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In Sports Commentary

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee athletic department has been a mess of late. (PHOTO: David Bernacchi )

The time may be right for UWM to drop its athletic programs


If ever there was a perfect time for the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee to bite the bullet and take a huge and dramatic step, this is it.

Now is the time for UWM to end the folly of a collegiate athletic program and get on about the business of building a reputation in some field other than women's cross country or swimming and diving.

UWM is going through athletic directors who come and go with little logic in their arrival and lots of secrecy in their departures.

The latest departure is Rick Costello, who was fired a couple of weeks ago, just a year and a half into his reign that was highlighted by a rebellion of his soccer players, the resignation of a high profile coach and a nutcase dream of creating a Division I football team on campus.

Nobody said why he was fired from his $200,000 a year job but everybody wished everybody else well and success in all future endeavors.

Sure they did.

Almost every time this guy opened his mouth I found myself shaking my head and muttering "He can't be serious, can he?"

He wanted a football team. He wanted to build a basketball arena in the middle of the densest population area in the city. He couldn't keep alumni, students or his coaches happy. Or his bosses, apparently.

Here's the situation right now at UWM. They need a new athletic director. They need a new soccer coach because the old one was fired by the athletic director who just got fired. The soccer coach got fired because he apparently swore and stomped his feet and even used some ethnic slurs when he was talking to his team. He even apologized for his language, but still got fired. Then they also are looking for a new women's basketball coach since the old coach left that juggernaut to work in the alumni relations department.

We also have a huge study of the athletic department going on, which was supposed to be paid for with $80,000 from the coffers. It was this study that was going to be used to further the argument that they should build a basketball arena on campus, even though there is no good place to actually build it.

Fortunately, some smart guy, realizing that the whole athletic department was in disarray, cancelled the contract after spending just $15,000 that had already been spent.

History is not on the side of the university. First they hired George Koonce, who left under mysterious circumstances after a year. Then they hired Costello, who was fired under mysterious circumstances after just a shade over a year. The same people who made those two hires are essentially the same people who will hire the next one.

Doesn't give you much hope, does it?

This just seems like a perfect storm. Lots of high profile vacancies. No boss. An investigation that may well result in some NCAA infractions. Summer vacation is approaching so the throngs of students who go to the UWM games will be busy working as lifeguards, lawn fixers and fast food servers.

Hardly anyone would even notice if they dropped athletics.

This is the chance for the university to realize other dreams which are much more realistic than having a football team, a new stadium or a berth in the Final Four, Elite Eight or Sweet 16.

People need to come to the hard realization that the words college athletics and UWM don't belong in the same sentence. This is an athletic program destined to be mired in mediocrity, or less, so let's cut bait before we keep draining resources into a black hole.

This university has a dynamic leader in new Chancellor Mike Lovell and an outstanding faculty, adept at both teaching and research. It has a commitment to being the best "freshwater" research institution in the world.

This is the time I say "go for it." Build your reputation. Help slake the thirst for, and absence of, drinkable water in some of the roughest and driest spots in the world.

Developing valuable and drinkable water for the whole planet may seem like a huge task. But it pales in comparison to the pipe dream of creating a big-time athletic program at a school where almost nobody cares if the Panthers win, lose or even show up.


Talkbacks

polishpower77 | May 2, 2012 at 3:32 p.m. (report)

If Begel spent as much time on eyebrows as he did on his research then he might have a point, wait, his eyebrows are out of control, much like his ideas.

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speakthetruth | May 1, 2012 at 10:44 p.m. (report)

Bagel Logic: Dave Can't Lose Weight on His Diet Plan = Pierre Dukan, Jillian Michaels, and Richard Simmons Should Be Executed

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pfan | May 1, 2012 at 10:06 p.m. (report)

I would say that OMC should drop Begel, but that would be the kind of trolling response that a sad headline like this should illicit. Is the website really struggling this much?

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MilwaukeeCity | May 1, 2012 at 6:36 p.m. (report)

When I saw the headline my very first thought was "uhhh I bet it's a dave begel article" and sure enough it was how not surprising is this. Dave you truly have jumped thee shark!

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Tabby | May 1, 2012 at 5:36 p.m. (report)

I left Milwaukee a long time ago and seldom visit, but I graduated from Wisconsin Milwaukee and support the school. I wish I was there now to tell owlish Dave Begel to his plump face just how full of beans he is. Plainly, the man shouldn't be writing such drivel so quickly after taking recreational drugs. I'd also ask him if he really thinks anyone who has read him a few times actually takes the silliness he calls writing seriously. I can recall vividly reading an article this paragon of journalism wrote years ago about a long-forgotten basketball game involving Wisconsin Milwaukee. Begel, ever the astute, erudite, self-absorbed, and self-regarding journalist, went on and on for sentences about some poor player's knocked knees, surely the only time in history any sportswriter with a lick of talent bloviated in The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on so trivial and irrelevant a subject. Sort of like me needlessly commenting on his owlish face, turkey neck, overgrown eyebrows resembling tarantulas, and corny granny glasses. Begel wants Wisconsin Milwaukee to up and quit athletics. One wonders if that's the way he's lived his own life, quitting or failing things. Did he finish college, or did he up and quit? Does he have a divorce or two in his backgroud because he up and quit a marriage or two? Has he ever been able to keep a steady, stable job long enough to earn a pension, or has he always upped and quit or just been fired? How many jobs has he quit or been fired from over the years? Does he always pay his bills, or has he taken the path so many unresponsible people take and quit paying his bills and declared bankruptcy? Begel wrote that few would notice if Wisconsin Milwaukee dropped athletics. How many would notice or care if onmilwaukee.com stopped posting Begel's columns or stopped covering sports? Qutting is for quitters and people like Begel. Fight on.

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