Surprise, Surprise

Someone, please tell me how many hours of ESPN have been watched in my life so far. Or how many sports sections and sports magazines have been read, and that is not even counting the Internet, of which has been an obsession within the past few years. The point is, this is not my first time at the rodeo. There is no lack in confidence by stating I know sports pretty well, which is why some things fail to surprise. Matt Doherty still struggling at North Carolina? Far from shocking. Yankees owner George Steinbrenner criticizing one of his best players for no real reason? Remember the Don Mattingly haircut incident? And was anyone really that surprised when the most recent Mike Tyson fight failed to live up to the pay-per-view price? The grizzled-wisdom acquired is why the two recent college basketball developments were not shocking in the least.

University of Georgia Men's Basketball Coach Jim Harrick is accused of NCAA violations. Really, the only surprise here is that it has taken a couple of years for anything to surface. Harrick and his son/assistant coach Jim Harrick, Jr. are not exactly beacons of light in the darkness that is college basketball. Harrick, Sr. was fired at UCLA for falsifying expense reports when he was taking potential recruits out for dinner. He left Rhode Island amid a sexual harassment scandal, and he has always been known as someone willing to bring in talent, no matter the baggage that is attached. This is the same guy who had an entire recruiting class ruled ineligible just a year ago. When Georgia brought him on board, they had to know what they were getting; a very good basketball coach with sketchy ethics and a sketchy past. That is why no one should have been surprised when former player Tony Cole came forward with allegations this past week. Among other things, he says Junior paid a $300 telephone bill for him, gave him an "A" in a class he never attended, "The Principles of Coaching Basketball," helped him fraudulently achieve high grades at two different junior colleges, paid hotel bills for him, and well, there is more but, you get the idea. He also used Senior's credit card to buy himself a 28-inch color television at the local Circuit City. The damage control at UGA was swift. Of course Harrick and son denied everything, then they said the money used came from the Dale Brown Foundation, a foundation set up for needy student-athletes. Then, after the Dale Brown Foundation denied ever sending them money, Senior claimed he was misquoted. Apparently, "They sent us the money," which is what Senior said just the other day, has many, many different meanings. So, Junior has been suspended pending an investigation, Athletic Director Vince Dooley looked pretty pissed off during a CBS interview, and my former college president, Michael Adams, not exactly lacking in the sleaze department himself, is left with another messy athletic situation. And this just in, Rhode Island has announced a new investigation into allegations stemming from Harrick's tenure. It is more likely Jim Harrick, Sr. will be watching games from an ESPN studio than from the Georgia sideline next season.

University of Louisville fans realize former UK Wildcat Marvin Stone may be more trouble than he is worth. Remember the big controversy surrounding Stone's transfer to UL? Stone, a McDonald's All-American who never panned out in Lexington, was booted off the Wildcat squad by Coach Tubby Smith, and wanted to transfer to Louisville. At first, then-AD Larry Ivy said no, but finally relented after the negative publicity. At the time, it did not register that Stone was leaving. He was soft, had bad hands, and did not seem much of a team player. There wasn't too much to worry about losing someone like him. Then the buzz started to come out of Louisville. Stone was losing weight, gaining strength, and former UK coach and now UL coach Rick Pitino was going to turn him into a pro prospect. The Tubby Bashers, usually those who still longed for Coach Pitino, were certain this would prove that Tubby could not develop talent and that Pitino would do such a good job with Stone, Tubby would be exposed as a fraud and would never, ever beat out Pitino for a recruit or ever win a game against him. Funny, but you do not hear a lot from those people now. Stone started off on fire, putting up double-doubles against such heavyweights like Manhattan and Furman. And, to give credit where credit is due, he played great against UK in UL's 81-63 victory. As Marvin was laughing it up on the sideline and UK was sitting at 6-3, a lot of people were saying, "I told you so." Well, where are we now? Marvin followed up the UK game by scoring a total of two points in the next two games. He is averaging a little over 10 points, despite playing over 30 minutes a game, and his inconsistency has been a problem since UL has lost four out of the last five games, during which he averaged five points. As if that was not enough, now the NCAA is investigating him for improprieties that occurred while he was in high school with his AAU coach. Waiting five years is an awfully long time before investigating someone, but the past does have a habit of catching up with you. So, it appears, even after the transfer, the weight training, and the coaching of the great Rick Pitino, Marvin is still, well, simply the same old Marvin. An underachieving, inconsistent player with a lot of off-court baggage, who, if he was still at UK would probably be third string behind Marquis Estill and Jules Camera. UL, you wanted Stone so bad, congratulations, you got him.

To much surprise (mine included), a lot of people didn't think the UK basketball team would be this good. The Rich Brooks hire caught us completely off guard, Indiana was presumed to be one of the best college basketball teams in the country, and lets's not dredge up the NFL playoff predictions. Yet, in the meantime, you can rest assured: Bobby Knight will yell at someone during a press conference, Digger Phelps will pick against UK, if Tyson fights Lennox Lewis again, and that is a big IF, he will lose, and Barry Bonds will be pissed at the media. There are some things in sports that just never surprise you.