Tales of Institutional Control

February 18, 2013

Last summer Caltech, my alma mater, was sanctioned by the NCAA for lack of institutional control.  There was no shortage of coverage describing what happened:  NY Times, Washington Post, and many, many others courtesy Google.  Quoting the Washington Post:

“There are no athletic scholarships at Caltech — you have to be a student-scholar to be admitted.

So what was Division III Caltech doing wrong?

In the first three weeks of each trimester, students there are allowed to “sample” classes and “shop” for courses before registering for them.* These students are technically part-time until they enroll for their courses, and part-time students cannot participate in NCAA sports. This happened with 30 Caltech athletes in 12 sports between 2007 and 2010.

(*Here are some of the classes Caltech offers: “Optical Wave Propagation,” “Markov Chains, Discrete Stochastic Processes and Applications” and “Signal Transduction and Biomechanics in Eukaryotic Cell Morphogenesis.”

Caltech turned itself in.

What did the NCAA do? They threw the book at ’em.

(At least when you throw the book at Caltech, someone there can actually read it.)

Three years’ probation, a one-year postseason ban in the affected sports, vacated wins gained with ineligible athletes and a ban on off-campus recruiting.

The long arm of the NCAA law comically reached out to prevent Caltech from competing for championships it never wins and to cease recruiting it never does.”

Rewinding to the Google search above the third page returned, at least as of today, is this AP wire article preserved on the NCAA web site.  It is a pissy little piece, first paragraph:

“At Caltech, where the laws of physics are understood, the rules of the NCAA apparently proved elusive.”

that eventually reveals:

“The NCAA blamed a lack of oversight and communication between athletic administrators, coaches and the registrar.”

More grievous is the layout of the page imbedding this article.  One of the links in a sidebar:  Enforcement.  I don’t expect that this page will last long.  I’ll be “printing” a pdf to embed here.  Some highlights:

“Integrity. Fair play. Accountability.”

“The NCAA enforcement program strives to maintain a level playing field.”

“The mission of the NCAA enforcement program is to … impose appropriate penalties if violations occur.”

Appropriate?  Was the playing field not level?  (As an aside, Caltech already well knows my view of whether they should remain a member of the NCAA, for the principle here must be that academic regulations emanating from the faculty must always trump such silliness.)

Fast forward to today.  An enforcement case where the stakes are much higher.  Totally botched. Where does the NCAA lay blame for “a lack of oversight and communication?”

Today’s press briefing detailing the unethical, unprincipled, unsupervised behavior of its enforcement wing has put the ex-UW Big Dawg, present NCAA President Mark Emmert in a dicey position. So what will come of “Integrity. Fair Play. Accountability.”?  VP for Enforcement fired.  A committee appointed to review the enforcement processes.  (Ironically the Enforcement page linked above highlights all of the changes coming to the process this summer under the guidance of University of Oregon President Ed Ray.  Like I say, how long will this page last?)

Many sports columnists see hypocrisy here, that Emmert hasn’t exercised institutional control and should take the sword himself.  May well happen, we’ll know in time.  Certainly there is a basis for such a view in the new enforcement regulations that become effective August 1, 2013, especially the one concerning responsibility versus knowledge.  Says the NCAA statement on October 30, 2012:

Penalties in the previous structure relied on whether the head coach knew of the violations or whether there was a “presumption of knowledge.” But under the new structure, rather than focus on knowledge or the presumption of it, the bylaw will be amended to presume only responsibility. Accordingly, if a violation occurs, the head coach is presumed responsible, and if he or she can’t overcome that presumption, charges will be forthcoming.

But learning from the Caltech sanctions some minimums:  Three year probation:  three year probation of NCAA administration.  A one-year postseason ban in the affected sports:  no attendance of NCAA administrators at post-season events.  Vacated wins gained with ineligible athletes: recapture of salary of the responsible NCAA administrators.  A ban on off-campus recruiting: Let’s skip the prohibition on outside recruiting so as to be able to clean house.  These seem appropriate.

More appropriate would be also vacating Caltech’s sanctions.

