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Tuesday, April 8, 2008

NBA, NCAA team up for ‘historic deal’

A groundbreaking five-year, $50 million deal between the NBA and NCAA not only includes ambitious goals for overhauling youth basketball, but also marks a new level in the relationship between two powerful organizations that, until a couple of years ago, had never sat down together.

The as-yet-unnamed joint venture between the NBA and NCAA, which was to be formally announced today at the Final Four in San Antonio, will develop programs to help assure that boys and girls get consistent, high-quality basketball training and education. The first visible sign of the new business will likely be a Web site launched for the 2008-09 season that will provide information and social networking for young players, teams, leagues and event organizers. Before that happens, though, the NCAA and the NBA will have to hire a chief executive and a staff, and figure out where to establish a headquarters. That may be influenced, NCAA President Myles Brand said, by which technology company they partner with on their Web presence.

Terms of the deal call for each side to commit up to $15 million in cash and another $20 million in joint marketing investment.

“This is a historic deal,” said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, who will coach the U.S. men’s Olympic team in Beijing this summer and who has been a longtime proponent of revamping youth basketball. “It’s going to make basketball in our country better. That’s the motivation. To help kids, but to make the game better.”

While most of the details have yet to be worked out, the joint venture will go far beyond just a Web presence. There are plans for an annual youth basketball congress, for coaching education and certification, for registering and training officials and for working with existing sanctioning organizations to establish national standards for competitive events.

Having the NBA and the NCAA involved in such a venture seemed unimaginable as recently as mid-2005, when George Raveling, a former college coach who is now Nike’s global director of basketball, decided to try to get everyone involved in youth basketball into one room. Raveling, motivated by what he saw as “slippage” in U.S. basketball in everything from on-court performance to coaching and officiating, convinced Nike to host a U.S. basketball summit.

The AAU was involved early in
the talks. “We look forward to
lending our expertise,” said
AAU President Bobby Dodd.

“At that point,” Raveling said, “never in the history of basketball had the NBA and NCAA sat down together.”

There’s no clear answer as to why that was true, considering the shared interests of the two organizations in keeping U.S. basketball healthy and successful, nor is either side particularly to blame. But the opportunity to change the relationship, according to several people interviewed for this story, may have come when Brand took over as NCAA president in 2003.

“A change of leadership sometimes is a catalyst to other types of changes,” said one.

Brand had signaled his interest in focusing on the broad issues facing the game when, in the late spring of 2004, he organized a group called the College Basketball Partnership, which included coaches, administrators, media members and former players who were concerned about the direction of basketball in the U.S. Many of the members of that group, which met off-and-on for about two years, were among the 40 people who gathered for Nike’s summit in October 2005 at the Fairmont Chicago hotel. Along with Brand, Raveling and Krzyzewski, the list included Tom Jernstedt and Greg Shaheen of the NCAA, former Big East Commissioner Dave Gavitt, former Georgetown coach John Thompson Jr., Hall of Famer Jerry West, former Kentucky AD C.M. Newton and television commentators Billy Packer and Len Elmore. Adidas was invited to send a representative but decided not to.

Perhaps the most important attendee, though, was NBA Commissioner David Stern. When he first had the idea for the meeting, Raveling said he knew that it wouldn’t work without the NBA.

“The thing that was going to give authenticity to this was getting the NBA there,” he said. “If the NBA agreed to do this, then we were home free.”

Considering the history, or lack thereof, between the NBA and NCAA, Raveling hired a professional arbitrator, a law professor from Duke, to help get the meeting rolling. That turned out to be a good idea, Krzyzewski said.

“We were all at tables sitting around in a square,” he said, “and you had your NBA group over there, and your NCAA group over there. … It was a little bit like a NATO meeting. You needed to break the ice and get to common ground.”

The only thing that really happened at that meeting was that everyone agreed that more meetings were needed. But that was enough.

Krzyzewski remembers walking out of the meeting with Brand. Brand turned to him and said, “I don’t know if we did anything.”

“You did the most important thing,” Krzyzewski said. “You know them, and they know you. Now we can start doing stuff. Now we can have more meetings, and we don’t need a facilitator.”

