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Student Basketball Council should educate players, not fight NCAA

Duke's Cameron Crazies are known for toeing the line with their taunts to opposing players.

Two years ago, they waved their keys at UCLA players who were driving cars rumored to be purchased for them by alumni. That same year, they wore safety goggles to taunt a handful of Tar Heels afflicted with pink eye and brandished tissues after Carolina guard Shammond Williams cried during a timeout. Rumor has it that during the Jordan era at UNC, they even threw tongue depressors onto the court to make fun of Michael's penchant for sticking his tongue out.

Given everything that is expected from the Crazies, it was notable that in Sunday's 83-82 loss to St. John's, the Dukies were silent when it came to Red Storm point guard Erick Barkley and his troubles with the NCAA.

Yesterday, the NCAA suspended Barkley indefinitely for an undisclosed violation. He was suspended for three games Feb. 5 for exchanging cars with a friend.

Did the Crazies suddenly feel bad for the players they had taunted throughout the years? Not likely.

Instead, they laid off Barkley because of pleas from Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski and junior forward Shane Battier.

Krzyzewski's plea didn't surprise me at all. He's become very interested in making sure that his fans show good sportsmanship and has walked out to halfcourt to tell the fans to stop their taunting more than once in the past few years.

But Battier's plea for leniency toward Barkley surprised me a lot - until I learned why he made the request.

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    It's great that players are getting more involved in attempting to set NCAA policies, considering they are the ones who often lose the most in cases of rule infractions and policy changes. Many players unwittingly break the rules, proving the great need for a body of student-athletes to work with the NCAA.

    But according to Battier, the SBC is not looking to work with the NCAA. According to a letter Battier sent to The Duke Basketball Report Thursday, "Our goal is to raise awareness against the wrongdoings of the NCAA."

    Given the number of recent suspensions - most notably Barkley, Michigan's Jamal Crawford and Cincinnati's DerMarr Johnson - the NCAA has earned itself quite a number of critics. Many suspensions involve situations the NCAA has known about for a while and just recently has decided to act on. Additionally, the punishments vary depending on the person, not necessarily the situation.

    After the NCAA suspended Barkley in February, it kept him under investigation when news surfaced of rule infractions by Johnson, a former AAU teammate. The SBC feels the attention and subsequent punishment were unwarranted.

    "A lot of us feel that Barkley has done nothing morally wrong and is being punished by the NCAA and the media by being vilified," Battier said in the letter. "Although he will be the adversary [Sunday], we are all standing up for him. So I am beseeching the Crazies to lay off any cheer involving Barkley and the NCAA. The players would not appreciate it and it would show support for the NCAA regarding this issue, of which they are heinously wrong."

    Battier wrote that the Council met on Sunday to draft a proposal to the NCAA supporting Barkley and other athletes who have "been done wrong by the NCAA."

    I applaud Battier for getting involved, but he's taking it a bit far. The suspended athletes' moral guilt may be up in the air, but the NCAA feels a rule was broken. Maybe those rules are unfair, but it's a bit much to expect the NCAA to change them immediately to cater to players' wishes. Instead, the SBC should attempt to inform players and recruits of the rules in the future. Eventually, the NCAA may decide to change its policies, but for the time being, the best solution is to have better-informed players.

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