by Kent Sterling
Iowa Basketball Coach Fran McCaffery earned two technicals after an ill-tempered eruption because of a series of calls and non-calls during what wound up as a four-point loss to undefeated Wisconsin. Big deal that it cost the Hawkeye four points, not that McCaffery might have hurt the feelings of a referee or the delicate sensitivities of fans.
Something is wrong with society when the boss of a college basketball coach who just lost a big game feels compelled to issue a press release re-stating his staff’s allegiance to the Big Ten Conference’s code of sportsmanship after an ejection for yelling at an official.
“I’ve met with Coach McCaffery regarding last night’s ejection from the game in Madison. He knows he crossed a line of acceptable behavior and accepts responsibility for his actions,” Iowa Athletic Director Gary Barta said in a sanctimonious declaration of good manners.
“All staff at the University of Iowa fully support the Big Ten Conference’s sportsmanship policy’s fundamental elements, including civility and respect toward opponents and game officials. Fran has my full support moving forward.”
Since when is civility guaranteed in life, and at what point did we decide it’s worth admonishing a coach trusted to lead young men into adulthood?
I don’t know when being unerringly polite became the only acceptable way to live and behave, but it trumps the desire to succeed. It’s no longer as important to succeed as it is to say please and thank you.
Many companies would rather employ a dolt who never offends rather than someone who gets the job done well while grimacing.
Disagreements used to be a big part of the process in crafting a successful business plan. Through spirited debate, creative answers that would have remained buried are uncovered. Not so much anymore as adherence to the code of conduct is at the foundation of many corporate philosophies, and inoffensiveness has become our civilization most prized behavior.
McCaffery gets pissed off, vents, and is tossed from the game. That’s not enough punishment. No, no. The busybody of an AD feels compelled to share his thoughts with the world too, but at the end states his support moving forward.
That there would ever be a question about supporting a coach who has resurrected what had become a pathetic excuse for a Big Ten program should be the focus of everything written about this benign episode. Steve Alford left with the cupboard bare. Todd Lickliter was never able to restock the shelves. McCaffery got Iowa rolling, and after he vents his spleen, the AD yelps to the media about civility.
If there was a reason to blister McCaffery’s ass over blowing up, it was for the four made foul shots that were the award to Wisconsin as a result. It’s impossible to state with any certainty that the four points were definitively the difference in the 75-71 game, but Iowa led 41-39 at the time for the two technical fouls, and were behind 43-41 after the foul foul shots. Wisconsin never lost that lead.
If Barta wants to get worked up over something, losing a winnable game against the fourth ranked team in America is the place to start, not some manifesto on good manners.
This episode would be hilarious if it were an outlier, but Barta’s whiny proclamation is endemic of the ‘style over substance’ focus of the new millennium.