June 16, 2008

Welcome to the Dean's List where we'd like to commend Britain's Princess Eugenie on her naked jaunt through the grounds of her boarding school. It's a fact: the only thing better than a clothed princess is a naked princess.

• A lot of recent NBA draft announcements. After working out for multiple NBA teams but not being invited to the Orlando pre-draft camp, BYU's Lee Cummard, the Mountain West co-player of the year, will return to Provo to play his senior season. UCLA's Josh Shipp will also withdraw his name from draft. On the flip side, NC State's J.J. Hickson, Kansas' Mario Chalmers, West Virginia's Joe Alexander, Florida's Marreese Speights and IUPUI's George Hill have all announced their intentions of staying in the draft. What's that? Never heard of Hill. You will. The speedy guard was the Summit League player of the year player last season and, despite his 6-foot-2 frame, has impressed NBA teams with his 6-foot-9 wingspan and 37.5-inch vertical leap. That's a lot of hop for little dude.

• Normally, when you write that a team "ran away" from the competition, it's a figure of speech. But LSU's women's track and field team literally did just that at the Outdoor NCAA Track and Field Championships in soggy Des Moines on Saturday. The Lady Tigers were tied for the lead with defending national champs Arizona State heading into the last event -- the 1,600 relay. They didn't have to win, just finish better than the Sun Devils. LSU pulled ahead of ASU late in the first leg and finished second in the relay (ASU finished fifth), clinching its 25th women's track title and first since 2003.

• Florida State has 13 national championships under its belt, but the Seminoles still have to take the good with the bad. The good: Riding another dominant performance by star Walter Dix in the men's 200-meter to win its third straight team title at the NCAA track and field championships. The bad: Giving up 11 runs in the ninth inning of a tied ball game and losing 16-5 to Stanford on Saturday in the College World Series. Still, not a bad mixed-bag. Florida State gets to add one more trophy to its crowded awards case and, provided it minimizes the 11-run innings, the baseball team still has a fighting chance to win the CWS.

• Here's hoping that Navy pitcher Mitch Harris will someday be able to play big-league ball. Harris went 20-13 with a 2.51 ERA in four years at the Naval Academy and was drafted in the 13th round by the St. Louis Cardinals, but on Thursday, Navy Secretary Donald C. Winter on denied Harris' bid to play professional baseball. While Army recently imposed a new "Alternative Service Option" policy that allows athletes to compete professionally, Navy suspended all early releases back in 2007. So the right-hander must report to the amphibious transport ship Ponce in Norfolk on Monday to serve his five-year active duty report. Get home safely, Harris, and hopefully one day we'll soon see that fastball in action.

• Teams resort to some strange motivational tactics to get their players psyched up for big games, but few have taken it as far as Arizona State did before its Super Regional game against Fresno State last week. During infield practice, third baseman Brett Wallace threw a ball to his good friend Ike Davis at first. Davis dropped the ball. Words were exchanged and an all-out brawl between the two best players on ASU ensued and was captured on national television. Turns out, the whole thing was a "joke." Davis and Wallace staged the ploy to loosen up their team before the big game. Initially, it seemed to work. The Sun Devils took a 2-0 lead in the first. But fighting never pays off in the long run. Arizona State eventually lost the game 12-9 to the Bulldogs and were denied a berth in the College World Series. Which leads to the big question: When did people start considering fighting between teammates motivational?

• Not to beat the Kelvin Sampson scandal to death, but here's a great headline from an article by AP Sports Writer Gregg Bell -- "IU thanks NCAA for hearing into alleged infractions." Really? Indiana wants to thank the NCAA for investigating recruiting violations? Sounds like that time you got in trouble with your middle school teacher and behaved really well for the rest of class so she wouldn't punish you too harshly. In a statement handed out to the press, Indiana athletic director Rick Greenspan wrote, "I would like to thank the NCAA Committee on Infractions for granting us the opportunity to present our case and our institutional position during this hearing." Why not throw in a few more adverbs, Rick - profusely, generously, kindly? Then the NCAA will really take it easy on you.

• Planning on working in the University of South Carolina's athletic department? Better have a squeaky clean record. As a corrective measure taken after the Gamecocks football program was put on three years probation in 2005, the school started conducting criminal background checks on prospective coaches and administrators. The Dean's List isn't so sure how this appropriately addresses the violations of impermissible tutoring, participation by ineligible players and illegal summer workouts (the charges leveled against the Gamecocks), but apparently it hasn't affected the school's ability to find capable employees. South Carolina recently hired defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson, men's basketball coach Darrin Horn and women's hoops coach Dawn Staley.

• College is supposed to be four years of consequence-free, institutionalized chaos that invokes in students a feeling similar to bliss...at least, for average college students. Not so for student athletes, however. Take, for example, national high school player of the year Elena Delle Donne, who, after only two days, dropped out of summer school at UConn. The media speculated that she'd been involved in an on-court dispute with other UConn players, but that was just scuttlebutt. Delle Donne said the problems are personal and go beyond basketball. Maybe, just maybe, being a student athlete at a big time program isn't all it's cracked up to be. Maybe getting to school months before your peers so you can take classes and run until you puke isn't that much fun after all.

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

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