Archive for the ‘Mike Balogun’ Category

National Communists Against Athletes (No, Really)

August 25, 2009

If we are to believe Mike Balogun, Stalin, McCarthy and the Spanish Inquisition have nothing on the NCAA.

By way of background for the uninitiated, Balogun is in the process of suing the NCAA for unexpectedly revoking his eligibility a few weeks back related to issues arising from his participation in a semi-pro football league. At issue in the case has been whether or not Balogun played in the league after his 21st birthday. If so, the 25-year-old linebacker would be ineligible this season.

Admittedly, Homerism is no legal scholar. However, something about the Association’s version of “due process” as depicted in Balogun’s petition to the Cleveland County District Court seems a little off to me. The timeline of the case:

-May 2008: NCAA reviews Balogun’s involvement with the North American Football League and clears him to play at Oklahoma as a junior.

-January 2009: Intrepid college football gumshoe Thom Brenneman reveals on national TV during the BCS title game broadcast that Balogun played semi-pro football. (Shows what spending five minutes with Tim Tebow can do for you.) Although this should come as a surprise to no one at NCAA headquarters, seeing as Balogun’s eligibility already has been certified, the amateurism authorities decide they want another bite at the apple.

-March 2009: With its balls firmly trapped in the Association’s vice grip thanks to Kelvin Sampson, Rhett Bomar and J.D. Quinn, the OU compliance department rounds up one of Balogun’s former assistant coaches, who states he thinks Balogun played after his 21st birthday. Meanwhile, OU also hands over affidavits from Balogun and his former team’s owner in which both contradict the coach’s recollection. Plus, the league’s ex-commissioner tells OU compliance that records show Balogun didn’t play in the league during the time in question and that the information being presented against Balogun–internet box scores–is unreliable.

-July 2009: Balogun appears before NCAA investigators yet again to discuss his status.

-August 2009: Balogun is ruled ineligible.

(For proof of just how stupid this entire scenario is in the first place, note that the conference’s former commissioner says Balogun never received any remuneration for playing. In fact, Balogun himself had to pay a referee fee just to participate.)

Aside from the fact that Mike is apparently a common nickname for “Ademola,” I found this passage to be possibly the most interesting part of the brief:

“Despite being provided with (information contrary to the claim that Balogun played semi-pro football after the age of 21), Defendants [the NCAA] continued to furtively investigate Balogun’s amateur status and certification for several months without advising Balogun of the existence of the investigation and without advising him as to the witnesses interviewed or the materials gathered during the investigation. In addition, at no time during this investigation did Defendants advise Balogun that he had the right to have his interests represented during this investigation.”

OK, for purposes of this discussion, let’s set aside the bizarre standards of proof the NCAA appears to be using in Balogun’s case. Instead, let’s focus strictly on the Association’s process of adjudication, which looks like it would be best described as “railroading.” Stealing a page out of the Gestapo’s playbook, it appears as though justice NCAA-style means conducting ongoing covert investigations of college athletes, denying the accused access to the evidence against them and ignoring the principle of double (and even triple) jeopardy.

Today came word that the NCAA is working with Balogun’s lawyer to potentially achieve an out-of-court resolution. I hope it works out for Balogun’s sake, but you can’t help wondering if the Association would benefit from having its day in court.

Linking Up: August 22

August 23, 2009

Musings while wondering why boxing always goes down “after dark”…

-Mike Balogun’s lawyer says his client is approaching a compromise with the NCAA that would be a “win-win” for all parties involved. What exactly does the NCAA have to win in this case?

-The Skinny says License to Wed is one of the top 10 comedies of this decade. Homerism says I’d rather ride a bike without a seat for 90 minutes than subject myself to that.

