No. 1 Tennessee winning big without heralded recruits
By STEVE MEGARGEE
AP Sports Writer
Thursday, February 7
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The top-ranked Tennessee Volunteers are winning without any top-100 recruits on their roster.
They have blossomed into national contenders, winning 17 straight games — the longest active winning streak of any Division I team.
“There’s some programs around the country that could never get by with recruiting the class that we brought in that’s having the success we’re having right now, because their media and their fan base would be screaming that we’re not recruiting the best players in the country,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said.
Those players have been good enough to get Tennessee (21-1) atop the rankings.
Barnes arrived at Tennessee in 2015 as the Vols’ third coach in as many seasons. The Vols went a combined 31-35 in Barnes’ first two seasons before winning a share of the Southeastern Conference title last year. Now they’re in position to contend for the first Final Four berth in school history.
Tennessee’s highest-rated prospect according to composite rankings of recruiting sites compiled by 247Sports is freshman D.J. Burns, who is redshirting after being ranked 108th in his class.
The only other team since 2005 to reach No. 1 in the Associated Press Top 25 without any top-100 high school recruits as determined by the 247Sports Composite is the 2015-16 Oklahoma squad that featured Buddy Hield and reached the Final Four. 247Sports’ data doesn’t include the complete recruiting rankings of college rosters from before 2004-05.
“We know we can play with anybody,” junior guard Jordan Bowden said. “Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work.”
Tennessee’s rise is a testament to the coaching staff’s ability to evaluate and develop talent.
It also shows how Barnes has changed the narrative that surrounded him at Texas, where he coached future NBA All-Stars Kevin Durant and LaMarcus Aldridge but got fired despite leading the Longhorns to 16 NCAA Tournament appearances in 17 seasons.
“When he got the Tennessee job, his reputation was recruiter and not necessarily that great a coach or developer,” said Jerry Meyer, the director of recruiting at 247Sports. “Man, has he flipped that script at Tennessee.”
Meyer credits Barnes’ ability to identify ideal fits for Tennessee as proof of his recruiting prowess, even without a top-100 prospect on his roster.
“Obviously it’s not hard to identify five-stars if you’re a coach,” Meyer said. “They’re five-stars. Then it’s just can you beat out the competition to get them. I think the truly great recruiting stories are these kinds of situations. I’d throw Texas Tech as a good example with Tennessee, of finding those under-the-radar type guys. Wichita State did it when they were really good with (Gregg) Marshall.
“To me, those are your greatest recruiters. Those are evaluators, put it that way. They do a great job of evaluating and not just following the herd or looking at numbers from recruiting services or rankings.”
Barnes’ evaluation skills are evident from the players brought in for a recruiting weekend that helped build Tennessee’s program.
The four players visiting that weekend were Jordan Bone, De’Riante Jenkins, Josh Okogie and Grant Williams. Only Jenkins was ranked higher than 171st.
“I remember Jordan Bone was the first that said ‘I want to be a part of this,’” Barnes said.
Tennessee had begun recruiting Bone after his speed caught the eye of assistant coach Rob Lanier, who had been scouting a different guard prospect. Bone now is a three-year starter who leads the SEC in assists (6.6).
Williams, who chose Tennessee over Ivy League and mid-major programs, is the SEC’s leading scorer (20.1). Okogie played two seasons at Georgia Tech before getting drafted in the first round and Jenkins is VCU’s second-leading scorer.
Barnes’ ability to develop talent became obvious from the progress of former Tennessee guard Kevin Punter Jr., recruited by ex-Vols coach Donnie Tyndall. After Barnes suggested he alter his shooting mechanics, Punter watched his scoring average skyrocket from 10.3 in 2014-15 to 22.2 in 2015-16.
“I can’t talk about our foundation without mentioning him,” Barnes said. “He was really the lead guy on it.”
When Tennessee’s younger players saw how Punter improved, they were more inclined to follow Barnes’ instructions.
Barnes asked Williams and Admiral Schofield to lose weight and reshape their bodies to better handle the SEC’s physical play. They’re now Tennessee’s top two scorers.
