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Monday Hub Requires Some Clarification

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Oh, the Caveats You'll Acknowledge: Here's a concession Kyle will appreciate: Oregon State's College World Series win Sunday renders the baseball playoffs about as meaningful as the long march to the Grammy Awards. Not that I have much interest in amateur baseball, or any kind of baseball outside of my ignorantly-constructed and foundering fantasy team featuring a certain player who was just added to the 15-day disabled list for a "sprained thumb," but as a staunch playoff advocate, there's no way I can stand for a national championship by a team that had a losing record in its own conference. OSU tied for sixth place in the Pac Ten during the regular season at 10-14, when two teams with better conference records, California (12-12) and Washington (11-13), failed to make the NCAA tournament at all; the Beavers did not win a Pac Ten tournament and were likely one of the last teams in the national bracket, based largely on their out-of-conference success against the likes of Hawaii-Hilo and Evansville and their 2006 national title. This is far more egregious than last year's St. Louis Cardinals or the `05 Steelers, both regular season winners who met an objective criteria for entry to the postseason; any tournament that could end in a result like Sunday's is not nearly discriminating enough at the outset.

Damn you, Beavers.
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This argument probably also obligates me to insist the NCAA basketball tournament, which I love, is also too large, though for all its Cinderella trappings there hasn't been anything so absurd as a loser in its own league winning in hoops since Villanova in 1985. This is a lesson for the coming football playoffs as it evolves into an unprecedented profit monster: keep the bracket small. Cap the process at eight teams, eight good, solid consistent teams who have won a major conference and/or would find themselves in the current, roped-off BCS structure. Football could never accommodate a 64-team bracket, but even 16 teams - which I would still prefer to a poll-based system of naming a champion, for the record - opens the door too wide for a two or three-loss runner-up to render its regular season imperfections irrelevant. If anti-playoff forces are right about one negative to a playoff, surely the relegation of an exciting regular season to mere preliminary is it. Those games have to matter, and an out-of-control tournament for its own sake undermines the point - entry to a braket has to be hard, or the championship at its end isn't worth the richly-finished wood it's engraved on. A team that ties for sixth place in its conference cannot be a national champion and should never be in the running.

I have already said this, by the way ("sixteen teams is too many cooks for the broth in my opinion"). But to reiterate: keep the bracket small, for the love of god.

Quickly: Ed Orgeron in the middle of 400 screaming women and other completely impossible scenarios at the Ole Miss Ladies' Football Forum ... SEC speed: myth or no, Florida is obsessed ... Pardon the language, please, but Jim Delany sounds like a kook about the Big Ten Network ... On vacation with the Bowdens ... Xavier Lee: unprecedented flop? What about Dan Kendra? ... Ben Mauk takes his last, best shot at Cincinnati. Check out his high school stats ... Ditto ... Penn State lands the third of its Louisiana Mauti dynasty ... Searching for some kind of preseason consensus on Iowa, or for any disagreement about Nebraska ... Troy Calhoun, firmly in charge at Air Force ... A few summertime ideas for stressed/obsessed Arkansas fans ... Linebackers galore commiting to Nebraska ... Houston players get their picnic on with the kids ... Thomas Brown, stronger than ever. Ask Georgia's Orthotron machine, whatever that is ... And get seriously in-depth with outdated Sun Devil Stadium, courtesy the East Valey Tribune.

The Rap Sheet
Crimes, misdemeanors and eligibility-crippling issues legal, academic, institutional and otherwise.
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Rough weekend for South Carolina, and this has nothing to do with it:

Quentin Richardson: "In good spirits."
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Recovering, from an early morning stab wound, USC offensive line recruit Quentin Richardson, a member of last year's Rivals' top 100 (you didn't think it was going to be the 'Cocks other incoming trouble magnet again, did you?). Richardson underwent surgery for a cut to his upper body after an "altercation" at a party in the wee hours Saturday/Sunday but has no life-threatening injuries, according to his godfather. No charges filed.

