NCAA Tournament Expectations: Who Was Expected To Fail?

Back when the NCAA tournament bracket was first released, there were high expectations for some teams — and very low expectations for others. It takes a lot of hard work to build a strong team foundation, but sometimes it comes down to plain dumb luck. Here are the college teams that were expected to fall the hardest during that tournament.

Tennessee was expected to stumble when facing Oregon State due to a number of injuries sustained — especially those incurred by forward John Fulkerson, who fractured his face. He suffered a concussion as well. 

One coach said Tennessee would flop because: “They haven’t been able to find consistent outside shooting. They have too many guys who come off the bench and don’t always fit with the other guys, Victor Bailey being one of them. Some of their issues are that they only really have one point guard, Santiago Vescovi. He’s the only one of them who can truly get other guys [the] shots.”

Georgetown “enjoyed” a record of nearly equal victories and defeats, and was matched up against Colorado in the first round. But not everyone is convinced they belong in the tournament. 

Another coach described their vulnerabilities on the field: “I’m always wary of teams that put everything into something. There is a danger of a letdown once they accomplish something. What they did was so rare. I was shocked by what they did….They’ve never been much of a challenge defensively. They’ve been playing with a competitiveness and toughness we haven’t seen.”

USC has a mostly victorious record, but they’re matched up against Drake in the first round. The experts still don’t know what to expect: “They’re like the team that looks the part in the layup line, but if you punch them in the mouth, they’ll fold. They don’t have a point guard, and that prevents them from playing the style they’d like.”

Do College Sports Require More Diversity Recruitment?

Colleges have long been seen as sort of bastions for liberal policies and social justice warriors — but as if the world hadn’t turned upside down enough in the past year or so, Fox News recently reported on a survey done by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) at Central Florida, which found that diverse hiring and recruitment practices by college campuses paled in comparison to those by professional sports organizations. Didn’t see that coming.

TIDES assigned the 2019-20 season a “C,” with a “B” for racially diverse hiring practices and a “C+” for gender hiring. 

Lead report author Richard Lapchick said, “When you put it in historical perspective of some of the really important questions, the numbers are barely moving.”

The survey found that people of color were present in much lower numbers in the Football Bowl Subdivision of college athletics than they were in professional sports organizations like the NBA or NFL.

NCAA senior vice president for inclusion, education, and community engagement Derrick Gragg said, “As organizations work to provide better diversity and inclusion, athletic leaders can also take significant steps to open more doors to people of color and women. There are too many diversity hiring gaps in college sports, and this racial and gender diversity report reveals that.”

Even worse, the report found that the number of overall head coaches who are people of color has declined over the past season. 

The Seattle Mariners have put forth a program at the Albers School of Business and Economics at Seattle University to promote diversity.

Executive Vice President of the Mariners Fred Rivera said, “Our Seattle teams share the goal of addressing historic inequities and creating opportunities in sports and entertainment leadership. This program aligns with the Mariners commitment to invest in racial equity programs and initiatives. We are excited about the opportunity to partner with the Kraken as well as Seattle University on this long-term program to make progress breaking down barriers for entry into the sports industry.”

Explaining The Amateur Athletes Protection And Compensation Act Of 2021

We recently discussed the new legislation put forth by Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kansas), the Amateur Athletes Protection and Compensation Act of 2021 — but we left out one of the most important aspects of the bill, which serves to protect young college athletes. The bill was reintroduced earlier this year after it failed to move toward the end of 2020. Moran’s bill is important because it makes several compromises to serve as its foundation, neither taking a hardline nor a softball approach to the controversial subject matter.

The NCAA recently barred athletes from taking third-party endorsements (and the corresponding pay) in an effort to preempt breaking a recent law implemented in California. Moran’s bill would allow such endorsements as long as they are in line with the student code of conduct at the school where they play — which has to be good news for college athletes, who absolutely need that money just to keep up with the bills. 

The rub is that athletes can’t sign a deal for compensation from a professional sports league. 

We mentioned that the new legislation from Washington DC would allow college athletes to transfer from one school to another without losing their eligibility for these deals — but we forgot to mention they can only do it once under the law’s guidelines. 

Moran said, “The Amateur Athletes Protection and Compensation Act would create a national standard of guidelines to make certain student athletes can benefit from the use of their name, image and likeness without hurting their eligibility to compete as a student athlete. Athletics teach young men and women many valuable skills that serve them throughout their life, and it’s important to protect their ability to pursue an education while allowing them to capitalize on their name, image and likeness as a student athlete.”