-Remember how the Associated Press removed its poll from the BCS process because the writers all of a sudden got religion about “creating” the news instead of reporting it? Would love to know why they even continue to publish it if that’s truly the case. If the AP poll names a different champ at the end of the season–as was the case in 2003–wouldn’t that “make” news? Funny thing is, I think the writers poll actually has more credibility.
Joe Buck Live returns September 22! Guests include Andrew Dice Clay, Rex Ryan and Mike Tyson.
-Every time Vince Young drops back to throw, Tim Tebow drops a spot in the NFL draft. I don’t think there is one good thing to be said about VY’s performance in Friday night’s preseason game against Dallas. Seriously, after watching him play two preseason games so far this year, I can’t envision any circumstance in which I’d put him in an NFL game that didn’t involve a four-touchdown lead and less than five minutes to play.
Young is one of the five best college football players I’ve ever seen, but he is a testament to the vast differences between the college and pro games for a quarterback. He certainly has attitude issues, but his real problems start with his skills as a passer. You just can’t “turn” a guy into an NFL-caliber thrower. Doesn’t happen.
-Homerism’s ranking of USC at number two in my preseason power poll has generated some discussion among his six or seven loyal readers. Yes, I understand that the Trojans will have a freshman at quarterback this year. Yes, I know Pete Carroll has a whole new defense coming in this year.
Read the explanation of my preseason ranking process carefully, though. I happen to think USC drops two or three games this season. How I see the season playing out is irrelevant, though. The factors working against USC–mainly a number of tough road games–bear no weight on these rankings. If you lined up the Trojans any of the 120 D-I teams on a completely neutral field in Mongolia, I’d favor USC right now over everyone other than Florida.
-Season one of my OU dynasty in NCAA 2010 ended today with the Sooners drilling Florida, 28-14, in the BCS title game. Three turnovers marred Tim Tebow’s final college game. So OU has that going for it.
-I really like the Saints this year.
-Homerism will be participating in a college fantasy football league this season sponsored by my homies over at GatorsFirst. We’re drafting on Monday night. If anyone has any advice, feel free to shoot it my way. While I love talking fantasy sports, few things are more boring than listening to people talk about their own fantasy teams. I’ll probably run down the draft results on Tuesday or Wednesday, at which point I’ll make a call as to whether or not I should give it much play during the regular season. If it sounds like something you’re interested in reading about, make your opinion known. Thanks.

Don’t Look at Me

August 22, 2009

Florida State is claiming no ill intention in its inquiry into Mike Balogun’s eligibility. According to the Daily Oklahoman, however, Balogun’s court filings say the Seminoles gradually worked the question of the linebacker’s status up the compliance food chain.

So, FSU’s compliance department contacted OU looking for help with Corey Surrency’s case, huh? Plausible, but seems a little fishy to me.

The Burden of Proof, From Balogun to Bush

August 20, 2009

In the grand scheme of the 2009 college football season, Mike Balogun doesn’t mean much. The hardscrabble 25-year-old ex-construction worker is no Butkus Award winner, but he would have given Oklahoma some nice depth at middle linebacker. Maybe he could have boosted his stock with the pro scouts and won a spot somewhere in the back of the pro draft.

Instead of fighting for a starting spot on the Sooner defense, though, Balogun is now fighting an uphill battle against the most rigid of rigid bureaucracies, the NCAA.
Over what, exactly? Well, according to court filings submitted in his lawsuit against the Association, there’s a box score floating around the Internet that says Balogun played in a semi-pro football game. There’s also the recollection of a former assistant coach that Balogun suited up for the Maryland Marauders of the North American Football League after his 21st birthday.
That’s it.

That was enough evidence to lead the powers that be to rule Balogun ineligible for the season. Nevermind that Balogun says he didn’t do it. Nevermind that the team’s former owner says Balogun didn’t do it. Nevermind that the league’s former commissioner says Balogun didn’t do it, the box score being presented against Balogun is unreliable and the league records don’t show Balogun playing. Nevermind that we’re talking about a fly-by-night semi-pro where it looks like the game is just a warm-up for the beers afterwards. Nevermind that the NCAA already cleared Balogun before he suited up for OU last year.

In the grand scheme of USC’s return to glory earlier this decade, Reggie Bush meant a lot. The decade’s most dynamic player helped propel the Trojans to conference and national titles, winning a Heisman Trophy by the largest margin in history along the way. When he was done dazzling college fans, he took his act to the pros, where he signed a lucrative contract as a high draft pick.

Since then, of course, accusations have surfaced that Bush and his family accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in illicit benefits during his three years in Troy. The people who have come forward against Bush claim to have all kinds of documentation backing up their stories. Bush himself hasn’t exactly done much to defend himself against the allegations, reaching an out-of-court settlement with one of his accusers who was suing the now New Orleans Saints running back.

Yet, the NCAA has been investigating the USC athletic department for going on four years now, supposedly tying even more scandalous allegations against the men’s basketball program into the Bush investigation. So far, nothing.

If the case against Balogun is supposed to be strong, the case against Bush looks airtight. To be fair, we have no idea what kind of case has been presented in USC’s defense. (Assuming a case has been presented at all.) However, that doesn’t make the difference in apparent standards of proof any less glaring.

Of course, there are some important differences in the two cases—chiefly that Balogun met with the NCAA in-person to explain his situation, while Bush has blown the Association off. There’s also the matter of OU willingly handing over the goods that put the nail in Balogun’s coffin, while USC appears to be doing its part to vigorously observe the NCAA doing its digging.

Oh, and one other difference: Balogun is a backup linebacker who few outside of Oklahoma will miss, while USC is one of college football’s golden geese.

Linking Up: August 17

August 18, 2009
Here’s what running through Homerism’s head as I await Rhett Bomar’s (legitimate) professional debut:

*Carey Murdock, editor of SoonerScoop.com, looked into Mike Balogun’s former semi-pro league, inspiring him to write this missive to the powers that be at NCAA headquarters.