Also avoiding charges, for now: ex-Carolina quarterback and play-by-play announcer Todd Ellis, who made a couple hundred thousand dollars as one of the core investors in the alleged digital music pyramid scheme that apparently focused its efforts on a network of athletes and coaches winding its way out of Columbia. Ellis and State columnist Ron Morris are convinced until further notice - more federal hearings on the BurnLounge implosion are scheduled for Tuesday in L.A. - that Ellis is guilty of "nothing but poor judgment," which is a better assessment than the NCAA gave the South Carolina athletic program's own guilty-pleading self Friday:

The USC athletics department self-reported eight NCAA secondary violations since the beginning of this year, the school announced Friday.

Five of the violations were Level I and were reported to the NCAA. The other more minor violations were sent to the SEC office.

The football team was involved in three of the violations, but only one was Level I. The school reported that an unnamed member of the football staff had contact with a prospective recruit in March during a so-called dark period, when the only permissible contact is supposed to be accidental.

"It was alleged that it was pre-arranged," said Val Shealy, USC's associate athletics director for compliance, declining to say who made the allegation. "We had a statement that said it wasn't. But we reported it anyway."

Shealy said the team stopped recruiting the player, and the Gamecocks assistant coach received a letter of caution. The player committed elsewhere.

Along with minor violations in other sports - the type of ubiquitous jaywalking that only gets caught when a school admits slipping up in hopes of leniency from its paper-pushing master in Indianapolis - Carolina football is guilty of contacting another recruit the same day the player had a game in a different sport (gasp!) and featuring a player in a brochure for a camp in which he was not participating (no!). ¡Viva las violacions de bureaucratica!

South Carolina also announced half a dozen anonymous athletes among 41 tested for anabolic steroids and 400 "drugs of abuse" came back positive for non-prescribed marijuana, with no reported repurcussions.

Withdrawn, by Penn State's Office of Judicial Affairs, allegations that linebacker Lydell Sargeant assaulted fellow students with a barstool or in any other fashion in the infamous and quickly unraveling April bar brawl case that's dominated the Lions' offseason. Bizarrely, though, the office stood by its original punishment, expelling Sargent along with four teammates for the rest of the summer session and placing him on probation for the rest of his PSU career, an "absurd result" for a player essentially cleared of wrongdoing, according to his biased but probably also correct lawyer. Sargeant won't appeal the ruling.

Lawyers for Anthony Scirritto, one of only two of the original six players charged who still faces serious felonies, filed an appeal to have the case dismissed on grounds of insufficient evidence: Scirrotto places himself in the apartment only after the fight, and no witnesses mention him inside at all. If he succeeds, this record-breaking melee is reduced, criminally, to a single scapegoat: defensive lineman Chris Baker.

Failing, to cooperate with police, an apparent witness to a murder in California earlier this month charged last week to former Montana teammate Jimmy Wilson. Qwenton Freeman played two years at his hometown Pasadena City College, signed to play at Washington, failed to meet standards there, transferred to Arizona, left the Wildcats in 2005 and caught on at I-AA power Montana, where he is apparently eager to prove his loyalty to his secondary mate:

[L.A. Sheriff's Dept. Sgt. Steve] Rubino said investigators were following up on leads they received from witnesses in California -- and to interview players on UM's football team.

"It left a bad taste in our mouth that the players wouldn't cooperate with us. If it was on the other foot and their teammate got killed, they would be really forthcoming," said Rubino, who returned to Los Angeles on Wednesday night. "Someone got murdered here and we're just looking for some cooperation."

Grizzly players have been ordered not to talk to the media, though I doubt the athletic department's authority in such matters extends to major criminal investigations. Freeman also has two warrants for his arrest in Arizona for failing to complete a diversion program on an old assault charge. Wilson remains in jail in Los Angeles on $2 million bond until a July 9 hearing.