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Outside the Lines:
Risky Business


Here's the transcript from Show 88 of weekly Outside The Lines - Risky Business

SUN., DEC. 2, 2001
Host: Bob Ley, ESPN.
Guests: Recruiting -- John Calipari, University of Memphis basketball coach; Bobby Cremins, former Georgia Tech basketball coach.
College playoff -- Jim Delany, Big Ten commissioner; Neal Pilson, media consultant.

Announcer - December 2, 2001.

Bob Ley, host - It's never been more complicated to recruit college basketball stars.

Mike Jarvis, St. John's head coach - It's very much like your stock portfolio, you need to diversity. So, you can't have all blue chips.

Ley - But those very best players increasingly are one year and out. It's changed life for leading coaches.

Lute Olson, Arizona head coach - We won't recruit a kid that we feel is going to come out after one year.

Ley - But, will coaches really turn away potential superstars?

Tom Izzo, Michigan State head coach - I can't see the notion of, oh, I can get you but you're too good, so I'm going to pass. That's not going to happen.

Bill Self, Illinois head coach - You get as good as you can get and worry about the other stuff later.

Ley - Also this week, everyone, we're told, wants it, so why isn't there a college football playoff? Today on Outside The Lines, the real chance for a playoff and the risky business of recruiting.

Ley - Yesterday's prime college football games had just one almost desperate purpose, schools trying to find a way to elbow their way into the Rose Bowl and play for the national championship. Ahead this morning, we will see what is the realistic chance of an orderly playoff system.

But we begin with the disorder in college basketball recruiting and the dilemma for coaches recruiting the great player destined to leave really, really soon.

Now, the importance that coaches place on a single player and the personal nature of the risky business of recruiting was on vivid display this past week. A University of Cincinnati assistant coach wrote a note to the coach of a leading high school prospect disparaging the ability of Temple's John Chaney to develop a big man for the NBA, the clear implication Cincinnati would do a far better job preparing that player for the pros right now.

But in the pressurized world of college coaching, the urge to chase the very best players has changed, at least for one coach.

Ley - From playground legend to St. John star, last season right from the start Omar Cook sizzled.

Jarvis - He had a great game, his first game against Kentucky.

Announcer - There he is, offensively...

Unidentified Male - Are you serious?

Ley - He was a flashy freshman, and he led Jarvis' team in scoring, assists, and by seasons end, heartbreak.

Jarvis - If I had known he was only going to be here for a year, I would not have taken Omar Cook, to be honest with you.

David Stern, NBA commissioner - With the 32nd pick in the 2001 NBA draft, the Orlando Magic select Omar Cook from St. John's University.

Jarvis - Well, I felt -- I mean, it was painful.

Ley - Jarvis had company in his draft night misery.

Izzo - No secrets. I was feeling bad.

Ley - Michigan State's Tom Izzo lost sophomore Jason Richardson and freshman Zach Randolph, and with them...

Izzo - ... maybe our best team. So, I did feel bad. My wife felt worse. She was thinking of the retirement program.

Ley - For Izzo and Jarvis, the recruiting game has never been riskier, with players leaving earlier and earlier for the NBA.

Jarvis - You know, so you've got a lot of times kids in the program that aren't there for the school, the program, for the rest of their teammates. So, it's become even more challenging.

Ley - Lute Olson knows that well. Once, he constructed his Arizona program carefully, gauging the intentions of his players. Now...

Olson - I just don't know anymore how you protect yourSelf.

Ley - In weeks last April, Olson's team went from national finalists full of promise to near extinction.

Olson - You know, I was shocked by the fact that we could have lost four.

Ley - Juniors Michael Wright and Richard Jefferson, and sophomores Gilbert Arenas and Jason Gardner all announced they were leaving Arizona. Gardner did decide to stay, but the Wildcats' stunning loss reverberated among coaches.

Self - I don't think from a program standpoint you want to lose three guys the same year. And we haven't been in that situation yet.

Ley - Instead, Illinois, ranked second in the country, features a six-player rotation of juniors and seniors. Fourth-ranked Maryland uses seven players, all of them upperclassmen.

