Mike Brey: Finally Something the NCAA Can Cheer About

The NCAA has had a pretty rough year.

Ohio State. North Carolina. LSU. Oregon. USC. Connecticut. Tennessee. We could keep going- the list goes on and on. All  these schools have either been hit with heavy NCAA violations or are currently being investigated for possible violations. Athletic Directors and head coaches are being exposed left and right. Every other day we would hear about a new program or coach under investigation. Even the “holier than thou” Coach K is being investigated! (Even if it is much ado about nothing).

But even ideas to spark beneficial changes in college athletics are being mocked. When SEC Commissioner Mike Slive suggested radical changes to improve the quality of student-athletes such as multi-year scholarships (athletes currently receive a series of one-year scholarships that can be revoked) or raising academic standards, South Carolina head football coach ripped the idea.

That’s a terrible idea, Commissioner. Do you sportswriters have a two-year contract, three or four-year contracts? … If you go bad, don’t show up to work, your butt will be out on the street. Everybody has to earn your way in life. That’s what I believe.

"Commissioner, Stephen has learned from this fifth suspension. I swear."

That’s right, Steve. Players have to earn their scholarships. But they don’t have to obey team rules if they happen to be your starting quarterback. Your boy Stephen Garcia has finally learned his lesson and changed. Fifth suspension’s a charm!

Coaches like Steve Spurrier and Jim Calhoun are all that are wrong with coaching in college athletics: it’s not about developing young men and women, it’s about exploiting them.

But there are some good guys in college athletics.

Which brings me to Notre Dame basketball coach Mike Brey.

Mike Brey signed a recruit named Eric Katenda this past April. Katenda, an athletic 6’9” power forward from Kansas, might be able to help offset the loss of Carleton Scott and Ty Nash and bring some toughness to South Bend. Unfortunately, a freak accident might cost him from ever playing basketball for the Irish.

While playing pick-up basketball in early July, Katenda was hit in his left eye severing his optic nerve. There is no way to reconnect the nerve which will leave him blind in that eye, severely jeopardizing his collegiate career.

Steve Spurrier would wish him and his family, “Good luck ya’ll,” and scramble to replace his scholarship. Hey, he can’t “earn” it. Mike Brey is taking a different approach than the Ole Ball Coach according to Brian Hamilton of the Chicago Tribune:

Brey emphasized to Katenda and his mother that Notre Dame would honor his scholarship even if Katenda couldn’t play for the Irish. Brey said Katenda already has started working out again and will be fitted for goggles to discover, essentially, if it’s possible to play the game at any level again.

But Katenda is not expected to enroll until January now, given the injury roiling his academics and his life in general. Brey advised him to return to Paris, where his mother and sister live, and take a step back for a spell.

Mike Brey = Class act.

Wait? A coach honoring a player’s scholarship when he’s likely never going to step foot on the court? Letting a player get his life and academics on track? Doesn’t he know how valuable each scholarship is and that athletics come before academics?

In the ultra-competitive world of college basketball, Brey is doing what’s right. No one in the world is more demoralized or dejected than Eric Katenda. His entire basketball playing career could be destroyed by a freak accident. But Brey isn’t cutting ties with him and letting him stray down an unknown path. He’s bringing him to Indiana to give him an education and mold this young man into the person he’s going to be for the rest of his life.

There’s a lot wrong with the NCAA and college athletics. But there’s also a lot of Mike Brey’s too. Just wish we heard about them a little more.

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3 Comments

Filed under Opinion, Recruiting

3 responses to “Mike Brey: Finally Something the NCAA Can Cheer About

  1. Kevin

    Great post but I don’t understand the hate on Calhoun. He’s run a program that’s been one of the cleanest and most successful in the country for 20+ years. The current ‘scandal’ is based on a scout sending too many text messages and other communications to a kid who never played for a day at Uconn. Why? Because he violated his parole his first week on campus and was rightfully kicked out of the school for it. Was there improper conduct? Almost certainly. But it’s pretty inaccurate to say he’s ‘All that is wrong with College Athletics’. It’s especially true considering he’s one of the few champions that shuns the ‘one and done’ players for guys who are committed to a program and want to be there as more than just a layover between high school and the NBA. Some of the best human beings in the NBA will agree with that – just ask someone like Ray Allen or Emeka Okafor.

    • Kevin, Calhoun is as dirty as it get. This past year wasn’t an isolated incident. Check this out

      What about the Ben Gordon assault discipline? Or the AJ Price/Marcus Williams suspension saga? Or the $22K to Rudy Gay’s AAU coach for “organizing” a tournament?

      I like Ray. I like Emeka. Great players. Good people (from what I know which is close to nothing). But two players that happened to spend more than one year playing for the Huskies is why he runs a “clean” program? Umm…no.

  2. liked the article, nice to see a good story

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