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Is SMU being unfairly targeted?

The most recent investigations into a Mustangs team reinstates the debate of if the school deserved the investigations/penalties it has received or has been a fall guy for the NCAA.

Joseph Magnuson and J.B. Stockslager were not afraid to show their opinions toward what their SMU basketball team currently has to deal with.

Among the handful of signs and towels marked “Free Keith” that were in the Moody Coliseum student section for the Mustangs’ Jan. 17 game against East Carolina, showing solidarity toward suspended Mustangs guard Keith Frazier, these two took it to another level. During timeouts, they held up a sign that read “Give the NCAA the Death Penalty” – a clear jab at the history of what SMU sports has endured in the past and the grudge many close to the school still hold toward the college sports governing body.

“We just feel like we’re being picked on,” Magnuson said. “We’d like to have good sports teams, too.”

No one wants to be labeled as a conspiracy theorist. But in the eyes of those who have followed SMU sports for years, hearing reports that Larry Brown’s program is being investigated for academic impropriety at the same time that Frazier was ruled academically ineligible – one month after teammate Markus Kennedy was reinstated from the same issue – just raises their ire and belief that the small private school in Dallas has never gotten the leeway that major schools with perennial winning programs get.

“I feel like we should just start an African American studies program,” Magnuson added, referencing the questionable academic practices that the athletic programs at the University of North Carolina has been accused of.

Last year, it was bad enough that SMU basketball got snubbed for the NCAA Tournament. But now, in the midst of a season where they were tabbed as a favorite to win the American Athletic Conference, all new reports that the NCAA is investigating the program may have fans shouting “Oh come on!”

Because they’ve been there before. It does seem like every time a major program on The Hilltop starts to show success, the NCAA comes knocking, targeting their small school over bigger ones who commit similar infractions more frequently.

This most recent issue comes at a time when it looked like there was such hope for the basketball program under Brown, looking for its first NCAA berth since 1993. After turning an NCAA snub last year into a NIT finals appearance, many at SMU felt nothing would stop Brown’s team this season. But several instances have attempted to.

Highly touted recruit Emmanuel Mudiay, out of the controversial Prime Prep Academy, changed his mind over the summer and opted to play professionally overseas; some speculated this was due to him failing to meet NCAA academic standards (SMU insisted he met the school’s, which are tougher). Junior forward Markus Kennedy was then ruled academically ineligible for the fall semester. He returned during the winter break, but on January 10, senior Justin Martin left to turn pro under his own suspicions of academic ineligibility. Three days later, assistant coach Ulric Maligi, SMU’s top recruiter who was instrumental in bringing in Frazier, took a leave of absence due to “personal reasons.” Then came the Frazier announcement. Then, on the 16th, the NCAA sent its Notice of Allegations to the school.

It definitely sends fans into flashbacks with what happened to SMU football in the 1980s, when the program was frequently investigated and sanctioned for recruiting violations, culminating with the program receiving the first ever official repeat violator “death penalty” in 1987. The events were detailed in David Whitford’s 1989 book A Payroll to Meet and brought back to the public light with the 2010 ESPN movie Pony Excess. In the light of boosters and other supporters of the program, the penalty was more than just harsh – it was unfair to single them out in the midst of what they believed was across-the-board cheating among colleges around the nation and especially in the state of Texas.

To those who covered the scandal, like ESPN 103.3’s Chuck Cooperstein when he was with KRLD, there may have been other programs cheating, but SMU was so blatant about it that they were asking to be caught.

“Everyone was doing everything in the SWC of the 80’s save for Rice and Arkansas. Still, SMU was just so brazen about what they did, and then so arrogant in trying to stonewall the investigation, which of course, involved the Governor of Texas, it was impossible to feel sorry for them. They got what they deserved.”

There is truth to that. Bill Clements and the now-defunct SMU Board of Governors forced the school president to lie about the school’s payment system to players and blamed numerous boosters as fully responsible for the system while continuing to run the system after the program was hit with probation in 1985. This was key in the NCAA handing down the death penalty two years later.

