Pat Forde

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Pat Forde is Yahoo! Sports’ national college columnist. He is an award-winning writer, author and commentator with 25 years experience in newspapers and online.

  • Cuonzo Martin’s departure highlights Tennessee's immense level of dysfunction

    It is time to test the Tennessee River water that flows past Knoxville.

    Test it for toxic levels of dysfunction.

    There is something in the water, or the soil – or, most likely, the people – at the University of Tennessee that has turned the athletic department into a transient, turmoil-ridden place. Basketball coach Cuonzo Martin’s departure Tuesday for California is just the latest huh? moment for a school that has been buffeted by them in recent years.

    Martin’s successor will be the third Tennessee hoops coach since 2011. Butch Jones is the fourth football coach since 2008. Dave Hart is the second athletic director in the last three years.

    Absolutely nothing is rock solid on Rocky Top these days. It is high time for a reality check.

    Tennessee football has had five losing seasons in the past six years – and the one winning season was 7-6. It was authored by Lane Kiffin, who immediately fled for USC after that season. The fans who couldn’t wait to get rid of Phil Fulmer now look back

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  • Reinvigorated Michael Phelps to return to pool with eye on 2016 Olympics

    Michael Phelps' comeback took another step forward Monday with the announcement that he plans to swim in the Arena Grand Prix at Mesa, Ariz., on April 24-26.

    It will be Phelps' first competition since retiring after the London Olympics in 2012. At that time, Phelps was adamant that he would not come back and attempt to compete in a fifth Olympics, but last November it was reported that he re-entered the U.S. Anti-Doping Association drug-testing pool – a precursor to competing in national meets. He has resumed training with his longtime coach, Bob Bowman, at North Baltimore Aquatic Center.

    Bowman told Yahoo Sports on Monday that the most decorated Olympian of all-time is entered in three events in the meet: the 100-meter butterfly, 100 freestyle and 50 free, although Phelps probably will swim butterfly in the 50 free. (A swimmer can do any stroke in a freestyle event.) He downplayed the significance of any results at the meet.

    "He's ready to be in a meet," Bowman said. "We'll see how

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  • Rule makers planning to make NCAA men's basketball even more fan-friendly

    DALLAS – College basketball's rule makers and rule enforcers sent the message last year: stop holding and hacking, and stop trying to take a charge on every play.

    The message was received, and the game was better in 2013-14. Thanks to an emphasis on restoring freedom of movement for offensive players and limitations on secondary defenders drawing charges, we saw less assault and battery on dribblers and fewer collisions under the rim. Scoring was up, muggings and flops were down.

    Now the trend has to continue.

    Led by Belmont coach Rick Byrd, chairman of the NCAA Men's Basketball Rules Committee, a group of administrators and coaches met with a handful of media members Monday at the Final Four to discuss the state of the game from a rules perspective. The group provided data on the impact of the rules enacted/enforced last season and a potential roadmap for what might be next.

    In the 2014 NCAA tournament, scoring was up 4.2 percent over the previous tourney (at least heading into the

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  • UConn vets Shabazz Napier, Ryan Boatright deliver; young Wildcats wilt under pressure

     

    ARLINGTON, Texas – Shabazz Napier had snipped his section of net, hugged every teammate, and then slapped dozens of fans' hands as he walked off the court a champion.

    On the long walk to the locker room in massive AT&T Stadium after the 60-54 defeat of Kentucky, a teammate threw an arm over the Connecticut guard's shoulder and together they woofed into a TV camera for a while. Then another teammate ran up and yelled, "Hey 'Bazz, we just won the whole thing, that's all!"

    But the final 20 yards to the locker room turned into a surprising solo sojourn for the Final Four Most Outstanding Player. For the only time all night, he was briefly alone with his thoughts.

    Shabazz Napier holds the championship trophy after defeating Kentucky. (AP)Napier tugged at the tape on his right wrist and said aloud, but to no one in particular, "Bittersweet moment, man. I'm a senior. Can't believe this is my last game."

    This was the senior moment that capped the so-called Year of the Freshman in college basketball. It was a triumph of veteran guards – Napier and endlessly crafty

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  • After weeks of ridicule, Kentucky's 'Ink Prophet' is now one win from vindication

    ARLINGTON, Texas – The True Believer is on his way here, riding shotgun in a 2007 Camry. He has a date with his prophecy.

    Tyler Austin Black, the 22-year-old machinist from Richmond, Ky., took the ultimate leap of faith when times were bleakest for his beloved Kentucky Wildcats. He went into Vice & Virtue Tattoo Studio in Berea, Ky., on March 13 and paid $80 to have "2014 Nati9nal Champions" and the UK logo inked onto his right calf. (The 9 signifies what would be the program's ninth national title.)

    The odds of UK winning the tournament were around 50-to-1 when the tattoo was inked. (Credit: Tyler Austin Black)At the time, it was loonier than Charlie Sheen off his meds – the preseason No. 1 team had lost 10 times and plummeted out of the top 25. Their most recent game was a 19-point loss at Florida. The Southeastern Conference tournament was starting the next day when Black walked into the tattoo parlor ("sober as a bird"), and there was some doubt whether Kentucky would win another game this season – much less six in a row in the Big Dance.

