Yesterday, Bob Huggins, University of Cincinnati men’s basketball coach, was canned by Nancy Zimpher, UC president. Good for her. Now the real test begins. Huggins’ teams over the years consistently had repulsively low graduation rates. His players constantly got into trouble. None of this was ever a secret. The real problem is why did it take UC so long to act? Indeed, why do so many colleges and universities view their athletes simply as commodities to use, exploit, spit out, and leave behind?
Lots of people will argue over whether Huggins’ departure was fair. Sports commentator extraordinaire Dick Vitale, whom I enjoy, was hammering all day yesterday that Huggins was being treated unfairly.
But here’s how this situation connects to my work here at the Institute and what I what to know: Will UC president Nancy Zimpher truly follow through? For instance, will she:
- Ensure that ballplayers recruited for UC sports are qualified students?
- Provide the kind of real academic counseling and support necessary for players who are not completely ready for their college experience?
- Hire a coach who will view players as student-athletes and not simply as disposable ballplayers to make UC sports look good?
- Drive her approach to UC basketball though all UC sports?
- Report regularly and publicly on how well UC sports are meeting a new set of student-athlete standards?
President Zimpher has the opportunity to demonstrate leadership on this issue in our nation. She stepped forward and took the hard step of pushing Huggins out; there’s much to be said for that. Now, she must commit herself and the university to a new level of public accountability. And such accountability can only be demonstrated over time and in time.
Why? Because the test of accountability is time, where people have the opportunity to see how an individual’s words and deeds match up, and how consistent they are through thick and thin.
Step one for the UC president, done; now follow the bouncing ball.