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Outside the Lines: Maine Central Institute

Anchor: Bob Ley
Guests: John Thompson, former Georgetown basketball coach
            Max Good, UNLV assistant basketball coach
            Gary Charles, AAU coach, Long Island Panthers
Featuring a tape piece by Jeremy Schaap
Coordinating producer: Jonathan Ebinger

Show 1: April 2, 2000

Maine Central Institute is the focal point of the NCAA crackdown.

Announcer: Far from the frenzy of the Final Four, where basketball power is measured by having the best recruits, a small New England prep school is the focal point in an NCAA crackdown.

David Price, vice president, NCAA: Amateurism rules essentially say that your student athletes or high school individuals cannot receive pay based on their athletic reputation or skills.

Announcer: While some advocates for young players question the need for an investigation.

Jameel Ghuari, executive director, Bray Center: When I think about the issue that's going on here with the NCAA, it's really an issue of attacking young African American males who are trying to find an opportunity in a free society to use the gifts that God gave them.

Announcer: On Outside the Lines, what is happening up at Maine Central Institute?

Bob Ley, host: Good morning, and welcome to a program with a familiar name and a new time when this program Outside the Lines expands to Sunday mornings as well as continuing our monthly prime time hour-long Outside the Lines format. Each week, we'll be delving into the major sports news issue of the week with reporting and live interviews and with the invitation for you to make us part of your regular Sunday morning routine.

This morning, we are less than 12 hours removed from victories by Michigan State and Florida. The Final Four has grown in a few short years into a major moneymaking machine, a corporate picnic to rival the Super Bowl.

Schools get there by recruiting the very best players. And the feeder system for elite college players has exploded far beyond high school basketball. That player pipeline now runs through AAU summer league teams, sneaker companies, and prep schools.

This season, seven college players, all from universities in the NCAA field of 64, were suspended for varying parts of the season, four of them over the issue of who paid part of their tuition to attend prep school. Three of the players suspended hailed from the very same prep school, where there is an extraordinary concentration of basketball talent and outside interest in who is helping these kids pay the bills.

Jeremy Schaap, ESPN correspondent: Eric Barkley, DeMarr Johnson, Andre Williams. Before they played big-time college basketball, they played here at Maine Central Institute. It's a small school in a small town with a big reputation.

In just the last decade, Maine Central, under former coach Max Good, sent nearly 100 players to Division I college basketball programs, including current NBA players Sam Cassell, Cuttino Mobley, and Brad Miller. Not bad for this Pittsfield, Maine, prep school with a student body of only 500.

Douglas Cummings, Headmaster, Maine Central Institute: What brings the kids here is the proven fact that we prepare the kids well. The kids succeed at the collegiate level. That in turn brings more kids.

Schaap: Maine Central prepares students for college beginning with an intensive series of SAT prep classes and including a closely monitored academic regimen. Players at MCI improve their basketball skills by competing against the best high school teams in the country.

Karl Henrikson, basketball coach, Maine Central Institute: They're very good, very good. And that's why they're here, because they have the athletic package, they have the basketball package, and we're here to give them the academic package.

Robert Parish III, student, Maine Central Institute: It's quiet so no stuff to distract me from my work or from basketball. And I can focus on what I need to do to play Division I basketball.

Schaap: Maine Central isn't cheap. It costs students who board at the school nearly $23,000 a year. And while players often receive significant financial aid based on need, there are no full scholarships.

Henrikson: One of the firm things that this school believes is that if you're going to give somebody something, they're not going to value it as much as if they're paying something out of their own pocket to be here.

Schaap: That's where the problem lies. Someone has to pay the tuition. This season, the NCAA suspended Barkley, Johnson, and Williams for allowing what the NCAA says are inappropriate parties to pay part of their prep school tuition.

Head of enforcement David Price cites the language on amateurism
Price: If an individual is receiving benefits because of his or her athletics reputation or skill, then that is considered to be a violation of amateurism code. The exceptions are primarily with schools or relatives, but doesn't allow somebody who has no association with them to do it.

Schaap: While attending Maine Central, Barkley and Johnson had some of their tuition paid by Amateur Athletic Union, or AAU, sponsors.