Kyle Alexander didn’t start playing basketball seriously until his junior year in high school, but the former soccer and volleyball player from Canada has emerged as a quality rim protector. Bowden, a lightly recruited local player, has been a pivotal performer for three seasons. Lamonte’ Turner has a knack for making clutch shots.
“These are all high-character kids with really good work ethics,” Lanier said. “You find out when you meet all these guys and hear all these guys speak, there’s a level of humility they all have. That enables them to receive coaching in a certain way.”
The team’s success has helped Tennessee attract more heralded recruits. Tennessee’s freshman class next season will include guard Josiah James, ranked 16th in his class according to the 247Sports Composite.
As higher-rated prospects gravitate to Tennessee, the Vols want to make sure they sign guys just as coachable as their current players.
“What we have to make sure of is we don’t change our formula just to be sexy,” Lanier said.
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Last-minute decisions in SEC add drama to signing day
By STEVE MEGARGEE
AP Sports Writer
Wednesday, February 6
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Leave it to the Southeastern Conference to provide some drama on signing day that otherwise seemed anticlimactic.
Even though the vast majority of recruits already had finalized their college decisions in the December signing period, the traditional February signing date still provided a few surprises as players SEC teams were targeting backed out of longstanding verbal commitments.
Wide receiver George Pickens, the nation’s No. 24 overall prospect according to composite rankings of recruiting sites compiled by 247Sports, flipped his commitment from Auburn to Georgia. Alabama lost a couple of top-200 verbal commitments when defensive end Khris Bogle (No. 71) chose Florida and cornerback Christian Williams (No. 160) signed with Miami.
“The big surprise was George Pickens picking Georgia over Auburn,” said Barton Simmons, the director of scouting for 247Sports. “That’s a kid who had been committed to Auburn for two years.”
Alabama still topped the 247Sports Composite team recruiting rankings for the eighth time in the last nine years, thanks mainly to the wealth of heralded prospects it signed in December. Alabama enhanced its class Wednesday by signing defensive tackles Ishmael Sopsher (No. 47) and Byron Young (No. 77) and running back Keilan Robinson (No. 244).
“Alabama is just more than championships,” Sopsher said. “Coach Nick Saban, he’s going to turn you into a man and he’s going to set you up for life.”
Even so, all those signing day switches added some suspense to a February signing date that has lost plenty of relevance since the 2017 arrival of an early signing period.
The SEC had four of the top five teams in the 247Sports Composite rankings as of early Wednesday evening. Georgia was second, Texas A&M fourth and LSU fifth. Also in the top 15 were Florida at No. 9 and Tennessee at No. 12.
“The SEC is known for flips, known for decommitments, known for cut-throat recruiting,” said Mike Farrell, the director of recruiting for Rivals.
Some other notable recruiting stories from around the SEC.
Alabama’s move to the top of the recruiting rankings came one year after it signed a class that ranked fifth in the team standings, ending a string of seven straight first-place finishes. Georgia topped the 2018 team standings.
“We’re certainly satisfied,” Saban said.
Ole Miss had one of the day’s biggest victories when it beat out Clemson and Alabama for running back Jerrion Ealy, rated 29th in the 247Sports Composite.
But the Rebels shouldn’t celebrate just yet.
Ealy also is a talented baseball player and a potential first-round pick in June’s draft, which could force him into deciding whether to play football at Ole Miss or launch a professional baseball career.
INVADING ENEMY TERRITORY
One interesting element of Georgia’s class is that the Bulldogs signed the top two prospects in the state of Alabama .
Center Clay Webb, ranked second in Alabama and 26th nationally, signed with Georgia in December. The Bulldogs got the top prospect in the state Wednesday when Pickens made his switch from Auburn to Georgia.
The top four prospects in the state of Florida all chose either Alabama or Georgia, though they’d all signed in December. Georgia got defensive end Nolan Smith and cornerback Tyrique Stevenson, while Alabama added running back Trey Sanders and offensive tackle Evan Neal.