BCS (Bowl Championship Series)

January 7, 2012

There are lots of reasons not to like the BCS system.  The one demonstrated this year is the idea that the ten best teams should appear in the five bowls.  In other words their mean ranking should be 5.5.  It was 8.7.   The Cotton Bowl did better:  7.0.  Maybe I should be glad that the BCS games have not televised in Canada (at least in a 80 channel cable package).

Computing Updates: IV; Pac 12; Eat Your Peas: II (Really!)

January 2, 2012

Today’s computing update is more about Tobae and less about me.  Other than without son and technogeek Mark at home, I am now her technogeek.

Tobae is an avid backcountry skier and for many years part of the team that teaches the Everett Chapter of the Mountaineers’s avalanche awareness course.  And to keep doing that she needs to take an instructors course from AIARE which she will be doing Wednesday through Friday this week.  And she has assignments, the difficult one being to deliver a five minute lesson using “instructor mediated video clips” with the thought these would be imbedded in PowerPoint and run on “somebody else’s computer”.   I’d never plan on doing such a thing myself!  PC vs Mac and different software versions, what are they thinking?   (Tobae “reassures” me that these are ski guides, not technogeeks, but she is the one doing this, not me…)

So instead of skiing today we spent the day in (okay there were many football games on so that was okay, more on this later).  She studied the huge decks of PowerPoint slides in the instructor resources trying to find some slides to illustrate her topic, the “wind slab” avalanche type, and finding appropriate video.  And around 2 p.m. I help her piece together five slides and an imbedded video in OpenOffice Impress.  For we have never had Microsoft Office on her computer, for her entire use of such functionality is that she keeps a spreadsheet of vertical climb (several 100k feet last year).  Then we saved the presentation on a flash drive in old style PowerPoint (ppt) along with the media file and I tried to look at it on my computer.  Mac PowerPoint 2008 would not read it.  LibreOffice would (I’ve abandoned OpenOffice as have many), but couldn’t save it in a form yet PowerPoint compatible.  Keynote read it and let me save it such that Mac PowerPoint 2008 would read it.  Of course it didn’t behave the same as her slide show, but the video did work.  (That this would be difficult I already knew, see above).  But is was workable and I saved it in many forms (some of which didn’t work at all back on her computer, also see above).  And I took advantage of the Microsoft at Home program afforded by the UW contract to buy Microsoft Office for the Mac 2011 on the cheap and install it on one of our personal computers, hers.  So she has it in the most modern format possible which actually imbeds the video right in the file.  But of course who knows what she will have in the conference room at Stevens Pass!

There is a simple rule here.  Never ever use any advanced feature of any presentation program and expect portability.  Ever!

Now to football.  Today was the “January 1 is Sunday” version of New Year Day.  TSN (Canadian cable channel “The Sports Network”) shows some content from ESPN.  We enjoyed the Georgia-Michigan State game.  Tobae is from Georgia, enough said.  But did the Rose Bowl follow?  No.  Or the Fiesta Bowl?  No.  I was reduced to our desperation system.  Finally finding my notes on how to create a proxy through Mark’s hacked router in Menlo Park, using the Firefox “Advanced > Network” to connect to it, and using the ESPN privilege of his cable provider we were able to watch both games.  Tobae had a year of trail-breaking with her friend Tim riding on Oregon-Wisconsin.  Sorry Badgers and sorry Tim, I was pulling for you.  I had to go with Stanford to honor Mark’s girl friend Christie, but I’m sure Miles Logsdon is quite happy with the outcome and that will have to do.  Why neither of these Pac 12 teams could put up points like the Huskies remains a mystery!

So how does this all connect with Eat Your Peas?  I believe I have come on the solution to the lack of a functional US Congress!  While Canada may not have ESPN, they have mastered the art of votes of no confidence and rapid fire elections.  Thus the simplest solution to my need for ESPN while in Whistler and my desire for a functional Congress is to have Canada invade and annex the US.  No longer would Rick Perry have to worry about his gaffes about Canadian oil being domestic, no more “rights” and “sovereign content” issues around material on Canadian cable, and no need to wait more than 90 days to replace Congress when it doesn’t do it job.

