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Subject: Harvard Basketball Recruiting Not Constrained By AI Distribution Pattern

An Observer
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Date Posted: 00:15:28 09/20/18 Thu
In reply to: John Harvard 's message, "Re: Daily Pennsylvanian Ranks Ivy Athletic Programs: Harvard Not First" on 17:10:57 09/17/18 Mon

Hi there, John Harvard. As Joiseyfan suggests, there is a risk that revisiting this topic will lead to us rehashing ten years of AI discussion. But your post reflects some common misconceptions.

For example, you say that, because Harvard has a higher AI distribution among its overall student body than Penn does, therefore Harvard cannot recruit some men's basketball players that Penn can. That is not how the AI system works for men's basketball.

Your understanding would apply solely to football. For the other 32 Ivy championship sports, all recruited athletes are put into a single pool. So Harvard basketball does not have its own AI distribution curve. Neither does Penn basketball.

Harvard's basketball players are combined into the same pool as the lacrosse and hockey players. So when Tommy Amaker wants low AI players, he can get all he wants, subject to two conditions: First, any recruits coming directly from high school must clear the minimum AI threshold which applies to all recruited Ivy athletes. Second, Amaker must get approval from AD Bob Scalise insofar as all varsity sports at any single school are competing for a finite number of low AI slots.

So when you say that Harvard basketball has a higher academic standard than Penn does, that is solely subject to the discretion of Bob Scalise and Grace Calhoun. If Scalise wants to recruit very aggressively in men's basketball, it is quite possible that Amaker would have lower academic standards than those imposed upon Steve Donahue.

Apart from the fact that all 32 non-football sports are merged into a single pool, there are some other relevant facts.

When Amaker recruits a transfer player like Cem Dinc from Marshalltown Community College, Amaker can circumvent the AI restrictions completely.

Amaker can also inflate the AI average of his roster for appearance's sake (relevant both for appearance in the eyes of other Ivy schools and other sports within Harvard) by aggressively recruiting AI boosters such as Camden McRae. A guy like McRae can be averaged into the team score and then dismissed before the season starts.

Lastly, while HYP formerly had materially higher distribution curves than the other five Ivies, that is no longer true. After the SAT scale was re-centered in 1995, it ceased to clearly distinguish between highly qualified students because now their scores all bunch near the top of the scale. So now HYP have scores much closer to the other schools.

All of which is to say that Amaker is not constrained in the fashion which you believe.

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[> [> [> Subject: Re: Harvard Basketball Recruiting Not Constrained By AI Distribution Pattern

John Harvard
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Date Posted: 11:14:35 09/20/18 Thu

Thanks for your detailed response.

Certainly there are ways to be strategic, however, you seem to suggest that these are employed only by Tommy Amaker. Of course, they are equally available to Steve Donahue and all others. Admissions ethics - as evidenced by the recent bribery allegation - has most recently reared its head at Penn. I think it is unfounded to suggest - as you do - that Amaker is the worst transgressor. Although not dispositive, recent Harvard basketball players not only all graduate, but the team has earned more NABC academic awards recently than anyone other than Yale. Harvard succeeds in both of these to objective levels not attained by Penn.

The Campus AI is relevant, putting Harvard at a disadvantage relevant to Penn as HYP and likely Columbia are understood to have the highest Campus AI's. No matter how you spin it, that is empirically a disadvantage for Harvard, and an advantage for Penn.

No school can accept a student below the threshold AI. Thus, when combined with the Campus AI disadvantage that Harvard faces, it is likely that any Harvard basketball admit could have been admitted by all competing Ivies. For instance, I have read fans criticize Harvard for taking game changers like Wes Saunders, conveniently omitting that Saunders was heavily recruited (along with Kenyatta Smith that year) by Penn.

For what it's worth, I have heard behind the scenes explanations to the effect that Harvard had to pass on a player because of AI issues where that player ended up elsewhere in the Ivy League. I have never heard it the other way around.

In sum, your analysis must concede that Harvard starts at an AI disadvantage to Penn and certain others. Certainly, any AD and coach has ways that this can be abated, but to suggest that Amaker has such unique expertise and leeway as to turn this obstacle into an advantage is unfounded and, in my estimation, wrong.

