By Jeff Nunn of CardinalSportsZone.com
When I was in my twenties, I would show up at the
course about 10 minutes prior to my tee time, rush
into the clubhouse, pay my green fees, hop on a cart,
pull up to the first tee, take two practice swings and
then swing out of my shoes as I tried to smash the
ball down the fairway.
Well, as they say, “I ain’t as young as I once was.”
I’m not exactly old enough for the senior tour, but I’m
not getting any younger, and my body will sometimes
remind me of it, especially after a long day on the
golf course under hot conditions. Yes, my body has
changed and so must my game and preparation. But
that doesn’t mean I can’t continue to enjoy the
game that I love. I just have to be smarter and
willing to adapt.
Now, I arrive at the course about an hour prior
to my tee time. I head over to the driving range
where I stretch before hitting a small bucket of
balls to help warm up my muscles. Once I’m
warmed up, I head back to the clubhouse where
I purchase a water or Gatorade to take with me
on the course. I have to stay hydrated. I also grab
a snack to tuck away in my bag for later in the
round. Then, I get out the sun screen and apply
generously. Depending on the conditions, I may
also apply a little bug spray. The last thing I do
before I tee off is pop open my bottle of Aleve
and take two. I know I am going to encounter
some aches and pains somewhere within my round,
so I take this preventative measure.
Getting older and losing physical strength, balance,
eye-hand coordination and flexibility doesn’t have
to hinder your ability to play and enjoy golf. Like me,
you have to change your routine and be willing to
admit that some courses, equipment and situations
are no longer suitable for you.
Picking the right course for you is very important
for your enjoyment. In your younger days, the more
challenging the course, the more fun you could
have. Hitting long shots over water or hitting up to
By Jeff Nunn of CardinalSportsZone.com
elevated greens seemed like a challenge and a lot of
fun. Hitting out of a deep green-side bunker was fun
and interesting. Now, you worry more about getting
yourself out of the bunker rather than the ball – and
that doesn’t seem enjoyable. So, be very aware of the
course you choose. If there are multiple shots where
you must carry the ball about 175 yards over a hazard
or the majority of the greens do not allow a run up
shot, then you might want to think about choosing
a different course.
Another thing to help you choose a good course
that is suitable for your game is to take the total length
of a good drive for you and multiple that by 28. That
will give you the yardage of a course that will be a lot
of fun to play: not too hard, not too easy.
Once you find courses that are more enjoyable
for your game, you may also need to change the tees
you hit from. As you get older, you won’t be able to
hit the ball as far, so moving up a set of tees can only
help your enjoyment. Having people see you hitting
from the pro tees doesn’t impress them, especially
when you only hit the ball 200 yards, leaving yourself
a 3-wood shot into a par 4. Move up to the white tees,
or if you are a senior, don’t be afraid to move up to
the senior tees. They are there for a reason, so use
them if you qualify. An enjoyable round means you
should be hitting a mid-iron into a green on a par 4,
so put yourself into position to do so. After all, this
game is supposed to be fun.
Your equipment may need to change as your
game changes. The advancements in equipment are
incredible. The technology of the new drivers and
balls are crazy and has helped maintain distance
despite your decreasing club-head speed. Irons, on
the other hand, are slowly being replaced with hybrid
clubs. As you lose distance with your longer irons, you
can start replacing them with the new hybrid clubs.
Putting a set of irons in your bag that are more
forgiving can help as your ball striking becomes
less consistent. Putting graphite shafts in your
irons is a good idea because they are lighter and
can help with swing speed. Also, putting bigger
grips on your clubs can help with decreased grip
strength and aching hands or wrists.
Be smart about the conditions you play in.
In my younger days, I would say, “The hotter,
the better.” Now, not so much. I get much more
enjoyment playing in partly-cloudy conditions
in the 75 to 80 degree range. And when a good
rain storm popped up, I used to consider that
a challenge. Now, I call it time to head to the
clubhouse. Everyone has different likes, but
when the conditions reach a point that it’s no longer
enjoyable, why keep playing? Playing when your
heart is not fully committed can lead to injury and
nobody wants to get hurt.
