June 09, 2008

Welcome to this week's air-conditioned Dean's List, where we're feeling the heat like Ed McMahon (dead broke), Cedric Benson (double DUI) and Kelsey Grammer (mild heart attack).

• Team of the week honors go to Wisconsin's varsity eight heavyweight crew team, which upset defending champion Washington to win the Intercollegiate Rowing Association National Championship. Having not lost in two years, the Huskies were heavy favorites entering the competition, but Wisconsin took the lead at the 500 meter mark and then sprinted to the finish line for its eighth IRA title, but first in 18 years. Even more impressive: the Badgers' crew team features five walk-ons.

• Last week, Indiana University officials publicly stated that they agreed with most of the facts the NCAA outlined in its 96-page case summary detailing the four major accusations against former basketball coach Kelvin Sampson. No kidding. After the charges surfaced at the beginning of last season, the school bought out Sampson's contract so fast he didn't even make it to March. What's more interesting is what star recruit DeJuan Blair, now at Pittsburgh, told NCAA investigators about his three-way phone conversations with Sampson and assistant coach Rob Senderoff. "I don't want to give you misinformation, but I believe, uh, uh, uh, I would believe that coach Senderoff called me, you know, and that's when they started to flop the phones, you know," said the Panthers' big man. "They were both on the phone, I'm, they both was on the phone talking, we all was on the phone." Priceless. Not only does Blair love the verbal filler, but he uses "was" in the same sentence as both third-person and first-person plural. In the basketball parlance of our times, this kid's a grammatical swingman.

• You want drama? We present to you the Mississippi State baseball program. Longtime coach Ron Polk announced his retirement in March after 35 years at the helm in Starkville, where he won 1,373 games. He endorsed his assistant, Tommy Roffo. However, incoming athletic director Greg Byrne, a 36-year-old upstart AD, had different ideas. He hired Kentucky's John Cohen, who played for Polk and was a teammate of Roffo's at MSU (as well as a former SEC coach of the year at Kentucky.) Polk gets upset and swears he'll take his name off the stadium and remove the athletic department from his will. Byrne doesn't budge. Neither does Cohen, who holds a news conference in which he awkwardly announces his intention to win a national championship regardless of whether he has his old coach's support or not. Polk, to his credit, says his beef is with athletic director Byrne and not Cohen. I can already hear that Coldplay song playing behind the final reconciliation scene when this gets made into a movie.

• You've got to love it when a young man takes responsibility for his actions. Georgia defensive end Jeremy Lomax was arrested on Wednesday morning for carrying a concealed weapon. Officers stopped Lomax going 80 mph in a 55-mph zone, and when they asked if there were any weapons in the vehicle, Lomax, being the honest man that he is, pointed to an unloaded Glock 40 under the driver's seat. He thought it was legal in Georgia to carry an unloaded gun in his car, and it would have been, had he stored it almost anywhere other than under the seat - like, say, the glove compartment. New firearm legislation is about to change the "under the seat" law, but Lomax still had to post a $3,000 bond and spend some quality time in jail. The young man has learned his lesson though -- he's called the Athens-Clarke County police to apologize and says he's going to sell his gun.

• It's like my friend Doug says: That's what happens when your draft stock falls out of the first round. North Carolina point guard Ty Lawson was charged with driving while impaired after being pulled over at a traffic stop in downtown Chapel Hill on Friday morning. Cops said they could smell alcohol in the car. Lawson was also charged with violating the city's noise ordinance (he's got a sick system in his Chevy 4-door, which was the initial reason he was pulled over) and driving with a suspended license. All this came after Lawson had an average workout with the Indiana Pacers, who do not need another talented player with an arrest record.

• Good article by Aaron Kaplowitz in the New York Times the other day on Bol Kong, a basketball player from Khartoum, Sudan, who has a scholarship offer from Gonzaga waiting for him but can't get a visa to study in the United States, which has denied his application three times. Kong moved to Canada when he was seven but is still officially considered a citizen of his homeland, a country that is listed as a state sponsor of terrorism. In the Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act, President Bush made it harder for nationals of countries that sponsor terrorism to acquire nonimmigrant visas. Come on, bureaucrats. Let the kid play. There's no terrorism in basketball. Ballers shoot hoops, not guns.

• When did the wheels fall off Maryland basketball's wagon? Last season was a disappointment for Gary Williams, a Dean's List favorite from adolescence, and now he can't keep his recruits from jumping ship. Two weeks ago, high-profile juco-transfer Tyree Evans asked for his release from the Terrapins and last Tuesday, Gus Gilchrist, a 6-foot-9 forward who can leap over an F-150, pulled the rip chord. This is the same Gilchrest who initially committed to Seth Greenberg at Virginia Tech, but reneged after the tragic shootings. (Word on the street is Gilchrist was about to be ruled academically ineligible anyway.) With only nine players currently on scholarship, Coach Williams stated the obvious, telling the Baltimore Sun - "We're still recruiting."

• Have you ever been walking down the block and suddenly spotted five dollars on the pavement? You look around, see if anyone looks like he or she is missing five bucks, and when no one starts jumping up and down, you pick it up and keep walking. That's what West Virginia safety Charles Pugh did in Morgantown, except that he found a set of car keys at the university's student union and used the panic button to trace them back to the car. From the car, he stole a credit card, which he then used at multiple locations. Now Pugh's charged with theft and has been dismissed by his coach from the Mountaineers football team. Okay, so maybe it's a little different than finding five bucks. One's lucky, the other's just dumb.

Jacob E. Osterhout can be contacted at jacob.osterhout@gmail.com

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