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SportsMonday: Drop It, DePaul

Isn't there a trustee or someone at DePaul who can speak up and try to stop to the unbelievably ill-advised hiring of Dave Leitao as the school's new men's basketball coach?

Just when you thought a team that had finished last in its conference a half dozen times in a row before skyrocketing all the way to seventh this past season couldn't be a bigger joke, the school's athletic department has announced it will re-introduce Leitao on Monday afternoon.

Let's see, after Leitao bailed out of DePaul about a decade ago just as he could no longer use the players from the previous regime to post inflated results - after his third year on the job - he took the job at Virginia. It is in a coach's fourth and fifth years in a program when fans can really see what sort of job he has done. At that point he has all his own players and all his own schemes in place.

Virginia didn't go well so Leitao was fired and next turned up coaching in the NBA's developmental league (for the inimitable Maine Red Claws). That didn't pan out so he had to go back to assisting, first at Missouri. But Missouri didn't get the job done so he took yet another step back to an assistant's job at Tulsa.

And now he is the best DePaul can do? And I was worried they were going to hire Ty Corbin, the former hard-working DePaul standout player who went on to make two head coaching stops in the NBA. He would have been the sentimental choice. Who could have imagined that the sentimental choice would have been 100 times better than what DePaul is actually doing.

The primary problem here is that athletic director Jean Lenti Ponsetto apparently has so much clout at DePaul that no one above her pay grade at the institution was willing to point out that of course she shouldn't make this hire after failing miserably on the last two (Jerry Wainwright, who oversaw the program's downfall, and Oliver Purnell, who cemented it).

And sure, DePaul had the misfortune of playing in a super-conference (a Big East that expanded to 16 teams for a while there and always had numerous members in the running for national championships) for a number of years just as its recruiting pipelines ran dry.

But the conference situation is much more manageable now, with peer institutions Xavier, Butler and Creighton added to old standbys Villanova, Georgetown et al in the now 10-team Big East. In fact, one of the reasons that a little improvement (from last to 7th) wasn't enough to save Purnell's job was the fact that everyone saw that as a result of easier competition rather than actual improvement.

Here's an idea for DePaul: just drop men's basketball. Just drop it and say you can no longer be a part of the ridiculous sham that is "amateur" athletics. The sham that sees an industry bring in billions of dollars without any of it going to the stars of the show in monetary compensation.

It was when the University of Chicago up and dropped football in 1939 that organizers of the college game were forced to take a long look at where things were going. The game had become too violent and changes were made to open things up. Thanks to rules changes, the forward pass, which had been mostly frowned upon during the game's first three or four decades, became a much more viable option.

It is a bit of a stretch to completely credit Chicago dropping football with changes in the game. But the move did have an impact. If DePaul can't do better than hiring a retread who has done nothing but move backward since he left the school high and dry for more prestige and money a decade ago, they should really consider just bowing out.

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Jim "Coach" Coffman is our man on Mondays. He welcomes your comments.

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