No matter if Father Time is calling or he called
years ago, you can still play golf and enjoy it. You just
have to realize you now have physical limitations, and
you must adjust for them. Everyone is different and
everyone’s body changes and reacts in different ways.
You just have to find tips, tricks and adjustments that
work for you. As Raymond Floyd said: “Golf is a game,
and games are meant to be enjoyed.” I couldn’t agree
more. Good luck and hit’em straight!
With every sport comes the risk for
injury. Jeffrey S. Stephenson, M.D., sports
health physician with Norton Orthopedic
Specialists, treats athletes and has seen
it all. He shared the most common golfrelated
injuries and steps you can take to
play pain-free this season.
Lower Back Injuries
Hopefully this golf season, the only back that
needs fixing has to do with your backswing. The
most common golf-related injuries involve the
lower back. The back is more engaged in the game
than you might think. It comes into play during
the rotation in your golf swing.
“The transition when you take your arms back
to swing through – your power from your upper
body – is linked to your lower body through the
core musculature,” Dr. Stephenson said.
Injury prevention measures: Your core and
lower back work together to help you power
through your swing. That’s why it’s important to
build the foundation for a strong core.
“You can’t have a weak lower back and expect
to be able to play golf on a regular basis,” Dr.
He suggests a regimen of isometric exercises
to help strengthen the back, such as low back
extensions and crunches. An active warm-up
ahead of your round of golf also is very important.
“There are a lot of gripping mechanics that have
to happen to be able to get a golf club through
the ball and hit a ball consistently well, which
can cause elbow injuries,” Dr. Stephenson said.
“Golfer’s elbow” is a common overuse injury to
the soft tissue in the tendon or the medial elbow.
This injury can happen with repetitive swinging
of the golf club.
Injury prevention measures: Stretch the affected
tendons through simple wrist stretching exercises.
It’s also important to make sure you are swinging
“If you are concerned that you are having
consistent pain with your swing, it may be
worthwhile to have your swing checked out by a
golf professional,” Dr. Stephenson said. “If there
are certain mechanical issues with your swing, it
makes you more susceptible to injury.”
He says many elbow injuries are caused by
hitting the club into the ground, which can put
strain on the tendons.
Your golf swing could cause strains, pain and
inflammation in your shoulder. The most common
shoulder injury is rotator cuff impingement,
which is inflammation around the rotator cuff
tendons. The rotator cuff is made up of muscles
and tendons that help stabilize the ball and socket
joint of the shoulder.
“You can get inflammation around those
tendons, which causes an impingement and
can be painful,” Dr. Stephenson said.
Injury prevention measures: The best way to
prevent a golf-related shoulder injury is to establish
a good warm-up routine.
“Take the time to carefully swing through the
club, rather than stepping right onto the course
to begin your round,” Dr. Stephenson said.
Golfing and walking along uneven surfaces on
a golf course can pose a hazard to knees.
“Those potential hazards are the twisting and
turning that can lead to meniscus tears in the
knee,” Dr. Stephenson said.
Injury prevention measures: Be mindful of
where you are stepping on the course and make
sure you have good swing mechanics in place. If
you’re not so sure about your swing, enlist the
help of a golf professional to help you perfect
Photo by Christian Watson
“Don’t let yesterday
take up too much of
today” –Will Rogers
By Angie Fenton
Depending on which statistics you go by, less than 1 percent of us
will ever complete a marathon. Paul Erway, who is featured on our
cover, has completed 50 in 50 states in 50 weeks. As impressive
as that is – and it is undeniably impressive – that’s not what struck
me most about his story, which was written by writer Steve Kaufman
(you can find it on page 16).
It’s one thing to share a tale of physical resolve, but Paul also was
candid about the pitfalls and harsh challenges, including the moment
when he contemplated ending it all. Admitting this out loud and
allowing yourself to be vulnerable enough to do so takes strength.
