NY Post Compares University of Cincinnati to Halfway House/Rehab Center

The internet is an interesting place.  You can find a variety of opinions on any number of topics, and the internet sports world is no different.  With it being March, the internet is ablaze with differing views on the state of college basketball.  Like anything else, there are bad opinions, and even absurd ones.

This morning I discovered a trash heap of an article.  Phil Mushnick, a writer for the NY Post, wrote one of the dumbest and most ill-conceived articles I’ve ever read (linked below).  In the article, Mushnick discusses all of the problems with college basketball, which includes the University of Cincinnati.  For Mr. Mushnick, the following circumstances are causing the sport to “pass by” old-fashioned purists:

  • D’Angelo Russell prefers to wear the number zero for the Ohio State Buckeyes because, to him, zero represents the number of defenders that can guard him.  According to Mushnick, Russell’s reasoning demonstrates that he’s a “braggart.” However, this article suggests that self-confidence, and even trash talking, is not a new development.  This one, too.
  • New Mexico State’s roster has a scandalously-foreign composition.  To Mushnick, it is objectionable that they have five players from Canada (eh), two players from France, and two players from the continent of Africa.  Xenophobic much?  I genuinely struggle to understand Mushnick’s problem with New Mexico State recruiting international players for its team.  Bizarre.
  • Octavius Ellis and the University of Cincinnati are the reason that the “game is passing by a lot of us.”

Now, before I go into his bizarre rant, I need to link a couple of articles about Mr. Mushnick so you can “consider the source.”

  • Here is an article about Phil Mushnick’s “baby mama” rant about Adrian Peterson’s deceased two year old child.
  • Here is an article discussing Phil Mushnick’s conclusion that Donald Sterling was lynched.
  • Here is an article describing a Phil Mushnick diatribe against the Brooklyn Nets.  He suggested that, because of Jay-Z’s ownership of the Brooklyn Nets, the cheerleaders should be called the Brooklyn B___ches or Hoes and the logo changed to a 9 mm with hollow-tip shell casings strewn beneath.

In sum, he’s not the kindest and most fair-minded gentleman.

Yesterday, he used his column to attack Octavius Ellis and the University of Cincinnati.  Mushnick applauded Verne Lundquist for his description of Ellis’ past mistakes followed by an explanation that Ellis’ mother was murdered by his father.  Mushnick went on to say:

“Still, Lundquist didn’t hit on the larger issues: The University of Cincinnati is not a halfway house or a rehab center; it’s a college.

And since Bob Huggins, now at West Virginia, coached there, 1989-2005, the school has been a notoriously welcoming, full-scholarship snug harbor for the high-risk who arrive with crime-in-mind — but can help UC win basketball games. That’s the only requisite. Ellis has twice met that requirement.”

While you cannot respond to all of the crazy stuff on the internet, this requires some discussion.  First, I’ll begin with the obvious.  Halfway house?  Rehab center?  Snug harbor for the high-risk who arrive with crime-in-mind?  It is difficult to even parse out the imbedded stupidity in his observation, especially as applied to Octavius Ellis and the University of Cincinnati.  Ellis did not commit aggravated assault with this foul against Purdue.  Is it a hard foul?  Yes.  However, that kind of contact happens when guys are undersized and fighting for rebounding position.  The refs called a technical foul and removed him from the game, but that’s no crime.  If that’s a crime, a lot of big men around the country deserve jail time because I’ve seen contact like that go unnoticed in lots of games.

Further, has Ellis made mistakes in the past?  Sure.  But can you show me a successful Division I athletic program that hasn’t recruited athletes that make mistakes?  The University of Cincinnati is no different than any other school.

In fact, I’m proud to cheer for a program that doesn’t walk away from its athletes after they make mistakes.  Mick Cronin, Larry Davis, Mike Bohn and company could have run from a number of players, past and present, that made mistakes.  They didn’t.  Accordingly, I’m proud to be associated with a University that doesn’t take advantage of the benefit that its athletes provide (revenue from ticket sales, merchandise, and increased admissions), and then disassociate from athletes at the first sign of trouble.

Second, what does Huggins have to do with anything?  Seriously.  He hasn’t coached UC in a decade.

Third, Verne Lundquist was way, way out of line for discussing Ellis’ family hardships in the context of that game.  To better understand the context of the game during Lundquist’s detour, watch the video linked here for yourself (but ignore the stupid commentary below it, which is also premised upon perception rather than reality).  The first Ellis foul was physical, but not uncommonly physical.  And afterward he attempted to brace Lyles, acknowledging that he’d likely affected his balance with the foul.  Lyles then swatted Ellis’ hand away in dramatic fashion.  Where did Lyles come from?  What was his childhood like?  Or does wearing the blue uniform immunize him from scrutiny?

The second Ellis non-incident involved Aaron Harrison walking across the court to bump into Ellis.  I’ve witnessed similar incidents at middle school dances.  Please watch and re-watch the video.  It’s a two-shot foul.  So, where was Harrison walking to?  The low block where he always lines up for free throws?  Nope.  Some gripe because Ellis celebrates afterward.  Wouldn’t you?  Ellis celebrated the technical foul on Aaron Harrison because: (A) he realized he’s impacting their mental game, and (B) the two free throws and possession were critical.  Nevertheless, it was Aaron Harrison that initiated the contact and followed with a shove.  Where does Harrison come from?  What was his childhood like?

The third Ellis non-incident involved Willie Cauley-Stein.  This foul was just two big men battling for position.  Ellis did absolutely nothing wrong, yet he has been described as the provocateur.  I was actually at the game, and I saw Kentucky’s big men whispering into Ellis’ ear, and doing everything in their power to get him worked up.  Even the Kentucky cheerleaders were provoking Ellis.

Octavius Ellis and the University of Cincinnati should be proud of last Saturday’s performance.  They went toe-to-toe with the “unbeatable” Wildcats during a rebuilding year for UC (7 new players), and kept it close most of the game.  During the first half, UK was on the ropes, but they came back as great teams often do.

For me, Saturday’s game against Kentucky illustrated the beauty of college basketball.  The competition was fierce and physical.  And even without a tremendous amount of scoring, the game was entertaining until the very end.  College basketball is doing just fine, Phil Mushnick.  You say that the game “is passing by a lot of us.”  Given your history and the bizarre conclusions drawn in the article, I think you should explain just who “us” refers to.

By Brian Fox

Phil Mushnick’s article linked here.