Still, people long associated with SMU have frequently played the “unfair selective enforcement” card in how SMU was investigated. Alumni like former football player David Blewett, who wrote a scathing book The Pony Trap in 2012, have accused not only NCAA officials like Walter Byers and David Berst of having a grudge against their school, but also pointed the finger at media members like WFAA’s John Sparks and the Dallas Times Herald’s Danny Robbins – both alums of the University of Texas, which SMU boosters have long accused of committing worse and getting away with it.

“The only reason that SMU ever got in this business of assisting athletes was strictly as a defense mechanism because the other schools were forcing us to do it,” booster Bill Stevens was quoted in A Payroll to Meet. “A player would come say, ‘Well, I’d a hundred times rather go to SMU than the University of Texas, but they’re offering to do one through ten.’ So if we’d match one through ten, then the guy would come to SMU.”

This is a new age: The Times Herald no longer exists, Sparks no longer is at WFAA and Byers and Berst are no longer running the NCAA. But evidence could be there that the organization still has the same selective procedures. It can seem suspicious that SMU, which so far seems to be following its own tough academic standards by suspending Frazier and Kennedy this season, would be investigated in the wake of so many other incidents happening at the moment.

A lot of people will say SMU had this coming by hiring Brown, the only coach to win an NCAA and NBA championship but someone who has seen two programs get hit by NCAA sanctions in the past.

That may be true, but so far the NCAA has not shown to be investigating Kentucky, who not only also has a head coach with multiple NCAA sanctions on his record in John Calipari but is one of the most infamous schools in recruiting one-and-done athletes more interested in turning pro than graduating college. And while Calipari’s 2008 Memphis team was forced to forfeit back its entire national runner-up season for using an ineligible player, the Kansas team that beat them in the title game did not despite being caught with a similar violation. In fact, the 2008 team was on probation that year, with its lone penalty being the loss of one scholarship.

Kansas and Kentucky are among the programs that currently rely heavily on players who plan to leave and turn pro after just one year. The lone player Brown has so far successfully recruited who may have considered that, Mudiay, didn’t even wait that long. (SMU did pursue projected one-and-done star Myles Turner before he eventually chose Texas.)

And now it definitely would raise eyebrows that allegations would come against SMU so quickly after it was discovered last year that North Carolina was essentially creating fake classes for athletes in multiple sports to take for at least 18 years. At the moment, the only NCAA sanctions on UNC have been three years probation on the football team imposed in 2012; the NCAA re-opened the investigation in 2014, while the school is facing a class action suit from former athletes and employees.

So if SMU has so far been a program not stocked with one-and-done players and enforcing the school’s academic standards, why has the NCAA chosen to come after them? Therein lies the SMU fan base’s fears of targeting.

It’s just the way things work, says Cooperstein.

“With Carolina being a blue blood program, they will always get the benefit of the doubt. Always remember the famous Jerry Tarkanian line: The NCAA is so mad at Kentucky, it’ll probably slap another two years probation on Cleveland State. The NCAA is always suspicious of bottom feeder programs that quickly rise to prominence.”

There is definitely more evidence to support that claim. At the same time SMU football was given the death penalty, the NCAA opened an investigation on the University of Texas and discovered several instances of football players receiving cash and favors from coaches; Texas’ only penalty was to be stripped of 10 scholarships for the 1988 season. In 2011, Colt McCoy’s wife went on Colin Cowherd’s radio show and hinted that other Texas football players may have received improper benefits that her husband refused while in Austin. Despite that, much publicized player arrests and assistant coach/former quarterback Major Applewhite admitting to an affair with a student, Texas was not investigated by the NCAA.

Even one of Brown’s other college programs was given leniency. The 1980 UCLA team that finished runner-up was forced to forfeit back its season – a rare occasion of dropping the hammer on a major program – but the 1988 Kansas team escaped such a penalty for recruitment violations and was only barred from tournament play and stripped of one scholarship for the following year. The NCAA has never stripped a program of a national championship for rules violations (The BCS did strip Southern California of its 2004 football championship).

