Everyone knows that the Fab Five was the great trendsetter for college hoops in the 1990s. Guess what? The Fab Five, it turns out, is also the trendsetter for college hoops in this decade.
The trend? Self-imposed, preemptive sanctions.
From Olean, N.Y. to Athens, Ga., schools are tucking their tails between their legs and running away from impending NCAA sanctions. But Michigan’s sanctions – coming after years of investigation, and implemented before the season began – were wiser and definitely more responsible. The University of Georgia’s self-removal from the SEC Tournament and NCAA Tournament consideration, on the eve of each tournament’s commencement, was o’er hasty, panicked and desperate.
St. Bonaventure’s refusal to play its last two regular season games (after being suspended from the Atlantic 10 Tournament) was just wicked stupid.
Georgia and St. Bonaventure are not the only schools finding themselves in hot water; Fresno State and Villanova round out the list of recent NCAA troublemakers. But the Bulldogs and Bonnies have both shown in the past week that they are not just cheaters, but cowards and quitters, too.
St. Bonaventure was suspended from the postseason by the Atlantic-10, and was forced to forfeit its conference wins. After hearing this, the Bonnies’ players decided that they would not play in the team’s final two regular season games, thus wreaking havoc on their opponents’ RPI index ratings. It was suggested that as a result of the players’ refusal to play, their athletic scholarships be revoked. Already, the school’s board of directors has fired its president and placed the athletic director and head coach on leave.
Beyond the tangible repercussions, the decision to “boycott” the rest of the season was reactionary and immature. As many critics have suggested, it is akin to taking the ball and leaving the playground in a huff when something doesn’t go your way. The question this week has been, “What kind of program lets its players quit in the face of adversity?”
As ESPN columnist Tim Keown points out, the sports universe will forgive cheating, but we have no sympathy for quitters.
I especially have no sympathy for a school president – not coach, not athletic director, but president! – who plays such a large part in an athletic scandal. This academic villain allowed a “student-athlete” admission to the school with no education to speak of beyond a welding certificate.
He also personally orchestrated the hiring of the Bonnies’ head coach (who has a history of wrongdoing) and allowed his son to serve on the team’s coaching staff and play a hand in the misdeeds.
Last year around this time, I used this column to condone Georgetown coach Craig Esherick for declining an invitation to the NIT. He decided that his players would be better served by staying on the Potomac during the month of March and going to class. Is it any wonder that Georgetown is one of this country’s elite academic institutions, and St. Bonaventure is nothing more than a second-tier basketball school?
Has anyone even heard of St. Bonaventure outside the discourse of college hoops? I grew up in upstate New York, and even I know nothing of the Bonnies except for their basketball. If you want your school president to be a basketball man instead of a biology man, this is what you get.
Georgia, meanwhile, fired Jim Harrick, its head coach, and prohibited itself from participating in postseason play. This new trend of sending yourself to your room before Papa NCAA comes home and punishes you himself is a bit disturbing.
I had mixed feelings about Michigan doing it, but at least that decision was made after years of investigation and consideration. Georgia’s self-sanctioning comes off as embarrassed and even insincere, and it does not remove the school from the inevitable reality of NCAA sanctions. You can run, but you can’t hide.
I’ve said it before, and I’m saying it now: Maintaining academic standards and ethics while trying to also achieve on the basketball court is nearly impossible. At St. Bonaventure, regrettably, they seem to have not been at all concerned with the former, but most schools very much want to have their cake and eat it, too.
It is likely that nearly every school is in violation of some NCAA regulation or another. But when you get caught, have the cajones to face the music, fully own up to your wrongs, and at least pretend that there is still honor in competing.
Georgia and St. Bonaventure are crooked, calculating, cowardly and, worst of all, quitters.
David Horn can be reached at email@example.com