SportsProf

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Saturday, January 09, 2010

What (on Earth) is Wrong with Ivy League Men's Basketball?

Dartmouth men's coach Terry Dunn resigned suddenly yesterday. Click on this link to the Princeton Basketball blog for the story and links.

Dunn's players apparently were going to boycott the team's next game. This resignation comes atop Penn's dismissal of its head coach, Glen Miller, after the Quakers started 0-7.

Remember, this is the Ivy League. Not the NBA, Major League Baseball or even bigger-name conferences where coaching tenure sometimes rests halfway between a cliff and a 300-foot drop without a parachute or cushion.

So, what gives? This is distressing to say the least. What's driving it? Is there too much pressure on coaches and athletic directors? Are the players becoming too entitled? Are the fans unrealistic? Are the coaches themselves so autocratic that they become impossible to live with?

Remember, this is the Ivy League. Stuff like this isn't supposed to happen. It's almost as though blurbs like this belong under Sports Illustrated's banner "This Week's Sign That the Apocalypse is Upon Us." This is the league where the term "student-athlete" should mean more than what it connotes in other conferences. This is supposed to be the nerdy, eggheaded conference, where kids actually can conjugate Latin verbs, decline Latin nouns, perform differential equations and discuss Proust and Goethe and do physics experiments while riding their unicycles to their small-group classes on political conflicts in ancient Greece.

I suppose not. But, then again, the Miller and Dunn situations sound, on the face of it, distinctly different. In the Miller situation, the Penn men's hoops brand was becoming about as valuable as that of AIG, and, in the Dunn situation, it seems like the players had a lot more to do with it. Still, two resignations out of eight mid-season? In any league, that's very significant, and, correspondingly, a disaster.

If you have one firing mid-season and that's the first one that people can remember, you can chalk it up to something idiosyncratic. Have two, and either you've fallen victim to the odds that lightning doesn't strike all that frequently in the same place or, alternatively, you have a cultural problem. And the thing of it is, Ivy hoops -- with the exception of an outstanding Cornell team -- is a far cry from where it used to be.

What gives?

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