We don’t expect the bill to make any headway soon because of COVID-19 relief disagreements. The economy has been steadily improving, but there’s still work to do. The legislation certainly won’t move ahead in the first 100 days of the Biden administration.

This is an issue for the NCAA because state laws are advancing at a rapid pace — and without a uniform set of guidelines, it will be hell for the college sports organization to dance from one state’s laws to the next state’s laws. A previous NIL legislation had been expected before Biden was even sworn in, but was delayed due to Alston v. NCAA, which legislators expect to have major consequences on antitrust claims. The NCAA has presented some opposition to more liberal state laws even as it faces blowback for not taking a hardline approach to allowing trans men and women to play on sports teams of the gender with which they identify.


New Congressional Bill Introduced To Add Protections For College Athletes

Most people have no idea how college sports programs work. During the course of a season at a college with a high-profile team, a new student might be scouted — and even asked to sign a deal that would go into effect after the student graduates. A new bill introduced by Senator Jerry Morgan (R-Kansas) would limit the types of deals that a student can take. It’s goal is to increase protections and reduce the likelihood of someone trying to take advantage of the student.

Another aspect of college sports the layman might not know about is the medical coverage athletic departments must provide students. The bill would provide a boon to this kind of coverage. In addition, new rules would guide how student athletes transfer from one college to another. This would prevent a student from losing his or her eligibility.

Moran said, “It is vital to establish a consistent national standard for universities and student-athletes. This bill strikes an appropriate balance as we work to empower amateur athletes while maintaining the integrity of college sports that we all know and love.”

The bill (and others like it) was a direct response from a request made by NCAA President Mark Emmert to create rules to determine how student athletes generate income through sports. A California law passed in 2019 would make many NCAA policies borderline illegal in the near future. That’s why the NCAA barred athletes from accepting payments by third-parties, a move that caused significant blowback.

The NCAA leadership has acknowledged the need for significant change in how college sports are handled, but they wish to balance professionalism with what at the core is a program to foster growth in new athletes searching for a career in a particular sport. It isn’t clear whether or not Moran’s bill stands a good chance of passing the Senate.

What Is Gender Equity In Sports?

We recently discussed the wave of laws at the state level that have been put forward — and in Idaho’s case, passed — in order to prevent trans players from playing on teams that share their gender (keep in mind that biological sex is whether or not a person is born male or female, while gender is a social construct based on how people feel). The new legislation has advocates arguing for greater inclusion to foster a sense of safety and support for trans players — but others have taken the fight one step further, asking why gender equity hasn’t become the norm.

“Equality” means we give everyone the same chances. “Equity” means we give people what they need. Here’s an example: a child has a minor cut, and the parent prescribes a band-aid. Another child shatters his leg, and the parent prescribes a band-aid. This is equality — but it isn’t equity, because the second child obviously needs a cast to heal properly. Society is only recently beginning to apply this concept to race and gender. We’re more apt to understand that different groups of people might need equity, not equality, because of their experiences in life or the way society as a whole treats them.

A Maitland Family Law Lawyer commented, “It’s not unusual for legal cases to be founded upon the principle that gender roles have no place in sports, at home, or in the workplace. And most people are coming to realize that’s the truth. It’s only a matter of time before women and trans men are allowed to play on men’s teams — because the bottom line is this: they are every bit as capable.”

Remember Nat’l Organization for Women v Little League Baseball, Inc.? The court decision upheld the right of girls aged 8 to 12 to play in Little League sports. The defendants argued that Little League only funneled its resources into players who would likely continue to play into adulthood — and the girls obviously wouldn’t, because there is no place for them in men’s baseball. The court describes these arguments as “stereotyped conceptions” relating to the “needs, capabilities and aspirations for the female, child or woman.”

As a result, some Little League teams disbanded.

In 2021, advocates for trans and women’s rights are arguing that embedded stereotypes don’t diminish after childhood, and that trans women and women should have every opportunity afforded to men.

One effort to increase understanding and equity in sports was put forth in New Jersey — The Civil Rights Data Collection. This data would be provided to the public for free and provide relevant demographic information about the number of boys and girls playing in a given sport at the high school level. This information would be used to compel the schools into compliance with existing equality laws in order to increase equity for the foreseeable future. 

Because of these programs, additional teams have been created to allow women to play — but some are arguing that they don’t go far enough. Why are there “men’s” and “women’s” teams at all?

Why Are College Athletes Asking The NCAA To Pull Championships?

The question of whether or not trans athletes should be allowed to play on male or female sports teams that are in opposition of their biological sex has been ongoing for a while now. Advocates for inclusion argue that we live in a diverse society and that barring trans athletes from certain sports teams would do little more than inflame athletes for no reason. The opposition contends that including trans athletes would be too unfair. 

