Sunday, March 16, 2003

Back by popular demand


The Ryan Percentage Index returns. This week's category: Sin City, baby!

By Ryan Ernst
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Illegal payments, academic fraud, point shaving, free cars, hot tubs, samurai swords? Recent incidents in college basketball at Georgia, Fresno State, St. Bonaventure and Villanova have focused attention on all kinds of scandals.

But using the very scientific Ryan Percentage Index, we can now determine the best of the best. Here's what the numbers mean: the first is the overall ranking, followed by the subject. The next number is the Seriousness Rank, then the Comedic Value, followed by the calculated RPI.

1. Fresno State, 1997-present; 2; 1; .6589

The Bulldogs aren't going to be playing in any postseason tournaments this year after a self-imposed ban for academic fraud. Can we just go ahead and designate them as the Portland Trailblazers' minor league team or something? Over the past six years, Fresno State basketball players have been accused of enough crimes and NCAA violations to simultaneously fill a cellblock and an NBA roster.

In 1998, coach Jerry Tarkanian's third year at the helm of his alma mater, only two scholarship players were eligible for every game. The team's bios read like an episode of Oz: Rafer Alston had two battery convictions. Daymond Forney was arrested for breaking a student's jaw and was suspended for drugs. Avondre Jones had two concealed weapons charges, a drug suspension and an arrest after an assault with a samurai sword. Chris Herren spent three weeks in drug rehab and was the subject of a federal investigation into point shaving. Courtney Alexander trailed with just one assault and battery charge.

Then there are all the NCAA violations for taking money and free gifts, the unsavory recruits, the coaching staff ...

2. Jim Harrick, 1996-present; 3; 2; .6577

First he was fired by UCLA for lying eight times on expense reports. Then he left Rhode Island after the university settled a sexual harassment suit filed by a school employee against the coach. Now he's in hot water at Georgia, where the university has alleged, among other things, academic fraud during his watch. Trouble follows Harrick like he's a former child actor. Wait, he didn't play Willis on Diff'rent Strokes, did he?

Anyway, even if Harrick is the good guy he claims to be, the guys he recruits are not. At one point, he tried to convince Kenny Brunner, a player Fresno State kicked out, to go to Georgia.

3. New York point-shaving scandals, 1951; 1; 5; .6529

Investigators found out 86 college basketball games around the city were in some way fixed between 1947 and 1951. In the end, 20 players and 14 gamblers were convicted.

4. UNLV, 1991; 5; 3; .6517

Photographs emerged of players Anderson Hunt, Moses Scurry and David Butler, all members of the 1990 national championship team, in a hot tub with convicted game-fixer Richie Perry. Though no point-fixing allegations were ever made, like a Sin City bachelor party, the photos were enough to cause problems. Within days, UNLV coach Jerry Tarkanian agreed to resign. Vegas baby, Vegas.

5. Boston College, 1978-79; 4; 7; .6510

Fahgiddabowdit. Next to the sheer magnitude of the New York point-shaving scandals, none can touch this.

Henry Hill, the mobster of Good Fellas fame, bought three BC players over nine games. Hill later said he made between $85,000 and $100,000; the players made $10,000 each and Hill's investors made over $250,000.

Approval for the deal came from Lucchese crime family boss Antonio "Tony Ducks" Corallo. You think that's funny? How is that funny?

6. Minnesota, 1999; 6; 9; .6452

From 1994 to 1998, a former tutor did some 400 pieces of coursework for at least 18 players, all arranged with the knowledge of coach Clem Haskins. That averages out to 22 papers for each player.

7. Tulane, 1984-85; 8; 4; .6433

Nothing says mid-80s like corrupt sports, cash changing hands, cocaine and John "Hot Rod" Williams. In this scandal, Williams, along with four Tulane starters and one reserve, were accused of shaving points in two games. Two of the five players, Clyde Eads and Jon Johnson, were granted immunity and testified that the others also shaved points in exchange for cash and cocaine. Williams was acquitted and none of the players did jail time but the university shut down the program until the 1989 season. Wasn't this on a Miami Vice episode?

8. Nolan Richardson III, 2002; 7; 6; .6390

After a shoving match with an assistant coach during a Christmas night practice, the Tennessee State coach, "went to my car to get a crow bar and saw my gun there and I took it," Richardson wrote in his statement. "But it had no clip or anything."

Oh, OK, you just wanted to go get your crow bar but ... JUST LIE! Richardson resigned two weeks later.

9. Lester Earl, 1995-98; 9; 10; .6389

Earl took a $6,600 payment from an LSU assistant coach, played 11 games for the school, was kicked off the team for violating rules and then ratted out the assistant. Then, after transferring to Kansas, the 6-foot-8 power forward was spotted around Lawrence driving a $35,000 Yukon, sometimes with rap mogul and sports agent Master P.

Even worse, Earl never had to pay back money and never lost eligibility.

10. Dayton's Sammy Smith, 2002; 10; 8; .6367

Although barely a scandal, it's odd enough to make our list. The 6-foot-5 forward pleaded guilty last week to providing false information to mislead a public official. The charges stemmed from an October incident in which Smith claimed he was abducted at gunpoint and forced to drive to Lake Worth, Texas.

After an investigation, both the Dayton police and FBI determined the kidnapping never happened.

Did anyone talk to Nolan Richardson's kid?

---

E-mail rernst@enquirer.com




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