That is what struck me the most about Paul’s story, his willingness to
be so candid about enduring such despair and the remarkable way
he was able to pull himself out of it by reaching out to help others
as he also developed into a phenomenal athlete. I encourage you
to not only read his story but also read his book.
In the January issue of Extol Sports, we featured Brad Luttrell,
co-founder and CEO of GoWild, an app for people who love the
outdoors. Thanks to the popularity, Brad recently left his job at
OOHology to focus full-time on GoWild. “This app has taken off
faster than I ever imagined,“ said Brad when I asked for an update.
“We’ve slowed our marketing efforts down and are still adding 80
people per day to the app. With revenue up 500 percent so far this
year, and a lot of advertiser inquiries coming in, I just felt that if I
was ever going to give this thing my full attention, this was it. I’m so
grateful for all of the people who have helped GoWild so far, from my
family to my team at OOHology to our investors. It’s been an exciting
and wild ride thus far. Here’s to what’s next.” Congratulations to the
GoWild team and here’s to their continued success!
Photos and Story by Miranda McDonald
A Program That’s Giving Back
Micah Cargin has been practicing yoga for
himself for almost a decade. However, with the
launch of his youth program, Humble Warrior,
he will be using his knowledge of this practice
to give back to the local community.
“I always knew I wanted to give back to the
community in some way. Giving back to those
in need is something my family engrained in me
from an early age,” states Cargin as he unrolls his
yoga mat onto the wooden floor at KMAC. We are
at the local museum to talk about the launch of
Humble Warrior, and to photograph him practicing
yoga in the beautiful space.
Humble Warrior is a program that will work with
community centers and organizations to introduce
youth in economically-depressed areas to yoga.
It will do this by creating a network of certified
yoga teachers with diverse backgrounds that
will serves as mentors to these children. Cargin
believes the diversity of this network is key to the
success of the program.
“Being a black male who practices yoga, I
believe I have a unique voice that can make a
real impact in urban areas and the parts of town
that many yoga studios may not ever think to host
classes in. Most of the yoga studios are clustered
in certain areas, because that is where the current
interest is. However, many of the people in living
in these places have never even been exposed to
yoga,” explains Cargin.
Cargin believes introducing yoga to local youth
in these urban areas is important, because yoga
is not solely a physical activity. It also teaches
mindfulness and awareness.
“Yoga has helped me be more aware of my
inner thoughts and emotions, and has also helped
me with how I process them. Practicing can give
these kids another outlet for processing their
Humble Warrior will first launch as a pilot program with a yoga
initiative this year, but Cargin won’t stop there. Over the next few
years the philanthropist plans to grow Humble Warrior into an
organization that hosts teacher trainings for those wishing to open
their own practice. Cargin also plans to use Humble Warrior as a
program that exposes impoverished youth to a variety of outlets
centered around the arts that may not otherwise be available to them.
This very idea that every child deserves access to a variety of
mediums that allow them to positively express themselves and
improve their situation is one that keeps Cargin moving forward
in his journey to turn Humble Warrior into a program that will
eventually spread to other cities across the country.
“I hope we can inspire these kids to try something different
by giving them the opportunity and tools they need to do so.
We want them to learn to be comfortable with the idea of being
Humble Warrior Contact Info:
(*Micah is in the middle of launching this, so his site is still under
construction. However, he will have this completely up and
verified before this hits the shelves.)
By Erica Coghill
Join author Laura Vanderkam 6 to 8 p.m. March 12 at The Olmsted
for Norton Healthcare’s upcoming Go Confidently speaker event.
Have you ever uttered the words,
“If only I had more time?” Of course,
we all have.
No matter your lifestyle, family
unit, professional or personal
demands, you’ve no doubt been
overwhelmed by feeling like there
aren’t enough hours in the day.
We caught up with time
management expert and bestselling
author Laura Vanderkam for some
quick tips on how to make the most
of the time we have. She’ll be dishing
out a lot more during the March 12
installment of Norton Healthcare’s
free Go Confidently speaker series.