Many state legislatures have been working to pass laws that bar trans women from playing on women’s sports teams and trans men from playing on men’s sports. Two such bills are on the move in Mississippi and South Dakota, while another has already passed muster in Idaho.

Now, hundreds of college athletes have come forward, signing a letter drafted to the NCAA to request pulling championships from those states with anti-inclusivity laws on the books.

The letter begins, “We, the undersigned NCAA student-athletes, are extremely frustrated and disappointed by the lack of action taken by the NCAA to recognize the dangers of hosting events in states that create a hostile environment for student-athletes.”

The letters continues by addressing NCAA President Mark Emmert and the NCAA’s Board of Governors directly: “You have been silent in the face of hateful legislation in states that are slated to host championships, even though those states are close to passing anti-transgender legislation.”

The complaint found support from GLAAD and Athlete Ally, and was signed by athletes attending a diverse set of around 85 schools including Ivy League institutions.

The state laws barring trans players allow a sports team to force a player to undergo a genital exam, genetics test, or hormone test to determine biological sex if called into question. 

The letter continued, “It is imperative that we know we are safe and supported in the NCAA no matter where we travel to compete. The NCAA claims to prioritize the safety, excellence, and physical and emotional well being of its student athletes and asserts that all athletes deserve a fair shot.”

So far, they do not.

Some Analysts Contend That Colleges Were Already Failing Before Coronavirus Crisis

We recently published an article exploring the possibility that colleges might soon go bankrupt as a consequence of the coronavirus crisis — but many financial analysts were quick to remind us that this is a problem that has been brewing for years. Coronavirus might be the final nail in the coffin, but it certainly wasn’t the first. As of late 2019, one in five colleges were already on track to face bankruptcy in 10 to 25 years.

A traditional debt settlement law firm might help college personnel avoid bankruptcy, but won’t necessarily prevent a college from “going out of business” in the traditional sense. This is especially true when you consider the reasons for the financial stress: fewer students wish to continue onto higher education because of rapidly climbing costs, and others don’t feel like they have the financial capabilities to enroll in the first place.

Moody Investor Services Associate Managing Director Susan Fitzgerald commented on the financial pressure colleges are experiencing: “It’s here to stay. I think we see the higher education sector is in a period of real transformation in terms of how students learn and where they learn.”

Another reason that schools are shuttering their doors forever is based on demographics in certain geographic locations like the Northeast, where much of the population is aging and the younger generations simply don’t have as many kids. In 2019, Green Mountain College closed in Vermont. It had been offering higher education to students for 185 years when officials made the decision to close up shop. Newbury College in Massachusetts also closed in 2019. 

Former Newbury College President Joseph Chillo, “It is no secret that weighty financial challenges are pressing on liberal arts colleges throughout the country. Newbury College is no exception.”

Massachusetts Mount Ida College closed in 2018 without much lip service, which left around 1,500 students wondering how they would transfer credits or complete their education. This particular closure resulted in a new state law to force state education officials to make private college financial woes known to the public. 

Many of the most vulnerable liberal arts schools rely on sports programs to keep them afloat — and we, in turn, love covering those programs. But sports won’t be enough to repair the recent damage done by the COVID-19 crisis. That means many schools are rethinking how they approach revenue. What that means for sports programs in general is anyone’s guess. It could go either way: there might be unprecedented growth in the number of programs, or the school closures might result in the unprecedented decline of sports programs.

Hiram College President Lori Varlotta said, “We’ve added new majors to our conventional liberal arts programs; majors that we call market-driven; majors that pave a very concrete pathway to various types of 21st-century careers.”

Because liberal arts colleges are experiencing this period of financial turmoil, many more are trying to make the transition to business or science to prop up the reduction in revenue.

Will Fans Return To Football This Autumn?

The recent depression of national interest in football is a common story after February’s dismal Super Bowl ratings. The expectations in the run-up to the big event were high, after all, in part because it was assumed that a year of being shut-up indoors for quarantine or social distancing would spur excitement — finally, something to be happy about! But that’s not the way it happened. 

Stadiums were obviously not filled to capacity because of general COVID-19 precautions and restrictions, but why on Earth were television ratings down? Fans of football had nothing to do but sit at home and watch the game!

This has the directors of college sports programs especially worried. Many universities were forced to cut spending on sports programs (others actually took the opposite approach, but they were the minority), and rely on crowded stadiums to generate sufficient revenue to justify a team’s existence. What happens to college sports if the fans don’t come back this fall?

