As the college football season takes its natural but disappointing break between regular season and bowl games, I turn to the hardwood to get my college sports fix.
I have posted before how lucky I am to live in Big East basketball territory….and with Philadelphia just down the other end of the Jersey Turnpike….the Atlantic 10 Conference brings additional great games and rivalries our way.
Once the season really gets rolling, for those who like college hoop, you can watch an entertaining game any night of the week, all day Sunday and all day AND night on Saturday……so many battles that the games themselves almost blend into each other.
To help those games become a little clearer, TV outlets need to build stars among the players. Its tough to do, especially when the best college student/athletes can opt themselves into the NBA draft after just one season of college ball. John Wall lit it up for Kentucky last year, as a true freshman, only to walk away in the spring and sign a huge deal to play for the Washington Wizards…and then another to sell Reeboks.
I can understand why John Wall would leave for the riches and limelight. But by leaving early, the college game is affected. Losing identifiable stars, instead of watching their reputations and fanbase build over multiple years hurts. Every year, TV outlets have to start all over to find new faces.
TV outlets have adjusted by making their stars college coaches instead. The list of household names among the coaching ranks is endless. It starts with the legend himself, John Wooden, and runs through Dean Smith, Jim Valvano, Roy Williams, Coach K, Ben Howland, Jim Boeheim, Jim Calhoun and on and on and on. That’s ok with me, but it comes up short.
TV outlets need to work harder to build stars from the player ranks too. It happens in college football and the mechanism is the Heisman Trophy. Scandal aside, what casual college football fan hasn’t heard of Cam Newton? How about the other leading contenders….Stanford’s Andrew Luck and Oregon’s LaMichael James? All three are stars who have made their presence known, especially this season, through their stellar play, particularly this season, although James turned heads last year as well.
Why not college basketball too? Where is the mechanism that spotlights the players. Well, I have it for you…..the John R. Wooden Player of the Year award.
With 10 National Championships at UCLA, a record 88 consecutive wins, selection as the NCAA “Coach of the Year” 7 times and named the “Greatest Coach of All Time” according to the Sporting News, John Wooden set the standard for excellence in college basketball. And the Player of the Year Award and All American teams that bear his name are the perfect vehicle to help lift college basketball’s profile.
The Wooden Award has been called the “most prestigeous award in the college game” and its list of past winners is loaded with players who went on to stardom in the NBA. Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, David Robinson and Danny Ainge from back when…and Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin and Evan Turner most recently.
Coach Wooden was much more than a basketball savant. As a man and mentor, Coach taught all his players how to grow into model citizens and many of his student/athletes were proud to speak of the life lessons that they learned as UCLA Bruins. Bill Walton, Andy Hill and Kareem Abdul Jabbar are the most visible disciples of Coach Wooden’s, but the list of those who sing his praises is far deeper, as evidenced by this ESPN tribute….
Coach’s “Pyramid of Success”, created years ago, is still cited today as a means for people to get the most out of themselves….in basketball, in business and in life.
I have to think the time is ripe, especially with Coach’s unfortunate passing this summer at the age of 99, for one of the major TV outlets to embrace this Award. Coach Wooden’s legacy would add depth and credibility to any outlet’s coverage of the sport itself while providing the star building potential that the sport needs.
Who’s game to do the right thing and step up?
THE LAST BITE:
Sorry, but the NCAA is SO wrong. Cam Newton may have been naive to his father’s actions, but allowing him to remain eligible does nothing to keep this sort of thing from happening again. It would be awful for Cam to suffer for something he didn’t do, but rules are rules. Shame on the NCAA, SEC and Auburn.
- 10 Best John Wooden Quotes (mademan.com)