Mastering the Balancing Act
Time management is something
most of us have struggled with.
Even Vanderkam is no stranger
to the struggle. About 10 years ago,
the then-new-mom was faced with
an uncharted challenge: How do I
master the balancing act of parent
“I knew I wanted to do both
things,” Vanderkam said. “I was
drawn to people who were doing
both — succeeding personally and
She set out on a mission to slow
the proverbial flying of time, or at
least better manipulate it. What she
found is that people who seem to
have it all don’t have more time than
the rest of us — they’re just using it
in ways that are helping them build
the lives they want.
“There’s no perfect hack to free
up all kinds of time in your life; no
special trick with email or special
thing around the house to make
chores magically take less time,”
No one particular thing will change
your life completely, but Vanderkam
suggests a number of strategies you
can implement to make the most of
Identify What’s Important to You
“What will change your life is
deciding, ‘Even though the house
is messy, I want to read this book,’ ”
Many people wait until everything
else is taken care of before doing
the things they want to do. Ringing
phones and overflowing inboxes are
just a couple things that demand our
“If you spend all of your time on
those things, the day can get away
from you – the week, month, year –
and then you never spend time on
the things that are important but not
necessarily clamoring for attention,”
Think about what you want to
spend more time doing – and do it.
“That unread email will still
be there, but you will have made
progress on the thing that is important
to you,” Vanderkam said.
Journal Your Time
Vanderkam says one of the best
ways to get a sense of where your
time is going is to write it down in a
journal. People generally think they
have a good idea of where their time
is going, but until they journal it, they
don’t have a realistic sense of how
it’s being used.
Once she started tracking her time,
she learned that even though she
works from home, she was spending
a lot more time on the road than she
“I realized I was spending about
an hour a day in the car for various
things that weren’t a daily commute,
and I wasn’t doing anything with that
time that was meaningful to me,”
She decided to make better use
of her time in the car by listening
to audiobooks and podcasts while
behind the wheel.
Build Space in Your Schedule
Saying that you don’t have enough
time is an excuse. If something is a
priority, you will make time for it. If
it’s not a priority, Vanderkam reminds
us that it is OK to say no. You are in
control of your time.
“Time is a choice,” she said.
“Of course, there will be terrible
consequences if you don’t make
certain choices, but in the long run
it is a choice.”
Many success f u l people
Vanderkam has studied have a
surprising amount of open space in
“Being busy is not a badge of
honor,” she said.
Open space invites opportunity in
a way that a cluttered calendar just
can’t do. It’s about realizing that we
don’t have to do everything.
Plan, Plan, Plan
Planning is key. It’s something
Vanderkam didn’t do earlier in her life.
“I realized that people who were
having fun weekends, as opposed to
weekends that were all chores, were
thinking ahead to make sure they
had time for things that were fun
and rejuvenating,” she said.
Thinking through her weekends
ahead of time is a strategy Vanderkam
adopted when she became a mother.
Scheduling activities in advance helps
ensure everyone’s needs are met and
the things that are important to us
Planning doesn’t mean you have
to relinquish spontaneity in your life.
“You just need to get the structure
in place and then you can be
spontaneous within it,” Vanderkam
For example, if you and your
partner have a babysitter for the
night, you can create spontaneity
within that planned evening away
from the kids. Maybe you choose to
walk or drive around a neighborhood
and spontaneously select a spot to
dine for the evening.
Think in Terms of 168 Hours
You may feel like there aren’t
enough hours in the day, but there
are plenty of hours in the week – 168
to be exact. Vanderkam challenges
people to stop pressuring ourselves to
accomplish it all within 24 hours and
start thinking in terms of 168 hours.
“Many people find this to be a
complete breakthrough in terms of
no longer feeling like they are failing
at everything,” she said. “Just because
something didn’t happen today, we
don’t have to say it is not a priority in
our life or it is not important to us.”
