Thursday, October 30, 2008

Ga. Tech coach: Shorter season sensible

Just when you think you’ve heard it all, a college basketball coach offers to give back a portion of his salary.

Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt said he’d do it if the NCAA would shorten the college basketball season. It starts Nov. 10 in the ACC with Presbyterian at Duke.

Hewitt would prefer to start after Thanksgiving and play fewer games.

“You want to pro-rate my salary, go ahead,” Hewitt said. “I would do it tomorrow. Because it just puts a lot of stress on our guys.”

In 2006, the NCAA approved a 27-game regular-season schedule, plus an "exempt" tournament that can be up to four games. Teams that don't play an exempt tournament can play 29 regular-season games. Previously, teams played a 26-game regular season and were limited to two exempt tournaments in a four-year period. Now teams can play 31 games every season.

Hewitt said the extra games increase pressure on young men who already are struggling to manage challenging academic and athletic responsibilities.

“I do find it interesting that we talk out of both sides of our mouth about the need to graduate and the need to make sure the grades are good,” Hewitt said. “And we keep increasing the standards, but we don’t give the kids any more time to be successful.”

Following Georgia Tech’s run to the 2004 NCAA championship game, Hewitt emerged as one of college basketball’s most passionate reformers. He is the only Division I coach on a coalition of experts from across the basketball landscape who have begun an initiative to improve youth basketball in the United States.

He is a member of the NCAA’s Academic Enhancement Group, which is attempting to develop strategies to improve classroom performance in men’s basketball.

Shortening the schedule is one strategy that he believes makes sense.

“We’re putting the kids in a very, very tough spot with the amount of class time we ask them to miss,” Hewitt said. “We really infringe on their preparation time for first-semester final exams.”

– Ken Tysiac