Cummings: We always said we do not discriminate. Anybody that wants to help a youngster here, we're willing to accept that.

Schaap (on camera): Anybody?

Cummings: Anybody. If you want to help a child, we're glad to have you help.

Schaap: So their motive beyond just sending the kid to school and getting some education is irrelevant?

Cummings: No. We need to know what their motive is. And if we think we're putting the child in some jeopardy, that's a different story. But what I'm saying is you can't just carte blanche say, "I'm sorry, we're not going to let anybody pay for a child to go to prep school except mom and dad."

Schaap (voice-over): The winningest high school coach in history, Morgan Wootten, of DeMatha High School in suburban Washington, D.C., says schools should know where the money is coming from because those who are paying it are often hoping to unduly influence young players.

Morgan Wootten, basketball coach, DeMatha High School: I would care because you can't ensure how that obligation will develop. How would anyone even know? And once you accept that handout, the young kid is beholden now.

Schaap: Wootten says unscrupulous AAU coaches sometimes accept money from college coaches or boosters to steer players to their programs.

Wootten: I hope that the NCAA will really go to work and pass meaningful legislation to try and eliminate those few flesh peddlers that are hanging around the game, and that they would do everything they could to get their influence out of the game because it's bad for the game.

Schaap: But officials at MCI say the financial means by which an athlete's tuition is paid are justified by social and academic ends.

Julie Treadwell, athletic director, Maine Central Institute: I know of how many kids who come here that the situation that they're in, whether it's their school situation, whether it's their community, whether it's the parental situation they're in, is not good. And if anybody can help them get out of that situation, I think that's the right thing to do.

Schaap (on-camera): How much has MCI helped you academically?

Caron Butler, committed to University of Connecticut: It helped me a great deal because, you know, I'm a qualifier now. Before, I didn't ever think I would get the chance to qualify. And it really helped.

Schaap: Butler could be the next player punished from MCI when he enters college this fall. Five hundred dollars of his tuition his first year at MCI was paid through a fund managed by this community center in his hometown of Racine, Wisconsin. The center's director says it did nothing wrong.

Ghuari: We're told that we can't give them $500, or we can't give them $200, or we can't do whatever because now that no longer makes them an amateur. But then when they go to the NCAA schools, they're getting paid to play basketball.

These same kids would not be getting these same levels of scholarship if they didn't have that ability. So is that professionalism?

Henrikson: I know the NCAA wants to have the best product possible. And if this type of punitive measure occurs with these kids, you may drive some of the better kids out of college basketball at an earlier age.

Cummings: Like I said, I've been here 14 years. This phenomenon was going on when I arrived. It was going on long before I arrived.

Nothing is different than it was. I'm not sure I understand why today it's become an issue.

Schaap: NCAA and MCI officials are scheduled to meet soon to determine once and for all who can and who cannot pay the bills.

For Outside the Lines, I'm Jeremy Schaap.

Ley: Next, we'll be joined live by John Thompson, an AAU coach, and the former head coach at Maine Central Institute on Outside the Lines.

We are joined this morning by John Thompson, Georgetown's coach emeritus. He was the head coach for 27 years. Now, among other things, he's a radio talk show host in Washington, D.C.

Gary Charles, in his time as an AAU head coach, he has worked with players such as Lamar Odom and Khalid el-Amin. And Max Good, for 10 years the head coach at Maine Central Institute, now an assistant coach at Nevada-Las Vegas.

Max, let me begin with you. We've heard in the story the admission by your own head of school. And coaches everywhere have said this has been going on for years. Why do you think this is a point of discussion and emphasis now, the outside payment of tuition?

Max Good, assistant coach, UNLV Runnin' Rebels: I don't really know, Bob, because as Mr. Cummings said, it is kind of strange that all of a sudden it's coming to bear because it has been going on for years. And of course, I think the fact that it kind of came to the surface because of Andre Williams' situation at Oklahoma State because the gentleman that helped Andre also I think was close with JaRon and Kareem Rush.

And then, of course, from there, once they got into that situation, Eric and DeMarr Johnson obviously being very high-profile players, their situation came to light.