Gary Williams, Maryland head coach - You have to take great players, but you have to build your program, and I think that's become more important again, where you build it with four year players. Like, we had three seniors this year, which is a tremendous advantage for us.

Ley - That's something DePaul's Pat Kennedy now hopes to cultivate after losing four underclassmen in the past two years.

Pat Kennedy, DePaul head coach - We've had to change our recruiting philosophy. You know, when I came in and took over a program that had only won three games, to get some star players like a Quentin Richardson and Bobby Simmons is something you couldn't pass up. But you don't want to really build a program on stars or stardoms.

Ley - But that's how John Calipari has put Memphis back on the map this year. Freshman Dajuan Wagner, a can't miss guard, has arrived for a stint that Calipari frankly admits will be short.

Olson - You know, John's a new coach and he's in a situation where he needs that kind of national publicity and that amount of excitement now in his programs. But I don't think it would be a wise thing for an established program. We won't recruit somebody that we feel will come out even after one year.

Ley - But other coaches don't buy that logic.

Izzo - I can't see the notion of, oh, I can get you, but you're too good, so I'm going to pass. That's not going to happen at Michigan State.

Self - I'm a firm believer you get as good as you can and you worry about the other stuff later. If Eddy Curry would have wanted to come to Illinois, then, trust me, we would have welcomed him to Illinois and then -- because you never know what would happen in the future.

Ley - Curry had committed to DePaul, but jumped to the NBA and was taken by the Bulls.

Florida coach Billy Donovan had a commitment from Kwame Brown until Brown decided to graduate to a higher calling.

Kwame Brown, Washington Wizards - NBA, here I come.

Ley - Brown became the top pick in the NBA draft, with a nearly $12 million contract for three years. Three years, a stay college coaches pray star recruits would give them at a time some say short-term blue chip recruits are more worry than they're worth.

Olson - Someone said, well, maybe you should recruit guys that aren't that good. I said, right, and then when I get fired somebody else will come in and try to recruit guys who are that good.

Ley - Well, here's what coaches are facing. Look at the last four years. The number of sophomores leaving has climbed from four per year up to ten this most recent season. Freshmen, up from a couple per season to six this year. And of course you've got the players that coaches recruit, but never get a chance to coach in college, high school stars. A steady growth in this exodus, and six this year.

Joining us this morning to address this topic and the question of recruiting, John Calipari, head coach at the University of Memphis. His recruitment of Dajuan Wagner has raised the expectations and the profile of his program. And John joins us this morning from Memphis, Tennessee.

Bobby Cremins defined an era through 19 seasons at Georgia Tech and among his recruits, Stephon Marbury and Kenny Anderson. Each left after one season. Bobby this morning joins us from Charlottesville, Virginia. Good morning to you both.

John, when you hear Lute Olson and Mike Jarvis say, well, we're not going to go that way, how many coaches feel that way and is that the whole truth?

John Calipari, University of Memphis head coach - Well, I don't know if that's the whole truth, but one thing we have to understand, that taking players and recruiting players for a year or two has been going on for 50 years.

Bob McAdoo went to North Carolina back in the day. Now, that was junior college recruiting and maybe not high school recruiting, but it was the same idea - you were getting the player for a year or two.

Steve Francis was at Maryland for one year. They recruited the heck out of Forte, who would have only stayed two years.

So, I think it goes on. The problem that you have is the type of young man you're bringing in. You look right now, and people look at us and say, well, Dajuan Wagner, one year or two years. The kid wants to stay two or three years. He is a great young man. If he wasn't, I wouldn't have done it.

When I met him and said this is a beautiful kid, now I want him on my team because he's going to help me build a program, not just be a taker.

Ley - Well, Bobby, you confronted this early on, the one year and out phenomenon with Stephon Marberry and Kenny Anderson. What are the problems that you didn't anticipate?

Bobby Cremins, former Georgia Tech coach - Well, I was one of the first to lose a young man after one year. The problem was with Bobby Cremins. I lacked foresight, Bob. I should have been planning ahead.

