Wednesday, August 29, 2012

An Open Letter to Coach Chris Mack

Dear Coach Mack,

            For some time now in Cincinnati, basketball has reigned as king of the collegiate landscape, especially due to the absence of an NBA team. The University of Cincinnati Bearcats and your very own Xavier University Musketeers have brought a sense of pride, an annual hardwood success that blares through the speakers of the WLW airways, that dawns billboards along I-275. Xavier is only one of five schools that have made the Associated Press “Top 25” Poll in each of the last four seasons, while racking up five straight Atlantic 10 Conference Championships in the process. Coach Mack, you have led a team that has made it to the Sweet Sixteen each of the past four seasons. From a statistical standpoint, the Queen City can look upon the navy and white and be proud. From a moral view, however, I’m afraid the Muskies are not a Cincy gem.
            The “Xavier way” is the core value of Xavier University, the Jesuit belief in a good, moral compass driving the student body to higher standards than an average school. For years, especially under the Bob Huggins regime, UC was known to recruit great players with bad morals. Graduation rates were horrendous, but points on the scoreboard were to be had. Arrests were made, but as long as a double-double was achieved, Huggins and his squad of scoundrels were allowed to continue in their questionable recruiting and academic fashions. Xavier, however, with the “Xavier way” as its compass, was always held at a higher standard. And even with its demand for character alongside athletic talent, the university was still successful in basketball, producing talents such as Byron Larkin and David West.
            Coach Mack, this image has been tainted. The Bearcats are no longer the bad boys in town. No, in an effort to get quick results without concern for character, you have recruited against the very core values of Xavier University. Talent over morals may keep you afloat for awhile, but eventually the tide of corruption will rise. For you and the Xavier Musketeers, 2011-2012 brought that rise.
            Let’s start with Kenny Frease, the 2011 senior center who averaged 10.2 points per game paired with 6.1 rebound per game. Frease never brought a positive demeanor to the court, often allowing his lack of effort to result in missed opportunities in the paint. In October 2011, Frease was suspended indefinitely by you because he “did not fulfill all the responsibilities of a Xavier basketball player.” You think?
            Frease would rejoin the team, as it was evident to you that his 7-foot mass of a body was of more use in the paint than on the bench. Frease would be sure to make another trip to the suspension list again, however, along with a few other of his teammates as their true colors were displayed in the December 2011 brawl at the annual Crosstown Shootout, the rivalry game played between Cincinnati and Xavier every winter. Tu Holloway, the cocky yet efficient point guard, was jawing at the Bearcat bench with 9.4 seconds remaining in the game, a not-so-classy move when up by 23 points. As shown to the nation over and over on ESPN, this erupted into a brawl. Started by Cincinnati? Nope, the initial shove came from Dez Wells, Xavier’s freshman guard. Punches were thrown, Frease knocked to the ground with a messed up face, while four Musketeers ended up with suspensions for their involvement in the fight.
            Remorse for their actions?
            “I was just saying that it’s my city right here,” Holloway said in the post game press conference. “I’m cut from a different cloth. None of those guys on that team are like me.”
            Oh wait, it gets better.
            “We’re grown men over here. We’ve got a whole bunch of gangsters in the locker room, not thugs but tough guys on the court. We went out there and zipped them up at the end of the game. That’s our motto. Zip ‘em up. And that’s what we just did to them.”
            And the kicker: it all started because the Xavier players felt they had been disrespected by Cincinnati players via Twitter.
             Coach Mack, this is your Xavier Musketeer squad. You have redefined the national image of the school. People in Cincinnati used to wear t-shirts that read “The Xavier Way.” Now, shirts are sold that say “Zip ‘Em Up.”
            After the game, in regards to Holloway’s and fellow teammate Mark Lyons’ comments, you said, “I think at times they probably don’t represent themselves with the use of words real well, but I’m not necessarily going to sit up here and tell you that I feel like Tu and Mark are bad kids.”
            Of course you won’t tell us that, Coach; you recruited them.
            Finally, I am sad to point out the latest example of the new Xavier image. Dez Wells was expelled from school last week for seriously violating the Xavier’s student code of conduct. On Tuesday, a grand jury rejected criminal charges against Wells, with allegations of sexual assault brought before them. Even without the criminal charges, Xavier is sticking by its decision to expel Wells, the Musketeers’ 2011-2012 fourth leading scorer and best returning offensive threat. Basically, the school is showing they are tired of the behavior of your players, as the conduct board consisting of faculty, students, and administrators made the decision.
            Coach Mack, the Xavier name has been tarnished. You’re recruits have become the gangsters they believe they are. Mark Lyons has transferred to Arizona, and Griffin McKinzie to the University of Denver.
In closing, I want to leave you with a suggestion. Take a page out of former Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy’s book. Literally, his book. Uncommon. It talks of Dungy’s search for a player to draft; in the Colts’ analysis of potential candidates, they actually had a warning column that could be filled out as “do not draft because of character.”
            Coach Mack, for the sake of the fans, the city, the school, and all those that believe in the Musketeers, it’s time to get back to the Xavier way.


  1. Great Blog, and great topic. I loved it, and honestly enjoyed reading it. I remember the brawl and I definitely remember the post game interviews and I couldn't help but laugh at how idiotic they made themselves as well as the school sound. Good job

  2. Interesting topic Chase. It was nice to see into a program in college basketball I don't really follow. I didn't realize that during the brawl all of the fuel that was added to the fire from twitter. Great article and great writing.

  3. You definitely know your stuff, Chase! I like your use of quotes, stats, and facts in the piece. It really backs up your point! Excited to follow this blog, especially during college basketball season!

  4. Good stuff Chase, you've got quite a talent. The use of quotes adds some beef to the story, and has got us all excited for College Basketball

  5. A lot of in intriguing information Chase. I agree with the subject. I find it absolutely hilasious that Tu Holloway referred to himself and his teammates as gangsters. That gives them a great image as players and a team.

  6. Great post. There seems to be an epidemic going around the nation where colleges value talent over integrity, even colleges that once prided themselves on it. I remember that fight well and thought Holloway's "Zip 'Em up" comments were completely outrageous. There's no need for that at Xavier or anywhere else.

  7. You can tell that you know a lot about the city and sport history in the area. Interesting read and i couldn't agree more.

    Let the guys act like punks when the get in the NBA. For now, they are representing a school and a much larger tradition. It's not cute to get in street fights during a game and then pat yourself on the back for "Zippin' em' up". Whatever that means.

    Also, does anyone know why it is ok to physically assault someone when you play sports but definitely not in any other setting? It kind of baffles me sometimes...

  8. Good stuff here Chase, never really knew that much about Xavier basketball or the "Xavier way."

  9. I definitely remember the brawl and it was especially interesting because my high school always went to team camp and I've had the opportunity to run up and down a few times with the likes of Yancy Gates and other Bearcats. Looking forward to reading it!