Ley: Well, your success here, Karl Hendrikson said, you know, "Things like this could drive players out early." DeMarr Johnson leaving now for the NBA as a freshman, Eric Barkley as a sophomore. Do you think this investigation in this issue helped to make up their mind to leave school?

Good: I think it might have in Eric's case. In DeMarr's, I don't think so. DeMarr it was probably -- if DeMarr had chosen to go last year right out of MCI, he probably would have gone late first round, but he didn't want to do that. And of course, having been at Cincinnati for a year and having the kind of year he's had, I think it's moved him up favorably in the draft.

But let's don't be fooled. Most of these youngsters, I would dare say most high-profile players eventually want to play in the NCAA, I mean to play in the NBA, I'm sorry. But it's just a matter of when.

Ley: Let's put up some numbers that really illustrate what kind of a program Maine Central has had through the 1990s. You think of prep schools, Oak Hill (Academy) has been the big name over the years. And over the last 20 years, they've had a total of 83 players move right on to Division I. In 10 years at Maine Central Institute, the last 10 years, in your reign, 87 players have moved on.

John Thompson, let me ask you this question. What began the move to prep schools? Was it Prop. 48 standardized testing that suddenly threw these prep schools into the limelight as the place where great players will congregate?

John Thompson, coach emeritus, Georgetown University basketball: Well, I don't really know what began it. But I think it's a question of survival. When you're talking about in most instances a lot of young people who don't have a way out of the circumstances they're in other than through using their talent.

So if a kid needs some strengthening academically, it only stands to reason that he find a place where he can go. But this stuff is not new. All of the private institutions in this country who have real good competitive situations have had kids that they have solicited or kids that have encouraged them to take them, and somebody has paid their tuition. I don't know why all of a sudden it's such an issue.

Ley: Is it part of a larger agenda, do you think?

Thompson: I don't know whether it's part of a larger agenda. But we can't evaluate everything on a competitive basis even though we are participating in competition.

These schools were used to integrate because of competition. There's so many issues that we deal with with this, it just is ridiculous to me to see why all of a sudden all this emphasis is placed on it.

I agree with Morgan Wootten, that you should find out where the money comes from. But the fact that a young kid who has the ability to play is being paid for -- his tuition is being paid for so that he can get an education and also compete, that's the only reason the child was accepted in society because of the fact that he had athletic skills.

Ley: Gary Charles, you work with so many kids in AAU ranks. What's your estimate? We've had three prominent players from Maine Central and four total this year suspended over the issue of tuition. If everyone fessed up, non-family members, what's your guess of how many prep school graduates would have this problem?

Gary Charles, head coach (1992), Long Island Panthers: I would say that probably 60 to 70 percent of kids playing in college basketball right now are probably ineligible if you're going to go based on what they're saying right now. I agree with what John is saying. I mean, what's going on? Why all of a sudden that this has become an issue?

You know, you sit there, you talk about AAU coaches trying to send kids straight from high school to the pros, so you complain about that. Now when you turn around and try to help some of these young men from doing that by sending them to prep school, you still complain about that. So what do you want us to do?

I mean, you can't be half pregnant. Either you are or you're not. So make up your mind.

Ley: Let me ask you about the comment made by Morgan Wootten. He talked about flesh peddlers, Gary, and AAU coaches, the question of image. There is a head coach in Washington, DC, has a very successful team, has a drug conviction in his background. There's a coach in Kansas City who is currently under a federal grand jury investigation.

You in the past were mentioned in published reports in connection with questions about SAT scores for Zendon Hamilton. Do AAU coaches have an image problem?

Charles: Well, let me say this. AAU coaches are all part of society. In society, you have bad elements in all part of it, meaning bad cops, bad teachers, bad college coaches, and some bad AAU coaches and bad high school coaches. But you can't sit there and paint a picture of everyone being the same way.

In regard to Zendon Hamilton, are you aware that Zendon, none of that stuff was ever proven? Zendon was cleared innocent of that situation. But someone made light of that, and people forget the other side. You make that one big, but all of a sudden when he was cleared, no one even mentioned that.

