It’s common knowledge to LSU basketball fans this week that the basketball program just quit. Yes, they experienced a complete meltdown in their final SEC game, scoring few points and playing worse than in any fan’s memory. They plummeted from first place in the conference to being completely out of the running for a chance to play in the current NCAA tournament.
The consolation prize was to go to the secondary National Invitational Tournament that gives the players a final shot at redemption and a chance to begin the foundation for next year’s season. But the powers that be in the LSU athletic department just said no. Shut it down. Don’t let these young men continue to play the game they love that gives them a free education. Pick up your basketball and go home. Just quit.
This is not the first time the athletic department almost gave up. A few months ago, rumors flew that football coach Les Miles was on his way out. He did have a bumpy ending to this past season, losing his final three conference games. Forget the fact Miles has the highest percentage of wins in LSU history, along with winning a national championship, two SEC championships, and running one of the most financially successful football programs in the country.
Reliable sources have confirmed that the job was offered to Florida State Coach Jimbo Fisher early in the week before Thanksgiving. But on that Wednesday, Fox News and the Orlando Sentinel reported that there have been as many as 40 cases involving Seminole football players being accused of rape and other incidents of “intimate-partner” violence. This put the quietus on Miles being fired, as LSU President King Alexander insisted that the current coach be retained.
In the LSU academic world, there have been a number of high profile instances where the university has “pulled the plug” and fired competent professors under questionable circumstances. The high cost of suppressing academic freedom was exemplified in the case of LSU coastal researcher Ivor van Heerden. He blew the whistle on the efforts by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to blame Hurricane Katrina for the massive damage caused throughout south Louisiana by calling it a “a natural disaster.” LSU officials were more concerned about big dollar research contracts from the Corps, and fired Dr. van Heerden. He justifiably sued, and the decision cost LSU over $1 million; seriously tarnishing the university’s reputation nationally.
LSU researcher Dr. Steven Hatfill got the same treatment when he was fired by LSU after the FBI investigated him as a potential anthrax terrorist. Such allegations were absurd since his laboratory research had involved Ebola and other viruses, not anthrax. The charges were baseless, but LSU immediately fired Hatfill without giving him any benefit of the doubt. The Justice Department eventually admitted they made a big mistake and paid Hatfill $4.6 million to compensate for ruining his reputation. Again, LSU’s priority was to quit on him and protect their federal contracts.
LSU should be the state’s outstanding flagship. “A number one, Top of the heap” as the song goes.
Three of my kids went to LSU, and my wife is a proud alumna. But the University can’t be a defeatist. And it cannot in good conscience quit on those who work for and represent LSU. Not in sports or academics. There is a loyalty quotient here that involves a commitment to the fans, to the faculty and to taxpayers. There is a duty to stay in the game, fight the good fight and stand up for those who are working to make LSU a top tier university. But it has to be loyal, and it can’t ever be a quitter. That, in some cases, is a lesson still to be learned.
“Winners never quit and quitters never win.”
– Vince Lombardi
Peace and Justice
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