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Electoral College Basketball: Our Fictional Campaign Begins

Setting the stage for the election of our next president: a college basketball coach

Elections are an untamed beast with no true conqueror and no definite concoction to cure their many puzzles. And, like coaching, there is no perfect playbook — no panacea that will succeed free of the entropic influence of failure.

The entire topic in itself is a major turn-off to most, especially in today’s heated political climate.

Fortunately, I have a solution: Instead of having politicians run for president, what if we had college basketball coaches run instead?

You know what? When it comes down to it, being a coach and being president isn’t all that different.

These are the people who spend their days wooing recruits, boosters, and fans. They deal with the media. They know how to work reporters, and they know what to say when the tv lights are on and the sound is recording. They make consequential decisions, have great staffs, and delegate tasks to their departments.

In many ways, the two are eerily similar. Who’s to say they can’t hold the nation’s top office?

Now, some might say I am busying myself with fantastical solutions that have no ultimate bearing in reality. To those people, I say only this: you are correct. However, in the crazy times we live in, it is a bit comforting to allow oneself this reprieve — even if it occupies but a fleeting moment.

That being said, it would be quite subjective if I were to just channel Harry Turtledove and simply create a timeline wherein only college basketball coaches were allowed to run for president. After all, in this scenario, everything is up to me and my wretched imagination.

Therefore, I must turn to a computer game that will house this eye-opening electoral simulation. This game — President Infinity, created by 270soft — allows me to fully customize a presidential election that I can completely be a part of. It is an immersive experience that will provide us with the skeleton of the election that has the potential to change everything.

However, I cannot just leave such an important task up to the game itself. I have to set some rules and alter the scenario itself in order to provide the best, most entertaining election possible.

I will be playing this game on a medium difficulty in order to provide a semi-difficult challenge, and I will be playing as only one head coach whose actions I will control.

Just which coach will I play as? Well, if you voted in my poll that I tweeted about recently, then you helped me decide! Since you all decided that Tom Crean is your least favorite, he’s the candidate whose campaign I shall be managing! Every other coach’s campaign will be left up to the computer to control.

The campaign will begin on May 1, 2015, and every candidate will already have declared his candidacy. This will give us a good chunk of time to examine the race (and the primaries, the most interesting part of the race).

Now, since this past year’s actual election possessed a whole slew of candidates (and we love mid-major coaches), I decided to put 18 coaches into the field. If your favorite coach isn’t included, just pretend that he elected to sit this one out due to personal reasons or harmful opposition research or something.

The 18 coaches selected have been divided into two separate political parties, with nine coaches running in each party’s respective primary. Those two parties are called the Naismithians and the Allenites, earning their names from the two legendary Kansas Jayhawks coaches who helped birth this sport which we do so adore.

There’s no real ideology that constitutes which coach is placed in which party. They are simply organizational groups. However, that is not to say that this campaign does not feature a hollow, issue-free shell.

Of course, I expect you to be wondering exactly which coaches will be vying for the most powerful job on the planet (and I am not talking about the Kentucky head coaching job). Below, you will find a complete list of the candidates, complete with their party affiliation:

Naismithians:

  • Greg Kampe
  • Tom Crean
  • Tommy Amaker
  • Mark Few
  • Travis Ford
  • Tim Cluess
  • Scott Cross
  • Mark Pope
  • Phil Martelli

Allenites:

  • Rick Stansbury
  • Oliver Purnell
  • Rick Byrd
  • Joe Dooley
  • Randy Bennett
  • Levelle Moton
  • Bob McKillop
  • Robert Ehsan
  • Dan Majerle

Campaign surrogates are also an important aspect of real life elections, as they are other voices that campaigns can use to reach even more voters, whether they’re barnstorming in another state or showing up on TV. Each candidate will have at least one surrogate unique to them, whether it’s Rick Pitino for Mark Pope or Vince Gill for Rick Byrd. Every coach has someone in their corner who will help fight for him to soar into the Oval Office.

Since candidates must always keep up with media appearances, I made sure to add in a few TV and radio shows that coaches can appear on for interviews, replacing Hardball, Meet the Press, etc. for sports-themed programming. As we’re well aware, media performances can make or break a campaign, and the coaches will need to put their best selves forward when they step in front of a television camera or behind a radio mic.

And, in order to make things completely fair, every coach is starting out with $0 in their war chest, and they’re all polling at the same level. That way it is up to each coach to decide on their own fundraising and persuasive tactics in order to accumulate votes.

We will see who is truly the most skilled.


When setting up this simulation, I took special care to create eight different issues that relate to college basketball. Within each issue is a variety of policy planks that each candidate can adopt.

Three-Point Shot

  • We should have a four-point shot.
  • Keep the shot as it is presently.
  • Protect responsible shots. Make the three-point line farther out.
  • This is not a pressing issue.
  • Some restrictions on three-pointers. The line should be wider.
  • Only allow threes in the old fashioned way.
  • SCORING IN INCREMENTS OF TWO ONLY.

