Tuesday Tidbits: Asheville plays Ohio in Bracketbusters, J.P. Primm is Mid-Major PotW, and more

Just a reminder: the Bulldogs travel to Lexington, VA, this Thursday to take on the VMI Keydets.  In the meantime, two news items of note.

First, Asheville landed a difficult (and ESPN3 televised) “Bracketbuster”game against Ohio on February 18th.  Ohio, which has a 17-4 record and is currently 2nd in the Mid-American Conference.

On one hand, this game doesn’t really mean that much.  Asheville plays in a small conference, and in order to dance in March they’ll have to win the conference championship.  This game will not affect the conference record and therefore the seeding for the Big South Championship.  Nonetheless, this game matters and the Bulldogs should approach it as an opportunity to play a good mid-major team with a significantly higher RPI than the Bulldogs.    Should the Bulldogs pull off the upset (and it would be an upset), it would also have possible implications for seeding in the NCAA tournament.  Last year, if you recall, Asheville was relegated to first-four status before stubbornly falling to Pitt.  A win, combined with an NCAA berth, could put Asheville in 14-13 seed category and give the Bulldogs a real opportunity, with the right matchup, to be a true bracket buster.

JP Primm also added another credential to his long list of accomplishments by winning the Lou Henson Player of the Week award for the best mid-major player in the country.  Needless to say, this is a huge honor and very deserving for Primm, a four-year starter who dropped 31 and 23 points this past week.  Primm’s achievement underscores the talent of this year’s squad, who stand a good chance to repeat last year’s appearance in the Big Dance (and, as mentioned above, get a higher seed).

Kimmelgate is Over. Why the Bulldog Men won (and the Administration Lost).

Most of you know this, but if you’ve been out of pocket for the last four days I’ll fill you in: On Thursday, the Citizen-Times reported that the Big South, UNC Asheville, and the Southern Conference had reached an agreement that would allow the Bulldog Men’s team to host the Big South Conference championship game if they earned that right by winning the conference title.  Under the agreement, should the Bulldogs win the regular season, the 12:00 PM SoCon women’s game will be played at the Justice Center to allow the Bulldogs the use of Kimmel Arena, while the other SoCon women’s games will be pushed back to accomodate for logistical changes between games.

This is amazing news and you should feel happy regardless of how you feel the situation has been handled by the various parties involved in KimmelGate.  The big winner here is the men’s basketball team.  Kudos is owed to Chancellor Ponder for overturning the Big South Conference’s decision on appeal (by unanimous vote) and to the Southern Conference board by graciously allowing a modification in their contract, something they certainly didn’t have to do and a gesture that will not go unnoticed by basketball fans from both conferences.

KimmelGate is now officially over.  the Bulldogs will get the opportunity they  deserve should they win the regular season:  homecourt advantage throughout the conference tournament.  Another winner is the Southern Conference.  They’re a “rival conference” in that both the Big South and the SoCon share territory.

A third winner:  the Asheville Citizen-Times.  Some UNCA fans (you know who you are) have previously been critical of Keith Jarrett and Bob Berghaus for skimping on coverage of the men’s basketball team in favor of covering Western Carolina.  While I also wish the C-T devoted more attention to UNCA, I can understand the C-T’s predicament: they’re a regional newspaper in an area that has more WCU alumni/fans than UNCA. They’re merely serving a demand, and the way to respond to that is by Asheville fans being more vocal and the team performing better on the court (which, to their credit, they’ve been doing).  Having said that, Jarrett and Berghaus’s coverage of this issue has been phenomenal.  I’ve heard some say that the C-T was overly critical of the University during this scandal.  I strongly disagree.  Jarrett and Berghaus’s articles and opinion columns spoke to both the confusion and frustration that UNCA alumni and fans felt during the past 4 weeks and gave those feelings a public voice.  Theirs were rational and inquisitive voices that kept pressing the Administration and maintained the high visability needed to make this a fundraising issue.

Now, on to the losers: the UNC Asheville administration.