The general belief by many fans is that if the NCAA comes after you, you’re a dead duck. But according to Whitford, at least at the time his book first came out in 1989, the NCAA is very limited and handicapped in how it can gain evidence. They were only able to nail SMU football in the end thanks to the likes of Sean Stopperich and David Stanley agreeing to talk. In 1989, Kentucky basketball was banned from tournament play for two years for a $1,000 payment that was to be sent to the family of recruit Chris Mills, but that violation was only even discovered because the package containing the money burst and was reported by the shipping agent before reaching its destination. (Numerous people have since claimed Kentucky was set up and no money was actually found; former Kentucky assistant Dwane Casey won a defamation suit against the shipping company that claimed he sent the package.)

SMU’s case may still be tough to levy anything severe on. After all, the NCAA has long had few absolute policies regarding athlete eligibility, relying on the trust of the schools to maintain their own academic standards. This has limited the NCAA’s abilities to police such policies, and the re-evaluations from UNC seem to be a far more glaring example of how schools might abuse that trust.

At the moment, SMU is feeling no ill effects from Frazier’s suspension or the NCAA announcement; the Mustangs have not lost a game since, going into Saturday’s contest with Central Florida on a seven-game winning streak. Even if the NCAA finds anything concrete to lay sanctions for, it is not likely that would happen before the end of the season.

But should the Mustangs get hit hard and a program like North Carolina is not hit even harder, it won’t assuage the fears of people like Stockslager.

“It’s kind of sad that its gotten to this point, with the different programs at the school… at the same time, they have (Frazier’s) high school issue which we thought was covered last year… I kind of feel like they let us down with the timing of all of it.”

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SMU’s Snub is a blow to the college basketball season

Larry Brown doesn’t want to dwell on the fact that his SMU Mustangs got snubbed for the NCAA Tournament. Just focusing on winning the NIT is now his program’s focus – and it has nothing to do with vindication or retribution.

Fine. He’ll take the high road and not rant. Leave that to people like me.

It can be tough to be that thing known as “objective” when you’ve become an actual journalist of sports teams in your area. And it’s not just the simple fact of how it’s more fun to report when the team you’re reporting on is winning.

As a fan of college basketball for years, I’ve desperately wanted the programs in DFW to be relevant. I want the Metroplex to be an integral part of this excitement that arrives every March. Which is why this past season watching SMU was so exciting – it looked like one of our own was not just going to get into the field but possibly be a serious competitor in it.

And then the NCAA selection committee made it painfully clear that they don’t let newcomers into their exclusive club if they can help it.

But it goes deeper than that. One of the things that frustrates me is how no attention is paid to the first 3 ½ months of college basketball, as there is a sense by all the major outlets that it’s just not necessary. And sadly, the fact that SMU got passed over for the likes of Oklahoma State and North Carolina State did nothing to rebuke those claims.

As someone who has followed small schools and conferences like UTA and the Southland/Sun Belt for years, I had to accept long ago that the regular season almost means nothing in those leagues. Whoever wins the conference tournament is getting their lone entry into the Dance.

But this selection by the NCAA has made it all too clear: The regular season means absolutely nothing in the other conferences as well.

It was believed for weeks that SMU’s victories over Memphis, UConn (twice) and Cincinnati proved they deserved to be among the elite and in the NCAAs. The selection committee said flat out no, the fact that you’re SMU and you play in the American Athletic Conference, you don’t deserve an at-large bid.

You can get an at-large, however, even if you finish below .500 in the Big 12. You can get one even if you fail to beat any of the top teams in the ACC.

It seems too clear those involved in the selection process had made up their minds that the more “elite” conferences were getting a set number of teams in the field, by hook or crook, and anyone else who actually tried to earn their way in be damned.

