Clark Kellogg on March Madness & paying college players

CBS Sports College Basketball analyst Clark Kellogg spoke at a recent media day held before the NCAA Tournament. Kellogg touched on themes in the tournament and the issue of paying the college players.

On the themes of March Madness: “I think the first one is, can we have our first undefeated national championship since ’76, and I think we will. We’ll celebrate the 40-year anniversary of Indiana winning it next year and the one season anniversary of Kentucky having done it this year. That’s my line and I’m sticking with it. The other theme is that, quite honestly, we’ve got upperclassmen across the board. We’ve got a lot more upperclassmen…I like the fact that we’ve got underclassmen across the country, and I really think the freshman class, I know a number of guys, D’Angelo Russell, (Jahlil) Okafor, Tyus Jones, Stanley Johnson, Miles Turner, I mean they’re really high level. There are a ton of really good freshmen all over the country, more so than I can recall in a while. I mean, just really good freshmen that have impacted their teams in a positive way. A young kid right here, Casimir, Schadrac Casimir from Iona had a great, great year, a freshman. There are others like him across the country that had good years. And then always, the unpredictability, you don’t know where the stories are going to come from, that’s just part of the fabric of this event.”

What do you think of Duke? “I like their team, they’re playing great, getting after it, a number of playmakers. I think they’ve shown the ability to be a little better defensively at times, although they have some weakness if you get (Jahlil) Okafor involved. He’s gotten better, but get him involved in ball screens, he’s not super fast, he’s not like Willie Cauley-Stein, but most 7-footers aren’t. I like the way they’re playing. Coach K is fantastic, I mean his teams play with, they play with such confidence and such aggressiveness, such freedom, and that to me is, he’s always had good players, but his teams play, they play free, they don’t ever seem to play tight. There are a number of coaches that have – Bill Self’s teams don’t play tight, Thad Motta’s teams, I mean, there area lot of guys whose teams just flow and he’s one of the best allowing his team to flow, get ready at this time.”

Where do you stand on the pay-the-players issue? As someone who has covered St. John’s, I saw two players, Moe Harkless and JaKarr Sampson leave early to go to the NBA: “That’s part of it, when you have players capable of going, that you might lose them early, man, and you just have to, that’s why you need to have program guys in most places. Kentucky is unique, but in most places, you need to have some of those guys that will develop and that are going to stay three or four years so that you don’t have the drop-off because you lose talent, it’s hard to replenish it.”

Are you for paying the players? “I’m for cost-of-attendance, which means there shouldn’t be out-of-pocket expense for anybody that’s on full scholarship across any sport. I have three Division I scholarship athletes as a Dad, my wife and I, volleyball for our daughter and then basketball for both boys, and we were fortunate we were in a position financially, but we still sent them a little every month just for incidental expenses. When you’re on full-time scholarship, that’s a job, and therefore you shouldn’t have any out-of-pocket expenses, none, whatever that means, whether it’s an extra two-thousand (dollars) a year, is it an extra four-thousand, whatever that number is, that should be taken care of.

“It should also be used in resources to make sure these kids have what they need to move, to progress towards meaningful degrees. You’ve got to be making sure that these kids are doing what, and they’ve got to do their part, but you as an institution have to make sure that resources are provided to give these kids a chance to be successful and get degrees that are going to mean some weight when they get done.”

On what Syracuse and North Carolina are teaching (or not teaching) these kids: “It’s disheartening and frustrating, it’s sub-standard, it shouldn’t go on. Any time you’re shortcutting the academic piece, and there’s a lot of layers to that, and people to be blamed and held responsible and accountable, but there has to be a greater commitment across the board to make sure that that’s not happening because that’s the one certain opportunity that athletes, scholarship athletes get is, on the backside of their tenure, a degree, a meaningful degree in education, and if you’re doing anything to short-circuit that, and not doing everything you can to enhance that, then you’ve got problems. And everybody has to be involved with that – athletics department, the coaching staff, the institution, it has to be a team effort to make sure that that kind of stuff doesn’t happen.

“It’s disheartening, terribly disheartening, because a lot of times, the numbers say it disproportionately affects African-American males, by and large, and that’s where it’s really disheartening and disappointing to me.”

The defenders of the status quo of not paying the players say they’re getting scholarships: “That should really be where the attention is focused, make sure the cost-of-attendance is taken care of, take care of families when they’re trying to travel to championship games – I think that’s huge, not just in basketball and football, but in every other sport as well. Make sure that we’re trying to help those people get to those games when they need to and make sure we’re really working and providing the resources necessary, and having the intentionality to not just give lip service, to really put some meat on the bone, making sure kids get degrees or are on track to get meaningful degrees, and then give them an opportunity to make sure if they leave early, the few that can go, that they’ve got a chance to come back and get their degree at the cost of the university because the investments of time that they have to make – when you’re on full scholarship, that is your job, that and school is your job. Particularly, in all the sports, I don’t want to disparage the non-revenue sports because they’re putting in as much time as the other guys and gals. That is your job when you’re on scholarship, that’s the exchange – you’ve got giftedness and ability in a sport, we’re going to provide you an education and pay for it, and yet in many cases, the institutions are not keeping their side of the bargain and that has to get better.”

Where does this end up? Could you see the NCAA breaking up? “I haven’t given it that much thought, I think the institutions, presidents, athletic directors, those that have the weight and the platform have to make the kind of commitment to that effort because they can move the needle, and the change in legislative structure hopefully is a move in the right direction.”

The amazing thing is how the NCAA will not even discuss the issues of paying the players, like it’s so inconceivable to them: “The issue of freshman ineligibility needs to be discussed. I don’t know if we land there, but it needs to be talked about at length with all of these different people so that maybe you land in a place, it might not be freshman ineligibility, but it may be something else, reduction of time year-round, giving kids an opportunity to work during the summer, it may be some of that kind of stuff that would come out of it, but it’s a discussion that needs to be had, in terms of readiness, preparedness, and education.”

Do you think the NBA’s one-year-in-college rule is necessary? “I would much rather see us land on…similar to baseball. If a uniquely gifted kid wants to go out of high school, let him go. You go to college, you’ve got to make a commitment of two years. Most definitely, I think it would help the kids, as long as the institutions are providing them with resources to take advantage of their time in college in a meaningful way. If it’s just to usher to them to keep them eligible, no, no. But, if they get a chance to immerse and grow in their experience and move towards an education, it would be extremely helpful.”

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