Last week, a former UNCA student body president asked me if I was bent on making friends in the current administration.  I assume that the comment was made in jest.  I haven’t spoken to Chancellor Ponder since this debacle began, and I’ve never spoken to Janet Cone before.  I hope that neither of them view my opinions as anything personal or vendetta-like in their nature.  I’m simply a concerned alumnus who cares about his alma mater.  And, unless you’re wearing the rosiest of tinted glasses, UNC Asheville came out of this affair with egg all over its face.

If you’re a university athletics director, your responsibility (even if unstated) is to never, ever become the story.  The story is always supposed to be the achievements of the young men and women on the court, field, or whatever playing surface.  I believe the past 4 weeks speak to Ms. Cone’s failure to keep her actions from becoming one of the biggest stories in UNCA sports this year.  Ms. Cone signed a contract which was detrimental to the men’s basketball team and prioritized the event of another conference over the University.  Further still, Ms. Cone was the primary official involved in negotiating this detrimental contract on two fronts: as the Athletics director of UNC Asheville and as chair of the Asheville Buncombe Regional Sports Commission.

This scandal has been resolved in favor of the University.  Now, the University community, especially the Board of Trustees, have to consider the decisions that made this an issue in the first place.  Namely, the following questions need to be answered (and have yet to be answered by the administration):

1.  Why, given that the format of the Big South Conference Tournament was up in the air, UNC Asheville failed to secure the right to host conference tournament games in negotiations with the Southern Conference and the ABRSC?

2. Why the University failed to resolve this issue in a timely manner once it became clear that the 2012 Big South tournament would retain the format of previous years?

3. Why the University released contradictory statements regarding the decisions it took to the local media and generally handled the story in an inept and incompetent manner?

4.  Whether Janet Cone’s position as both UNC Asheville Athletics Director and chair of the ABRSC led to a conflict of interest in negotiations with the Southern Conference to host their postseason tournament?

The University has yet to provide answers to these questions.  I look forward to hearing the answers by the time of the next Board of Trustees meeting.

Asheville destroys Campbell

Well, that was fun to watch.

With the game tied up at 49 just into the second half, Asheville used a 19-2 run to pull ahead of the Campbell Camels, sweeping the regular season series 2-0 and moving to 11-1 in the conference.  The Bulldogs were led by Matt Dickey, who confirmed his preseason Big South player of the year status by scoring 31 points on 8-15 shooting.  He also had 7 steals.  That’s right.  7 steals.

Asheville effectively silenced a Big South Champion contender yesterday.  Campbell is still a major threat (and it’s hard to beat a team three times in one year) but the Bulldogs demonstrated that they have the athletic ability and basketball IQ to beat a larger team with quickness, agility, and smart play yesterday.  A TON of credit needs to go to Jeremy Atkinson, who notched another triple-double while providing valuable manuvering space inside.  Some of his layups were just incredible to watch.  Really, this is a team effort (despite the disparate scoring numbers) and everyone is finding their groove at this time of year, which is a good thing.

Asheville has won 10 of their past 11 games and is 11-1 in conference play. More importantly, Asheville solidified its hold on first place in conference standings, holding a 1.5 game lead over CCU and a 2.5 game lead over CSU.  The next three games (vs. VMI, Liberty, and Radford a.k.a. “The Commonwealth Contingent”) offer a huge opportunity for the Bulldogs to put some breathing room between themselves and Coastal/CSU/Campbell for the regular season title.  VMI is 6-5 but has yet to beat one of the top 4 teams in the conference, while Liberty and Radford are near the bottom of the conference standings.  Asheville should by no means rest on its laurels, but these games are games that the Bulldogs should be able to win, even if 2 of the 3 are on the road.

As a fellow alumnus pointed out to me this month, our Bulldogs are FUN to watch this year.  There’s a chemistry out there that demonstrates to me that this team wants to go to the tournament this year and win a few games.  Keep hitting the practices and the gym until then and enjoy this awesome run, guys.

 

Saturday roundup – CSU, Presby, and Kimmelgate III

Where to begin?