Brown has flat out said the selection committee didn’t respect his school’s conference. Given the fact that the defending national champions from Louisville were given a four seed, he may have a point.

It makes you winder if Wichita State, which got a Number One seed after a perfect regular season, might actually have been rejected had they not win their conference tournament as well.

I will not be unbiased in this NCAA Tournament. I hope that Oklahoma State and NC State get throttled to prove the selection committee had nothing between their ears in choosing them.

And hopefully, SMU will make that more clear by being the ones hoisting the other trophy at Madison Square Garden.

Larry Brown Can Make Things Change at SMU

Larry Brown is definitely in new territory running the show at Moody Coliseum. After the guy isn’t used to fans being satisfied with simply playing a ranked opponent tough.

“You walk around here and people congratulate you after you get beat, that’s pretty strange” he said of the days after the Mustangs lost to Louisville. “You’re in Lawrence, Kansas or Westwood or Chapel Hill, they have a heart attack after every loss.”

That comes with the experience of playing and coaching at the highest levels. The experience of being the only basketball coach in history with an NCAA and NBA championship. You don’t know the meaning of moral victories.

And that is exactly the type of attitude needed if things are going to turn around on the Hilltop. And after less than two years, it looks like things already are.

With Tuesday’s win over Rutgers, SMU’s team already matched its win total from last year. With 15 wins already and at least 13 games left against the likes of Memphis, UConn and Louisville again, the path is set for SMU to build a good enough record to get into that magical field in March one way or another.

It’s not just the fact that other coaches within the American Athletic Conference are saying SMU looks like a Tournament team this year. Could DFW actually have a program that could be able to aim for the NCAA Tournament every single year?

Well, that’s what Larry Brown’s mission was when he took over this program. Some people who have been jaded by decades of college basketball mediocrity might be hard to convince. But you just know someone like Brown would love to prove them wrong.

Ask him, and he’ll tell you he can look into players’ eyes and see when they know they can win. He saw it in the players at Louisville and Cincinnati when the Mustangs traveled there. And little by little, with each victory, that look is starting to appear in his own players.

This is naturally a different animal that he’s dealing with in Dallas. Whether it was playing at SMU or coaching at UCLA or Kansas, Brown was with a program that was a big dog in the area. Now, it takes something special to get people away from Valley Ranch or the American Airlines Center and show up to the media center at Moody Coliseum.

But when you’ve accomplished almost everything else at so many stops, maybe that’s the one challenge that remains. And it’s the challenge that those college basketball fans that do exist in the Metroplex have hoped someone like Brown would take on – and succeed at.

For years those of us who have followed college basketball in this area have had to hope that one of the multiple programs in North Texas could simply get luck in the conference tournament for an automatic bid, or otherwise be thankful for an NIT, or even a CIT, bid.

Even those of us who have ties to one particular university in the area would be ecstatic to see any one of them send a Metroplex representative in The Dance each year.

TCU could have had something like that in the late 90s under Billy Tubbs. But an NCAA season in 97-98 was overshadowed by a 1-10 football season, so the school put all its efforts to what went on at Amon Cater Stadium, and Tubbs was gone a few years later, clearly seeing the writing on the wall.

Things are different in University Park now. With their major upgrades to Moody and the completion of the Crum Basketball Center, it’s clear SMU is committed to taking its basketball program to another level.

Larry Brown wouldn’t have come here if he didn’t think that was possible. And even though it already looks like things are being fast-tracked compared to what we’ve been used to in this town, he knows there is still a lot more work and improvement to do.

And maybe very soon, he’ll start being congratulated for the Mustangs winning against the likes of Louisville.

Why Can’t North Texas Teams Play Each Other Anymore?

Tonight is one of the nights I look forward to after a long off-season.

Tonight, Scott Cross’ UTA Mavericks finally begin their home season, kicking off UTA’s Homecoming celebration against the mighty, hated… Bulldogs of Samford.

Yeah, was this the game that had to get thrown in the last minute to replace the Lean Green chickening out? Not sure, but it’s a disappointing blow.