Florida did a better job of protecting its home state Wednesday by getting Bogle to switch from Alabama to the Gators and beating out Georgia for cornerback Kaiir Elam (48th).
FORTIFYING THE LINE
Tennessee landed the nation’s top remaining unsigned prospect when it added offensive tackle Darnell Wright, who was 10th overall in the 247Sports Composite.
The additions of Wright and December signee Wanya Morris (28th) should provide a big boost to a Tennessee offensive line that has struggled mightily the last two seasons.
Tennessee added anotherr top-50 recruit Wednesday as linebacker Henry To’oto’o (44th) announced he was choosing the Vols.
“One of the big selling points we’ve had right now that has helped us in recruiting has been our (top-ranked) men’s basketball program,” Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt said. “Everywhere I go, everybody wants to talk about our basketball program. I think that’s a great thing, putting Tennessee on the map again, building the brand.”
Some schools used the signing date as an opportunity to announce the arrivals of transfers. One of the more notable additions was Vanderbilt’s addition of Ball State graduate transfer quarterback Riley Neal, who becomes a potential successor to departing four-year starter Kyle Shurmur.
Vanderbilt also added former Michigan State defensive end Lashawn Paulino-Bell, who spent the 2018 season at East Mississippi Community College.
The Commodores would love these transfers to approach the success of running back KeShawn Vaughn, an Illinois transfer who rushed for 1,244 yards this past season.
AP sports writers David Brandt, Brett Martel, Charles Odum and Teresa Walker contributed to this report
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How bankruptcy can help USA Gymnastics and the Boy Scouts compensate more survivors
Updated February 8, 2019
Author: Pamela Foohey, Associate Professor of Law, Indiana University
Disclosure statement: Pamela Foohey does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Partners: Indiana University provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
USA Gymnastics and the Boy Scouts of America sex abuse scandals have rocked communities nationwide. Revelations regarding decades of the sexual abuse of children and long-running institutional failures to stop it are raising questions about the future of both nonprofits.
USA Gymnastics, the sport’s governing body, employed the now-imprisoned serial abuser Larry Nassar as its team physician. It has filed for bankruptcy. The Boy Scouts of America, which since 2008 has faced at least 200 federal lawsuits, many alleging the cover-up of sexually inappropriate conduct beginning as long as half a century ago, is weighing whether to follow suit.
Survivors are suing USA Gymnastics and the Boy Scouts based on the alleged abuse, raising concerns over what will become of local gyms and troops.
I’m a legal scholar who has studied the bankruptcy cases filed by hundreds of nonprofits, including religious ones like Catholic dioceses. Based on what I’ve observed, I anticipate that this step has the potential to allow these organizations to continue operating and to establish ways to pay sexual abuse survivors going forward.
The situations that USA Gymnastics and the Boy Scouts find themselves in are atypical for bankruptcy cases.
Generally, bankruptcy automatically halts civil lawsuits pending against the filing organization and prevents subsequent lawsuits based on conduct that occurred before the organization’s bankruptcy case. This pause lets troubled organizations continue operating.
In Chapter 11 bankruptcy, also called reorganization, the debtor gets time to work with its creditors and other parties – and a chance to get their operations in order. In these two instances, that would include sexual abuse survivors and the organizations’ liability insurance carriers.
Businesses that file bankruptcy often find themselves in trouble because of financial missteps, poor management or changes in the business environment. For example, retail bankruptcies, such as the filings of Sears, Nine West and Mattress Firm, are rising because of drastic changes in how Americans shop.
The same factors hold true for most of the approximately 125 nonprofits that file for Chapter 11 every year, as I established through my in-depth study of the bankruptcy filings of churches and other religious nonprofits.
Insurers are key
However, the waves of sex abuse allegations waged against USA Gymnastics and the Boy Scouts do closely resemble the numerous Catholic diocese bankruptcy cases filed in places where clergy stand accused of sexually abusing children.
