Wow, what a story this could have been.
On The Athletic's 'The Beat' podcast, Miami Heat forward and former Michigan Wolverine Duncan Robinson told a story from the 2018 Final Four when he had an idea that could have really thrown a wrench into the plans of the NCAA — and it sounds like it had some steam.
Robinson wanted to get not only Michigan, but Kansas, Villanova and Loyola-Chicago to all skip the open practices the day before the Final Four games in San Antonio. The open practices are glorified pep rallies, so having all four teams refuse to participate in what amounts to a self-congratulatory parade for the NCAA would have been a massive event in the timeline for compensating student-athletes.
The Athletic — “The (open) practice is literally us parading around, dunking, shooting 3s. It’s ridiculous,” Robinson said. “‘The Victors’ is playing, fans are there. It might be great for fans and I understand that, but that felt like the epitome of what was wrong with the NCAA.”
Robinson said some players from the other teams were on board with the idea, but that it wasn't unanimous. The plan ultimately fell through because he and his Michigan teammates only wanted to do it if they were sure they had everybody on board, due to the media circus at the Final Four.
“All it takes is one misguided soundbite for the media to shape an entire narrative that we’re not really about the thing that we’re trying to push or that we’re standing for,” Robinson said. “That was kind of the risk that we were really running. I started to feel that this is kind of dangerous and this could kind of start to take on a life that we don’t necessarily want it to.”
I guarantee you it was those Loyola kids who weren't going to do it. Michigan, Kansas and Villanova go to Final Fours all the time, but there was no way they were getting those kids from an 11-seed to do this during their once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play in the Final Four.
What an unbelievable turn of events on the NCAA this would have been had it happened, though. I can only imagine the PR nightmare that entire weekend would have become if Robinson actually got every player to agree to sit out the open practices. I actually really wish they could have gotten it done, because something of that magnitude on that stage might have been enough to make some strides towards paying these pseudo-professional athletes and getting us NCAA Football video games back — which would sure be great to have right about now.
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