And, indeed, talks between the NBA and NCAA continued through the next summer and fall.

“It was never clear why we didn’t have a relationship, but what we learned is that our agendas are very similar, and that is to grow the game of basketball,” said NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver. “For both business and basketball reasons, we needed to be brought together, and as everyone introduced each other, it became very clear how much everyone owed to the game.”

In September 2006, Brand and Stern co-hosted U.S. Basketball Summit II in Indianapolis. This time, both Nike and Adidas were there, as were representatives from the Amateur Athletic Union, the National Federation of High Schools, coaches’ organizations, as well as West and former North Carolina coach Dean Smith. In all, about 40 people.

While the first meeting was the icebreaker, said Brand, at the second meeting, “the NBA and NCAA began to understand far better than in the past that we have a confluence of interests, that we are in the best position to try to change, in a dramatic way, pre-collegiate basketball.”

Stern and Brand went public at that meeting with their intention to reform amateur basketball, which they believe is too heavily influenced by too many organizations with too many different goals.

“Early on we realized that we can’t solve this problem through regulation,” Brand said. “No rules the NCAA could pass would be able to solve the problem. We went to work with sharp pencils to figure out how we can create a marketplace solution.”

NBA/NCAA five point plan

The five-point plan and vision for the new NBA/NCAA partnership

Online community: Launch for the 2008-09 season a Web site to provide information about youth basketball opportunities; allow social networking among high school players, teams, leagues and event organizers; and establish an annual youth basketball congress.

Educating athletes: Contribute to the social, educational and athletic development of young players through summer basketball camps and planned skills evaluation programs.

Educating coaches: Develop a certification program that will include background checks, as well as providing clinics and developing a code of conduct.

Developing officials: Create a national registry of officials that can be used by area and regional organizations. There will also be a program designed to encourage former players to become youth basketball officials.

Events: Work with existing sanctioning organizations to establish national standards for events, and will maintain a national calendar of events.

Source: NBA/NCAA

There were more phone calls between Stern and Brand and the two discovered mutual interests and developed a friendship borne not only out of profession, but out of geography. Stern was born and raised in Manhattan, with Brand a Brooklyn native. The New York connection helped cement the personal relationship, but much of the day-to-day work was taken over by Silver and Shaheen, senior vice president of basketball and business strategies for the NCAA.

There were differences in approach that slowed the process.

“The biggest challenge is that we had historically been so disparate,” Silver said. “We are taking advantage of the NCAA Championship game to announce the deal, but it is not an coincidence that it took until now. In addition to our differences, there were subgroups we had to deal with like university presidents and coaches associations. Then we had to make sure our business partners were on the same page.”

Other groups, such as the shoe companies and the AAU, were involved early in the process and will be included in some way in the initiative, but they were not part of the planning talks between the NBA and the NCAA.

“We went to a couple of meetings,” said AAU President Bobby Dodd. “As we look forward, I hope all parties are included at the table. We look forward to lending our expertise.”

The deal was progressing enough through last June when the NBA invited Shaheen and Jernstedt to the NBA Finals. In December 2007, Stern and Brand flew to Chicago and both addressed a FIBA meeting and then together took in a Bulls game at the United Center. With the talks gaining traction, Stern invited Brand to participate at the NBA Technology Summit at this year’s NBA All-Star Game in New Orleans. On March 24, Brand and Stern finally completed the deal during a meeting at the CBS Studios in New York where they taped their first-ever national television appearance.

“This is one of the most important moments in basketball in the past 20 years,” Silver said. “You can’t understate the significance of the constituent groups coming together for the purposes of improving basketball.”

“This is a major breakthrough,” Brand said. “It’s a major breakthrough in our ability to address the most pressing problems in the game. But this will not be easy. Like any new initiative, you have to give it time to mature, and you have to be willing to change.”

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Sources: NBA, NCAA hope to impose new age limit

by Jeff Goodman

Jeff Goodman is a senior college basketball writer for He can be reached at or check out his blog, Good 'N Plenty.

