At most schools where coaches loom godlike and untouchable, presidents leave well enough alone. They enjoy the national acclaim. They tolerate the Faustian deal they cut to achieve it. They know that challenging a big-time coach is more trouble than it's worth.Three cheers for Nancy Zimpher.
Zimpher didn't look at it like that. She challenged a Cincinnati icon and won. Her victory will be judged by how she handles the reconstruction.
In Zimpher's world, academic and athletic success are twin sons of the same mother. The Aug. 8 letter, again: "UC believes it can better advance its mission by building a winning program around scholar-athletes who earn degrees that will allow them to succeed not only in athletics but more importantly in life generally."
Large goal, that.
Also one that a university president has every right to set. If Zimpher were president of UC men's hoops, then hang her from the highest backboard for this. She ain't. You can say she has thrown the basketball program into darkness. You can say she has thrown Huggins' loyalty to the curb. What you cannot say is that, as president, Zimpher isn't obliged to do what she feels is in the best interests of the entire place.
People in Zimpher's camp say that, behind the scenes, Huggins has urged big donors to close their wallets. They argue that a spiteful Huggins prolonged the fight knowing he would take the buyout eventually, that he waited as long as he did to hurt the basketball program.
Believe what you want. Regardless, if UC were to retain its self-respect, Zimpher had to win.
Bob Huggins took UC basketball back to the big time, but at a cost. The graduation rate of the players is abysmal, and inversely proportional to the length of their rap sheet. Not only that, but he never could quite ... get .. to the Final Four. (Did he, once, years ago? Memory fails.) Plus, he's one of those screaming, shouting, abusive coaches, with a record of DUI's. Good riddance.
The lumpen Cincinnati sports fans will crucify her, though. The vitriol on the sports talk shows has to be heard to be believed.