The guy today who is on top of the ball is Mike Krzyzewski. He plans ahead. You've got to assume that a great player is going to leave. I was a bit of an idealist. I thought, well, you know, Stephon might stay for two years. And that's where I made my mistake.

It's tough taking a kid for one year. My rule was, if the young man recruited me, Stephon Marberry, you know him as Point Guard University. His high school coach said Bobby, this kid wants to really consider Georgia Tech. Al Harrington, his grandparents, lived in Atlanta. If there's a connection, strong connection, I will recruit the young man, but obviously it can be disruptive after one year.

But the key, Bob, is the coach has to have foresight.

Ley - Which you don't feel you had at the time?

Cremins - No. I fell asleep at the wheel. I wasn't, you know, again, I was an idealist. This was about five years ago. I have no problems with Stephon leaving early. He's an outstanding young man, and Stephon did the right thing for himself and his family, and he's doing very well.

The problem a lot of coaches have, Bob, is the number of young men who leave. It's ridiculous. There's too many young men leaving college who are not ready and they get lost in the shuffle.

We always thought a handful, maybe 15, 12, 10, yes. They deserve to go, they're ready. But all these other guys, they're not ready and I wish something would be done about it.

Ley - John, do you think one year of having Dajuan Wagner, an NBA coach told us this -- we're having a little bit of a problem with John's satellite transmission. I think we've reestablished that and you're back with us, technically. One NBA scout told us that he thought one year of Dajuan Wagner would be worth three four-year players for you in building your program.

Calipari - Well, the key is what Bobby said. I think if you're going to recruit a player like Dajuan Wagner, you better have eight or nine four-year players in your program. And some of them must be young, where they don't mind being behind Dajuan for a year and watching him and learning from him and playing against him every day.

Ley - But you have to decide in your mind who a four-year player is, right? Someone who is not talented enough -- now, how do you recruit? How do you go into a home and make the case you're going to be here for four years because, implicit in that statement is, you know, you're not good enough to become a sophomore NBA first round pick.

Calipari - Well, that's a great question, Bob, but here's what's happened for us. When I was in the pros, they said I was a college coach. Now that I'm back in college, they say I'm a pro coach, so we're getting involved in kids that want to be pros and want to be developed.

So, if they were near, whether it was Eddy Curry or whether it was Tyson Chandler or Cisse, we were involved with all of those kids, because they were saying, hey, we want to play for you. I wouldn't have taken all of them. We took one of them.

But the other kids, they all want to be developed as pro players, and I tell them, hey, when it's your time, we will let you know. The pros will let you know. Right now, you've come in here to get an education and win.

Now, Bob, there's no question, I was brought here for two reasons, to Memphis, to improve the graduation rate, which is what I did at UMass. We went from 15 percent to 80 percent. And to win basketball games. You got to do both, but you got to win. If we're down here not winning, we're going to have a problem. The only way you win is recruit good players.

Ley - And you win with talent. And Bobby, coaches are addicted to talent. When you hear a Mike Jarvis or a Lute Olson saying, you know, I'm going to shy away from situations like this, what goes through your mind? Is it just frustration? Do you think they really are going to do that?

Cremins - Yes, I think the one-year player can be disruptive, Bob. But the coaches who are surprised -- I remember last year, I ran into Cliff Ellis, and he was all upset and I said, "What happened, Cliff"?

And he said, "Well, last night, Jamison Brewer told me he was leaving school and going to the pros." I believe it was the night before the draft.

The coaches who get caught by surprise, they're the ones that are going to get burned. Again, you look at Mike Krzyzewski, he has Chris Duhon there in case, of course, the great player leaves. But he's going to stay. And you've just got to be prepared. That's the key factor.

Ley - Well, John, are you preparing for the possibility it's one year and out for Dajuan?

Calipari - Sure we are. Sure we will. We've got another player coming in named Qyntel Woods, who is another young man, he's a junior college player. But there's a good chance he'll be a one and out. But everyone else we're recruiting will be multiple year players. And my goal right now is within four years to have our graduation rate at 75 percent.

But my job is to prepare these young men for life after basketball. Some of it means preparing them for a professional life. Others, they may not be.

