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Morning Coffee Endorses Tom Osborne

DJ Augustin continues to impress suitors. One of the myths about NBA Draft prospects - most recently promulgated over at Barking Carnival - is the over-emphasis on a player's height, be it with shoes or without. Logical as it may seem, hoops junkies know from experience that it's a player's reach and wingspan which greater define his build in the vertical dimension.

(As a fun aside: I learned this in 8th grade when we played Kealing Middle School and I for the first time met Wells. Like me, he was tall, skinny, and pretty gangly, but unlike me he was a defensive menace far beyond his height because of his utterly stupendous reach. It wasn't until we became friends in high school that I realized the full extent of his freakdom: Wells can touch his knees with his hands without bending his back. Go ahead - try it. See?)

The issue is worth mentioning because pro scouts aren't nearly as dismissive of Augustin as one might conclude just based on his standing height. Though he remains one of the most vertically challenged players in this year's draft class, DJ's standing reach measured out at 7'10.5", which as's Chad Forde notes ($), puts him among company who've already proven they can play the NBA point:


So while some fans are worried that Augustin is only 5-foot-10 in socks, that's not the key for NBA front offices. They want more info. What is his wingspan? What is his standing reach? How explosive is he athletically? All of those variables factor into the equation.

In Augustin's case, he measures out as a legitimate point guard prospect with a standing reach that exceeds Chris Paul's by an inch and a half and matches Mike Conley's and Jordan Farmar's.

It's a minor point, but for Texas fans wondering whether DJ is likely to fall in the draft because of his height, he's measuring out long and explosive enough in other metrics to be drafted for his basketball abilities.

Tom Osborne gives meaning to 'wisdom through experience'. Thank God I decided at the last moment not to publish "The Evil of the Status Quo: Tom Osborne & Old People as Barriers to Change." Safe as such a conclusion might seem, we learned this weekend that the truth is quite the opposite: the legendary Cornhuskers coach is using his new status as Nebraska Athletic Director to preach some Amen-worthy change.

At the Big 12's annual meetings in Colorado Springs, Osborne talked about the state of big money college athletics and how he thinks things need to change, including:

A proposal to give athletes roughly $2,500 in expense money beyond their scholarships to help meet "the cost of attendance."

Yes, yes, and yes. There's an unfortunate tendency among college sports fans to make the argument that athletes are damn lucky to be getting the free education and should be grateful for as much. That argument might be decisive in some alternate universe without multi-million dollar TV contracts, wherein fans followed their collegiate teams by meandering through the turnstiles for 50 cents to sit in the stale bleachers of spartan stadiums.

But in the present environment, these athletes support a multi-billion dollar industry which disproportionately benefits the schools, the athletics departments, the surrounding business industries, and the fans. Though I happen not to especially begrudge the enormity of college athletics these days, I do find laughable the suggestion that the gladiators in the ring should just be grateful for the opportunity. This particular pie is too large not to share more slices with the entertainers themselves. Especially when so many are plucked from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Not only that, but there's a practical element to this kind of thinking, insofar as a modest, justifiable stipend for athletes serves to lessen the temptations from all the scuzzy outside influences who wish to purchase their services and loyalty.

More from Osborne:

Putting pressure on the NBA to either draft a kid out of high school or wait three years after high school to draft him.

"If [the NBA] wants to take them right out of high school, then take them right out of high school," Osborne said. "But for heaven's sakes, don't let them come to school for one year. One-and-done is not a healthy situation."

This is also sensible. Especially insightful is Osborne's understanding that the current model offers an incomplete solution to a properly identified problem. There's no fundamental evil in allowing high school basketball players to jump immediately to the pros if they are ready and the NBA agrees. But for those who aren't, a better system wouldn't create such an awkward situation for colleges in which there's a very odd market for very clearly one-year players.

The involvement of shoe companies and AAU coaches with youth basketball also alarms Osborne because of the influence they wield in the recruiting process.

"I'm not sure how to regulate that, but there should be some way to introduce some sanity into the process," he said.

Perhaps not a progressive idea, but a good one nonetheless, with the operative word here being 'sanity.' Again, this ties in neatly with Osborne's thoughts on the athlete stipend. Anyone and everyone outside the official NCAA arena is treating these kids like the commodities that they are, the denial of which neither makes it less so nor actively dissuades the athletes' complicity.

Osborne is also in favor of merit pay for top football officials to help keep them from jumping to the NFL. It's a proposal that has been embraced by league athletic directors and Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe.

Another fine idea, and in its own way, another prong of the main points above: This is big business - every bit as big as the professional leagues. And if we're not so naive as to believe that's going to change, can we at least address some of the sports' problems in a manner admitting of the realities of the situation?

Hammering home the point, the article concludes:

As the football coach at Nebraska for 25 seasons ending in 1997, Osborne wasn't a proponent of the Big Eight Conference merging with Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Baylor to form the Big 12.

Now, he is helping to shape and reform its bylaws.

"I think there's been some good things with the Big 12," Osborne said. "More viable TV markets with the state of Texas in it. It's a strong league and a powerful league."

Osborne worries too many decisions are being based on money and that the athlete has been left behind.

"The student-athlete has probably gone backwards over the last 40 years in terms of the value of a scholarship," said Osborne, 71, who won three national titles at Nebraska in the 1990s.

"At one time, student-athletes got $15 a month for laundry in the 1960s. Those dollars would now be worth $80 a month. At one time, they had travel sports jackets and movie passes for student-athletes, and those things have been taken away.

"So what we've seen are coaches' salaries escalating, facility expansion and renovation escalating, and yet the economic plight of most student-athletes is not as good as it was 30 or 40 years ago. I think those are things we need to take a look at."

[emphasis added]


It'd be one thing if college athletics wasn't the multi-billion dollar commercial industry that it is, but barring the reversal of that (Ha!), it's nigh-time we talk more realistically about the issues therein.

After reading this fresh of breath air, I'm officially all for locking Osborne and Bobby Knight in a room together to let them come up with some sensible solutions to the problems the entrenched interests (including us fans) are too dysfunctional to discuss.