I thought Mike James put this to bed over the past few years over on the basketball board.

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[> [> [> [> Subject: Re: Harvard Basketball Recruiting -- And A Highly Coincidental Poker Game!

An Observer
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Date Posted: 17:23:09 09/21/18 Fri

John Harvard,

I fear that we are talking past each other. I will try to be more clear about what I am and am not saying.

First, I make no assertions about what the other seven Ivies are doing. You infer than I am "suggesting" (your words) that Amaker is "the worst transgressor." I am not saying that Harvard is worse or better than the other Ivies. What I am describing is what we see Harvard doing. No more or no less.

That you bring up the very unfortunate situation with Jerome Allen is, if you'll excuse any confrontational tone, deflection on your part. It's very unfortunate and no less than pathetic that Jerome Allen is taking money to put an entirely unqualified athlete in Morris Enformes on his formal list of preferred recruits submitted to the admissions office. But it's not relevant.

The topic at hand is the questionable academic standards of the Harvard men's basketball program. A reasonable query is what should we conclude when Tommy Amaker puts an entirely unqualified athlete in Camden McRae on his formal list of preferred recruits submitted to the admissions office?

It's fantastic that Harvard and Yale are earning NABC academic awards. That is a relevant data point. So is the fact that, in 2015, Harvard's men's basketball NCAA Academic Progress Rate was so low that, had it continued unchanged for two more years, the Ivy League would have been put into the uncomfortable position that, had the Harvard won the conference, the Crimson would have been ineligible to participate in the NCAA tournament.

Getting back to the broadest and most important topic of our dialogue, the campus AI at all eight Ivies is relevant *ONLY* to the extent that the campus AI sets the mandated AI distribution curve for (A) football; and in a separate calculation, (B) all other 32 Ivy championship sports, collectively (that is, treated as one pool of 32 rosters combined).

So the disadvantage that you describe for HYP is absolutely true for HYP football although, as I described, the disadvantage has narrowed because the SAT scale was re-centered in 1995, rendering the top of the distribution of student scores truncated and thus not informative.

For the other 32 Ivy-championship sports, any recruiting advantage or disadvantage is entirely determined by how aggressive each school's athletic director wants to be in each of the 32 sports.

I am surprised that you say Harvard has a disadvantage relative to Penn "no matter how I spin it." That is patently untrue. If Bob Scalise wants to be aggressive in men's basketball, and it appears that he does, he can permit Tommy Amaker to recruit all of his players right down to the minimum AI threshold of 176. Because basketball has a relatively small roster of 14-18 players, it's actually reasonably painless for any athletic director to recruit aggressively in hoops because you can always get the school average back up using the 31 other sports.

Have you ever noticed that certain Ivy sports have rosters which are jam-packed with Asians? I'm thinking golf, tennis and squash. Those are convenient sports in which to squirrel away high AI athletic recruits to compensate for low AI recruits elsewhere.

I like it when you point out that some Harvard basketball recruits are pursued by other Ivies. That is good news. I would actually frame the sentence in the opposite direction logically. It's bad news when any Ivy pursues any recruit who is not recruited by any other Ivy. Harvard seems to have a lot of those.

I am confident that all Ivy coaches like to point out to their fans a given recruit who was passed up because of AI issues that subsequently ended up at a different Ivy. But any individual recruit must be considered in the context of the other players in his recruiting class and the overall roster.

To provide a more tangible example, suppose player John Doe is of average ability and average AI. John Doe might be passed up at Harvard because, given his average AI, Tommy Amaker can recruit a much better player for his AI slot. But what if the coach at Dartmouth or Brown can't recruit a better player at that AI score or *AT ALL*? John Doe will wind up at Dartmouth or Brown. That does not necessarily mean that Dartmouth or Brown have lower academic standards. It only means that Tommy Amaker aims higher in athletic ability for a given AI score.

While we're on the topic of arguably irrelevant hearsay, I'll pass along a story solely because it reflects a remarkable coincidence. Last night--that's right, just last night--I played poker with a group of gentlemen previously unknown to me including one older guy whose son is a current long-time men's basketball coach at an Ivy.

