Thursday, December 27, 2007

Lesson Not Learned

On December 26, Eddie Sutton was named head coach at the University of San Francisco. Current coach and former Arizona assistant Jessie Evans announced he was taking a leave of absence.

Sutton's basketball coaching abilities cannot be denied and even this website in a previous blurb acknowledged as much. Sutton has 798 wins at the division I level. This is the fifth most wins by any division I coach. He trails only Bob Knight (896), Dean Smith (879), Adolph Rupp (876), and Jim Phelan (830) on the all time list. Between coaching at the College of Southern Idaho, Tulsa Union high school and at the division I college level he has exactly 1000 victories.

Sutton's coaching career came to an all to abrupt end in February of 2006 when he was charged with driving under the influence after an accident in which his sport utility vehicle rear-ended another car and went off the road. Sutton pleaded no contest to drunken-driving charges, and as a result of the incident took a leave of absence from his coaching duties before retiring three months later.

Prior to coaching his alma mater Oklahoma State Sutton had been the coach at the University of Kentucky. Sutton's tenure at Kentucky ended with a scandal that badly damaged the school's basketball program. It broke out when an express package sent to high school prospect Chris Mills from Kentucky assistant coach Dwane Casey popped open and $1000 in fifties popped out. Another player, Eric Manuel, was believed to have received improper assistance on his college entrance exams and was ultimately banned from NCAA competition for life. The scandal roiled the Wildcats to the point that they suffered their first losing season in 63 years. The NCAA seriously considered hitting the Wildcats with the "death penalty", which would have shut down the entire basketball program (as opposed to simply being banned from postseason play) for up to two years. However, school president David Roselle forced Sutton and athletic director Cliff Hagan to resign. Sutton later admitted that he didn't have enough control over the program, although he personally committed no wrongdoing. The scandal, combined with Sutton's alleged drinking and drug use, led to his forced resignation.

Sutton's latest return begins December 29th against Weber State at the Dee Events Center in Ogden, Utah. His team loses the game 62-54. Sutton will have another chance at winning number 799 on Monday night when the Dons take on Utah Valley University in Orem, Utah. However, there is a bigger story here.

If any school has gone through the aftermath of resurrection it is the University of San Francisco. The University of San Francisco basketball program has won three national championships. The first came in 1949 in the NIT. USF was coached by legendary Pete Newell and the sports information director was future NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle. USF followed it with national championships in 1955 and 1956 while being led by future Boston Celtics Bill Russell and K.C. Jones. In the 1956 title game, Jones outscored LaSalle's star -- Tom Golla. In 1957 the Dons lost in the semifinals to Wilt Chamberlain and Kansas. During the 1955 and 1956 seasons, the Don's posted a then record 60 game winning streak. Only John Wooden's UCLA teams' 88 game streak is longer.

The school continued its success during most of the 60's and 70's earning NCAA tournament bids in 1977, 1978, 1979, 1981 and 1982 while winning five consecutive West Coast Conference Championships.

Yet all the success couldn't eclipse a growing list of irregularities and abuses. Star player Quintin Dailey was alleged to have been paid for a summer job he never performed. Then Dailey was charged with rape, (he subsequently pled guilty to sexual assault charges). Additional allegations of alumni interference with the program and recruiting improprieties by coaches followed. The NCAA began an investigation, but facing additional scrutiny President Lo Schiavo said "enough." The allegations, investigations, and criminal charges were damaging the university's most priceless asset -- its integrity and reputation. In 1982, then President Father John Lo Schiavo shut down the program.

Unlike the SMU football program which received the "death penalty," USF shut it's program down on its own accord. Father John Lo Schiavo described USF's dilemma as follows "how are we teaching the building of a decent, law-abiding society in this country if educational institutions are willing to be prostituted and involve young people in that prostitution for any purpose, and much less for the development of ill-gotten recognition and income."

If it seems that Sutton is being fed to the University of San Francisco through the coaching fraternity it should. Former Oklahoma State players like ESPN's Doug Gottlieb, Joey Graham, Brooks Thompson and former coach Jerry Tarkanian and current Kansas coach Bill Self are all selling Sutton to the city of San Francisco.

Who bought this sale? Debra-Gore Mann is the current athletic director at the University of San Francisco, she got the job on August 1, 2006 after serving as Senior Associate Athletic Director at Stanford University. Her resume includes an MBA from Stanford, work at Bechtel Enterprises, Morgan Stanley and Raychem Corporation. She was also the business developer for the City of Portland on the Portland Light Rail Project. She has a masters of business administration, her interest is in profit.

Her husband is former USF player Anthony Mann, who was a member of the 1985-86 team. USF's first team following shutting down its program. Their only daughter's name is Quinci.

Perhaps this is what makes Eddie Sutton an odd match for the University of San Francisco. It seems the last place Eddie Sutton would be resurfacing is at the University of San Francisco. Sutton is looking for a second chance, USF is on its second chance. Perhaps Gore-Mann has missed exactly what Father John Lo Schiavo found 25 years ago.

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