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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Hoops and hawks

    Public deserves two important timetables

    As college students and congressional lawmakers both head toward their imminent winter breaks, talk of timetables is in the air. Yesterday, President Bush urged Congress to pass a $196 billion war-funding bill quickly and without question. Democrats responded immediately, requesting a clear timetable for withdrawal before coughing up any more cash for the troops.

    Last week, however, one senior official made a clear statement: “”There is no timetable for a return right now.””

    Of course, that straightforward assertion wasn’t made by Pentagon brass discussing long-term strategy in Iraq – or even by any federal official at all. The words were uttered by Kevin O’Neill, interim head coach for the UA men’s basketball team.

    Although the war in Iraq may be a pressing national issue, the talk of Tucson for the last month has been the peculiar departure of Lute Olson, Hall-of-Fame basketball coach and part-time demigod to most Arizonans. Lute announced his indefinite leave of absence in a press release Nov. 4, citing “”a personal matter that needs … undivided attention.””ÿSince then, seven games have gone by in Lute’s 25th season at Arizona without his sideline presence.

    Meanwhile, as rumors about his absence fly, Olson’s been occasionally spotted in the lower level of McKale Center, and even popped in to attend practice Monday. But his low-key return – as enigmatic as his departure – has left most Wildcats with more questions than answers.

    Lute deserves the personal privacy that he’s requested. There’s no need for him to air his personal life, nor any evidence that his absence should concern Wildcat fans. But at some point, the public – and the university – deserve a timetable for his return.

    Olson doesn’t owe the public any explanation for his departure, though many curious fans have called for him to come clean. But announcing a timetable for his return would be an important step to quell the uncertainty pervading the basketball program – and the university.

    Like it or not, the well-being of the men’s basketball team goes beyond the athletics department. In fact, it has huge second-order effects on the university as a whole. Men’s basketball pulls in almost $15 million in revenue for the UA each year, and subsidizes a slew of other athletic programs. The success of the basketball team draws attention to UA – some of which, we hope, draws attention to the university’s academic excellence as well. It also keeps alumni donations streaming in. And Lute is the highest-paid official at the university. That’s why it’s time for an estimated timetable for return at the very least.

    But although Lute’s curious disappearance has dominated local news, and fascinated the world of college sports, we’d all do well to put it in perspective. That other timetable – the one for withdrawing troops from Iraq – is the sort where human lives are at stake each day, and part of a conflict that has involved secrets and omissions that really do deserve to be exposed to the public.

    Lute’s leave may be trivial in comparison, but every Wildcat is eagerly anticipating his return – and the simple announcement that could put all our uncertainty to rest.

    OPINIONS BOARD: Editorials are determined by the Wildcat Opinions Board and written by one of its members. They are Justyn Dillingham, Allison Hornick, Sarah Keeler and Connor Mendenhall.

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