Our Take on NCAA Issues

Seton Hall basketball: An expert’s advice on handling Isaiah Whitehead mess

Every now and then, you hear the phrase from an old-timer who still associates Seton Hall basketball with a 1961 point-shaving scandal.

“Cheatin’ Hall.”

That disgrace scarred the athletic department’s reputation for a generation.

Friday’s revelation by Yahoo Sports, that an unscrupulous agent listed former Pirate star Isaiah Whitehead on his payroll before the guard turned pro, is a far cry from throwing games. But it could leave a nasty stain. Exactly how nasty depends, in part, on how the university proceeds from here.

Bob Zito knows the deal. The seasoned public relations executive is managing partner of the Warren-based firm IPZ, which provides “strategic and tactical solutions” for professional athletes, media talent and entertainers. Among his past credentials: helping to build the New York Stock Exchange’s brand.

Gannett New Jersey asked Zito how he would advise Seton Hall, Whitehead and the NCAA as the FBI’s investigation into recruiting practices continues to rock college basketball.

“One of the big things in any situation like this — whether you’re a college, a basketball team or a Fortune 500 company — transparency is so important,” Zito said. “There are hundreds of (reporters) out there who will find someone to talk to them. You have to be transparent so no one can shoot at it. You can’t hide anything anymore.”

Seton Hall issued the following statement Friday afternoon: “We are aware of the Yahoo! Sports report. We have taken steps proactively to reach out to the NCAA and the BIG EAST Conference, and while we have not been contacted by investigators, we will be conducting our own internal review.”

Zito praised the statement as a good start. Fact-gathering always should be the first step.

“What Seton Hall has done so far is the exact right thing,” he said. “No. 1, you have to do your own internal review. That internal review has to be done by someone who is independent, but someone who knows what’s going on (in the sport).”

By independent, Zito means an investigator “who is not affiliated with the university,” he said. “That would be smart for Seton Hall.”

Speaking generally about someone in Whitehead’s position, Zito recommends telling the truth about agent relationships and letting the public assess a broken system.

“It’s, ‘Here’s what I did when I was 15, 16 years old, because that probably is the age when it starts,’” he said. “But he’s probably going to have to throw someone under the bus to do that, because my guess is it probably wasn’t his idea.”

So, expose whose idea it was.

“Young basketball players, people realize these kids are going to make money and latch onto them, give them bad counsel and steer them one way or another, and it’s just an ugly thing,” he said.

As for the NCAA, Zito recommends admitting failure as a starting point.

“Anybody involved in college basketball, quietly you know this stuff is going on, how it works,” he said. “The NCAA has turned a deaf ear to it.”

Each of his suggestions has a common thread: Transparency. That’s the first step toward earning public trust. As Seton Hall learned decades ago, that trust can be hard to regain.


Here are four questions hanging over the program as the FBI investigation and Seton Hall’s internal probe unfold.

1. Did anyone employed by Seton Hall play a part in arranging for Whitehead to receive money from the agency ASM Sports?

2. Is there documentation that Hall head coach Kevin Willard knew about Whitehead’s ties to ASM while he was a student?

3. Did former assistant coach Tiny Morton’s reported $9,500 loan from ASM take place during his one season on the Pirates’ staff (2014-15)?

4. What impact, if any, does this have on the morale and focus of the current Hall team as it pursues a third straight NCAA Tournament appearance, especially given the seniors’ continued friendship with Whitehead?

View the story online.

Paul Christensen Signed By Atlanta United 2

IPZ Athlete Inks First Professional Deal

WARREN, NJ, February 19, 2018 – Paul Christensen, a 2018 MLS SuperDraft selection of Atlanta United FC, has signed a professional contract with its USL affiliate Atlanta United 2.

Very excited to officially sign with @atlutd2 looking forward to a great season! #AO1 #UniteAndConquer,” said Christensen in a tweet.

“Paul is a solid young goalkeeper who impressed us with his technique, willingness to learn and enthusiasm for the club,” said ATL UTD 2 Head Coach Scott Donnelly.

“We are excited for Paul to begin his professional career within the Atlanta United franchise,” said Jeff Curtin, managing director of IPZ. “Atlanta has quickly established itself as one of the top clubs in U.S. soccer, and with Atlanta United 2, Paul will be in an environment that is fantastic for young professional players.”

View ATL UTD 2’s release about Christensen’s signing here.

About IPZ: IPZ represents clients in sports, media, and entertainment, providing management, contract negotiations, consulting, public relations and marketing communications support. The company, an alliance with Zito Partners, is built on the integrity of its professionals, maintains a family focus, and provides whole life solutions for its clients. For more information, visit www.ipzusa.com.

About Zito Partners: Zito Partners builds, energizes and defends brands. A boutique firm representing a select group of clients from a range of industries, Zito Partners believes in a “ready, aim, fire” approach – understand the client…develop the appropriate strategy against the key target constituencies…and execute against the plan. And through its strategic alliance with Ketchum, Ketchum Zito Financial, Zito Partners is assisting additional clients with their financial communications needs. For more information, visit www.zitopartners.com.