Ley - All right, we'll leave it right there. Gentlemen, thanks so much. John Calipari, thanks for joining us. Bobby Cremins, maybe we'll see you back at coaching. I know a lot of folks in the sport would love to see that happen.

Cremins - Thank you, Bob.

Ley - It is an annual question, certainly, a college football playoff. A realistic appraisal? What about Gary Barnett?

Gary Barnett, Colorado head coach - Look at the interest that you have in college football right now. I mean, it's unbelievable. Every game in November has meant something huge. And so to me, this is the playoffs.

Announcer - Outside The Lines is presented by State Farm Insurance. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.

Barnett - The way I see it happening, it comes down to eight teams, probably, and it'll be the same eight every year. The teams that are not the top 10 or 12 teams in the country will never have a chance to get in those playoffs. And so it's a rich get richer deal. I don't think football is a playoff sport. I don't think it's a tournament sport.

I think what you're seeing right now in the month of November is the playoffs.

Ley - I wonder what he would say this morning. That interview we of course recorded before last night, Colorado's victory over Texas.

The retail truth in America, the customer is always right. In an poll, fans say they want a playoff by an 88 percent to 12 percent margin.

Now, the bowl championship series with its rocket-size formula delivers two teams, but hardly without controversy, especially after yesterday and last night. Miami nearly lost. Tennessee winning at Florida. Colorado upsets Texas. It was in many ways the worst nightmare of the current system.

Fans say they want a playoff. Here then are the obstacles.

The college bowl system is rich in history, money and a streak of independence. In the last six years alone, bowls have paid over one-half billion dollars to schools, and only in the last three years have bowls worked together to create the BCS Alliance.

Would bowls bring the same economic boost to cities if fans had to budget for multiple post-season games? Already there's a steep step down in the payout to the next tier of bowls, a two-thirds reduction to the richest non-BCS bowl, the Citrus. That disparity could grow, and minor bowls be in danger with a playoff system.

Sure, it comes down to money. Most things do. ABC's sports contract with the BCS totals nine years, nearly $1 billion. By 2006, each of the eight games in the BCS bowl will receive $17 million per game. A playoff system must top those numbers to be in play. And that's an open question with the U.S. economy in recession and TV sports ratings generally down.

It might be necessary for more than one television network to bankroll a playoff system. That raises the question of staging and televising the games. Playoffs utilizing existing bowls would presumably begin during December, where Saturdays already include NFL regular season telecasts. Would networks, all of them under financial pressure, be willing to place the playoff games in prime time?

Well, the issue is centered at the power base of the sport, the conferences, whose traditional marquee regular season match-ups and new conference championships bring profits and an importance magnified by the current bowl system, all of which might take a hit under a formal playoff system.

Now, what do fans believe is standing in the way of a playoff? Half of all fans say it is the bowl system and the conferences are named by about 12 percent. In other words, over 60 percent say those in charge of the status quo are comfortable, thank you.

Speaking of conferences, we welcome the commissioner of the Big 10 conference, Jim Delany. He joins us from outside Chicago. And Neal Pilson, who is the former president of CBS Sports and now a leading media consultant. He is in Chappaqua, New York.

Let me begin with Commissioner Jim Delany, as in the words of Laurel and Hardy, another fine mess you've gotten us into after last night, someone might say, looking at all the upsets.

Jim Delany, Big Ten Conference commissioner - Well, I would, I would describe it as maybe one of the most exciting weekends in the history of college football, and I think one of the things that maybe is misunderstood is the extent to which the BCS, the one-two game, has added interest and value and passion to the regular season.

I would say college football right now, including major college sports and professional sports, is the most successful and the most interesting regular season in existence today. We're still able to maintain the traditions of the bowls and provide opportunities for some 50 teams to play in the bowl system, but...

Ley - But you're relying on a computer, though, Jim, to determine whose going to play Miami, for example, in this circumstance, and had they lost to Virginia Tech it would even be more of a muddled situation.

Delany - Well, when you say we're relying on the computer, I think you have to take a look at, we're relying on the coaches polled in a dominant way, the writers polled in a dominant way. And then eight different computers to break ties and add value on strength of schedule.

