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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Hofstra-gate

The NCAA basketball tournaments are beginning this week.  While some law prof bloggers are looking forward to match-ups involving their home institutions, we at Hofstra are left considering what might have been.  Hofstra's men team was left out of the big dance despite a 24-6 record and a berth in the Colonial Atheletic Association final.  What is most galling is that George Mason, a team that Hofstra beat twice, is going instead.  George Mason had a slightly tougher out of conference schedule, but it has been tough to rationalize the two head-to-head losses.  A critique of the NCAA tournament picks is here.  Gary Moore, our own Assistant Dean for Law School Information Systems and new blogger, posted on the NCAAs here.

Two additional facts are giving this controversy more life.  One is that fact that GMU's Tony Skinn is being suspended for punching a Hofstra player (Loren Stokes) in the groin at the end of GMU's CAA tourney loss.  (Gordon Smith mentioned the "cheap shot" here.)  Not only did the committee apparently overlook this behavior, it also overlooked the effect on GMU's play.  At the bottom of this article, ESPN's Jay Bilas is quoted as saying: "Hofstra beat them twice late in the season, plus George Mason's second-best player has been suspended (for the tournament opener against Michigan State). How can that not affect their tournament profile?"

In addition, there is an apparent conflict of interest on the NCAA tournament committee.  GMU athletic director Tom O'Connor is on the ten-member selection committee.  In addition, University of Virginia athletic director Craig Littlepage is the head of the committee, and this web site reports that Littlepage and GMU head coach Jim Larranaga are "old friends, dating to Larranaga's days as an assistant at Virginia."  Based on these conflicts, MSNBC and WFAN host Don Imus called for a criminal investigation (perhaps slightly tongue in cheek.)  Some audio on the controversy can be called up here from WFAN's Mike and the Mad Dog; see clips with Hofstra's Tom Pecora, Iona's Jeff Ruland, and CBS's Jim Nantz.

I don't know much about how the committee operates, but it would be interesting to apply corporate law concepts to their actions.  There are clear duty of loyalty concerns here -- the committee members have a duty of loyalty to the NCAA, but they have conflicts of interest when it comes to their own teams.  Did the GMU director step out when GMU was being considered?  Did Littlepage step out, given his connections to the GMU head coach?  Even if the other independent committee members approved the inclusion of GMU, did Littlepage exert "domination" over the other committee members with regard to that vote?

It's likely that this is not much more than a one-day story.  But as a Hofstra prof, it's hard not to be a little outraged at the way this has played out.

Posted by Matt Bodie on March 14, 2006 at 05:13 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink

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Comments

umm...George Mason in the Final Four...I think that's enough said...

Posted by: Peter Han | Mar 28, 2006 4:41:06 PM

You forgot this rule. If your AD is on the Selection Committee and your coach is an old friend of Littlepage, welcome aboard. This is the only criteria that can account for Hofstra losing out to George Mason. Hofstra beat Mason in their only matchups, twice in the last ten days of the season. They beat Mason with Tony Skinn playing; can Mason really be the better choice with Skinn not available for their first game? Hofstra's won-loss record was better if all games are included. Out of conference wins? Not much for either team, Hofstra's win at St. Johns being the closest thing to impressive. However, Littlepage (Selection Committee head)did point out George Mason had quality out of conference losses. An example he gave, Wake Forest, last place team in the ACC. Apparently the committee followed the rule stated above and then searched very hard for a justification.

George Mason's great performance in the tournament does not in any way vindicate the Selection Committee. They presumably made their decision based on the data available at the time, not by gazing into a crystal ball.

Posted by: David L. Bird | Mar 27, 2006 10:01:24 AM

Still think it was a mistake?

Posted by: Bruce | Mar 26, 2006 6:39:28 PM

NCAA basketball tournament participants should be chosen based on objective criteria like those used for the NCAA hockey tournament. Those criteria are subject to criticism, sure, and certainly there is room to tinker with and improve on them -- but since they are objective criteria, there is no chance of arguing that any picks are biased. Indeed, each year, the public knows the teams that will play in the NCAA tournament, and what each team will be seeded, in advance, because USCHO.com has developed a ranking system which mimics the selection criteria.

Posted by: Joe Leahy | Mar 20, 2006 7:22:35 PM

Matt,

Thanks for the kind words in your article. If anyone is interested, go to my site and you'll see that on Sunday I posted an article on rules that the committee needed to go by when selecting the bubble teams. They followed it on some and not on others.

Posted by: Gary Moore | Mar 15, 2006 11:01:41 AM

The big east guy must have spent a lot of time in the hallway.

Posted by: a | Mar 15, 2006 10:34:44 AM

Committee members are required to leave the room whenever a school from their conference is being considered. They also (traditionally) leave whenever a school to which they have other ties (alma mater, former employer, etc.) is being considered, but I don't believe it's required.

Posted by: CL | Mar 14, 2006 6:51:52 PM

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