Asheville lost a heartbreaker on Thursday night to Charleston Southern, snapping a 7 game win streak and dropping their conference record to 8-1. Asheville is still in 1st place in the conference, but both Campbell (7-2) and Coastal are lurking at 1 and 1.5 games behind apiece.

What happened on Thursday?  Asheville didn’t play to win, plain and simple. Granted, there was an amazing run to come from behind 14 points and put the Bulldogs in a position to win.  There was also a very questionable blocking call on Matt Dickey with time winding down that put CSU at the line to ice the game.  However, you can never blame close losses on officiating.  Asheville played like an NCAA team for less than half of Thursday’s game, something they can’t do if they want to dance again in March.

Today’s game at Presbyterian offers an opportunity to rebound (punny! hah) against a 2-6 team that, apart from a shocking upset against Cincinnati, has not put together a quality win against a good team this year.  Nonetheless, Asheville has to play smart, efficient basketball on both sides of the court regardless of who the team is.  Often, teams that play to their opponent’s level have a worse problem affecting them (see Tar Heels, North Carolina).  Asheville doesn’t have this problem right now, but the guys can’t let Thursday’s loss get them down.  Every team loses, and if you’re undefeated in conference you’re going to have that much bigger a target on your back.

In off-the-court news, Friday was a take-out-the-trash newsdump of information related to Kimmelgate.  The Citizen-Times ran three articles on the scenario.  The first, a profile of Matt Dickey’s father, conveyed the sentiment many alums, students, faculty, and fans feel: that the entire Kimmelgate saga has hurt the UNC Asheville basketball program.  Regardless of culpability, the fallout from UNC Asheville’s decision to host the SoCon women’s opening round has far outweighed any benefit the tournament might bring the university (distinct from benefits accruing to the City and the community).  It also hurts recruiting.  A recruit looking at UNC Asheville sees this mess and thinks that either:

a) the athletics department doesn’t care about men’s basketball enough to make their conference tournament a priority (a false impression, but one that can be reasonably inferred from the past week); or

b) the athletics department is incompetent and doesn’t know how to manage a story.

The other two news stories that broke on Friday lend credence to the latter theory.  One revealed that ESPN has not been contacted about rescheduling the game and would be open to rescheduling the game.  This is great news and increases the possibility that the Bulldogs, should they earn the right, will be able to play on their homecourt.  The other revealed that the Southern Conference was willing to acommodate the Bulldogs should the situation arise.

Sigh.

I’m very grateful for both ESPN’s and the SoCon’s understanding in this situation.  I especially appreciate the sentiment of the Southern Conference Commissioner, who effectively applied the Golden Rule of “do unto others” by stating that he would not want one of his member institutions put into this position by another conference.  It was a refreshing display of humanity and accommodation in a saga that has been, overall, very immature and childish.

So how does the scenario play out from here?  It’s all up to the BSC.  If the university’s appeal is approved, then the Bulldogs would either play in Justice or move the date of the championship game to Sunday/a different time on Saturday, depending on agreements between the two conferences and ESPN.  Everyone saves a little face and basically gets what they should’ve gotten in the first place.

That, though, is the larger point: this situation should have never happened in the first place.  A prominent UNCA alum emailed me and said something to the effect of: “What should we have told the SoCon – that you can use the arena, but there might be a small chance that the men’s team may have the opportunity to play the championship game the same day as the opening rounds and we need to plan for that?”  Well, yes.    Even if the format was up in the air, we should have made it clear that, if the tournament format stayed the same this year, that the University and the SoCon would have to make arrangements so that UNC Asheville could accommodate both parties.  These negotiations should have wrapped up long before this season started when the format for this season’s tournament was finalized, and it should have been Asheville going to the SoCon and saying, essentially, “we want to honor our agreement, but we want to give our men’s team the opportunity to play on their home court.” The SoCon commissioners are human beings, not heartless monsters, and would probably empathize with the University’s situation (and the negative publicity that would arise should this scenario become public).