One example of how this can yield
positive results is with exercise. If you
didn’t exercise today, you’re not a
failure. Just make sure you find time
for it within the 168 hours. Maybe
you choose to exercise four times
per week — you’ve got a full seven
days to make that goal happen. There
won’t be a perfect time every single
day for exercise. You have to make it
happen when you can.
Vanderkam will discuss these
ideas, among others, at Norton
Healthcare’s Go Confidently speaker
event March 12. The talk will be from
6 to 8 p.m. at The Olmsted, 3701
Frankfort Ave., in Louisville.
Go Confidently is a free public
event. Register by calling 502.629.1234
or go to NortonHealthcare.com/
Learn mor e about t ime
management in Vanderkam’s books,
“168 Hours: You Have More Time
Than You Think” and “I Know How
She Does It: How Successful Women
Make the Most of Their Time.”
By Steve Kaufman
Photos by Tony Bennett
Paul Erway completed 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 weeks.
Now he’s racing to help others in any way he can.
In 2013, Paul Erway completed 50 marathons
in 50 states in 50 weeks.
One of those was the Boston Marathon, the
year of the bombing.
Notice that this writer didn’t say Erway “runs” in
these marathons. Because he doesn’t. He wheels.
An automobile accident in 1980, the weekend
before he was to graduate from college, left him a
paraplegic, with no feeling or movement from the
chest down. He has been confined to a wheelchair
for 38 years.
He jokes that before the accident, he had studied
animal husbandry in college with the intention of
working in horse “reining” – an American version
of dressage. “If not for the accident, I might be
living in a trailer beside a horse stable, mucking
stalls. Now I’ve gotten to go overseas and to every
state in the country. It’s quite a life.”
Not surprisingly, that wasn’t his attitude in
June 1980, in the days following his accident,
when the spinal surgeon told him he would be
using a wheelchair for the rest of his life and that
he would “need to deal with it.”
Three times in that first year, having gone past
denial, anger and bargaining and reached the
fourth level of grief (which is depression), he
said, “If I’d had a gun, I might well have used it
on myself. So, it’s probably a good thing I didn’t
have a gun.”
A chance encounter on his college campus
(Morrisville State College in Upstate New York,
near Syracuse) changed his course from thoughts
of suicide to a full life of helping others.
“There was a kid on campus with spina bifida
who’d been in a wheelchair his whole life. As we
were heading out to class, he said, ‘I’ll race you
to the lamppost.’ He was a little kid. I’d played
basketball and football, and jumped high hurdles,
in high school. But he beat me by half the distance
to the pole. That got my fires burning.”
Hereby resolved: to eventually beat that kid
in a race.
The actual training to win races didn’t begin
for a few years, though, until Erway graduated
from Penn State University’s school of business
and moved to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, for a
sales and marketing job with a paper company.
There, he got involved in a local wheelchair
athletic group. “Playing in that program allowed
me to network for the first time with other people
He switched jobs, going to work for a company
that sold wheelchairs and adapted vehicles. “I
came to realize that while people hate being in
a wheelchair, they love being able to drive a car.
It was my first realization of the importance of
being able to make people happy.”
He remembered his own first two questions
after his accident: “Can I still drive?” “And can I
have sex?” Not necessarily in that order.
“I began developing the outlook that the more
people you help, the more you will be blessed,” he
said. “That’s where my life really started to change.”
He began to train for racing, getting to the 1990
Para-World Championships in Assen, Netherlands.
“I got smoked,” he said.
But it encouraged him to come back home
and begin weight training with an ex-Penn State
football player. “He was 6-foot-4, 280 pounds,”
Erway remembered. “So, when he told me to do
two more on the bench, I did two more.”
He went to the 1992 nationals in Salt Lake City,
a trial for the U.S. Paralympic team, but got beat
by a 15-year-old. “I was over 30, and most of the
competition was much younger,” said Erway.
“Also, most of them didn’t have jobs, they could
train full-time. I had to work full-time.”