The NBA Stakes Rise

November 6, 2011

Since I last wrote on this topic, little relevant progress has been made.  The players have conceded considerable turf on the split of revenue, but haven’t given up on hard caps.  The owners have learned way too much from David Stern about how to be threatening bullies:  the New York Times reported this morning that Stern has announced that the players must accept the owner’s “best and final offer” by COB Wednesday or else accept a “worst and final offer.”  Buried in the article is the blood boiler:

Joining the owners’ delegation were two of the leading hardliners — Charlotte’s Michael Jordan and Portland’s Paul Allen.

After Stern bullied Seattle and killed the Sonics franchise, I adopted Portland.  Now this?  If there is a season, Dallas is the lone remaining alternative (and a pretty good team!).  Alaska Airlines flies three times a day.  The noon flight should get me there by game time.  Early flight home.


The Cost of News

November 6, 2011

Everyone is aware that newspapers are in trouble.  Numbers of subscribers down.  Fewer and fewer reporters.  Heavy reliance on the AP.

Yet we continue to subscribe (for 28 years now) to “The Daily Herald” and “The Sunday Herald”, which most people around here call the “Everett Herald”.  (They now tweet from @EverettHerald.)  There is little news, but the occasional letter from somebody we know, and it is certainly the best way to follow the ugly, nasty battle for County Executive being waged by two ethically-challenged candidates.

The primary difference between “The Daily Herald” and “The Sunday Herald” is that the Sunday version is a big, bulky Sunday paper.  And it costs three times as much at the newstand: $1.50 vs 50 cents.  My first job on Sunday is to take Luna to retrieve the newspaper and then to separate the wheat from the chaff.  The wheat is harder and harder to find.  About a month ago, there was even a brief item from the publisher on the front page, below the fold, explaining that they had reorganized the content so that it could be printed on less paper and help the environment.  Today was my day to do a more quantitative analysis.

My Saturday paper weighs 5.3 ounces with advertising sections removed. Four sections: main, local, sports, “good life”.

My Sunday paper weighs 6.8 ounces with advertising sections removed. Four sections: main, viewpoints, sports, “money wise”. And USA Weekend and comics.  (I will not engage in debate over whether USA Weekend is an advertising section or not!  But for those doing their own calculations it does weigh 1 oz.).

Clearly there is little difference in content, other than the 30.5 ounces of advertising that I recycled.

To recap:  On Saturday news is just under 10 cents per ounce.  On Sunday news is over 20 cents per ounce.

Is Sunday news worth this premium?

Most of the front section is from other sources and in my RSS feed yesterday.  Only two articles written by Herald staff.  (Late addition Sunday evening:  my lawyer pointed me to one of these about how I could become part of a study of good driving.)  Much space consumed with two Herald created graphics: one a table of political spending, including the fascinating County Executive race and the other a graphic about demographics of voters in Snohomish County. And a reminder to have clocks fall back (but not to change batteries in smoke detectors).   Nothing too interesting in Viewpoints.  And with Election Day on Tuesday, not even a reminder of Herald endorsements.  Sports the tale of #6 Oregon dismantling the Huskies last night.  Buried within “Seahawk Game Day”, reminding me the game starts soon.  And some nice coverage of prep cross country:  state meet was yesterday.  Our local high school girls did very well.  Glacier Peak second in 3A, Snohomish seventh in 4A.  Money Wise lead story “250 ideas to pinch pennies”.  USA Weekend:  “Hottest new healer: Vitamin D”.

All the news fit to print?   Any news fit to print?

(Another late note:  I missed it, but Tobae pointed out an article.  The Saturday paper easily won:  Readers share close encounters. The Agy’s border us.)

OmniFocus Multi-focussed

October 22, 2011

I’m in Whistler today for a meeting of the council of our strata (US readers, condo association).  Was a must-do with a coming special assessment after 11 years of benign budgetary issues.  I drove up last night and could go home this evening, but there is a Husky game to watch.  So early tomorrow.  And after all I have bandwidth here.  And with bandwidth, I can be much more effective in getting things done.

Which leads to OmniFocus, perhaps the best known software of the Seattle-based OmniGroup and my way of Getting Things Done (GTD).  In a too rare act of using “Context”, I found a significant task at Whistler:  “Master French Onion Soup”.  This has been lingering for ~18 months.  And master in this instance means actually make it for the first time, which might then lead to improving and mastering.