So, I think that what we've done is really give a boost to the regular season. The public does want a one-two game. They have that, and there are lots of opportunities for people to conclude their season in a traditional and classic way in the bowl system.

Ley - All right, Neal, was yesterday the best advertisement for a playoff system?

Neal Pilson, former president, CBS Sports - I think so. It certainly was an exciting weekend, but I want to say that I don't think the playoff system has to be as complicated as was mentioned in your first piece.

I think we can talk about initially a four-team/three-game playoff, which would take the top four teams and then perhaps grow the bowl or grow the playoff system to an eight-team/seven-game playoff.

I don't think we have to begin in December. I think we can begin with the traditional bowl games in January, and my concept, which, frankly, I've talked to the NCAA about as early as ten years ago, would basically involve just four teams, and move on to a playoff right after New Year's Day.

Ley - But, Neal, right now, and Jim you can jump in on this if you'd like, the TV sports business is, to put it kindly, challenged economically. It's a mess, and you've said as much.

Delany - No, you can say that, but I mean, TV sports has had dramatic growth in the last ten years. It's natural that the business cycle comes to an end at some point, and that's going to effect advertisers, but there's no question that a playoff would produce more revenue for the colleges.

Ley - And what's wrong with that?

Delany - There's nothing wrong with a lot of revenue, but I think it's our responsibility not necessarily to respond to every fan, but to make the proper balance between the system for the college player, the coach, the conference, as well as the public, and I think what we have right now is one that favors the regular season, provides a one-two game, and still provides lots of opportunities for young people to finish the season.

Now, let me just tell you, for ten years I was commissioner of a conference where we had a playoff, OK, at the I-AA level. We started off with four games, four teams, then we went to eight teams, then we went to 16 teams. And I can tell you that every coach who participated in that would have preferred another way of approaching it.

But, unfortunately, there's not a fan base to support a bowl system at the Division III or Division II or Division I-A system, AA system, and so that's what they're left with. But if you really ask the players and the coaches whether they would rather be playing in a warm weather spot in a one-two game or playing in a 16-team playoff, I don't think there's any question that what we have would be desired by most people in college athletics.

Ley - Neal, what's the biggest obstacle to making this happen?

Pilson - Well, I think right now the biggest obstacle is the fragmentation of college football. There are many different power bases, and Jim, of course, runs the Big Ten. You do have the bowl system, as well, that for several reasons is opposed to a playoff.

But frankly, I think the players, and I think there is research to prove this, the players would like to see a playoff system. And I think the point I'm making is it doesn't have to be as complicated as 16 teams and 15 games. I think we can have a good...

Delany - But that's where it would end up, Neal. That's exactly where it would end up. And it would end up there within four years, because once you start cutting people out, the political pressure grows, and you're going to be playing a 16-team/15-game playoff within four years of the time you begin.

Ley - And if that's the case, is there enough money to make that happen, Neal? If it were to grow beyond four teams, four games?

Pilson - Well, I think so. The money issue, of course, is complicated by the immediate problems we're all experiencing in our industry today. But we're talking about five years from now. I don't think the bowls playoff system could begin until perhaps 2006 or 2007. I would think, I would hope, the economy is better at that point.

Ley - In a phrase, 2007, Jim, yes or no? We going to see a change in the playoff?

Delany - I would say not.

Ley - And Neal?

Pilson - I would say yes, because I think all the television agreements for the first time are coming up at around that period, so that there is the opportunity to setup a playoff system.

Ley - Gentlemen, thank you very much. Jim Delany, the Big Ten, Neal Pilson, media consultant.

Delany - Happy holidays, guys.

Ley - All right. Thank you, same to you.

Next, a look ahead to a very special Outside The Lines coming ahead this Friday.

Announcer - Outside The Lines is presented by State Farm Insurance. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.

Ley - I'll be back with Robin in 30 minutes on SportsCenter, all the college football highlights, the brand new poll. The Lakers in action against the T-Wolves, but now John Saunders and (unintelligible), the sports reporters at the ESPNZone in Time Square.

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 Outside The Lines
ESPN's Bob Ley delves into the risky business of college recruiting.

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