The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Sports

May 31, 2011

To quit, or not to quit

Each of the last two Mondays I got a text message I never expected.

One really surprised me and the other, well, not so much.

Both of them were very short and to the point. They are the texts I like. The other day I was driving and I got a text, so my wife read it, asked what to respond. I told her — short and sweet — and then she asked if I wanted an apostrophe and a hyphen. If I spell half the words correctly in a text, I’m pretty stoked.

Punctuation? Uh, no.

Anyway, that’s getting away from my original point.

Both were short, The first — DeChellis to Navy — just floored me. The other – Tressel resigns — didn’t.

Let’s start with the stunner: Penn State men’s hoops coach Ed DeChellis leaving to replace Billy Lange at Navy. Lange left Annapolis to join Bucknell grad Jay Wright at Villanova.

Now anyone who knows even a little about Penn State knows men’s basketball has always been treated like a red-headed stepchild to Joe Paterno’s football team.

That’s not to say Paterno doesn’t want to see the basketball players succeed — he was one of the team’s visible supporters in the run to the NIT crown a couple of years ago — but as long as they play football at Penn State, men’s basketball is going to be in the shadows.

There have been glimpses for each of the last three coaches, Bruce Parkhill, Jerry Dunn and DeChellis.

But there was never the foothold.

Even when the Bryce Jordan Center opened, along with hopes that a first-class facility would bring in topflight recruits, things never took off.

Now, with Cael Sanderson taking the Penn State wrestling team to the NCAA title in just his second year, some of the best volleyball teams in the nation and the arrival of men’s hockey — and a multi-million dollar arena — there is a distinct possibility the program might slip even further into obscurity.

The timing might seem odd for DeChellis bolting. He just took the Nittany Lions to the NCAA tournament after a great run to the Big Ten Tournament final. But when you think about it, the timing was probably perfect.

First off, the cupboard is going to be pretty bare in State College next winter and DeChellis’ seat was probably pretty hot entering this year.

After not taking PSU to the tournament in his first seven years, DeChellis probably saved his job with the wins in the conference tournament.

He knew that. And with chances that the Lions take another step backward next year, and the fact that Penn State’s men’s basketball team might never be a top-tier program, DeChellis probably split before he got shoved out.

That’s not all that surprising.

The most surprising aspect of the story is that he’s going to Navy. The number of coaches who would leave a Big Ten program for one at a mid-major can probably be counted on one hand.

He’s going to take a huge hit in salary to coach at a place that might be as difficult to coach as Penn State.

First off, there is no question Navy is a good job. But it’s a tough job because, while you know everyone of the kids you are getting will define high character, you also have to sell them on the military service as well. You really have to recruit them three ways: As a student, a soldier and — probably lastly — a basketball player.

That’s tough. But maybe, after eight years in Happy Valley, it was a challenge DeChellis was ready for.

Now for yesterday’s text about the resignation of Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel. Can’t say I was at all stunned because the bloodhounds have been tracking Tressel for a while now. As more and more info seeped out about the program, more and more black marks landed on Tressel’s lap.

The thing that wows me the most is if Tressel had initially reported five of his players were selling memorabilia, the players get suspended and the coach gets to keep his pristine rep. But, like Watergate, the cover-up was way worse than the crime.

Tressel told the NCAA he had no knowledge of any wrong-doing last fall. When it got out he did, chips started to fall and the last fell with the resignation because Tressel violated one of the Cardinal rules when it comes to NCAA investigations: Don’t lie to us.

NCAA investigators now are closing in — a hearing is schedule for August — and you know they have to be looking back a couple of years. Remember, Tressel and the Buckeyes had issues with Maurice Clarett and Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith previously.

I understand that college football coaches have more than 100 players and it’s tough for them to keep track of every one of them every single minute. But an issue lands on your desk and your star quarterback is involved, take care of it. Sure, it’s going to hurt to suspend him, but not as much as it will to lose your gig.

— Sports editor Bill Bowman covers college sports for The Daily Item. E-mail comments to bbowman@ dailyitem.com or following him at twitter.com/ williambbowman.

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