This recipe seemed like a fine starting point, lots of 5-stars.  I read perhaps 20 of the 395 reviews.  The idea this would take 65 minutes seemed wrong from the outset, but a reviewer had suggested considerably longer times.  I found 45 minutes with the onions, 20 minutes reducing, and 10 minutes with the flour step about right and it is now simmering.  Somebody suggested I let it rest after simmering for several hours, then finish it off.  As excellent as this advice might be, it is my dinner and I plan to eat it at half-time.  I tasted about 30 minutes ago and added some pepper, but I think I’ll like the result.

The last piece of multi-focus is watching the Stanford-Washington game (and doing dueling commentary with Casey Rose on FB.) As I type this sentence Stanford 31-Washington 14.  I bet (well better said regret) that our commentary slows down.

NBA Labor Relations: The Lesson of Green Bay

October 2, 2011

I don’t follow the Mariners and baseball overall nearly as carefully as I used to.  I follow the Seahawks, I’m watching the game out of the corner of my eye right now, but I am not a rabid fan.  Even without the Supersonics, the NBA remains my professional sport of choice.

With the Sonics gone, I have taken to trips to Portland for live action coupled with TV.  That the Jailblazer era is long over, that Mac 10 is coach, and UW’s Brandon Roy is a top player makes it easy to look past the Portland-Seattle rivalry of the past.  And Snohomish’s Jon Brockman…the Brockness monster…gives me reason to keep Milwaukee on my radar as well.

Not surprisingly then, the impending NBA labor fiasco is disturbing.  The NY Times’s Howard Beck reports today that yesterday’s bargaining session ended “without much progress”.  David Stern makes empty threats, answering the press regarding his settle now or there will be “enormous consequences”:  “I don’t take myself as seriously as you do.”  Aren’t I suppose to take the commissioner seriously and at his word?

All this pain for fans is rooted in a simple situation, for which I hold the owners more responsible.   The league taken together makes lots of money.  But 23 teams lose money.  Why: TV revenue is not shared.  As an example, revenue in Portland is about 10% of that in New York.  I am fine if team payroll is hard capped (which the players oppose, give that up players), but the owners seeking a cap level under which all teams can be profitable without instituting revenue sharing (not in the owners thinking) is not a workable solution.  All speaks to the inability of the commissioner to do anything to offend an owner.  Stern much prefers to bully players and fans.  (Full disclosure:  I am not very tolerant of Stern who has a long history of bullying behavior, best exemplified in destroying the Seattle Supersonic franchise.)

Why is it the NFL has this all figured out and the NBA cannot?   There are storied small market teams in the NFL (for example Green Bay stands out), but one rarely connects the word dynasty with any NFL team.  Makes for a competitive, interesting league.   Figure it out Stern.

30 Years of Husky Football

March 5, 2011

After 30 years as a Husky football season ticket holder, I’ve decided not to renew my tickets.

I like college athletics.  I competed in Division 3, as have both my sons.   I like to watch football.   That was something I did as an undergraduate at Caltech (won one game), something I couldn’t as a graduate student at UCSD (they had abandoned football after that loss), and didn’t at MIT as a postdoc.  Arriving at UW in 1981, brought new opportunity!  And certainly Division I football is the front porch of UW, a catch phrase popularized by past President Mark Emmert and now adopted by Interim President Phyllis Wise (though I think they would be hard pressed to show the connection directly by analysis of donor interest in academics, athletics or both).

Three problems for me:

One problem is that our athletic front porch is exceptionally ugly right now.

1) I know and like Athletic Director Scott Woodward.  I was very disappointed to see him move to Intercollegiate Athletics simply to fire an 0-7 football coach.  His expertise was much more valuable in Gerberding Hall.  Two years later the question of whether he is a particular good AD is argued.  And so galling is the last day contract extension as Mark Emmert moved on.  And as reported in the Seattle Times, the unchallenged reasoning is laughable:

Emmert said he wanted to ensure that the position was solidified before he left UW.

(By the way Seattle Times, is there some reason that you don’t link to the underlying documents that you have obtained by a public records request so that a reader can do an independent analysis?)

2) And a good thing that contract was solidified, so that just a month later when embroiled in foot-in-mouth controversy, Interim President Phyllis Wise had her fiscal hands tied and firing Woodward would just create more angst and red ink.  Perhaps her public chiding of Woodward was more around anger over the actions of her predecessor?  And the chiding:  a university president doesn’t recognize that open discourse, even when embarrassing, is a core value of the academy?

