From 1980 through 1984, LuAnn Humphrey played basketball for the University of Indianapolis well enough to be named the team's Most Valuable Player three seasons. She scored 1,092 points and grabbed 819 rebounds while also spending part of each off-season playing shortstop for the school's softball team.
After graduating cum laude with a degree in political science, she attended Indiana University School of Law. Then she worked as an Air Force JAG (Judge Advocate General) and later a public defender before joining the NCAA's Department of Enforcement in 1999.
Humphrey is someone college basketball fans should know. Or, more correctly, hope they never need to know.
She holds a job that should command the attention of every college basketball coach and fan. She is Director of Enforcement for the NCAA's Basketball Focus Group. As the name implies, this group of six full-time investigators concentrates its efforts on finding rules violations in men's college basketball.
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She describes the Basketball Focus Group, which formed in the spring of 2008, as a "smoke-fire" operation. Upon learning of possible violations, "We'll sniff it out," she said. When confirming a fire, the Basketball Focus Group hands its findings to the NCAA's prosecuting body, the Department of Enforcement.
In Humphrey's view, the Basketball Focus Group represents a response to coaches and administrators who saw crime paying off in victories, big-money contracts and prestige.
"They were seeing other coaches — from their perspective — not trying to do the right thing and maybe they were getting ahead in the profession," Humphrey said in a recent telephone interview. "They were seeing some of their peers graduate student-athletes, winning games, but getting fired because they were not winning enough games.
"It seemed there was a group of coaches who kind of lost faith in the system."
In the summer of 2007, then NCAA president Myles Brand asked someone in the national office to, figuratively speaking, put on a protective suit and venture into the world of college basketball. Humphrey spent three months talking to summer coaches, college coaches, reporters, shoe companies and what she called "various actors within the basketball environment."
She said she heard about agents, "third-party handlers," cousins, uncles and, alas, even parents looking for the chance to make money off basketball prospects. She also heard about this funneling of money sometimes involving college coaches "trying to take advantage of certain loopholes in our legislation."
Subsequent to the founding of the Basketball Focus Group, the NCAA closed one such loophole by forbidding programs from hiring people attached to prospects to work (wink, wink) at summer camps.
While acknowledging that rule-breaking cannot be totally eliminated, Humphrey said, "One of the things the Basketball Focus Group is tasked to do is re-establish some type of deterrent presence."
In part, this means taking the initiative before possible violations become news stories.
"For the most part, the Enforcement staff has been a reactive body," Humphrey said. "We wait for the information to come in and then we react to it. Then we go out and investigate it.
"(With the Basketball Focus Group), we are being a lot more proactive and aggressive in our investigations. ... People and coaches in that environment need to know we are paying attention, that we understand what's going on."
In a story Friday, The New York Times spoke to coaches who support the get-tougher action.
"Now, when you see the NCAA being aggressive like this, it's going to make the people who aren't doing the right thing be very concerned, as they should be," said Oregon State Coach Craig Robinson.
Not everyone sees vigilance. Some see a vigilante mentality.
"I have great concern with the whole change of attitude," said C.M. Newton, a basketball elder statesman and former UK athletics director. "... It's not been a punitive type of operation. Now it seems like they've put an 'X' on everybody's forehead and said, 'We're going to catch you.'
"That's frightening to me because the message it sends: If a guy makes a mistake, you've going to get zapped hard."
Newton spoke of the possibility of schools in the BCS conferences leaving the NCAA rather than "put up" with the Basketball Focus Group.
Humphrey said that such seismic shifts in college sports were beyond her pay grade. But she denied as "totally inaccurate" the notion that the Basketball Focus Group targets dynasties, at least not directly. The Basketball Focus Group tries to closely follow the recruitment of the top 25 to 30 prospects each year. This is fertile feeding ground for recruiters from programs like Kentucky, North Carolina, Duke, etc, etc. (i.e. the usual suspects).
Within the last year, Kentucky has experienced:
■ John Wall sitting out two games because his summer coach paid some travel expenses during the recruiting process.
■ Eric Bledsoe escaping being ruled ineligible retroactively when the Birmingham City Schools decided allegations of grade-fixing on his high school transcript could not be proved nor disproved.
■ A waiver expiring on Thursday, meaning Enes Kanter had to stop practicing with the UK team, at least temporarily, as the NCAA reviews his eligibility status. If UK asks for another temporary waiver, the NCAA will likely grant it.
No wonder UK Coach John Calipari can sound like he's got a persecution complex. When talking about college basketball adopting the baseball model of turn pro out of high school or commit to three seasons of college, he said it was good that other schools besides Kentucky can be hurt when players abruptly turn pro.
"It won't be just us," he said. "If it was just us, (the NCAA) wouldn't care."
Read it till you're sick
Last week, Bill Dwyre of The Los Angeles Times reviewed a new book Play Their Hearts Out, which chronicles the world of youth basketball.
