Bedlam Basketball

Mike Boynton thanks Oklahoma State fans during the Cowboys’ game with Oklahoma on Feb. 22 at Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater. Boynton said that he, like so many others, is adjusting to working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. DEVIN LAWRENCE WILBER/for the Tulsa World, file

Another week of laughing, thinking and crying. And coping. And hoping.

This made me laugh

Mike Boynton, like so many of you, has adjusted to working from home and the unique interruptions that come with that. Here’s how the Oklahoma State basketball coach put it last Thursday:

“I can’t always make my daughter get off my neck when I’m trying to talk. I can’t always stop my son from throwing the football into the back of my head.”

This made me cry

Same quote.

After I stopped chuckling over Boynton dodging Nerf balls while trying to seal the deal with Ferron Flavors, I got to thinking...

What I’d give to have my little ones back home with Christy and me right now, interrupting our Zoom conferences. Or even Lizzie the Wonder Basset, who always had a knack for howling when it was my turn to ask Bob Stoops a question on Stoops’ old Sunday teleconference.

This made me think

I consulted David Ridpath, the Ohio University sports administration professor and advocate for college athletes’ welfare as president of the Drake Group, for Sunday’s column on the pandemic as a threat to the NCAA amateur model.

We talked about that for a bit, and then Ridpath said: “My big worry in this, and it’s already started, is that schools are going to do a knee-jerk reaction and start dropping sports as an excuse to say, ‘Oh my god, we need to save money.’ That doesn’t need to happen. There is plenty of other fat to cut.”

Old Dominion dropped wrestling April 2. In a more publicized move, Cincinnati cut men’s soccer last Tuesday.

American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco addressed Cincinnati’s decision on the ESPN-syndicated Paul Finebaum show last week, saying: “It’s a concern, although in talking to (Cincinnati officials), this is something they might have done without the pandemic.”

“I think he’s trying to cover somewhat,” Ridpath said. “Cincinnati, from all of the numbers I’ve seen, is going to save less than a million dollars from this (ESPN reported Bearcats men’s soccer lost $726,498 according to the university’s most recent financial report). Cincinnati is one of those schools that’s a wannabe and probably needs to reassess where they are in the football landscape. And rather than trying to be something that they’re not, they could easily cut recruiting for football. They can cut football support staff. They can cut a lot of things before cutting a sport.

“So I think that that’s a convenient excuse for Aresco and others to use. To say that they were thinking about it... They’re always thinking about it because athletic directors want to maximize whatever they can for football even if it’s folly.”

I’m willing to give Cincinnati Athletic Director John Cunningham some leniency here simply because I have no idea what his specific challenges, financial and otherwise, might be at a time like this. I wrote last week that the toughest job in sports right now is university AD. You can’t convince me otherwise.

I do think it’s fair we at least consider Ridpath’s position, something enunciated in a Drake Group news release April 7, after Old Dominion slashed wrestling.

The release referenced unintended consequences such as alienating alumni who played the discontinued sport; damaging the university’s brand beyond athletics; and triggering investigations into “wasteful expenditures.”

Again, I don’t have a handle on Cincinnati’s particulars. I’m not going to dive into a commentary without that.

I’m simply presenting a point of view worth pondering. It might come in handy should more schools, particularly any closer to home, eliminate programs in the coming weeks.

This helped me cope, gave me hope

Remember Kristin Thayer, the OU football diehard fighting the good fight as a New York City pharmacist? Who shared some of her horror stories with us so we might take the pandemic more seriously?

Well, a fella named Brent read Kristin’s story. He was moved by the woman who came into Kristin’s pharmacy crying because her 87-year-old father had contracted COVID-19.

“I begged him not to leave the house,” the woman told Kristin. “And they didn’t listen to me. He thinks he’s Superman. Now he has it. I’m afraid my mom’s going to get it.”

Brent sent me an email last week, part of which read: “I have two beautiful daughters and three wonderful grandchildren. While I like to think that I am ‘Superman’ to them, I knew I needed to be careful with this virus that was poisonous to ‘Superman.’ So I have heeded the advice of the pharmacist from New York and stay strictly at home with my wife.

“Please convey to Kristin that at least one person in Oklahoma heard her message loud and clear, and thank her.”

Conveyed, Brent. And thank you.

Guerin Emig



Twitter: @GuerinEmig

Sports Columnist

Proud father of Gretchen and Holden. Devoted husband to Christy, who has been my best friend since biology class at Booker T. Washington. I covered the Oklahoma Sooners for 15 years. That was both challenging and rewarding. Now I get to write columns.