Unfortunately for Balogun, the NCAA typically doesn’t allow much latitude in these types of situations. It would shock Homerism if The Bricklayer was reinstated. Pretty sad state of affairs.
*Chad Millman, ESPN’s new “sports wagering” writer, has a pretty cool article on the latest rage in football handicapping.
*Saw Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story this weekend. I just don’t get these spoof flicks. Plus, is there a more blah actress than Jenna Fischer in the business today?
*Florida’s Brandon Spikes says OU plays dirty. This is like all the complaining you hear from Florida fans about OU supposedly holding the whole time during the national championship game. You won the game, Gators. Move on.
*Sports bloggers have seemingly made an entire niche industry out of rankings and lists, so I’m well aware that this complaint is rife with irony. Homerism is as guilty of it as anyone. However, today’s deluge of pontificating on college football’s top “villains” is the kind of just-skirting-the-line-of-news junk from ESPN that really rubs Homerism the wrong way. Instead of actually trying to do some research and reporting that might produce some semblance of insight into the great game of college football, we’re treated some pointless, warmed-over drivel that puts the Worldwide Leader right in the middle of the conversation.
The most infuriating part is how the rest of the sports media helps perpetuate the ESPN monolith. Note, for instance, this recent blog post from Guerin Emig, OU beat reporter for the Tulsa World: “ESPN, Sooners off to a rough start.” Every Mickey Mouse–get it?–college football writer with an Internet connection is out there posting predictions on 2009 season. Yet, when ESPN does it, somehow it becomes news?
(And, yes, as I previously mentioned, the irony isn’t lost on Homerism.)
*Wow, listening to Jon Gruden talk about the Wildcat on Monday Night Football is making me a little uncomfortable. He’s going to need a cigarette when he’s done. Meanwhile, Jaws sounds like a spurned schoolgirl with Chucky in the booth.
*Couldn’t you see something like this happening at OU during the Howard Schnellenberger days?
*A young black football player giving a “shoutout” to Mike Vick… AND he never paid a parking ticket?! Draft at your own risk, NFL!
*Hope you’ve been keeping up with the ongoing 2009 season preview project the good guys over at GatorsFirst are working on. It’s interesting to see how a bunch of other blatant homers view college football at large.

Bummed for Balogun

August 15, 2009

Given that the NCAA cleared Oklahoma LB Mike “The Bricklayer” Balogun to play last season, today’s news that he has been declared ineligible is pretty stunning.

For those unfamiliar with Balogun’s background, the 25-year-old former construction worker came to Norman last season out of Lackawanna (Pa.) Community College. After graduating high school, where he was forced to quit football so that he could get a part-time job, Balogun played two seasons of “semi-pro” ball in Maryland. (Homerism was as surprised as you probably are right now to learn such a thing still exists.) Anyway, apparently NCAA rules mandate that college players lose a year of eligibility for every year they play semi-pro ball after their 21st birthday. The purpose of the rule? I have no idea.

Anyway, the long and short of it is that Balogun can continue to practice with the team until next Wednesday, at which point his status should be cleared up. However, coach Bob Stoops didn’t sound too confident: “We’re still hopeful that Mike will be eligible for this season, but we’ll have to see what happens over the coming days.”

Homerism has a soft spot for guys like Balogun. It’s tough not to admire someone who scraped and clawed his way out of a tough situation to achieve something great. Balogun brought that same blue-collar attitude with him to Norman, working his way up the depth chart as injuries felled the Sooners’ middle linebackers. By the end of the year, The Bricklayer found himself starting in the Big 12 and national title games.

This season, Balogun had been competing for the middle linebacker spot with senior Ryan Reynolds, last year’s first-stringer who’s coming off his second major knee injury, as well as sophomore Austin Box and true freshman Tom Wort. Although OU coach Bob Stoops’ decision to close the vast majority fall practices has choked off the flow of information coming out of fall camp, signs indicated Balogun would see meaningful playing time for the Sooners this season.

OU is fortunate that linebacker may be the deepest position on the 2009 team this season. The coaching staff seems to view Reynolds–one of defensive coordinator Brent Venables’ all-time favorites–as the odds-on choice to get the nod at middle linebacker. Box is expected to shift back to the middle after working some on the outside. He played extremely well in the middle last year when called into action. Plus, early enrollee Wort had a stellar spring and has carried that over into fall practice. He may turn out to be too good to keep off the field this year.

Still, Reynolds’ injury history makes the need for a solid backup or capable rotation pretty clear. At the short open session on Thursday, Balogun ran with the first-team defense, as Reynolds watched from the sidelines. Thinking back on the revolving door of players who saw action at middle linebacker for OU last year, the loss of The Bricklayer looms larger than you’d think for the Sooners.