Old Reliable

It may come as a surprise to those of us lying back and enjoying the summer weather, that is of course if the summer weather ever shows up, but life is tough for some people. Are you a fan of the Detroit Tigers? Sorry, life is tough. Did you take the over on whether Cincinnati Red Adam Dunn will bat .200? You are sweating it out. Are you a low-paid, working-class family man hoping for a tax break from your President? Better luck next year; life is tough for you. Of course, if you have been paying attention to the sports pages for the past few months, you realize we may have to add another species to our nation's endangered species list: the college coach.

This may be jumping the gun here, but you cannot turn around without some college coach, be it basketball or football, screwing up big time. Jim Harrick and Jim Harrick Jr. from the University of Georgia got the ball rolling in early March. You remember them, don't you? Just a little academic fraud and purchasing some color televisions for a couple of players. Larry Eustachy, former head basketball coach from Iowa State, was forced to resign after photos surfaced of him getting drunk at a college party at the University of Missouri after an Iowa State defeat. Apparently, this post-game partying with the co-eds was not a new development. Mike Price, University of Alabama football coach for about 45 minutes, was forced out after taking home two strippers from a local Gentleman's Club. Whether or not anything happened is debatable, but this may be the most important role "Destiny" has ever played in a coach's life. And the latest casualty was University of Washington football coach Rick Neuheisel. Now Rick, unlike Price or Eustachy, has a pretty checkered history with the NCAA. After he left the University of Colorado, the NCAA found 51 violations committed by him and his staff. After embarrassing the university by lying about his contact with the San Francisco 49ers over the off season, it came out he was involved in NCAA Basketball Tournament pools that involved thousands of dollars. Sorry Rick, but when you are a NCAA head coach, of any sport, you should not be gambling like that on other NCAA sports.

Now, coaches getting fired is nothing new. It happens all the time. Usually, however, they are fired when their teams lose. As long as you are a winner, what happens off the court generally is brushed aside. The climate, however, appears to be changing. Oftentimes, these coaches are the highest paid employees in their state. When you are paying an employee millions of dollars, he is not only the most visible and identifiable member of your university, but quite possibly your entire state. Their actions reflect upon their state just as much as a governor's, and the citizens of Kentucky and West Virginia are both aware of how a governor's private behavior can stain an entire state. Thank your lucky stars the University of Kentucky employs Orlando "Tubby" Smith.

When Tubby signed his new contract, worth 2.5 million dollars, a lot of people were a little surprised. You would think winning a National Championship, winning the SEC Conference or Tournament every year, and putting together a 26-game winning streak would quiet most people. Unfortunately, there are some fans out there who still do not believe whether or not Tubby Smith was/is the answer. That is simply foolish.

Being a head coach at a high-level Division I school is mostly about one thing: winning. While this remains important, we are slowly finding out that it is not the only thing. Winning did not save Harrick, Neuheisal, or Eustachy. Winning, and solely winning, is not the reason Tubby Smith signed such a lucrative contract. Nothing in life is guaranteed, but anyone who has ever met or been around Tubby Smith would be shocked to have his name connected with any of these off-court/field violations. Tubby at a strip club? Don't think so. Tubby drinking with students at a college party? You have got to be kidding. Tubby betting thousands of dollars on collegiate sports? Not gonna happen. Tubby Smith is a great basketball coach, winning almost every national coach of the year award solidifies that, but it is possible he may be a better man.

A lot of your college coaching scandals start with rumors on the Internet. The net has opened up sports reporting to anyone with computer access, and most of the time, there is no one to validate or confirm statements. Visits to some UK web sites for reports of off-the-court encounters/incidents that may reflect badly on the UK coach yielded nothing. The only thing found was this, posted by a man named WeasalCat, talking about meeting Tubby while dropping his son off at the UK Basketball camp:

"Folks, what a great guy. Very personable, very relaxed, very welcoming. My son was there with his school teammate who is a fan of another school. I made a point of introducing him and his Dad as well, and Tubby was very welcoming to them as well and said, 'Well, we'll just have to introduce you to University of Kentucky Basketball!' Wow. We have some really classy people in that basketball office."

It is easy to say that Tubby Smith is a class act. It's hard to dispute that the most likable aspect, however, is unlike some of our former coaches, he really seems like he fits in around here. He and his wife Donna are the kind of people that you might run into at the local Kroger's, or out to eat at Rafferty's. They seem approachable, friendly, and genuine. And really, no one calls the guy Coach Smith or Orlando, just "Tubby", what other coaches simply go by nicknames these days?

Scandals with coaches and off-the-field/court shenanigans are not going to end. You never know what could happen next, and it is possible that Tubby could be involved in something unbecoming of the praise laid upon him here. But as of today there's no doubt. The University of Kentucky, the city of Lexington, and the Commonwealth of Kentucky are luck to be the home to one Orlando "Tubby" Smith.