Unfortunately, that’s not what happened now the University and both conferences have this mess to juggle along with the regular troubles associated with planning conference tournaments.  It’s a regrettable affair and while it looks like this will be resolved amicably it doesn’t change the fact that the University administration and the Big South badly bungled this entire situation.  It calls for a reevaluation on the part of the University about how it manages unfavorable news and how it prioritizes athletic events.  In both cases, the buck stops with Janet Cone, and she should formally apologize to the men’s basketball team and the University community for putting us through this process in the first place.

It’s going to be hard to fire Janet Cone

Well, it certainly won’t be that easy.

Below are the two contracts I’ve been pouring over today (ironically during my contracts class).  Enjoy.

AB Regional Sports Commission So Con Tournament Contract

Cone Contract_2011

For those familiar with the Butch Davis saga at UNC, there are two scenarios (aside from resigning in disgrace, which please, save us all the trouble and do) under which the University can terminate its agreement with Janet Cone: termination with cause and termination without cause.  One’s much harder to prove, and another is much more expensive.

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Kimmelgate: Contracts, Part 2

I’ll start out by saying that, while I’m in law school, I am not a licensed attorney and therefore my opinions should be taken with a grain of salt.

As mentioned earlier today, UNC Asheville sent me, at my request, copies of two contracts: Janet Cone’s employment contract with UNC Asheville and the University’s contract to rent out Kimmel Arena.

We’ll start with the agreement between UNC Asheville and the Asheville Buncombe Regional Sports Commission (ABRSC), the other party mentioned in the contract.

I. The Parties

Some of you may have done a double take when you saw the second party mentioned here.  It turns out that, based on this contract, UNC Asheville does not have an agreement with the Southern Conference, but with the booster group headed by Janet Cone that brought the SoCon tournament to Asheville.  This actaully makes sense:  the SoCon contracts with the commission, who then contacts seperately with the City of Asheville and UNC Asheville to provide venue space.

II. The Agreeement: what does the University give ABRSC?

Under the contract, the University gives ABRSC the right to use Kimmel Arena on the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd of March.  However, this right is limited by both time (7 a.m. – 7 p.m. on the 1st, 7a.m. – 6:30 p.m. on the 2nd, and 7 a.m. -11p.m. on the 3rd) and circumstances – to allow UNC Asheville the right to use Kimmel for games on Thursday and Friday.

The most logical explanation to the questions arising in your heads right now – why on earth they grant an exception for the semifinal games and not the final game – is that this contract was written up after the University agreed with the Big South to waive the right to host the final game, and this contract simply formalizes that agreement.  I’d be interested to know, however, whether the contract between ABRSC and the Southern Conference contains similar language.

III. What does the University get?

The short answer: Money.

The long answer: The university will receive money from the event derived from three sources: a usage fee, reimbursement for operating expenses, and concessions.  Two of these source –  the user fee and the reimbursement for operating expenses – will be paid by ABRSC to the University in the form of a check, with 50% being paid up front.  So how much are we talking here?  The gauranteed user fee paid to UNC Asheville is $10,600, while estimated operating expenses are $12,604.  However, UNC Asheville will be recouping expenses, so the they will only walk out of the tournament with $10,600.

You read that right.  $10,600.

Now, that’s not chump change.  But if that’s the payout UNC Asheville is getting as a consequence of losing the right to play what would easily be the Bulldogs’ biggest game of the year at home, then it’s time to seriously consider the competency and judgment of those involved in this agreement.

I’m still processing the rest of the contract and haven’t begun looking over Janet Cone’s employment contract.  However, at a glance, two other issues arise: the question of Ms. Cone’s independence in the signing of the contract with ABRSC and whether the University has the ability to fire Ms. Cone with cause.

 

Kimmel-Gate: Contracts edition

Last week, I submitted a public records request to the university for copies of the University’s contract for the Southern Conference tournament as well as Janet Cone’s employment contract.  Today, they showed up in my inbox courtesy of the good folks at the Chancellor’s office.

I’ll have more details up tomorrow, but for now I’ll say that the contract was signed one month ago – on December 14th, 2011- and that the contract contains a provision for Big South tournament semifinal games to be played on the 1st of March.

More details later today.