Tyrell Nelson Claims Georgian Superleague Weekly Honors

American Tyrell Nelson (201-F, agency: Interperformances & IPZ) had a great game in the last round for the league’s second-best Rustavi and received an Interperformances Player of the Week award for round 19.

The forward had a double-double of 27 points and 14 rebounds, while his team edged out DELTA (#8, 4-13) 101-99. Rustavi is in 2nd place in the Georgian Superleague. Rustavi will need more victories to improve their 12-5 record. In the team’s last game Nelson shot a remarkable 75.0% from 2-point range. He turned out to be Rustavi’s top player in his first season with the team. Gardner-Webb University graduate has very impressive stats this year. Nelson is in league’s top in points (4th best: 18.6ppg), rebounds (5th best: 8.8rpg) and averages solid 61.7% FGP.

View more online: http://www.eurobasket.com/Georgia/basketball.asp?NewsID=522363&showcomments=1&Women=0#c

MMA Crossfire Interviews IPZ Director of Combat Sports Alec Savitsky

Now that we have Conor McGregor, it’s easy to forget how reluctant many fighters were  – and still are – to embrace the importance of branding.

Conor’s fearless combination of Irish steak and sizzle skyrocketed him not only to the top of the UFC, he quickly transcended combat sports with his formidable skills, charismatic personality, and business smarts.

It’s something that former USA National Combat Sambo coach Oleg “Alec” Savitsky appreciates.

Born in the Republic of Georgia, Savtisky will be 46 years old in 2018. He became a U.S. citizen in 1997 and is a three-time world championship medal winner, with a nine-year career in Combat Sambo and MMA (2000-2009). Known to friends as “Alec,” Savitsky successfully made the transition to the business side in various roles including a TV commentator, talent scout, and promoter for M-1 Global in the USA.

Savitsky was recently named Director of Combat Sports at management consulting firm International Players + Zito Partners (IPZ). He spoke to The Crossfire’s Kenai Andrews about his career and his new position.

View the Q&A here: https://www.mmacrossfire.com/2018/02/05/ipz-director-combat-sports-oleg-savitsky-opens-importance-branding/

Cynopsis Sports Q&A with USA Volleyball CEO Jamie Davis

Our Q&A today is with Jamie Davis, CEO of USA Volleyball, who – a year after taking on the role – has reworked the structure of the NGB, locked in the org’s biggest partnership ever courtesy of a new deal with adidas, and is now plotting the future of its media strategy. Recent weeks also saw the launch of the USA National Beach Rankings, described as the premiere domestic platform for all beach volleyball results with an eye to provide for the most accurate seeding of competitions and serve as the best platform to identify talent at all levels across the country. Cynopsis asked Davis about the opportunities for the sport, protecting athletes following the USA Gymnastics scandal and what we can expect moving forward.

Davis on taking the job: I was approached by a headhunter and when I was first approached, I wasn’t looking for a job and was enjoying running my own consulting business. When they brought up USA Volleyball, I started looking into the sport and got really excited by the opportunity. I didn’t realize that volleyball was the top girls team participatory sport in high school. More girls play volleyball than play any other team. That holds true at the NCAA level as well. Then I looked a beach volleyball, which is the fastest growing sport in the history of the NCAA. When you look at the boy’s side, it is the second-fastest growing high school sport for boys. So as a guy who has been in sports for his entire career, I realized that I had no idea of the scale of this sport. So a light bulb went off, and I realized what an unbelievable opportunity this is to be able to work with a sport with so much momentum and come in from an outsider’s perspective with fresh eyes and bring my experience to it.

On goals: My immediate goals when I first got here was first to digest. I didn’t want to make changes on day one. When I looked at USA Volleyball, I saw huge potential but I also saw that it was a very siloed organization. We were divided by three separate core operations who were sitting there trying to mirror each other. So we were trying to build each of these up, as they are all of equal priority to me. So one of the first things I did here was to break down those silos so we could become a more efficient organization and instead of being broken down by discipline, it would be organized by function. So the people in events, for example, now all work together for indoor, sitting and beach.

The second thing I realized was that our brand was misunderstood and not that well known. People heard of USA Volleyball but didn’t know what we stood for or what made us unique. So we came up with a brand positioning which we call Path to the Podium. USA Volleyball is the only organization in this sport which works at the grassroots levels up to the level of the national teams where we have the Olympics and Paralympians competing. You are on that path from the day you join as a member.

On exposure: When you look at the hours of volleyball programming that are now on the networks, it is getting a lot more exposure. We are working to extend that but I’m looking at not just at traditional media but – when you look at the demographics of our membership – I am looking at the digital space as well and mobile first, to be perfectly honest. So as we talk with broadcasters and others about carriage and exposure of our sport, one thing that is very important to me is what they can deliver in the digital space. I go to these events and I see a lot of heads down so if that’s where they are looking, that is where we have to be.

On protecting athletes: We are 100% dedicated to SafeSport, and we were one of the earliest adopters in putting in safeguards to ensure that we are doing as much as we can. We certainly do background screenings, we require all of our members who deal with junior athletes to be SafeSport certified, which means that that cannot participate if they are not certified. I would not be in this role if this role did not take our athletes safety seriously.

View more online: http://www.cynopsis.com/020518/