Ley: Yes. Let me ask Max the connection between prep schools and AAU head coaches. I mean, it's all the same society, isn't it, as far as the basketball culture? It's something that Cedric Dempsey has talked a great deal about.

Good: Well, probably so, Bob. But let me say this. The youngsters who came to MCI selected us. That may sound arrogant on our part to say that. But I didn't recruit any of these young people.

For the first couple of years, I did. And we had a great deal of success both academically and athletically.

And consequently from that point on, players started searching us out, the Eric Barkleys, the Andre Williams, the Mamadou N'diayes, the DeMarr Johnsons, the Vernon Jennings, the Lenny Browns of the world. They approached us because they wanted to come to our school because of the great academic success that we had.

Ley: We're going to pick up on that point and also look ahead at what's going on with proposed NCAA reforms. We'll be back with more from John Thompson and Max Good and Gary Charles in just a moment here on Outside the Lines.

Ley: And we continue with John Thompson, Max Good and Gary Charles.

Gentlemen, the NCAA is taking firm aim on what the president of the organization Cedric Dempsey calls, and I mentioned it earlier, the culture of summer basketball. Thursday in Indianapolis at the Final Four, Dempsey outlined his planned reforms.

Cedric Dempsey, president, NCAA: We will propose that we eliminate the summer evaluation period, and that we delay the implementation of that legislation for a year, and that we spend a year trying to rebuild a culture that is more beneficial to perspective student athletes, and that we have the right people influencing student athletes in their future direction.

Ley: John Thompson, the entire issue of summer recruiting and summer evaluation, to many coaches, those are fighting words. The coaches have said they don't want it. A lot of players, the player committee with NABC, the coaches committee that's been formed with Shane Battier, the Duke player, head of players, he says they don't want it. Are these fighting words?

Thompson: Well, you know, I think it's going to cause a reaction. But Bob, it's just like everything else that happens with the writers of the rules, not the enforcers of the rules, that they focus on one point and make a rule because of their point.

But by not permitting people to recruit during the summer, what you are in fact doing is once the school year starts and the student gets on campuses, removing the very men who are intended to teach them from the campus. You also, because there are so many minority assistant coaches who are labeled as recruiters only, now they're in a position where they're going to be away from a teaching situation.

Once they apply for a job, somebody is going to say, "Were you on that campus teaching, or were you out recruiting?" If a guy doesn't have experience on the campus to learn from a Mike Krzyzewski, then he's not going to be able to get a job.

But you can't focus all this stuff based on the fact that you think somebody is illegally cheating somebody during the summer. I think a lot of it -- a lot of rules are being made by people who have no sensitivity to the whole sets of circumstances.

Ley: Max, where would kids who played for you at Maine Central be as far as being evaluated? Your kids are atypical because they are well-known and they're highly skilled, but kids about that skill level, if they didn't have summer ball to be looked at, evaluated, and travel around the country.

Good: Well, I think it would be very difficult, Bob. And I think there's some cost containment issues here, too, because obviously under one roof at some of these summer camps you have upwards of 200 players who can be seen a two- or three-day period, whereas over a regular season during the 40-day recruiting period, it would take virtually all of those days to do that. And it would be much more timely and much more costly.

I know at MCI, over our September 9 through 26 period, over that 17-day period, we would have upwards of 200 coaches under our roof because we would have anywhere from seven to 10 Division I prospects on any given year.

Ley: John, if you're a head coach in Division I, is it important for a successful head coach to recruit well to know an AAU coach like Gary Charles?

Thompson: Well, it's extremely. I can't assume that Gary Charles is a crook or somebody that's dishonest. I have a lot of people who I have coached against in college that I didn't want to associate and didn't want to coach against. So I think that this stereotype every AAU person, or every high school person, or every college person as far as that's concerned, is absolutely ridiculous.

I have a problem when they say, "We're going to look at the kinds of people who are associating with these kids." Who's to judge who's right and who's wrong, who's good and who's bad?

There are a lot of things about the NCAA, the coaches, and a lot of people who are associated with them that need to be questioned as we have found out with the report that came out in Michigan.

