By OnMilwaukee Staff Writers   Published Aug 28, 2005 at 5:14 AM

{image1}It's probably safe to assume that there were more than just a few laughs along Wisconsin Avenue this week as University of Cincinnati basketball coach Bob Huggins was handed his walking papers.

As big of a shame it is to see the winningest coach in the school's history let go, it's an even sadder commentary on the pathetic state of top-level college athletics today, and the absolute sham organization that oversees things: the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

Yes, let's cut right to the chase. Huggins' program -- while incredibly successful -- was a public relations nightmare. Beatings, arrests, convictions, drugs, weapons ... the list can go on for quite a while.

The number one mark against Huggins has been and always will be -- the low graduation rate of his players. A January 1999 report by the NCAA showed that the University of Cincinnati graduated just 0.0 percent of its players, a statistic that has provided plenty of fodder for Huggins opponents through the years.

Never mind the fact that those numbers include only those players that came in as freshman and stayed the full four or five years to complete their degree, while Huggins gets a majority of his players from the Junior College ranks.

No, the underlying issue is whose job is it to get these kids to graduate.

A caller to a talk show this week seemed comfortable with putting the blame solely on Huggins for the poor performance of his players. When the host suggested that, by the caller's rationale, the professors and other teachers could equally be held at fault, the caller scoffed at the notion.

Since when is it a coach's job to personally escort a player to class, sit him down, and feed him the necessary information.

Isn't a basketball coach's job to coach basketball games?

What is the role of the educator in all this? Let's be honest, it's not out of the realm of possibility that more than one professor in the college ranks has a predisposition against athletes in his or her classroom.

Isn't it a teacher's job to teach, and a coach's job to coach? That seems like it would make sense.

Sure, a coach is responsible for bringing in an individual capable of meeting the rigors of college life. He is, no matter how fair or unfair the charge may be, responsible for the behavior of said individual.

But at the same time, these kids have to take their own initiative.

Players today have almost unlimited resources at their disposal to help with their studies. A quick look at the media guide of any major program -- no matter what the sport -- almost definitely includes a full, two-page spread featuring the academic services offered to prospective players.

Posh and luxurious settings with private tutors are the highlight of these student-athlete-study-centers. There is no reason that any player should have difficulty getting their class work done.

The NCAA does everything to promote the academic part of its collegiate partners. It instructs institutions hosting post-season tournaments to refer to participants only as student-athletes, and never as players.

It makes broadcast partners mention a student-athlete's major during player introductions, just to hammer home the point that it's the students education that is important, not the billions of dollars that individual pumps into the coffers because of an ability to play a sport.

In the end, Bob Huggins and his 399 career wins will end up on another bench somewhere, leaving behind a mixed legacy of athletic victories and academic failures.

It will be funny to see how many people try to hop on the former bandwagon that played little to no role whatsoever in it and how many people take off running from the latter, despite having their hand in the cookie jar.