Thursday’s announcement by the NCAA is one of those reasons why Memphians feel they just can’t get a break. The University of Memphis Men’s Basketball team doesn’t win the championship, but does manage to win more games in a season than any team ever has. But, because a guy didn’t take his own SAT, none of those wins count?
I’m not a huge college sports fan. Most of the time, I’ll watch Ohio State, ’cause I grew up in Columbus and went to school there. I’ve been in the South since 1986, but I’ve never picked up a taste for SEC or ACC sports (or whatever conference Memphis happens to be in). However, I met Larry Finch once and liked him and did a couple of medical stories on Tigers players.
I’ll admit though, I was excited as anyone when the Tigers made their run at the championship. While some have voiced doubt in the idea that a basketball team can draw a city together, a lot of people were more focused on blue, instead of black or white, and that was a very good thing for this town.
A good friend of mine (who happens to be a huge Tennessee fan) had been warning me about Coach Cal for years. ‘Cheatin’ Cal,’ he called him. ‘Look at what happened at UMass,’ he’d say. Part of that boils down to us giving each other grief over just about anything… but it turns out he might have been onto something (I haven’t gotten the “I told you so” email yet, but I’m expecting it).
Cal is a man of accomplishment. The only coach to take two different schools to the number one seed in the NCAA Tournament. He’s also the only coach to have two Final Four appearances vacated by the NCAA. I completely understand him leaving when he did. Kentucky is a better basketball school than Memphis is… but if you know somebody’ fixin’ to drop the hammer on the program you’ve been running… leaving town is an excellent option. UK is stuck. They can’t drop him without looking stupid for hiring him. And even if they keep an eye on him, don’t be surprised if something fishy happens while he’s there.
Now, Mr. Rose. You get to be the #1 draft pick and the Rookie of the Year in the NBA. No matter what you did in high school, it’s not going to effect your pro career. The Bulls are thrilled to be back in the playoffs. And since you’re from Chicago, it’s not like you ever have to come back to Memphis and look any disappointed fans or teammates in their eyes.
I understand that a lot of times, corners are cut to help “student” athletes stay on the court or field, when their classroom efforts aren’t up to par. Hell, I struggled through a class at Ohio State that football and basketball players breezed through. And the professor acted as if he were doing nothing wrong.
I’m just saying that nobody’s doing anybody a favor if stand-ins are taking tests. Someone at work asked whether people show IDs when they take college boards. I didn’t have a picture ID back in 1973 or ’74, and I don’t know whether it should come to that. Even if the only reason you’re going to college is to get to the pros, have a little pride and do your own work. If you don’t learn nothin’ in school, where are you going to be when your career is over and you’ve blown all your dough on cribs, cars, and cuties?
It was interesting to hear that the U of M is going to appeal the NCAA decision. Of course, they’re appealing to an organization that almost never grants an appeal. Nice to see them going through the motions though.
Folks were ready to toss R.C. Johnson in a vat of boiling oil when he introduced Josh Pastner as the new coach. He was lucky that Josh makes a very good first impression. I did an interview with Pastner for work last week, and I was impressed. He’s got incredible energy. He’s going to need it, because I think people have a bad enough taste in their mouths to be just about ready to give up on the Tigers for a few years.
It’d be unfortunate if that were to happen. Even if some of the men on the team aren’t good students, I’m willing to believe most of them are trying. I’m even willing to accept the U of M version of things… when they said they asked Derrick if he took the SAT himself and he told them he did. Sure, there’s lots of money in college sports, so it’s important that everyone plays by the rules… but I don’t know whether you can hold a college responsible for something a student did in high school. After all, the NCAA approved Derrick to play first. Now they retroactively change their minds and hold someone else responsible for the mistake. Hmmm.