Thursday, Feb. 5, St. John’s University was covered. Theremnants of a snowstorm had blanketed our Queens campus, but oddlyenough we were on fire. Not real fire but instead the proverbialtype that burns down entire schools, programs and communities.
The entire St. John’s population has been affected by thedissolute decisions of certain members on the men’s basketballteam. Other sports, successful, classy and proud, have seen mediacoverage filled with the words “shame” and “scandal” associatedwith the name that they share, St. John’s Red Storm. Coaches fromall sports will have a tougher time recruiting quality players andeven the other players on the basketball team who were sleeping intheir beds are now forever entwined with the scandal that hasrocked our school.
Once again, St. John’s has been in the news for somethingnegative. But with this recent humiliation, a lifetime of traditionmight be all too easily forgotten.
Thanks to a few, so many are now burning with anger, disgust andembarrassment.
But when Friday, Feb. 6, rolled around, the sky opened and allthe water of creation fell upon our campus. Most of the snow waswashed away and much of the fire went out. The responsible playerswere expelled or suspended, and a half sigh of relief went over thecommunity when the accusations were found to be false. The accusedparties were guilty of breaking curfew, going against theUniversity’s mission and for soliciting and having sex with aprostitute. Unfortunately, their deeds have shown them to bevirtual arsonists, guilty of setting fire to an already dry andflammable program.
To many across the country, the players on our men’s basketballteam are more than players; they are ambassadors of our entireuniversity, representing all 19, 000 plus. Though we are somewhatrelieved that the original accusations against them were notcompletely accurate, we still must realize the gravity of thesituation and the need for some type of reform. The flames of thisinferno have been put out, now comes the time to rebuild.
Our university has been striving for excellence in every aspectof collegiate life. Our soccer team was performing well; theadministration sought to build Belson Stadium. Our football andtrack teams were not performing; they cut their programs as if theywere tumbleweeds threatening to ignite. As a commuter school, itwas hard to recruit national and international talent; theResidence Village was built to accommodate those students. TheHonors Program was introduced to produce better students and raisethe school’s academic reputation. Laptops were offered to freshmanthis year to provide them with the tools to become completelycomputer literate. The list goes on and in many areas we have as auniversity succeeded greatly. The basketball team must be next, andthe addition of the Riley Field House is not enough.
To assuage the scorching done by this blaze a few things musthappen.
First, a new coach must be found at the end of the season thatcan bring discipline, leadership and recruiting abilities. Thoughthis is difficult, it is a must. Credibility and respect mustreturn to Alumni Hall. Our program, which flourished under LouCarnesecca, has not had an architect since the days of FranFraschilla. We need someone to construct a mansion out of theburning embers of the Jarvis era.
Next, the players must be accountable for their own academics.The minimum GPA required by the NCAA should be strictly enforcedand if they do not attend class they must not be allowed to play.With the first sign of smoke, the flames must be quenched.
Furthermore, these players should attend mandatory seminars,similar to those given to rookies in the NFL, that teach playersabout the temptations of a life within the sports industry and thesullying consequences of their bad decisions. By watering theroots, the trees will not burn as often, as much or as hot.
Lastly, let the distinction be made that St. John’s Universityis a school that has a basketball program not the other way around.We are more than a basketball team.