Athletic Department Spending

  • Debt is fine. Just focus on funding things that will better the lives of players.
  • Increase athletic department spending on academic programs. Deficits are acceptable.
  • Focus on real priorities like academics.
  • Balance lowering athletic department deficits with other priorities.
  • We need to curb athletic department spending so we can respect boosters' dollars.
  • We must ensure prudent athletic department spending with a Balanced Budget Amendment.
  • Deficit spending should be outlawed as overall athletic department spending is reduced to minuscule levels.

Defense

  • Offense is all that should be played.
  • Zones are absurd. Man-to-man only.
  • Reorganize the defense to make it adaptable to any offense.
  • A mix of zones and man-to-man is fine.
  • No man-to-man whatsoever.
  • One defense should only be allowed per each team.
  • 2-3 zone, baby.

Role of the NCAA

  • The NCAA should have no say in punishing schools.
  • The NCAA shouldn’t interfere in school matters.
  • The NCAA should only allow punishments in serious legal matters.
  • The NCAA shouldn't be proactive in finding violations, but it should still act as a punisher in some cases.
  • The NCAA should intervene when amateurism is threatened.
  • We should use the NCAA to crack down hard, but only sparingly.
  • The NCAA is a powerful disciplinary force! We should use its power to crack down on violators.

Transfers

  • Players should be able to transfer from game to game.
  • Graduate students should be allowed to transfer because it's about their education.
  • Only a certain amount of grad transfers per a two-year period.
  • The current transfer system is fine.
  • There is a problem, but it would do more harm trying to fix it than if we left it alone.
  • We have a massive grad transfer epidemic that must be stopped.
  • No transfers of any kind allowed ever. Also fun is banned.

Coaching Salaries

  • The income of coaches should be limited since their players are unpaid.
  • The NCAA should set a salary cap.
  • Players and coaches should split basketball revenue.
  • Leave the system as it currently is.
  • Pay players and coaches based on performance.
  • Leave the matter up to the conferences.
  • Coaches should be paid exactly what they can earn based on their respective skill levels.

Paying Players

  • Players should be paid a fair amount.
  • At least pay them a living wage.
  • They get free college. Why do they need actual money?
  • Players should not be paid. Keep it as it is.
  • At least let players get a job if they want to.
  • Players should be paid based on their skill level.

Draft Eligibility

  • Players should be able to skip college altogether.
  • If we pay players, they won't be in as big of a rush to get to the NBA.
  • Expand the NBA Draft to more than two rounds so people have a better chance of getting picked.
  • The system is fine as is.
  • Schools should have a set graduation rate mandated by the NCAA.
  • Players should spend three years in college.
  • Players should have to spend four years in college.

Those of us who have spent our time gleaning news from our televisions and Twitter accounts are fully aware of the power of political endorsements, both from interest groups, newspapers, and individual citizens.

Of course this campaign does not feature the typical endorsers one would find in an ordinary campaign, as this is based around the incredibly close-knit and esoteric world of college basketball.

Therefore, the endorsers that candidates will be vying for will be names familiar to those who attempt to stay in the know when it comes to basketball.

For brevity’s sake (and to preserve some element of mystery so you’ll keep reading), I will not say every possible endorser. Just know that many of the endorsers will be familiar college hoops outlets, writers, and personalities.

I also created many interest groups that will represent certain aspects of college hoops. Coaches running for president could earn the support of these interest groups by whatever means necessary.


And finally, I’m going to give you a taste of the primary map as it currently stands for both parties. If you’re a cartography geek like me, it should give you goose chills. If it doesn’t, I’m unsure how you were entertained enough to make it this far into the piece:

At the bottom of the image, under the map, is the current delegate totals of each coach/candidate, with the colors corresponding to the colors surrounding their names on the “Percentages” section of the screen.


For now, I’m going to end this introduction to what I hope is a compelling saga of treachery, entertainment, intrigue, strategy, eloquence, ruthlessness, ingenuity, and athleticism.

In essence, you’ve been presented with the layout of what I think is going to be a fascinating look at what happens when you combine the often idiotic world of American politics with the entertaining basketball personalities that we all enjoy.

Stick with me right here as I recap the news and stories from the campaign trail, documenting the best moves from the election. This multi-post series should hopefully be more satisfying than watching the actual news, and it somehow will require even less of a suspension of disbelief than watching the newest season of House of Cards, a bad show. There is bound to be many twists and turns ahead, featuring obstacles we haven’t even begun to think of yet, so you’ll want to make sure you keep reading.

The country hangs in the balance.

Which coach will the voters of America want on its sidelines?


Much thanks to the great Ben Goren for designing the graphic that will accompany this series.

CORRECTION: This article originally stated that House of Cards is a bad show. In fact, it is a good show. Mid-Major Madness regrets the error.