3) The Husky Stadium renovation has been scaled down, but in no way in line with safety issues alone.  Do we need $300 million from the regional economy moving in this direction?  What is wrong with Qwest Field?  Tradition is argued.  So students are moving to the end zone?  See my second problem below for related commentary.

4) Scoreboard Baby.  Well researched about an era with a weasel football coach.  UW administration shares culpability, but I don’t see legitimate change occurring in response.  Prosecutorial discretion or not, the basketball rape scandal this year is a measure that from the top down, UW doesn’t care about its own reputation or credibility.

My second problem is schedule frenzy.  What happened to 12:30 p.m. games that lasted a little over three hours?  Game time is now most often announced on the Monday eleven days ahead.  How is one to plan life?  And games starting as late as 7:30 p.m.  Ever entered the north gates near the Dempsey during one of these late starts?  Nothing worse than an already quite drunk crowd.  Pragmatically I must shed tickets and getting face value (which varies too little across the stadium) is difficult.

My third problem is the loss of the track.  The Pac-12 championship will never return to Seattle…

My solution is simple.  Just buy re-sold tickets on StubHub for the games I can actually attend.  Thinking back to the economic model for stadium renovation there should have been much more concern in approving financing around this new reality.  The frustration of season ticket holders isn’t just a losing team.

Duke Snider, 1926-2011

February 27, 2011

I grew up in Southern California.  My first trip to a major league game was one of the two 1959 all-star games, played in Los Angeles Coliseum, just before I turned 8.   Don Drysdale started for the NL.  The game ended with Wally Moon striking out.  The Coliseum was not well suited for baseball, we must have been 550′ or so from home plate.

And a Dodger fan I became.  (I go with the flow and so since then Giants when in northern California, Padres when in San Diego, never quite bonded with Boston, and eventually the Mariners in the AL and the Giants in the NL).

Some awesome players and awesome teams.  Including Duke.  And so losing Gil Hodges to the expansion Mets in 1962 was a blow, but the trade of Snider in 1963 to the Mets was a real kick.  I recognize now that his career was in decline and four decades later we certainly know baseball is a business.  But his May 22 home run against the Dodgers sticks in my mind: first at-bat against them, Drysdale pitching for the Dodgers.  Take that O’Malley!  (Dodgers won 7-3).  (Again appreciative of baseball-reference.com to remind me of the details.)

Thanks Duke.  The golden age of baseball for me…

(An update 2/27 at 16:09.  Reader Ron’s comment is of course right, the move of the Dodgers and Giants was a much more real kick.)

Caltech Basketball Conference Loss Streak Broken!

February 23, 2011

Big news this week is the Caltech win over Occidental, breaking a string of 310 basketball losses in SCIAC league play dating  to 1985.  Widely covered in the national print, television and radio.

Each of the Caltech teams has similar challenges.  Son Mark played soccer for three years and experienced four wins.  I played baseball for a short while and we were in a streak of some sort.  I see in the NY Times article today that the present baseball team is on a 412 game conference slide.  Football is long gone from Caltech, but I have memories of our California Boulevard bonfire in celebration of what may have been the last win, circa 1972.  (Ironically UCSD had abandoned football upon my arrival in 1973, the victim of that loss.)

This should bring a revival of interest in the documentary Quantum Hoops which chronicled how close the team came in 2006 to breaking the streak (and made me aware that the last conference win was over a Pomona-Pitzer team coached by Gregg Popovich and that my undergraduate advisor Fred Anson was considered the best Caltech basketball player ever).  Dean Oliver, a late 80s point guard for the Beavers, became a statistical wizard for the Seattle Supersonics and is now with the Denver Nuggets.  He is known for his book “Basketball on Paper”.  And foremost I’m a huge fan of Fred Newman, a player in the 50s and later an assistant coach who holds the record for free throws made in 24 hours (20,371) and who drained 88 in a row blindfolded.  (My personal record is 88, without blindfold.)

Secant, cosine, tangent, sine…logarithm, logarithm, hyperbolic sine…3 point 1 4 1 5 9…slipstick, sliderule, tech, tech, tech.  Go Beavers!