North Texas was supposed to come to the College Park Center for the first time this season. It was going to be the game that highlighted the non-conference schedule like Oklahoma coming to Arlington was last year. They’re not coming now. Second-year Mean Green coach Tony Benford cited the need for one more home game as the reason for the cancellation; no other game could be dropped to make room for it.

And the fact that the Mavericks have beaten the Green five of seven times since the rivalry was renewed had nothing to do with it, I’m sure.

On the flip side, TCU and SMU continued their series just a few days earlier, with the Mustangs beating the Frogs 69-61, amazingly at the American Airlines Center.

Of course, there was a time when this game meant more than just possibly Metroplex bragging rights – in all sports they took part in together.

There was a time when college sports meant something in Dallas-Fort Worth – maybe not as much at UTA, but definitely on the Fort Worth and University Park campuses. But their inability to be in the same conference since 2000 has wrecked the glory.

There’s little doubt the Southwest Conference’s breakup killed interest in college sports in DFW. It led to supposedly greater things for the campuses in Austin, Lubbuck and (finally) Waco, but the Metroplex’s teams have become afterthoughts as they spent years in conferences loaded with out-of-state opponents no one was interested in.

What is to blame for all this? Many still point to SMU’s football team getting the “death penalty” more than 25 years ago, turning it into an extremely toxic conference for recruits who didn’t want to play in a “dirty conference.” Yeah, because conferences and schools where teams give players illicit benefits is a turn-off – just like the University of Miami and more than half the SEC.

What’s likely more of a factor was the 1984 Supreme Court Ruling “NCAA v. Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma,” which firmly established that schools and conferences were free to negotiate their own television contracts outside the NCAA’s regulation. As a result, schools ever since have been looking for the bigger deal with the big network, or even starting their own network.

And the price paid for that? Conference and matchups the fans loved watching. The SWC breaking up to help form the Big 12 was just the beginning, as the Big East (now The American), SEC and Big Ten have begun poaching off teams left and right to make the next great superconference that will get them a Brinks truck from a network. And the fans have no choice but to settle for “new, great” conference matchups they have no interest in.

How would you like it if Jerry Jones suddenly decided the Cowboys needed to move to the AFC West? Or better yet, move into the Canadian League because they could actually win a championship there? Yeah, I know that’s a ludicrous idea. But so is West Virginia being in the same conference as Texas.

That’s what college fans have had to suffer. It’s not just the Texas-Texas A&M game that’s gone. Kansas no longer has Missouri or Nebraska on their schedules – despite them still being mentioned in their fight song.

And any complaints by the fans are met by condescending replies from administrators in the department saying “forget those old opponents. This is the best thing that’s going to happen to us.”

I know, because this carousel stopped and picked up UTA on the way.

I won’t stop saying I enjoyed playing in the Southland Conference. Being able to travel to the likes of Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston was a joy every year. Now, one year I had to get geared up for Utah State and San Jose State, the next – Troy and Georgia State.

UTA has two D1 opponents from Texas this season – only one in-conference, thanks to the likes of UNT and UTSA choosing Conference USA over trying to establish a true Texas mid-major conference.

People within UTA’s athletic department have kept telling me that this is for the best because they couldn’t hope to advance in such an inferior conference. But why is that a bother when UTA doesn’t play a sport that is dependent on news polls and power rankings to make the postseason? Every sport they play, you get in by winning whatever conference you’re in.

TCU finally got its wish to join the Big 12 with the likes of Texas, Tech and Baylor, but SMU’s teams still struggle to fit old SWC opponents each year into their non-conference schedule. Heck, Texas A&M is now gone away from in-state competition, trying to sell its fans that it’s so much better to be playing the likes of Auburn, Kentucky and Florida and not one single Texas opponent.

Aggies will try to puff out their chests and say they’re glad to be in the SEC. But behind that exterior I’m sure is sorrow that they can’t get hyped for Baylor, Tech or other opponents that have proximity and actual meaning to.