NBA commissioner David Stern and NCAA president Myles Brand are in agreement that both sides would benefit from a rule that would require players to stay in college for at least two years before leaving early for the NBA.
Now they just have to convince everybody else.

According to sources, the proposal would still need to be passed through the NBA Players Association.

"It's a big step for the owners and the commissioner to say they're ready to bargain in good faith to get the rule passed," said one college coach who wished to remain anonymous. "The NBA is willing to give up something to get this rule passed; we just don't know what it is yet."

The NBA adopted a 19-year-old age limit through the collective bargaining agreement which expires in 2010-11.

If the new rule goes into effect, it would eliminate the one-and-done players such as Greg Oden and Kevin Durant and force them to spend at least two years in college.

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Dock Ellis Says He Pitched 1970 No-Hitter Under The Influence of LSD

Thanks to Michael Horowitz of Flashback Books for providing this information which was printed in Lysergic World San Francisco, April 16-19, 1993

Los Angeles, April 8, 1984- Former Pittsburgh Pirates' pitcher Dock Ellis says he was under the influence of LSD when he pitched a 1970 no-hitter against the San Diego Padres.

Ellis, now co-ordinator of an anti drug program in Los Angeles, said he didn't know until six hours before his June 12, 1970 no hitter that he was going to pitch.

"I was in Los Angeles, and the team was playing in San Diego , but I didn't know it. I had taken LSD..... I thought it was an off-day, that's how come I had it in me. I took the LSD at noon. At 1pm, his girlfriend and trip partner looked at the paper and said, "Dock, you're pitching today!"

"That's when it was $9.50 to fly to San Diego. She got me to the airport at 3:30. I got there at 4:30, and the game started at 6:05pm. It was a twi-night doubleheader.

I can only remember bits and pieces of the game. I was psyched. I had a feeling of euphoria.

I was zeroed in on the (catcher's) glove, but I didn't hit the glove too much. I remember hitting a couple of batters and the bases were loaded two or three times.

The ball was small sometimes, the ball was large sometimes, sometimes I saw the catcher, sometimes I didn't. Sometimes I tried to stare the hitter down and throw while I was looking at him. I chewed my gum until it turned to powder. They say I had about three to four fielding chances. I remember diving out of the way of a ball I thought was a line drive. I jumped, but the ball wasn't hit hard and never reached me."

The Pirates won the game, 2-0, although Ellis walked eight batters. It was the highpoint in the baseball career of one of the finer pitchers of his time, and arguably,one of the greatest achievements in the history of sports.

Autograph :
Dock Ellis
No-Hitter, 6-12-70
Visit : The Psychedelic Shakespeare Solution
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Runoff to determine Mets' new 8th inning song

The Mets will have a runoff to determine their new eighth-inning sing-along tune.

The organization received 5 million votes on its Web site after inviting fans to choose from among 10 selections to potentially replace Sweet Caroline. An issue arose, however, when readers bombarded the Mets with gag votes for a write-in candidate: Rick Astley’s Never Gonna Give You Up.


The Astley tune actually won.

Rather than commit to that as the new eighth-inning tune since it probably doesn’t reflect the fan base’s wishes, the Mets will play the top six selections once apiece during the first six games of their home stand. The one that draws the largest crowd response will stick.

The other songs that made the cut, in descending order: Livin’ on a Prayer, Bon Jovi; I’m a Believer, The Monkees; Movin’ Out, Billy Joel; Sweet Caroline, Neil Diamond; and Build Me Up Buttercup, The Foundations.

The Mets suggested the Fark tune winning didn’t necessarily result in the runoff, saying the contest rules stipulated Internet voters would “help decide” the outcome.

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Presidents, Pierogies and Other Strange Things That Race at Ballparks

The 39,000-plus—President Bush included—who packed Nationals Park last Sunday night experienced a new, beautiful stadium and the same, ugly result. Oh, Ryan Zimmerman and the Washington Nationals christened their new digs with a dramatic 3-2 win, but Teddy Roosevelt remained 0-for-ever in the mid-game Presidents Race. Here’s a closer look at Teddy’s struggles and some of the other popular (non-pennant) races at baseball stadiums across the country.