Since 2004, almost 20 dioceses – the ecclesiastical districts under a bishop’s jurisdiction – have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy with the stated purpose of dealing with numerous sexual abuse accusations.
The Catholic diocese reorganizations so far have led to settlements totaling about US$1 billion. In most cases, insurers have agreed to foot more than half of the bill.
Likewise, the ability of USA Gymnastics and the Boy Scouts to reorganize successfully will hinge on whether they can reach deals with their insurers.
When the USA Gymnastics scandal broke, questions about the extent to which insurers would cover payments to alleged victims soon arose. USA Gymnastics said it filed bankruptcy because its insurance claims did not cover the money it owed Nassar’s victims. It also stated that the overwhelming majority of its assets are proceeds from its prebankruptcy insurance policies, which it claims cover the survivors’ claims.
Since it filed, USA Gymnastics has sought a judgment from the bankruptcy court about the degree to which the 12 insurance companies it lists in its petition must cover survivors’ claims.
Similarly, the Boy Scouts will need to work with insurers to determine the scope of coverage to resolve its many abuse claims. Filing for bankruptcy would make way for negotiations with insurers over these payments.
It seems likely that the Boy Scouts intend to make all of payments to survivors out of insurance money, rather than liquidating camps or other assets – although most camps belong to the local councils, which are incorporated separately.
Abuse survivors will likely get more money if USA Gymnastics and the Boy Scouts can reach agreements with their insurers.
Gyms and troops
In bankruptcy, only the filing business’s assets, debts and operations are subject to the reorganization. For Catholic dioceses that have filed, this means that only the property owned by the diocese is available to sell to pay survivors’ claims. Because dioceses usually do not own parish churches, which typically belong to parishes, those buildings are not subject to be sold to fund settlements.
For USA Gymnastics, this means the affiliated gyms and other regional and state organizations are not at risk and are operating as usual. The American women’s gymnastics team will compete in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, and the men’s team still has a shot to compete as well, even though the U.S. Olympic Committee has begun to sever ties with USA Gymnastics.
The resolution of USA Gymnastics’ case may change how the sport operates in America and worldwide because it oversees rules, competitions and events. Some 3,500 gyms are affiliated with USA Gymnastics through licensing agreements, but they do not belong to the organization and will remain intact. If its reorganization fails, a new governing body for the sport will need to be formed.
The Boy Scouts case might turn out differently. The national organization does not merely set the rules guiding its packs that bring together 2.4 million youth members and nearly 1 million adult volunteers. It supervises agreements between local scout councils and churches, schools and other local nonprofits that independently run scouting programs.
And the national organization manages some camps and other properties that might be subject to sale, including in bankruptcy, to fund settlements to survivors.
Another advantage of bankruptcy is that it requires all creditors with similar claims to be compensated proportionally rather than on a first-come-first-serve basis. This encourages survivors to work together to push leaders to negotiate with insurance carriers and to find other ways to fund settlements. In USA Gymnastics’ bankruptcy case, a special committee representing sexual abuse survivors formed soon after it filed.
The reorganization process gives leaders a chance to show that they are committed to rebuilding their organizations and wisely managing their expenses. So far, USA Gymnastics largely has flopped in this regard.
The organization has both suspended monthly stipend payments to athletes on the men’s national team and tried to maintain its yearly tradition of paying 40 of its leaders bonuses, which required seeking the bankruptcy court’s approval. Among these employees are people who allegedly participated in covering up Larry Nassar’s actions.
The survivors committee’s attorney compared the request to “like rubbing acid in the wounds of the survivors.”
In this #MeToo era, I anticipate seeing more nonprofits become mired in damaging allegations and subsequently filing for bankruptcy under these circumstances.
This article updates an earlier version to clarify the relationship between the Boy Scouts of America and local scouts councils.
Vonn and boyfriend Subban go together like snow and ice
By ANDREW DAMPF and TERESA M. WALKER
AP Sports Writers
Friday, February 8
ARE, Sweden (AP) — Of all the people flying in to attend Lindsey Vonn’s final race — her dad and two siblings, U.S. Ski Team top brass and even Swedish great Ingemar Stenmark — one very significant other will be missing.