He did some regional 10ks, “but my heart
wasn’t in it.”
In 1994, Erway moved to Shelbyville, Kentucky,
to start his own wheelchair and adapted van
company. Eventually, Superior Van & Mobility
in Louisville – another company that adapts
motor vehicles, cars, vans and trucks – hired him
in marketing and sales, covering all of Kentucky,
Southern Indiana and Eastern Tennessee.
“It’s a gratifying business,” he said. “Every day,
I’m helping somebody get going again.”
But cruel fate wasn’t done with Erway. In
July 2006, while speeding down a steep hill in
Shelbyville during a training run, he tried to avoid
a pickup truck on the road, lost control of his
wheelchair and slammed into the driver’s door.
He fractured both his scapula and collarbone,
broke two ribs, punctured a lung, suffered a spinal
compression fracture and part of his scalp was
separated from his skull.
Also, it was 94 degrees that day, so while the
medical technicians were cautioning, “don’t
move him,’” he lay on the asphalt and burned 60
percent of his back.
One helicopter ride, two hospital stays, three
rehab stints, four operations and five months out
of work followed. But this time, “My attitude was,
‘Racing brought me back before – it will bring me
back again.’ ”
Four years later, he was competing in the world’s
premiere wheelchair marathon in Oita, Japan.
And three years after that, he set out on
his “marathon marathon” – competing in 50
marathons in 50 states in 50 weeks.
Those included, most memorably, the Aspen, Colorado, marathon
(“Elevation, 8,800 feet. The first 21 of the 26 miles were downhill.”); the
Asheville, North Carolina marathon (“So hilly that I had to go backwards
up some of the hills, or risk flipping over backwards and zigzagging on
some of the others – I won’t ever go back to Asheville again”); and Boston.
It was the third time he’d qualified for the best of U.S. marathons, and
he loved everything about it – the facilities, the crowds, the competition.
“But I had to get back to work,” Erway recalled, “so after I finished, I
rushed to my hotel, changed T-shirts in the lobby and got into a taxi for
His flight took off at 2:45 that afternoon. And in those days before use of
cell phones to go online was permitted on flights, it wasn’t until he landed
in Atlanta and took out his phone that he understood what had happened.
“It was a complete shock,” he said. “Here you are, doing the greatest
marathon in the U.S., feeling so good about completing it, and then
finding out three people were killed, several hundred injured and 16
people lost limbs.”
The bomb went off four minutes after his plane left Boston.
He has written a book about his 50-50-50 experience titled, “50 Ability
Marathons,” though the amount of information forced him to stop the
book after discussing just 14 of the races – Boston being the final chapter.
He intends to write about the other 36 in what he thinks will be two more
Erway has continued to train three times a week, both weight workouts
in the gym and speed workouts on the road. He has a special racing
wheelchair that weighs only 20 pounds and is fitted to his body size and
situation, so that it’s properly balanced and positions his shoulders to
the chair’s push rail for maximum propulsion, and to take advantage of
his arm, stomach and back muscles. “It cost me $6,500.”
But as he went through his fifties (he’s 59 now), he tailed off a bit on his
racing schedule, though he continued to do the Kentucky Derby Festival
(KDF) mini-marathon most years. (“It’s a half-marathon for wheelchairs,”
he explained, “because all those wheelchairs on the course in the park
could be dangerous for the runners.”)
He began getting asked by the KDF organizers to help out with the
arrangements for the wheelchair division. And this year, he has been
named director of the April 28-29 event. That means getting sponsorships,
coordinating hotel rooms, registering athletes, caring for their regular
chairs while they’re out in their racing chairs, making sure they’re safe
on the course, and also ensuring there’s mechanical help if they need it.
Erway also will handle the next day’s Tour de Lou, a cycling event in
which handicapped racers use specially outfitted hand cycles.
He was particularly inspired by his experience in Japan, where “all
you had to do was tell them when you were flying in, and they took care
of everything else – free transportation, hotel, breakfasts, registration
for the race.”
