Monday, March 25, 2013

Howland, Smith Firings a Sign of Warped World of College Athletics

I never thought I'd be that guy. You know, that guy that says "back in my day," but I guess it comes for us all. That day came on Monday, March 25th, 2013 for your humble correspondant. Call it my "day that will live in infamy" if you will. Only it's not a happy moment of remembering an awesome ride through the world of sports. Instead it's the day that college sports changed for me, and not for the better.

It's the day that Tubby Smith was fired as the head coach of Men's basketball at the University of Minnesota. No, don't worry I'm not some Gopher loving sycophant, in fact I'm probably the furthest thing from it in all honesty. Growing up as a Badger fan will do that to you. It's also just 24 hours removed from the firing of Ben Howland at the University of California-Los Angeles, or as we all know it UCLA.

So, why so sad over the loss of coaches from teams I don't support or have any affinity for? Well, for me these past 24 hours or so have shown me just how much the game and the people involved in college basketball have jumped the shark.

Here's my "back in my day" moment: When did we stop measuring coaches by championships won, NCAA tournaments made, and runs made in said NCAA tournament appearances?

Apparently, it's no longer good enough to you know.... be successful at what you do for a living and do it for a long period of time too. Now to be sure success at UCLA and at Minnesota are vastly different measurements, but it's not as if Howland or Smith weren't successful by any measurement at their schools.

For Howland, his firing comes on the heels of winning the Pac-12 championship for the fourth time and making the NCAA Tournament for the 7th time in his ten years at the helm of a Bruins program that was in ruins when he came to the rescue from Pitt.

For Smith, his firing comes on the heels of a 20 plus win season for the fifth time in his six years at the helm and winning the school's first NCAA Tournament game since 1994 (since the 1997 season was vacated by academic scandal).

Anybody else see anything wrong with those records and the firing of each coach?

Sure, Tubby Smith didn't get to the NCAA tournament EVERY year in his six seasons in Minneapolis, but name a coach that has ever done that there? Not even the "great" Clem Haskins could do it and he was cheating to keep his players eligible.

Sure, Ben Howland didn't win a national championship in his time at UCLA, but Howland got to three Final Fours and was a national runner up once, not to mention winning more Pac-12 (or Pac-10) titles than anyone since John Wooden.

To be sure things weren't perfect in either circumstances, but what situation is? I submit that even the great John Wooden, who made an incredible habit out of winning consistently couldn't even survive in this instant gratification world, especially with the way he let his players be off the court.

There is no doubt that winning isn't everything these days in college sports, that's something that can't be denied. However, since when did being successful at what you do not outpace the opinions of a bunch of self-entitled, blue blooded, sycophants that you know... never coached a game of basketball or went on a recruiting trip in their lives?  Because that's exactly what these firings smack of - AD's succumbing to the pressure of the few over the overwhelming show of success where it should matter most - on the court.

So, what's the moral of the story here? There are actually two. The first is that you better be a kiss-ass to the folks in the expensive seats and do as they want and how they want it done or you run the risk of being run out of town.

The second? Well.... If you're going to be the next head coach of the Gophers you better win a damn Big Ten championship (something that hasn't happened since 1982 mind you), get to the NCAA tournament every freaking year, and win games in the NCAA tournament or your ass will be fired.

If you're going to be the next Bruins head coach... win a national championship or three or four. Hell, you better be the next John Wooden or your gone.

At least that's the message that Norwood Teague (AD of Minnesota) and Dan Guerrero (AD of UCLA) are sending. No longer is it good enough to be really good at what you do, you've got to be everything to everyone and be the best at it all the time. Good luck finding better coaches at winning basketball games on a consistant basis and as the saying goes: Be careful what you wish for.

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