I didn't know this fact until after a couple hours had passed. We had already talked about personal topics such as his medical condition and his obvious pride and love for his children. Seriously, when the topic of children came up, he stopped and almost began tearing up.

May all of us someday be that proud of our children, and may all of our parents be that proud of us.

Once I found out who his son was, we started to talk Ivy League basketball in earnest. I couldn't resist asking him whether he thought Harvard was cheating academically in basketball because literally a few hours early I had been posting in this thread. To his great credit, it was clear that he did not want to discuss the topic. Naturally, I wouldn't let it go and continued to press him. Finally, he sighed and said that there had been "shenanigans" early in Amaker's tenure at Harvard, but that he didn't know what was or was not happening now. And that's all he would say.

I guess the big picture regarding Tommy Amaker is exactly as described by my new poker playing friend. We have a number, indeed a large number, of data points which strongly suggest or reflect that Amaker has at least at one time committed "shenanigans."

We don't know what he is or is not doing now, and we don't know what the other seven Ivy programs are doing in an attempt to keep up.

But what we have already seen is very troubling. The incriminating evidence known for sure should give all Ivy fans, coaches and administrators reason to think about how seriously we want to maintain what we wear as a badge of pride in this conference, that we will at all times maintain the highest of academic standards for varsity athletes.

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[> [> [> [> [> Subject: To John Harvard, Another Low Probability Event

An Observer
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Date Posted: 16:14:37 10/01/18 Mon

John Harvard,

These days, I don't expect to convince anybody of anything on any forum.

But have I at least explained the mechanics of the AI system to the point where we can agree that no Ivy basketball team (or any Ivy team in any sport ex-football) has their average team AI score evaluated against a school standard?

That is, Tommy Amaker does not have to maintain a higher score than Steve Donahue and, if permitted by Bob Scalise, Amaker can go lower. Harvard is not by rule at a disadvantage relative to Penn in basketball.

Do we at least agree on how the mechanics work?

Following up on my story about the father of the Ivy basketball coach, he got into a poker hand where the flop was Ace-Queen-Ten with no flush draw. The father bet, his opponent raised all-in and then the father called for his entire stack, flipping over his hand to show King-Jack, the nut straight.

The opponent flipped over Ace-Four, for top pair with a terrible kicker. Fortunately for him, the turn and river went Four-Four, giving him the full house. When all the chips went into the pot, this guy was less than a 1% probability to win.

Low probability events happen all the time, much more than our intuition believes. Our minds underestimate the likelihood of low probability events. Just something to consider when people talk about the inevitability of Princeton winning the title this year.

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[> [> [> [> [> Subject: I like the poker reference

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Date Posted: 16:44:08 10/01/18 Mon

last time I played at Foxwoods I had straight flush draw after the flop so I went all in, thinking of opened ended straight draw, flush or straight flush would likely appear and I would clean up, obviously I went down in flames

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[> [> [> [> [> [> Subject: Re: I like the poker reference -- Straight-Flush Stories

An Observer
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Date Posted: 20:39:54 10/02/18 Tue


Later in the same game with the father of the Ivy basketball coach, I folded Ace-Five of Hearts pre-flop after somebody raised before me. That's the kind of hand I'll often call with, but the table was so aggressive I was afraid it would be re-raised after me.

The flop included Ten-Nine of Hearts. Then the turn came Eight of Hearts. There was a bet, a raise, a re-raise all in and a call. There was not a pair on the board, so I was starting to really regret not playing my Ace-Five of Hearts. Had I stayed in, this would have been nearly a thousand dollar pot. Just as the sadness started to really seep deep into my "heart," I thought to myself, "With all that aggressive betting, is it possible that one of these two guys has the Jack-Seven of Hearts?"

Sure enough, one of the players flipped over the straight-flush. That is only the third straight-flush that I've ever personally seen in my life.

The first two took place within one week of each other back in 2006 at the weekly game at my company. I held Ten-Six of Clubs and filled it on the river. A week later, there was another one, prompting one of my co-workers to shout, and I quote verbatim, "Oh my God, a straight-flush! I have never seen a straight-flush in my entire life! Well, except for the one An Observer got last week."

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