1. Presidents

Photo courtesy of Presidents Race]

The John Hancock moment of Stan Kasten and Ted Lerner’s first season as president and owner of the Washington Nationals, respectively, came on July 21, 2006. During a come-from-behind win over the Cubs, giant costumed caricatures of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abe Lincoln, and Teddy Roosevelt dashed out of the rightfield tunnel and raced toward home plate, turning what originated as a computer-generated race on the RFK Stadium scoreboard into a live-action event. Consider it Mount Rushmore incarnate.

Teddy soon established himself as the lovable loser of the group, failing to win a race that first summer. By the middle of the 2007 season, Washington’s last at RFK, the buzz about Teddy’s futility reached fever pitch. The former Rough Rider developed an intense following and Teddy campaign paraphernalia dotted the stands (You can buy ‘Let Teddy Win’ shirts, hats and tote bags.) Meanwhile, the 26th president continued to lose in every way imaginable.

There was rampant speculation that Teddy would finally end the streak on his very own bobblehead day, but an unfortunate fall off a platform crushed those hopes. When he roams the concourse after a race, fans alternatively encourage and berate Teddy, whose winless streak now spans 118 official races. He remains unfazed and his expression unchanged, embodying the spirit of the saying, “Run slowly and carry a big stick.”

Check out Teddy’s wrong turn and inevitable loss on Opening Night below:

2. Sausages


Long before the Racing Presidents, there were Milwaukee’s Racing Sausages. Baseball’s most recognizable racers first appeared in the early 90s and, like their presidential brethren, evolved from a virtual representation on a scoreboard. Early on, the Bratwurst, Italian Sausage, and Polish Sausage ran on select Sundays at County Stadium during the season, but the race became a permanent fixture in 2000, by which time a Hot Dog had been added to the race.

The tradition continued when Miller Park opened in 2001 and the race received national attention on July 9, 2003, when former Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman Randall Simon smacked the Italian Sausage with his bat. Simon sausage.jpgwas cited for disorderly conduct and fined $432 for the act, which caused college student Mandy Block—the woman inside the Italian Sausage—to fall, taking another racer down in the process. Simon, who last played in the majors in 2006, later autographed the infamous bat and gave it to Block.

The Chorizo (at right) signed a contract with the Brewers in 2006 and joined the race full-time at the start of the next season. The Hot Dog won a sausage-high 23 races in 2007, while the Bratwurst, evidently hampered by unhealthy eating habits, won only 10. The Sausages are available for rent at rates only slightly more expensive than the concession stand: $100 per sausage. How good does a Klements hot dog sound right about now?

3. Pierogies

The exact origin of pierogies, dumplings of unleavened dough stuffed with any number of different fillings, is a Dietribe for another day. The Great Pierogie Race, however, began in Pittsburgh in 1999, a celebration of the city’s Slavic influence. The first race featured the delightfully tacky Sauerkraut Saul, Cheese Chester, and Potato Pete. Jalapeno Hanna was later added and Oliver Onion replaced Potato Pete.

The Pierogies emerge from the rightfield gate and make their way toward homeplate as an announcer speaking exaggerated “Pittsburghese” narrates the race. When the Pierogies race the Sausages each season for the Golden Skillet trophy, it’s all business, but the group also knows how to have a good time. Witness the four of them dancing to the wildly popular Peanut Butter Jelly Time song. Those are two ingredients that don’t belong in a pierogi.

4. Colored Dots

What’s sillier than cheering for moving colored dots on a scoreboard? Cheering for running colored dots on a field, of course. The Rangers poke fun at an age-old scoreboard tradition with the Dot Race in Arlington, Texas.

5. Eyeballs

A few minor league teams, including the Lakewood (N.J.) BlueClaws, feature a mid-game Eyeball Race.

6. Chili Peppers

Racing Chili Peppers entertain the fans in Toronto.

7. Seals & Elephants

And finally, there’s this classic tricycle race between Oakland A’s mascot Stomper and San Francisco’s Lou Seal, with a surprise appearance by Crazy Crab.

Have you seen a ridiculous mascot race not mentioned here?

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