in 2004 and 2007 before finally breaking through in 2008. That's big. So big, even Pete, a Stanford grad, sent his sister a congratulatory text message.

• Any hoops player that withdraws his name from the NBA Draft to return to college automatically makes the honor roll. Accordingly, Memphis' Antonio Anderson, Alabama's Alonzo Gee, and Marquette's Jerel McNeal are winners this week after deciding to go back to school. That's good decision making right there. 8.6, 14.5 and 14.9 ppg in college hoops probably isn't going to cut it in the pros. Maybe somebody should relay the message to NC State's J.J. Hickson, who averaged 14.8 ppg in his one season in Raleigh and doesn't seem to want to withdraw his name for the upcoming NBA Draft.

• It was a weekend of continued dominance in college lacrosse. Johns Hopkins reaffirmed its ownership of Duke, knocking the Blue Devils out of the NCAA Tournament for the third time in four years. Unfortunately for the Blue Jays, they couldn't beat nemesis Syracuse in the title game, as the Orange won their tenth national championship. D-III powerhouse Salisbury capped off their undefeated season with a 19-13 victory over SUNY Cortland. It was the Sea Gulls eighth national championship and their 45th consecutive victory. And the Northwestern women's lacrosse team beat Penn, 10-6, to claim their fourth consecutive NCAA championship. So much for parity.

• If you ask St. John's fans how much they likes former coach Mike Jarvis just be prepared to run. After leading the Red Storm to the Elite Eight in 1999, Jarvis lost complete control of his program to the point where players were breaking curfew to sneak out of team hotels and visit strip clubs. Eventually SJU had to not only fire Jarvis but place itself on two-years probation and forfeit 43 wins. I think it's safe to say the program Lou Carnesecca built has never recovered. But Jarvis has. He's been hired as the men's basketball coach by Florida Atlantic, a school which will, apparently, overlook a few skeletons in the closet for a chance to make the NCAA Tournament.

• Michigan basketball has fallen on tough times. Following the Fab Five were the NCAA violations, the Steve Fischer exodus and the lean Tommy Amaker years. But things are looking up in Ann Arbor. Or are they? Wolverines' coach John Belein signed German forward Robin Benzing, a 6-foot-10 big man, who has been compared to Dirk Nowitzki. Unfortunately for Michigan fans, it won't be long before Benzing will be declared ineligible by the NCAA. Like fellow German prospects Lucca Staiger and Fabian Böke, who were also denied eligibility, Benzing played a season with professionals in Europe and while he didn't get paid, he's no longer considered an amateur. Too bad, Dirk would've looked good in maize and blue.

• Golf is certainly a betting man's game. Case in point, both Charles Barkley and Michael Jordan consider themselves golfers. But you can't bet on golf when you're the coach of a college golf team. It's just not allowed. The NCAA is investigating former Nevada men's golf coach Rich Merritt for sports betting at Reno-area casinos. That's sleazy, but what's even more sordid is who reported Merritt to the NCAA. Last summer, a former Nevada women's soccer coach filed the complaint on Merrit's conduct. She was later fired. Sounds like Nevada's athletic department needs to straighten out its swing.

• Bad news for North Dakota football fans. UND's star running back Ryan Chappell, the one who, last September, set the school's single-game rushing record by racking up 306 yards against Central Washington, has been ruled academically ineligible. The 2005 North Dakota High School Male Athlete of the Year racked up 1,640 yards and 14 touchdowns last season but just couldn't seem to concentrate in class. Word out of Grand Forks has it that he can party like a rock star, though.

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