Larry Conley Would Restructure College Sports

Larry Conley Would Restructure College Sports

David R. Cohen

David R. Cohen is the former Associate Editor of the Atlanta Jewish Times. He is originally from Marietta, GA and studied Journalism at the University of Tennessee.

Veteran broadcaster wants to go from March Madness to April Angst

Texas Western defeated the University of Kentucky for the 1966 NCAA men’s Division I basketball championship, becoming the first all-black lineup to appear in and win an NCAA title game. More than 50 years later, Larry Conley, a guard on that Kentucky team, still is asked about the game regularly.

“People can’t get past the white-vs.-black issue of that game,” the 72-year-old said Thursday, Dec. 15, at the Marcus Jewish Community Center, where he was part of the Edgewise speaker series. “There was much more to it than that.”

Conley explained how he got a credit on the 2006 film “Glory Road,” which was based on the historic game. After agreeing to be a consultant, he received a large check from the production company but never got a call about his experience.

Larry Conley speaks to the Marcus JCC’s Edgewise group Dec. 15. (Photo by David R. Cohen)
Larry Conley speaks to the Marcus JCC’s Edgewise group Dec. 15. (Photo by David R. Cohen)

“I wish I could get more jobs like that,” he said.

But Conley spoke about more than that landmark game.

In the summer of 1966, Conley’s Kentucky team, led by future Hall of Famers Pat Riley and Louie Dampier and coached by the legendary Adolph Rupp, easily won the International Universities Tournament in Tel Aviv. On the beach after their victory, Conley and his teammates met three U.S. Marines from Kentucky who were stationed at the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv.

“Those Marines threw us one heck of a party,” Conley said. “It was amazing sitting on the roof of that embassy and watching the sun come up over the Mediterranean Sea.”

After his playing career, Conley spent 42 years broadcasting sports. As a former college athlete and broadcaster, he shared his views on some of the issues in collegiate sports:

  • On one-and-done athletes in basketball — “The college player today, if he’s really good, spends one year playing and doesn’t worry about his academics. All he wants to do is make sure he gets drafted. That’s not the way it used to be. What you have to do is go to the NBA and get them to not allow players to be drafted until they have at least three years’ college experience.”
  • On the business of sports broadcasting — “The single biggest item on television today is sports. It creates more profit for the cable networks than anything that’s out there. Sports programming generates about $30 billion a year for TV companies.”
  • On the basketball season — “People around the country don’t watch college basketball until the football bowl games are over. They don’t watch in November or December. My solution to that is don’t start the season until after Christmas and play the NCAA championship in April. Yeah, I know all about March Madness and all that. We can call it April Angst instead.”
  • On conferences — “Let’s make every college independent and do away with conferences. Conferences are just the lobbying arm between the NCAA and the schools. The NCAA is an association; all the schools belong as a group. Right now you have about 70 schools at the really high Division I level that make all the money and another 800 schools just clinging by their fingernails. It’s not going to happen, but we’re starting to move in that direction.”

For the final Edgewise event of 2016, magician Howie “the Great” Marmer is scheduled to perform at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 22.

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