Dynamic Pricing Partners recently conducted a survey that provided a promising result: 72 percent of colleges believe crowds this fall will lead to full stadiums.

Dr. Michael Lauzardo, the Florida Director of the Emerging Pathogens Institute at UF Health, said, “I want to be in a full stadium again. I want to be able to watch the game with people in the stadiums without cardboard cut-outs.” He added, “The more you’ve been in lockdown, the more you’re in lockdown. You’re just scared. You’re worried. It just messes with you.”

But others suggest stadiums might not fill up at all because the mob mentality regarding these public gatherings has already evolved. Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said, “There is a psychology of public assembly that will probably evolve. People are going to have to ask themselves if they want to sit cheek by jowl with people they don’t know and maybe people that don’t have masks. You don’t know if they’re vaccinated or not.”

Will American Universities — And Their Sports Programs — Go Bankrupt Because Of COVID?

To say that the coronavirus pandemic has been traumatic for most of us would be a massive understatement. The economy is in tatters. Many people have lost their jobs. The government has routinely spent too much time debating how the country would best be served during the pandemic, and too little time actually helping. And over a half-million people are dead — mostly our beloved grandparents.

But American institutions are under tremendous pressure because of the COVID-19 tragedy as well. Hundreds of thousands of small businesses have shuttered their doors forever. College sports programs have been shut down, many never to reopen — and the revenue they generate has vanished as well. Many are asking whether or not our colleges will go bankrupt as a result of this pandemic. And what will happen if they do?

While many fear the closure of colleges will escalate in the next ten to fifteen years, others aren’t nearly as worried. Professors Antony Davies and James Harrigan of the Duquesne University and the University of Arizona, respectively, argue that higher education will only become stronger as a result.

The pair wrote: “Just like any other venture, colleges will go out of business when they become insolvent. There is nothing special about a college in this respect. Since 2016, some 52 colleges and universities have closed their doors or merged with other institutions. With the new reality of COVID-19, this trend will accelerate. Big state schools and those in the Ivy League will come out the other side to be sure. But small liberal arts colleges will not be nearly so fortunate.” 

You can click on for more information on individual or business-related bankruptcies, which are becoming more common lately — mostly because of the economical impact of COVID.

The professors argue, “But that’s only the beginning of the very bad news for at-risk institutions. The COVID-19 related downturn has caused any number of young people to ask themselves whether they want to go to college at all given the exorbitant costs. For the first time in decades they are asking the right sorts of questions about college. The most important question, of course, is whether college is a good investment.”

To be fair, these questions have been asked on a smaller scale for years as college tuition costs have skyrocketed. There’s no debate on whether or not America needs higher education for its economy to thrive, but not everyone wants to go if it puts them in a financial hole for the rest of their lives. What’s the end result of this quandary? We can expect the arguments on free college for all to become stronger in the coming years — because without skilled workers, America will fall behind the rest of the world. 

The pair of professors believe there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, because colleges that survive the financial crisis will have to focus their efforts on delivering the best education for a lower cost rather than delivering a desired college experience at a higher cost. College sports programs should experience a grace period as a result.

Some Schools Have A Different Strategy For Fixing COVID-19 Financial Woes

The coronavirus pandemic has left us with a changed world — and some are wondering if we’ll ever get back to normal even after the population is immunized and the threat of COVID-19 dies down. With over half a million people dead in the United States alone, it’s a fair question. One of the consequences for schools around the country were deep budget cuts, many of which were applied to sports programs.

After all, isn’t entertainment frivolous spending?

New Jersey Fairleigh Dickinson University officials don’t believe it is. Instead of cutting sports programs, the school’s board has decided to add new ones across the board. There will be a new men’s volleyball team and a women’s lacrosse team. Both of these programs require new leadership positions to be filled. 

The reason is simple: the cancellation of school sports programs resulted in millions of dollars of revenue loss. People pay to watch entertainment, and those dollars are invested into education.

FDU Director of Athletics Brad Hurlbut said, “We were looking at our financials, and like it was for everybody, it was bleak. We needed to come up with a plan to ease those fears that the university had and we had as an athletic department.”

But filled stadiums aren’t the only source of revenue generated by college sports programs. Without those programs, many students won’t have any interest in attending at all — and certainly the scholarship dollars they might bring with them won’t be acquired by the college.

Athletic Director Jason Young paired with an economist to determine the overall benefit of the news sports teams. 

Young said, “I presented back in June to the leadership group of the university. That got some different looks, but it allowed us to peel back the curtain of the financial structure of our athletic department and really start diving in. That was the opening crack for us.”