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Steve Alford Killing the Game

January 30, 2004 Columns No Comments

Alford is Killing the Spirit of College Hoops

by Michael Ermitage

It has been two weeks since I have written a column. A shame, I know. I’m sure I’ve been missed about as much as Saddam in Iraq. Like everyone else north of the Mason-Dixon line, I’ve been spending the majority of the past two weeks enveloped in snow. And cold. Bitter, bitter cold. But hey, Chicago is a great place; we have some sweet museums. As for college basketball, there has been just too much going on to fully digest. In order to catch myself back up, I’ve arranged my thoughts in a neat list. Some old-fashioned types call these sorts of “bits” columns as amateur. Luckily, I’ve never pretended to be anything other than amateur.

Shut Up Steve Alford: For those of you unaware, Steve Alford is attempting to murder the very spirit of college basketball – clever student fan sections. Like a scorned lover, Alford is attempting to exact revenge on the student sections across the Midwest that have been verbally taunting Iowa guard Pierre Pierce. Pierce, of course, is the player that sat out last season as punishment for pleading guilty to a reduced sexual assault charge. Naturally, opposing student sections are targeting Pierce for abuse, the most clever of which was Iowa State’s “No means No” chant. You might as well bathe Pierce in blood and toss him in a shark pit rather than take him to Ames to play a game. Alford saw this coming and suggested a rule to the Big Ten office last spring that was accepted. The rule states that a student section cannot single out an individual player for verbal harassment. I’m not sure exactly how this is rule is supposed to be interpreted – is the popular chant “Airball” covered in this broad rule?

The penalty for the malicious and disdainful act of taunting during a Big Ten basketball game is dispersion of the student section upon three guilty charges. That’s right – Alford is willing to put an end to the Izzone if they verbally attack his player (who pleaded guilty to sexual assault by the way) three times. Perhaps Alford should realize that college is a place where children turn into adults. And perhaps Alford should realize that part of becoming an adult is learning the consequences of your actions – something Pierce is learning all too quickly this season.

Three-pointers too easy: Is it me, or should Illinois’ 7-foot-2 center Nick Smith not be shooting (and making) three pointers with regularity? I think that the current group of college basketball players have more than proven they’ve mastered the three-point shot. Its time to move it back to the international length, which was suggested by the rules committee but NOT approved by the NCAA’s board of directors. The proposed rule change was put on indefinite hold, citing that there is not complete consent from all the men’s and women’s teams of the NCAA’s three divisions. For the smaller schools, the financial cost of putting the extra lines on the court has been a major obstacle. The NCAA should cover the cost of moving the line out at all divisions. The game has become too dependant on the shot, with some teams planning their entire offense around shooting three-pointers. I believe it was said best by a fresh-faced 1980 Bobby Cremins, who was coaching Appalachian State at the time. “The first time out, I took a shot and made it. It must be too close,” said Cremins during a season in which the entire Southern conference tested the shot.

Undefeated season?: It was 1991, and I weighed about a hundred pounds. My hair was a bit long, flirting with “mullet” status. And I had discovered college basketball. My older sisters had attended Northwestern University, and college sports were never even a thought. Although, in all honesty, they could have attended UCLA during the Wooden years and they’d still be oblivious. But during my freshman year in high school, I had caught the fever, and was participating in my first ever “March Madness” pool. I entered one at school and as an extra entry through my dad’s work. Needless to say, like the first time Lance Armstrong was placed on his Huffy tricycle seat, I was where I was supposed to be. My first two rounds were fantastic. And I entered the final weekend with my entire Final Four intact. All that I needed to win both pools was for UNLV to win the tournament. That’s right – undefeated, unbeatable, defending-champion UNLV. UNLV lost, ending its bid to complete the first undefeated season since Bob Knight’s 1976 champion squad. And that’s the day I learned that it will never happen again. Sorry St. Joe’s and Stanford – you are both going to lose.


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