Erway recalled while in Oita being asked by the local elementary schools
to come out and talk to the students about life in America. “We gave an
exhibit, told them about the U.S., and played games with them. We even
arm-wrestled with them.”
It has all become part of what he feels is his special mission – helping
others to live full lives and representing his community to the world at large.
“It’s the life I wish I didn’t have to lead,” he said, philosophically, “but
since I do lead it, I might as well try to encourage other people, to help
get them up and going.”
You can find out more about Paul Erway’s journey and book on his web
site, www.50abilitymarathons.com. Or call him at 502.724.2300.
“Everyone’s dirty – some are just
dirtier than others.”
That’s the line from an industry veteran that
struck me. Everyone’s dirty? Everyone?
It was the early 2000s and I was in Las Vegas
watching the next generation of basketball talent
sweat it out in high school gymnasiums scattered
around the desert.
At each gym – Chaparral over here, Cimarron
Memorial over there, Desert Pines and Durango –
were a dozen teams playing a half-dozen games.
Every day in Las Vegas for a full week, the best of
the best high school talent played against each
other, first in round-robin games and then in a
At each gym, the people-watching was fantastic.
AAU coaches, shoe company executives from
Nike, Reebok and Adidas, former NBA players,
current NBA players and scores of high-level
college coaches mingled together on high school
Imagine the absurdity of seeing Roy Williams,
Rick Pitino and Jim Boeheim sitting just a few feet
from each other on wooden bleachers watching
the same game in a tiny, blistering hot gymnasium.
And yet, there they were.
The Atlanta Celtics were the main draw with
superstar center Dwight Howard (NBA) playing
alongside 6-foot-11 bruiser Randolph Morris
(Kentucky) and 6-8, high-flying wing Josh Smith
(NBA). There were stars from California like Arron
Afflalo and Jordan Farmar (UCLA), an incredible
wing from Maryland named Rudy Gay (UConn)
and some amazing guards: Chicago-area shooter
Shaun Livingston (NBA), Detroit’s Joe Crawford
(Kentucky), Louisville’s Rajon Rondo (Kentucky)
and New York’s Sebastian Telfair (NBA).
Many of the top stars in the 2005 class were
in Vegas at the same time, future stars like Greg
Paulus (Duke), Chris Douglas-Roberts (Memphis),
Gerald Green (NBA), Andrew Bynum (NBA) and
Tyler Hansbrough (UNC). The Seattle teams held
future Louisville Cardinals Terrence Williams
and Peyton Siva and a Southern California team
was led by a young guard named Andre McGee.
I remember asking one of the veteran recruiting
writers how this whole system worked. How do
the coaches know who to watch? How do the
tournaments keep the coaches and the high schoolers separated?
And how in the world can thousands of
youngsters afford to fly to Las Vegas and stay in
hotels for a week, not to mention the new shoes,
new socks, new jerseys and new gym bags?
“What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas,” an
assistant coach said with a smirk.
Turns out it doesn’t.
Fast forward to 2016, the FBI arrested 10
people, four of them assistant basketball coaches,
thanks, in part, to conversations recorded in
a Las Vegas hotel room during the summer
The FBI uncovered a scheme by agents and
shoe company employees to funnel money to
the parents of high school recruits and to pay
assistants to use their influence to steer prospects
toward future agents.
Those arrests, and the mention of a high
school phenom named Brian Bowen being
enticed to come to Louisville, broke open what
could go down as the biggest scandal in college
On the day of the arrests, Joon Kim, the U.S.
Attorney for the Southern District of New York,
put college basketball coaches and the high
school basketball recruiting complex on notice.
Kim vowed to expose “the dark underbelly of
FBI agent Bill Sweeney said, “Today’s arrests
should serve as a warning to others choosing
to conduct business in this way in the world of
college athletes: We know your playbook. Our
investigation is ongoing, and we are conducting
additional interviews as I speak.”
