The Northwestern Dilema

Former Northwestern Coach Bill Carmody

Bill Carmody has been fired after 13 seasons as the head basketball coach at Northwestern University. The news came Saturday morning after Northwestern finished the season 13-19 and failed to make the NCAA Tournament once again. The Wildcats have never made an appearance in the in the big dance. To put that into perspective,  the Wildcats are the only school in the power 6 conferences to never receive a bid to participate in the tournament.

“Look at 13 years. Athletic success does matter. It should matter,” Athletic Director Jim Phillips said. “We were here a year ago. One of the key differences was, we were down to one year on Bill’s contract. I didn’t feel an extension was warranted. It would have been really detrimental to the program, to Bill or his staff to try to recruit with less than a year on his contract.”

Carmody did take the Wildcats to four NIT Tournament selections in his 13 years, which should be considered an accomplishment given the state of the program when he took over and the limitations he worked with to build a program.

Before Carmody took over the program in 2000, current Harvard head coach Tommy Amaker interviewed for the position. In the interview, Amaker presented the hiring committee with three transcripts and asked if these students would be admitted to Northwestern. The committee reviewed the transcripts, and while the transcripts were good, the committee decided that the students would not pass the academic standards needed to be allowed into school. Two of the three transcripts belonged to college basketball stars Christian Laettner and Bobby Hurley. Amaker then removed himself from the interview process, saying that he wouldn’t be able to build a winning program if he wasn’t able to get students like this into school.

Northwestern famously does not make any academic concessions for the basketball team. All of those who play for the basketball team, on scholarship or not, must qualify for school just as the rest of the student body does. At some other institutions this may not be a problem, but Northwestern is widely considered one of the best academic institutions in the country and those admitted have some of the best high school transcripts in the country.

Duke University is another school with high academic standards, but do you think that coach Mike Krzyewski has any problem getting who he wants into school?

Another way Northwestern has failed the basketball program is in the facilities. Trying to compete with other Division 1A programs, specifically ones in the Big Ten, is difficult when students see the difference between, say, what Ohio State has to offer and Northwestern has to offer. Not only does Welsh-Ryan Arena pale in comparison to the rest of the Big Ten, but their notoriously poor practice facilities play a role as well.

Add all of these factors up and you get the recipe for a school that has never received an NCAA tournament bid. It’s not even like bringing a knife to a gun fight, it’s like bringing a water pistol.  So while a change at the coaching position has been made, until the university decides to arm the school with even a metaphorical knife, it doesn’t matter who the coach is. The results will be the same.

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