P.K. Subban, Vonn’s boyfriend and a defenseman for the NHL’s Nashville Predators, has a game to play in Tennessee on Sunday hours after Vonn bids skiing goodbye in the downhill at the world championships in Sweden.
“I would’ve liked to be there for that and celebrate with her,” Subban told The Associated Press. “I’ve got to do the best I can to support her from afar.”
Earlier this season, when Vonn was out recovering from another in a long line of knee injuries, Subban kept Vonn’s spirits up when she couldn’t even bear to watch a ski race.
“It’s a great thing that I have such an upbeat boyfriend,” Vonn said. “He runs around in a pajama suit making me laugh and that takes my mind off of things. He’s just always positive and happy and maybe a little too energetic at times. But it definitely helped me mentally to be in Nashville and be around him and not focus so much on skiing but just getting healthy and working as hard as I can.”
After divorcing from retired skier Thomas Vonn, Vonn dated Tiger Woods and then NFL coach Kenan Smith.
She and Subban went public with their relationship in June when they walked the red carpet together at the CMT Music Awards in Nashville. Then on July 4th, Subban tweeted a photo of him and Vonn wearing the same U.S.-flag themed women’s bathing suit, asking “who wore it better?”
One of the biggest personalities in hockey, Subban — or “the Subbanator” as he is nicknamed — hosted a TV special after the NHL’s All-Star Skills competition last month, featuring him telling jokes in an opening monologue, talking with some guests and some taped segments.
He also started a digital series called “The P.K. Project” to give viewers a look at his personal life. On the first episode, he had Vonn on a video call while visiting his family — revealing that he’s not the only one in the relationship who goes by initials, with his mom referring to “that lovely L.V.”
Subban “has no idea about ski racing,” said Vonn, the women’s record holder with 82 World Cup wins, trailing only the overall record of 86 held by Stenmark.
“I’ve kind of tried to watch some video with him and he has absolutely no clue. He’s like, ‘I’ll be honest, I don’t care about skiing, I just care about you.’ And that’s kind of cute but it’s kind of annoying at the same time. But I don’t know much about hockey. All I know is forecheck. I don’t even know what that means, really.”
While it may seem strange that Vonn, who grew up in the hockey hotbed of Minnesota, knows so little about her boyfriend’s sport, she says it’s a result of the Minnesota North Stars’ move to Dallas in 1993.
“I grew up pretty much my whole childhood not having a hockey team,” Vonn said. “So just because I’m from Minnesota doesn’t mean I should know hockey.”
So which team does Vonn, who was living in Colorado when she started dating Subban, support? The Colorado Avalanche or Subban’s Predators?
“It’s Colorado. Well, I mean that’s the hard part,” she said. “When I moved to Colorado I watched the Avalanche win the Stanley Cup and I’ve been to a lot of Avalanche games but I can’t really say anything other than Nashville.”
Can Subban ski? “I think he can snowboard but that’s it,” Vonn said, adding that she has no plans to take him out on the slopes and endanger his career. “Oh no. He’s got a job to do. I’m not taking any risks on that one.”
Does Vonn skate? “Oh yeah. I’m from Minnesota.”
One other thing that Vonn and Subban have in common is Olympic gold medals.
Vonn won the downhill at the 2010 Vancouver Games and Subban, who is from Toronto, was on Canada’s team that won the hockey tournament at the 2014 Sochi Games.
And they both compete in the cold.
“I wear my jacket in the stadium,” Vonn said. “He could have played tennis, or an indoor sport that was actually warm, that would have been helpful.”
The day after Vonn retires, she will fly to Nashville to see Subban — and begin her new life as a professional hockey fan.
“I’ll be there like every time now. It will be fun,” she said. “They got two new players the other day, everything looks great for them: Try to get the division title and go for the Stanley Cup. So I’ll be there cheering them on.”
Walker reported from Nashville, Tenn.
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