Will eventually we get to what the UIL does, re-aligning all conferences every few years and telling rivalries and long-time matchups to just go to hell to look forward to what’s all shiny and new?

It seems to be the way things are going. Charming stadiums built for rowdy fans are getting torn down for glitzy revenue-building facilities, just like classic movies are getting buried in Netflix’s vaults as they get re-made by wannabe directors.

College sports was built on proximity matchups, rivalries and bragging rights. But all of that, especially in the Metroplex, was long destroyed by school administrators who’s eyeballs were bigger than their stomachs.

Big East’s Breakup Has a Familiar Southwest Feel

Once upon a time there was a conference called the Big East. You should have seen it.

It wasn’t known as a great football conference, which is why it might not have been as well known to the people of the South and West. It was known as a basketball conference, and that was all it needed to be for years. Its collection of Northeastern powerhouse programs like Connecticut, Syracuse, Villanova and Georgetown all vied for basketball supremacy in the nation besides just their conference, culminating with the annual Big East Tournament at the ultimate venue, Madison Square Garden. It was so deep in the 1980s that 1985 saw three Big East teams reach the Final Four.

Sadly, the good times were not to last. On Sunday, March 17, 2013, Louisville defeated Syracuse in the tournament final, and the conference as it has been known for years ceased to be. The Big East will still exist, and MSG will still host the tournament, but it may be a shell of its former self thanks to football, greed and bitterness tearing it apart.

Earlier this season, a collection of schools within the bloated conference, which became known as the “Catholic 7” for all the schools being affiliated with that sect, declared they were splitting up with the ever growing number of other schools that was approaching 18 and might never have stopped. Negotiations finally allowed them to officially part following the 12-13 seasons and take the Big East name with them.

This was only the final blow in what had been boiling for years. As the conference began adding more and more teams further and further away from the Northeast to try and increase its status as a football school, it saw its older teams depart – West Virginia to the Big 12, Syracuse and Pittsburgh to the ACC. This was years after they had already lost Boston College, Miami and Virginia Tech to the ACC. After the conferenced declared it would add SMU, Houston, Boise State and San Diego State, the Catholic 7 finally said enough. No more of long time traditional basketball schools like Georgetown, St. Johns and Villanova having to travel further and further for conference games so this group could claim it was a football conference – a sport that none of the Catholic 7 played at the D1 level anyway. They were being disrespected and cast aside like the red-headed stepchild, and they were finally taking their ball and leaving.

They would take the name, but the tradition was lost for good in the breakup, as the departures of Syracuse, West Virginia and Pitt had already guaranteed the conference would be beyond anything people would recognize.

One might wonder why this story is being told on a site dedicated to North Texas sports. But the scene is all too familiar to what happened in this state nearly 20 years ago, when another tradition-rich conference ceased to be due to greed and infighting. Granted, the Southwest Conference was more known for football, and the Big East isn’t completely dissolving like the SWC did in 1995, but the similarities are there.

Many still point the finger at the small campus in Dallas’ backyard for the SWC’s end, blaming SMU’s “death penalty” scandal in 1987, but that’s a cheap scapegoat. Once the path was cleared for conferences to negotiate their own TV contracts, the Southeastern Conference poached away Arkansas, who gave up its status as the SWC’s outsider to a lifetime of mediocrity in the SEC. (Though the Razorbacks have won a national championship since the move – in BASKETBALL.) With the SEC forming the first “super conference” with a championship game, Texas jumped at its opportunity to make big money and partnered with Texas A&M, Texas Tech and the Big 8 to form the Big 12, and the SWC was dead. Feelings were hurt everywhere with the conference’s end, especially in Fort Worth, where they felt the Big 12 pulled a dirty deal with then-governor Ann Richards to bring in her alma mater Baylor over TCU.