    Now, incredibly, his wishful inking is 40 minutes from

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  • UConn's improbable run to NCAA final fueled by disrespect

    ARLINGTON, Texas – Connecticut's early season victory over Florida was the most disregarded result of the year in college basketball.

    For the past week, everyone dismissed the fact the Huskies beat the Gators 65-64 on Dec. 2. It was in Storrs, and Florida was without guard Kasey Hill and big man Chris Walker. And the Gators had not lost since then, while the Huskies went on to lose with regularity – eight times between Dec. 18 and March 15.

    So the heavy presumption was No. 1 Florida would get its payback against UConn on Saturday night in the Final Four. But the Huskies have made a habit of mocking presumption on this ridiculous run.

    "Those are just excuses," UConn big man Tyler Olander said of the earlier game. "What can they say now? What was the reason we beat them this time?"

    These are the reasons behind the Huskies' 63-53 upset victory in the national semifinal in JerryWorld: UConn's relentless defense destroyed the Florida backcourt; the hide-and-seek talent of DeAndre Daniels

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  • How Florida's 'maniac' coach Billy Donovan relieves stress

    ARLINGTON, Texas – The trash talk starts before they reach the weight room.

    "You're not going to be able to complete the workout," Florida strength coach Preston Greene will say to his boss. "It's way too hard for you."

    "Let's see what you've got," Billy Donovan will respond.

    After the satellite radio has been tuned to classic rock for Donovan to sing along while he toils, Greene will bring the pain. For 25 minutes, three days a week, his job is to "smash" the Gators basketball coach with a hyper-intense workout that would send most 48-year-old men in search of a defibrillator, or at least a recliner. Three other days a week, Donovan runs a series of 25 sprint intervals – on the treadmill when he's on the road, on the track when he's at home.

    He's not sprinting to simply break a sweat. He's sprinting until he's doubled over and gasping. Then he's sprinting some more.

    "He wants to just get smashed," Greene said, and not in the old-school, frat-party sense. "All our coaches do some type

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  • SEC could extend Big Ten's national title drought in college basketball

    ARLINGTON, Texas – Jim Delany rides or dies here with the Wisconsin Badgers.

    While that's better than having no teams in the Final Four, the Big Ten commissioner is no longer operating from the position of strength he enjoyed as recently as last week. When Michigan and Michigan State both flamed out in regional finals, the quest for the league's first national title in men's basketball since 2000 suddenly shifted from strong odds to slim.

    That's tough to take. But the presence of Southeastern Conference teams on both sides of the Final Four bracket makes the Big Ten predicament almost intolerable.

    If the Badgers are going to win this thing, they will have to beat Kentucky Saturday and then quite likely Florida Monday. If they pull that off, it's a phenomenal accomplishment and one of the happiest Big Ten moments in many years. But if they lose to either SEC team, it's one more spoonful of castor oil down the throat for Delany.

    He already has had to cede the foundation sport of football

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  • Kelvin Sampson vows he'll be a better college coach at Houston after past violations

    ARLINGTON, Texas – Ned Sampson was dying. His son Kelvin was on a 10-day West Coast trip with the Houston Rockets, so the phone was their connection in Ned's final days.

    The discussions were deep, and too personal for Kelvin to share in detail. But two days before Ned Sampson passed away on Feb. 18, he made some points that convinced Kelvin it was time to take a shot at coaching college basketball again.

    "He said some profound things to me that made me think about it," Kelvin told Yahoo Sports. "Call it whatever you want – God's will or karma. But it had an impact."

    Six weeks later, Kelvin Sampson is the new coach of the Houston Cougars. His record is both accomplished and tarnished, and there will be many who hammer Houston for giving a third chance to a two-time violator of major NCAA rules. But he is a winner on a scale beyond anything the school has been able to hire since the Phi Slama Jama glory days of the early 1980s faded away.

    Sampson had been working as an assistant coach for the Rockets. (USA Today)If you are Houston, and you've been to one NCAA

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  • Rugged body, soft heart: How Patric Young transformed into a leader for Florida

    The answer is yes. Patric Young always has been built like a Greek god.

    Bennita Young remembers taking her boy to the pediatrician when he was 2 or 3. She remembers the doctor exclaiming over his tiny six-pack of abs and muscular frame.

    "My God, what does this kid do?" the doctor asked.

    Bennita promised the doctor her toddler was not lifting weights at home. That's simply the way the son of a former college and professional tight end was born – sculpted and strong.

    This week the 6-foot-9, 249-pound Florida big man will bring the most imposing physique of anyone to the Final Four. But to know Pat Young for his hard body only is to disregard the soft center that truly makes him who he is – for better and worse. He is far more than a powerful pair of biceps and a manly Zeus beard; the heart and soul are where his story truly lies.


    Growing up in Jacksonville, Fla., Patric Young never locked his basketball locker in middle school. Everyone kept telling him to do it, and he never did.

    "Who

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