Tate: College basketball needs some fixin'
“This soundtrack is out of sync.” — My view from inside
Times change, and it’s hard to pinpoint exactly when it happened ... like realizing that a land line was no longer needed ... or when the 6 o’clock TV news lost its relevancy ... or when I soured on basketball.
It was left to a terrific writer, ESPN.com’s Dana O’Neil, and her interview with Mike Krzyzewski, to explain my feelings. Quoting O’Neil:
“Sure, high school kids play for their school, but the real aim isn’t to win a state title; it’s to star in the summer.
“Kids play here, there and everywhere, yet rarely does anyone talk about who actually won a tournament. They talk about which player ‘blew up,’ about who made the biggest name for himself — not for his team.”
This diva attitude flows into the college game, where offseason movement resembles the Oklahoma land rush. Krzyzewski discussed college as an “extended-stay hotel” for players:
“You see it sometimes with a one-and-done type of thing,” the Duke coach told O’Neil. “A kid can enter school and just be thinking he’s in a sort of extended-stay hotel instead of unpacking his bags and being part of a culture. That’s what they’re accustomed to with AAU. Where is my home? Who am I? Who am I playing for? They come to college, and where have they played? They’ve played in Venice Beach or been to the Nike Global Games, but who have they played for? Usually themselves.”
We now are moving through a three-month period of massive shuffling. What are we supposed to think when another 400 collegians transfer and 40-odd underclassmen elect to turn pro? The college game goes forward without more than 100 of its premier players having abandoned their degrees. Nobody can wait to find his level. And college coaches, including the UI’s John Groce, would miss an opportunity if they didn’t try to patchwork their teams the way Wichita State and Iowa State and Missouri did. The right combination of transfers can work wonders.
This soundtrack is out of sync. The culture doesn’t fit in with the real world.
Recruiting emphasis has gone completely out of whack. There’s something wrong when Kentucky becomes so dominant in one-and-done madness. The win-now expectations of fans have lost touch with reality. Coaching salaries have gone over the edge. And the rush to build costlier facilities than your neighbor is extravagant madness.
My early years trained me for this rat race, but I now find myself habitually chasing a foreign-to-me model where most of the participants, down deep, are busting to be somewhere else.
Let me start over and I, like them, would be somewhere else, too. But how do you escape this whirlwind?
Purdue’s hot topic
It’s unfortunate that Purdue’s backup center, Croatian Sandi Marcius, got caught in a bind, but reasonable folks will side with AD Morgan Burke and coach Matt Painter on this Boilermaker controversy.
Marcius, one of thousands desiring more playing time, elected to take advantage of the post-graduate transfer rule. And Purdue gave Marcius his release. OK, so far.
Only one problem: Marcius hasn’t quite graduated. He needs two summer courses for his degree and thereby gaining eligibility somewhere else. The extra schooling reportedly will cost about $7,000. And Burke said simply (pardon the paraphrase):
“If you ain’t playing, we ain’t paying.”
It’s not that they can’t afford it. But why should Purdue be loyal to someone whose loyalty is being exported? On the UI campus, some $10 million is annually handed out by the DIA for scholarships, and part of that might go to athletes who have completed their eligibility. That’s fine. But if they’re going to play for someone else, that should conclude the UI’s responsibility.
Around the horn
Illini non-revenue sports are battling treacherous outdoor conditions and, if they aren’t winning, they’re making it interesting.
— Mike Small’s golfers possess another Big Ten title as they head for a difficult regional that requires them to finish in the top five in order to reach the 30-team NCAA finals. Illinois is one of six to make the last five NCAA finals.
— With Mike Turk’s trackmen vaulting to No. 22, both UI men’s and women’s teams will be ranked as they take a week off before competing at the Big Ten Outdoor Championships in Ohio.
— Terri Sullivan’s softballers, mired earlier in a nine-game losing streak, carry nine straight wins into the weekend series here against Ohio State. See you there.
— Brad Dancer’s unranked tennis team probably will have to beat No. 16 Vanderbilt on the Commodores’ courts in Nashville next weekend to reach the 16-team NCAA finals here. That is assuming the UI and Vandy pass opening tests next Friday.
— The Parr twins are batting up a storm as Illinois — at Michigan State this weekend — seeks one of the six spots in the Big Ten tournament at Minneapolis. Jordan drove in seven runs, smashing two monstrous homers against SIU on Tuesday, and Justin is batting .430 with a 28-game hit streak. Since 1950, only two Illini have topped .430, Larry Sutton at .434 in 1991 and Darrin Fletcher at .497 in 1987. Enjoy them while you can. Like Thomas Pieters, they’ll soon be pros.
Loren Tate writes for The News-Gazette. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.