The aftermath of that divorce is still felt in Texas. SMU and TCU have refused to be part of the same conference since the Frogs left the WAC – the second of five conference changes TCU has made since 1995. SMU was willing to become a real outsider in the Big East for a shot at a BCS game – a shot that no longer exists. And then, the most shocking breakup of all: Texas A&M leaving the Big 12 and ending its rivalry with Texas due to the Longhorns’ arrogance and the Aggies’ jealousy over the Longhorn Network, which almost tore apart the Big 12 as well.

Fans of college sports in Texas are now forced to hear from their schools that A&M playing Mississippi and Florida or SMU facing UConn will be just as good as when they all faced each other for bragging rights in the Lone Star State.

Now the fans who grew up with the Big East and looked forward to their rivalries are being forced to hear the same snake oil sale. So what that UConn may never play Syracuse again? They now get to face Clemson and Florida State! C’mon, West Virginia fans – you can get just as fired up for playing Texas Tech and Baylor as you did for Pitt!

But no, it won’t be the same. College sports were built on regional rivalries – being able to brag to your compatriots that your school beat their school from just 50-100 miles away, not the school 900 miles away.

As the Catholic 7 look to find members to flesh out the new Big East and the dumped other members that include SMU, Houston and Cincinnati try to find a name for what’s left of their conference, the fans who looked forward to those road trips to old rival teams and bragging to familiar opponents at MSG are the ones getting the shaft.

Just like the fans of the Southwest Conference got it in 1995. All because of greed tearing tradition apart.

Rowdy Rankings: College Basketball Venues

The lights have been turned off on college basketball games in North Texas for another year.

Technically, it happened a week ago, as all four teams in the area finished their home schedules. But now, as UTA, TCU and SMU move on to conference tournaments to try and keep their seasons going (UNT has since been bounced from the Sun Belt tournament), now might be a good time to give a grade and ranking on the college basketball facilities in the North Texas area. (I can’t say Metroplex in this case because sorry I just can’t see Denton as part of DFW. Do you know how freaking long it takes to get there?)

1. College Park Center
You can go ahead and call me biased on this one, but in 2012 UTA went from the worst facility in Texas Hall to the best. The College Park Center is like a smaller, more intimate version of the American Airlines Center, with even better sight lines than that aforementioned major venue. The only downside is whether or not the upper level was necessary, though the Mavs managed to pack the place twice this past season. While Texas Hall forced people to find seats where they could, usually within the 600 “backstage bleachers,” the CPC was made with room for everyone, giving the high-dollar alumni their cushioned court side seats while finally giving the students their own section along the baselines, allowing for the more realistic college atmosphere the school was long lacking.
Grade: A

2. Moody Coliseum
With a classic field house design that has a striking resemblance to the likes of Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium, Moody could have one of the best atmospheres in the country – if they could ever fill the place. It will be wait and see how the renovations that are about to begin will alter its atmosphere, as the changes it had previously made with the newer court and added room for more media, had reduced the amount of student space available. It probably has been ridiculed for things like the dark lighting and wooden bleachers lining the baseline, but a consistently winning SMU team that could pack the place would overshadow that.
Grade: B

3. Daniel Meyer Coliseum
It’s one of the circular-style venues that became en vogue about 30-40 years ago or so, and that already gets many points off as the shape pushes people away from more-up-close action. Other such venues, like UT’s Erwin Center, have worked to eliminate those problems. DMC has made some seating improvements over the years, but the students are still farther away than the previously mentioned buildings. At the very least, its 7,200 capacity may be just right for TCU; doubtful they could draw more than that even if the Horned Frogs were winning.
Grade: C

4. The Super Pit
It’s too big in addition to being another circular venue. With nearly 3,000 seats more than Daniel Meyer, it swallows up what atmosphere it could possibly have for sadly what is northern Texas’ closest thing to a college town in Denton. The students may be farthest away from the court action than any of the aforementioned places. Even though UNT may have had the most consistently winning team over the past few years, the area’s apathy toward college basketball means its chances of filling the Super Pit are slim to none. So any chance of a raucous atmosphere are eliminated among too many empty green seats each game.
Grade: D