After that day, Louisville suspended Rick Pitino,
two assistant coaches and athletic director Tom
Jurich. Since then, they’ve all been fired. Assistant
coaches at Auburn, Arizona, Oklahoma State and
USC were all suspended and then later fired.
Over that next week, hundreds of articles
were written calling the arrests the “tip of the
iceberg.” We were all told that more arrests were
imminent and the college basketball world would
be rocked to its core.
Then there was a four-month period of relative
calm. Fans and media started to wonder if the
FBI’s tough talk of having college basketball’s
“playbook” was just bluster.
Then, in early February, all hell broke loose.
Yahoo Sports writers Pete Thamel and Pat
Forde got ahold of some of the FBI’s uncovered
Thamel and Forde wrote, “While three criminal
cases tied to the investigation may take years
to play out, the documents viewed by Yahoo
revealed the extent of the potential NCAA
ramifications from the case. The documents
show an underground recruiting operation that
could create NCAA rules issues – both current and
retroactive – for at least 20 Division I basketball
programs and more than 25 players.”
One of the documents was a spreadsheet
snagged during a raid of a sports agency with
names, dates and amounts of money “loaned”
to high school and college players, including
Kentucky’s Bam Adebayo, NC State’s Dennis
Smith Jr. and Yahoo also uncovered emails that
seemed to indicate assistant coaches at Michigan
State, Indiana and others bidding on Bowen, the
recruit that ended up at Louisville.
ESPN’s Mark Schlabach cited sources that
indicated Arizona coach Sean Miller was recorded
on a FBI wiretap arranging $100,000 for recruit
The scandal has already brought down Pitino
and Miller and is threatening to bring down
Michigan State’s Tom Izzo as well. And who else?
Veteran writer Dan Wetzel told Fox Sports he
believes 20 Power-5 head coaches will lose their
jobs before the scandal is done.
If that’s true, the entire system of college
basketball recruiting will have to change. All of
it. From the summer tournaments in Las Vegas
to the high school gyms across the country, if the
NCAA is serious about cleaning up its mess, the
whole lot will have to change.
And the scary thing for the NCAA? The
information that has leaked out so far has all
been from one agent’s office. What about the
other 15 agencies doing business in much the
Mark Emmert was on CBS and was asked about
the mess in college basketball. He said change
is on the way. “Following the Southern District
of New York’s indictments last year, the NCAA
Board of Governors and I formed the independent
Commission on College Basketball, chaired by
Condoleezza Rice, to provide recommendations
on how to clean up the sport. With these latest
allegations, it’s clear this work is more important
now than ever. The Board and I are completely
committed to making transformational changes
to the game and ensuring all involved in
college basketball do so with integrity. We also
will continue to cooperate with the efforts of
federal prosecutors to identify and punish the
unscrupulous parties seeking to exploit the system
through criminal acts.”
As a longtime observer of the recruiting process
each summer, I have a few notes for Emmert
The NCAA must remove the shoe companies
from the recruiting process. Removing shoe
company sponsorships from AAU and high school
teams would be a good place to start.
The NCAA must remove parents and assistant
coaches from the pockets of agents. Getting the
NBA to modify its one-and-done rule would
help this issue.
CBS’ Gary Parrish believes the NCAA should
allow college athletes to sign with agents above
board: “The fix really is simple. What the NCAA
should do is eliminate the black market by allowing
student-athletes to secure representation and
accept fair-market value in this billion-dollar
industry where just about everybody connected
to the biggest sports in the biggest conferences
are legally getting rich but them.”
The NCAA must figure out a way to let the elite
talent head to the pros while keeping enough
talent to make college basketball fun to watch.
None of that will be easy, especially considering
public perception casts the NCAA’s favorability
rating somewhere between the NRA and Congress.
And over the next two years as these cases
unfold, the NCAA must deal with the fall out of
multiple elite coaches losing their jobs thanks to
the investigation headed by the FBI.
College basketball won’t be the same after this
is all done. And that’s probably a good thing.
“What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas,” an assistant
coach said with a smirk.
Turns out it doesn’t.
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