Ley: A gambling study that showed a number of NCAA men and women athletic officials have gambled in their lifestyle.

But Gary, when you hear Ced Dempsey say "we need to have the right people influencing student athletes in the future direction," what's your reaction, Gary, to that?

Charles: Well, number one, AAU season basically starts at the end of March. It goes from the end of March through the end of October. So now you want to eliminate the summer basketball. Well, you're still going to have the kids playing in April, May, June, August, September, October. So what are you going to do about that?

See, the bottom line is this, that kids want competition. That's just the bottom line.

How do you turn around and you tell Mike Miller who comes from South Dakota that, "You know what, Mike? You can't go out there and compete"? How do you tell that to Brett Nelson, who comes from West Virginia, "You can't go out there and compete"?

How do you tell Tracy McGrady, who no one knew about until he showed up at ABC Adidas camp? How do you tell him that, that you can't go out there and compete? Don't sit here and penalize the kids.

Ley: Max, one of the also proposed reforms from the NCAA would be the ability to let kids go pro, if they don't like it, come back, sit out a year, and regain some of their eligibility. Working with so many high-caliber high school athletes as you have for the last 10 years at Maine Central, with that inducement on the table, how many of them would be tempted to forego college totally if they knew they could come back and eventually would just go pro immediately?

Good: Of course, that's totally speculative, Bob. But as I said before, virtually all of these young people, and having worked so closely with them for 10 years, I literally lived in the dorm with my players during this 10-year period, believe me, all of them with any proficient skill level at all, they're dreaming about the NBA.

And probably it would speed up the process. There probably would be some that would go ill advised before their time.

Ley: On the topic of AAU coaches, Gary Charles, how much power do AAU coaches have in this, as what Ced Dempsey calls the culture of basketball?

Charles: It's without a doubt that AAU coaches have power. But understand something. AAU coaches start out with these kids at the age of 11, 12, 13.

So it's only natural that these kids are going to be loyal to some of these guys and they're going to have some power. That's just natural.

Ley: John Thompson, earlier we heard Caron Butler's AAU head coach in Racine raise the issue of the NCAA and African American youngsters and that there was a lack of understanding on their part. Is it fair to raise that issue, a lack of racial sensitivity on the part of the NCAA of what a lot of these kids are coming from and what their needs are?

Thompson: Well, I think it's most definitely a lack of sensitivity because, as I indicated at the top of the show, a lot of the young people that you're talking about have used their athletic ability to get out of the sets of circumstances that they're in because society didn't accept them unless they had athletic ability.

A lot of these people who are preaching now didn't even accept people of color, people of poverty, into their institutions unless they had talent. So absolutely, these have got to be vehicles.

1958, they were paying tuition of kids to go to private schools, whether they were prep schools or high schools, because of their athletic talent. They were letting kids in schools where ordinary they wouldn't let them in unless they had athletic ability.

So these things are very strange. We're talking about cultural changes. Those are dangerous words to use because to some of us when you start hearing cultural changes, they mean something a little different than you intended to mean.

Ley: Well, we started with tuition, we came full circle.

Gentlemen, thank you very much. Max Good, John Thompson, and Gary Charles, we appreciate your taking the time to be with us this morning on Outside the Lines.

And we'll have more on this topic in just a moment as we continue on ESPN.

Ley: For more on Outside the Lines, log onto, go to the left-hand menu, click on TV listings and then Outside the Lines. There, you'll find more on the issues and organizations discussed in this morning's program, as well as our e-mail address where you can send comments, ask questions, and suggest story ideas. Our e-mail address,, to reach us at Outside the Lines.

And a reminder about our next edition of Outside the Lines prime time. We'll examine the problem of hazing in sports from high school all the way to the NFL, the NBA, and major league baseball. Rights and wrongs, hazing in sports, Tuesday, April 11, at 7 p.m. Eastern Time.

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 Bob Ley talks with John Thompson, Max Good and Gary Charles about the NCAA crackdown at Maine Central Institute.
RealVideo: 28.8

 Jameel Ghuari, Bray Center Executive Director
RealVideo: 28.8

 Douglas Cummings, MCI headmaster
RealVideo: 28.8

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