"A good book will leave you laughing or crying," Dwyre wrote. "I just read one that left me wanting to take a shower."
In noting the "general slime" that oozes out of youth basketball, Dwyer wrote, "If you think Johnny and Joey get those college scholarships by shooting hoops over the garage door and being molded to greatness by venerable Coach Tom at Neighborhood High, think again."
The author, George Dohrmann, worked for Dwyre at The Times from 1995 to 1997. At 27, Dohrmann won a Pulitzer Prize for documenting how Clem Haskins, then the Minnesota basketball coach, had a tutor do the players' schoolwork.
Dohrmann worked on Play Their Hearts Out for eight years. He received permission to follow an AAU team of 9- and 10-year-olds, Dwyer wrote, "with the agreement that if he wrote anything, it wouldn't be until after they were out of high school. He traveled on his dime and in his free time away from his day job as a writer for Sports Illustrated."
In noting that the book hits bookstores on Tuesday, Dwyer wrote, "Read it. It'll make you sick."
Who is U.W. Clemon?
Former federal judge U.W. Clemon headed the independent review of Eric Bledsoe's high school transcript. That raised a question: Who is U.W. Clemon?
To Google the name revealed that he had received numerous awards and recognitions. These include the Judicial Award of Merit given by the Alabama Bar Association, the Johnny Cochran "Soaring Eagle" Award of the American Association of Justice, the Drum Major Award of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and the C. Francis Stradford Award of the National Bar Association.
Clemon also received the Columbia University Law School Paul Robeson Award and the Alabama Trial Lawyers Association's Howell Heflin Award. He holds honorary degrees from Miles College and Birmingham-Southern College. Two Birmingham streets are named in his honor.
Clemon, who is a deacon at Birmingham's Sixth Avenue Baptist Church and a member of the Male Chorus, said he's not much of a "sports enthusiast." His five brothers captained the high school football and/or basketball teams.
The Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook, undoubtably the best pre-season preview publication, is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. Publisher and guiding light Chris Dortch writes that it's fitting for Duke to be Blue Ribbon's No. 1 team going into the season. The Blue Devils have won four national championships and appeared in 11 Final Fours since the launching of the publication.
When Blue Ribbon made its debut in 1981, Mike Krzyzewski took charge of a struggling Duke program. Since that time, he's compiled a 795-220 record, including 77-22 (.778) in the NCAAs. No coach in history has won more tournament games.
Memphis Grizzlies General Manager Chris Wallace began Blue Ribbon. Having dropped out of the University of Kansas, he decided it would be good to try to improve upon his favorite pre-season publication, Street & Smith Basketball Preview.
Wallace had no journalism background. He couldn't even type. The rest, as they say, is history.
Fans can order Blue Ribbon at http://www.blueribbonyearbookonline.com, or by calling 1-877-807-4857 Monday through Friday 9 a.m to 5 p.m. EDT. Dortch said he'll begin shipping out yearbooks next Sunday.
UK's loss at Florida last weekend marked the football program's 24th straight loss in the series. That's the second-longest active losing streak in major college football. UK's 25 straight losses to Tennessee is the longest.
What better means of perspective than comparing that football futility with UK basketball's historic domination of SEC competition?
Surprisingly, UK basketball has enjoyed only one winning streak as long or longer against the 11 current members of the league. Kentucky beat Ole Miss 39 straight times from 1929 through 1972.
Here are the longest basketball winning streaks for UK against the other 10 SEC schools: Alabama 15 (1943-55), Arkansas 10 (2001-present), Auburn 14 (1990-99), Florida 18 (1942-64), Georgia 20 (1950-66), LSU 19 (1933-1960), Mississippi State 17 (1929-56 and 1967-75), South Carolina 12 (1998-2002), Tennessee 19 (1950-60) and Vanderbilt 19 (1940-51).
Down in front
Lexington attorney Fred Peters has tickets in the first four rows in Rupp Arena. That's the section that will has the largest increase in the required K Fund donation to be eligible to buy tickets. The K Fund donation increases from $1,350 to $5,000 per seat.
Peters' are at the end of a row, meaning someone sitting in the fifth row at mid-court pays much less that he does to sit outside the baseline.
Fair? Peters wondered and pleaded his case in a letter to UK. Someone from the UK athletics department called back and said he would have to make the $5,000 donation per seat, Peters said. Or he could trade those tickets for cheaper seats higher up.
When asked if he would keep his seats in the first four rows, Peters said, "Yes. Thankfully, most (of the K Fund payment) is a taxable donation."
Wally on the Wildcats
Illness forced "Wildcat" Wally Clark to stay home and not participate in the campout for Big Blue Madness tickets this year. That snapped a streak of 18 years being in line, he said.
So how does Clark think UK will do this coming basketball season?
"Hmmm," he said. "I don't know. I think if we can get to the Final Eight, we'd be doing good. It might be (Sweet) 16, know what I mean?"
To Kevin Stallings. The Vanderbilt coach turned 50 on Friday.