The Oklahoma State Cowboys will go to court Friday night at dinner time at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum to challenge the No.13 seed, the Liberty Flames. For those who remember headlines from last summer, it seems at least curious, perhaps downright confusing, to see OK State prepare to compete in the 2021 NCAA tournament.
“Oklahoma State Gets Post-Season Ban, 3-Year Probation, and Other Penalties from NCAA.”
That was the title of SportingNews.com on June 5, 2020.
And if that is not clear, the text of the article explains that the post-season ban was to be served immediately, as at the moment. There was no “report in 2022 to serve your sentence”. The Cowboys were supposed to play their regular season and then go out of business when March started to go crazy.
They are here, however, and so it should be, even though the process by which they retained their eligibility to compete in the NCAA is convoluted even by the extraordinary standards of justice of the NCAA. They’re playing because the state of Oklahoma appealed the sanction of a one-year post-season ban, and because the hearing on that appeal would not have been heard until February and that the decision on this appeal has not yet been rendered.
US rookie Cade Cunningham opted to stay in the program with coach Mike Boynton and his brother, Cannen, an assistant coach, even after the punishment was handed down. Cade is well aware of all the technicalities. He maintains, however, that OK State is in the tournament for a more basic reason: they were too good to be excluded.
“To be completely honest with you, I knew if we were doing what we had to do in our regular season games – I know how it works – they were going to bring us in,” Cunningham told reporters during a Zoom call this week. . “So we had this chip on our shoulders. In every game we were trying to prove something.
“Obviously, with the ban, we feel like the school hasn’t done anything wrong. They handled it well. But it was put in place, and we knew that if we proved every game we were in, they would place us.
Cunningham, understand, hasn’t been in the NCAA for that long, so he hasn’t seen some of what we’ve got.
However, there came a point in the season when OK State was clearly one of the best teams in the country and Cunningham so clearly one of the best players, and the appeal decision was so close to the start of the tournament, all decision to exclude the Cowboys was going to result in a wave of negative publicity that the NCAA didn’t need at this point. Had the appeal been dismissed on February 20 or March 1 or Selection Sunday, the public response would have been fierce.
The NCAA has enough hashtags to deal with at the moment.
Whatever the reason the appeal was only heard when the regular season fell within a month of its conclusion and the decision was not presented more than a month after that, it is for the best. It should be like that.
Oklahoma state should never have been banned from the playoffs. It is evident in the penalty awarded in South Carolina which involved the same person (former Gamecocks and Cowboys assistant coach Lamont Evans) allegedly doing similar things (accepting money from an agent / CFO to influence a player’s representation decision) .
Sporting director Mike Holder immediately said the penalties were outrageous given the nature of the charges. “Impossible to be reconciled”, were Holder’s words, and he was right.
Punished in February, South Carolina did not receive a postseason ban, or stock market penalties similar to those imposed on OK State. The NCAA gave reasons why this was the case, but they weren’t enough to explain the difference.
Delaying the penalty for a year, if that’s all that comes from it, at least gives the Cowboys a chance to compete in the NCAA when they have their best team in 15 years and their most talented player since, at least. , Bob Kurland. His last season as a triple All-American was in 1946.
Choosing to hang out with OK State over the heavily recruited Kentucky, Cunningham has become one of the few recent stars to have managed to elevate his team to significant success in a place that rarely attracts such players. Recent NBA picks such as Anthony Edwards (Georgia), Dennis Smith (NC State) and Ben Simmons (LSU) did not make the tournament.
The Cowboys won fourth place – in fact, they took third place, but weren’t assigned by the selection committee – and reached the Big 12 title game.
“Because I hate to lose,” Cunningham told reporters. “I know the state of Oklahoma didn’t have the year they were most proud of last year. But my brother always told me, every time he was hired – he only hired me for the longest time, until a few months before it was time to make a decision. Because he said, “I’m not going to recruit you from a school that I don’t think is ready for you.” He did a long analysis. And finally he said to me: Yeah, I think that’s a place you can come in and be successful.
“And that was because of the groundwork that Coach Mike had already done. He told me how much the players wanted to win, how much the staff wanted to win and were ready to win.
Boynton expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to compete in March, although he framed it as a matter of respect for NCAA Vice President Dan Gavitt and the team of staff and volunteers. working to host an NCAA tournament with as little disruption as possible from COVID.
You can almost hear a hint of relief from Boynton, however, having the chance to take this team onto the field given the odds against the Cowboys last summer.
“We have the opportunity to play in what I think is the best sporting event,” Boynton said on Wednesday. “Our guys are excited and eager to be a part of it
“I think we have a team that can beat anyone on the pitch. There’s nobody we can play that I wouldn’t go to thinking I have the best player in the game.
We’ll all see Cunningham take his picture. It will only be this one, but it’s better than none at all. And “none” seemed to be the big favorite at the start of the season.