Q+A: Seth Davis

by Eldon Khorshidi | @eldonadam

Although the college basketball season is officially over, Subwaythe ultra-popular sandwich and salad restaurant chain—is carrying the bball thrill into the summer. Over the course of the next month, through a charitable initiative with local food banks, Subway will help low-income adults, seniors and children eat, well, fresh. This past Saturday in Atlanta, GA, CBS studio analyst Seth Davis and Jared Fogle—aka the Subway Guy—surprised local fans at a downtown Atlanta franchise to give away free six-inch subs and spread the word about Subway’s newest promotion. Davis and Fogle prepared sandwiches, posed for photographs and gave speeches on the importance of making sure “no one is left hungry.”

Beginning yesterday, Subway restaurants will deliver 3,333 six-inch sandwiches to the food bank in the market of the team that hit the most three-pointers during the NCAA Tournament. The La Salle Explorers converted the most threes entering Final Four weekend, but the Michigan Wolverines took home the crown in their final two games, surpassing La Salle to finish with 49 three-pointers in the Tournament. On Wednesday, Subway delivered its first installment—555 sandwiches—to Food Gatherers, the food bank program serving Ann Arbor, MI, and Washtenaw County.

SLAMonline was on hand for the sandwich giveaway (peep some snapshots above), and after the event, we got a few minutes with Davis. The Sports Illustrated writer and basketball pundit shared some thoughts on the ’12-13 season, issues surrounding the NCAA, the Mike Rice scandal and more.

SLAM: Can you tell us a little about the initiative you’re doing with Subway?

Seth Davis: Subway has put together a very good, charitable initiative, and I’m happy I can help promote it. No one should be hungry, and it’s great that Subway is doing whatever it can to help alleviate the hunger problem.


SLAM: A popular theme in college basketball was the amount of parity this season. Throughout the season, all the talking heads said that teams were more “even” than ever before, that the whole tournament was a toss-up. Would you agree?

SD: You know, we still had Louisville, Syracuse and Michigan in the Final Four, so this notion that parity is new this year isn’t historically accurate. I think it just shows that we have a lot of good teams out there.

For Instance, look at Wichita State. They’re a 9-seed from the Missouri Valley Conference, and people aren’t really that surprised by it. There’s not the same type of commotion from when George Mason or VCU or Butler reached the Final Four. I think it’s more because people have come to understand that this really is March Madness, and that there are a lot of good teams, so we shouldn’t be surprised when a team gets hot and makes a run. There was parity, sure, but the favorites also had success, so I don’t think it was a historically unique season.

SLAM: Something that fascinated me this season was the success of Wichita State, but more specifically, the way that Wichita’s roster was constructed —with a bunch of junior college players and transfers. Unlike the style at, say, Kentucky, Gregg Marshall took a different route and made it work.

SD: Yeah, for sure. There’s a lot of upside to doing it that way. The most valuable thing is that JUCO players don’t leave early, so you will have guys who are juniors and seniors. They might not have the natural and physical talent of a one-and-done recruit, but they’re going to know more, their bodies are going to be more developed, they’re going to be better teammates and they will help establish a culture within your program. I think we all focus too much on the rankings, and on the McDonald’s All-Americans, that we kind of lose sight of the bigger picture. Those rankings may reflect who you were at 17, but they may not reflect who you are at 19, and a lot of kids struggle with that.

SLAM: Trey Burke was named National Player of the Year. Did you vote for him? And also, some writers have suggested delaying the voting until after the NCAA Tournament is finished, to give guys a chance to showcase their abilities in March. What are your thoughts?

SD: I voted Trey Burke as my Player of the Year. He’s a special young man — he can score, distribute, lead and play defense. I just thought he earned it from both an individual and team standpoint. In terms of the voting, I think it makes the most sense the way it already is. It’s nice to announce the winner it at the Final Four, where every coach is in town and it’s like a big basketball party. I think it adds more excitement to the sports to announce the winner at the Final Four, so I’d leave it as is.

SLAM: On another note: the NCAA recently has been under fire with their management—and often mismanagement—of various issues in college basketball. There’s a lot to go through, but off the top of my head, an interesting debate is whether or not college athletes should be paid. Where do you stand?

SD: I am very much against the concept and the idea of “pay for play.” College student-athletes are not professionals, they are not employees, and, most of all, they’re not out there doing it for free. They get scholarship money, food, housing, books, first-rate training in their academics and in their sport.

Remember, when people think about college sports and paying athletes, they think about the Final Four or Alabama football. But we forget that less than 1% of players will ever make a dime playing sports, and 90% of schools are actually losing money on athletics! There are only two sports that have any hope of making money—football and men’s basketball, so it’s not like athletic programs are growing money on trees to pay these players.

Now, I think the scholarship should be updated. They could get stipends, and be able to work to get money. But the idea that they should be compensated? I do not agree with that.

SLAM: What about the NBA’s one-and-done rule?

SD: That rule has been very good for college basketball because it’s kept kids in school for a year, who would have otherwise went to the league. But I personally think the one-and-done rule is wrong. These kids should be able to pursue whatever the marketplace demands, and if somebody is going to draft them, they should be able to pursue that.

SLAM: Lastly, there’s obviously been a huge fallout from the Mike Rice situation at Rutgers University. What was your reaction to how everything unfolded?


SD: He should’ve been fired the first time [the video tapes came out], but the fact that all of these moves are being made because of the public lynch-mob is upsetting to me. I think the end result is correct, but I don’t like how we got to the end result. I mean, forgive me for saying so, but I look at Mice Rice and I see he’s a human being, a husband, a father, and now he’s lost his job and his livelihood is ruined. I have deep empathy for him. What he did was deplorable and wrong, and he deserved to be fired, but I think we just missed the human element. I now feel bad for the guy. What he did was wrong, but there should be some road to redemption for him.