When the machines rock
"Good is not good enough, when better is expected."
-Orlando "Tubby" Smith, University of Kentucky Head Basketball Coach
"It's more of a business now. It's not a game like it used to be."
-Former University of Kentucky Basketball Player, Cory Sears
That is what happened at UK at the end of the semester. Cory Sears, Rashaad Carruth, and Adam Chiles were released from their scholarships. "Team Turmoil," as last season's team at UK was called, needed an overhaul. Tubby Smith has a National Title, as well as various SEC Titles, both regular season and tournament, but he also owns three straight seasons of double-digit losses.
That is a first at the University of Kentucky and a fourth season of double-digit losses could possibly put his job in jeopardy. Despite what the NCAA would have you believe, the job of Tubby Smith is not to bring young men into the program to shape and develop into upstanding student-athletes on their way toward graduating with a college degree. Tubby Smith's job is to win basketball games, a lot of basketball games.
In college basketball, the players are there for maybe four years, usually less. That is why the focus, and the stars, of this sport are the coaches. Coach K, The General Bobby Knight, Ricky P, Tubby, Roy Williams. These coaches are treated as royalty by their adoring public, their schools, and the national media.
The pressure to win weighs greatly on all of these coaches and this pressure can lead to an "anything to win" attitude. If they stop winning, like Denny Crum at the University of Louisville, then they go from the sideline to the unemployment line.
You may hear a lot of talk about running a clean program or graduating players, but that is all it is, talk. The record indicates that these things matter little to the people who run college basketball.
Bob Huggins of the University of Cincinnati is a college coach who wins. He has only been to one Final Four, but has dominated his conference and put UC basketball back on the map. He was recently courted by the University of West Virginia, but stayed at UC, signing a new contract with a pay raise. Bob Huggins has a 0 percent graduation rate. His players have been arrested for punching a police horse, kidnapping their roommate, and hitting a woman in a bar. Two different schools were willing to overlook all of this, because Bob Huggins wins basketball games and makes them money.
A lot of people are under the impression that NCAA athletes are awarded four year scholarships when they sign with a school, that is not true.
Players at Division I basketball schools are on scholarships that are renewable each year. The school is under no obligation to renew the scholarship.
They are brought in to help the team win, if they cannot accomplish this, then the coach brings in someone else.
Rodrick Rhodes learned this the hard way after the 1995 season, when then UK coach Rick Pitino, and current University of Louisville coach, gave his scholarship to Ron Mercer. Never mind that Pitino recruited Rhodes personally and surely promised his family he would look after him, Pitino needed to win games and Mercer was a better player than Rhodes. From a pure business sense, can you say he made the wrong decision?
The next year, 1996, UK won their first National Title since 1978 and Mercer scored his season high against Syracuse in the championship game. Rhodes transferred to the University of Southern California and finished his collegiate career with the Trojans. Was this fair to Rhodes, the student-athlete who the NCAA would like you to think came to UK to pursue a degree? No. Was it business as usual in big time college athletics? Unfortunately, yes.
Nike and Adidas give millions of dollars in merchandise and cash to NCAA schools and CBS pays millions upon millions of dollars to broadcast the NCAA Tournament.
The small fact that none of this money goes to the players means that more and more of it goes to the schools and the coaches. The more your team wins, the more money the school receives, from alumni donations and tournament money. The more you win, the more money coaches receive, either from their school, another school who wants to win, or from the NBA.
Graduating players is nice, loyalty to those who are in the program is nice, but winning is a necessity.
It's too bad it did not work out for Cory Sears, Rashaad Carruth, or Adam Chiles. I wish them, as all UK fans should, only the best in their future endeavors. They are not the first players in college basketball to not have their scholarship renewed and they will not be the last.
Adam Chiles, sadly, may have summed the whole situation up the best, when he told the press, "I don't feel emotionally I was a victim of anything. I understand this is a business." It's a safe bet that Cory Sears understands also.
Post Derby notes: I would feel bad about not even mentioning War Emblem, the Derby winner, except that no one else in the media did either, except for Nancy Cox of WLEX-18. I still feel that if Buddha was healthy he had a great chance to win. I also would like to commend Churchill Downs for handing out 250,000 packets of sunscreen during the Kentucky Oaks and the Kentucky Derby. Thornton's Food Mart and Churchill Downs also deserve praise for donating their profits from the stores in the infield to the Thornton Foundation, a new charity to benefit schools and other educational organizations. This is more in the altruistic tradition of Churchill Downs, and I am sure Matt Winn would have been proud.
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