The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

84° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Furor over Olson’s departure unwarranted

    I am sick as hell of hearing about Lute Olson. And I am not alone.

    In a Daily Wildcat column on Monday, former news editor and copy chief Tom Knauer half-heartedly defended Lute Olson, but stated that he is “”a son of a bitch”” for “”the way he held (the UA basketball program) hostage”” (“”Spread the blame for UA hoops chaos,”” Oct. 27, 2008).

    With apologists like this, who needs detractors? Knauer went on to suggest that many Wildcats share the blame for the state of UA athletics for our ongoing worship of Lute.

    From the strong negative feelings Wildcats have for Lute Olson – or had, until news of his stroke made it taboo to criticize him – you’d think he did something horrible like killing some puppies or drinking underage.

    The reality is underwhelming; Lute decided he didn’t want to spend the rest of his life teaching a small group of people how to play a certain game, and people flipped out.

    They flipped out in a way that they haven’t in response to the ongoing UA transformation or continued problems in the UA education system which still need remedying.

    Lute Olson’s departure deeply hurt a lot of Wildcats who had a strong emotional investment in the state of our hoops team and who feel personally wronged by what’s been going on.

    Step back and think for a second. Does that make any sense?

    Something is rotten in the state of the UA.

    Something is rotten when athletic personalities like Lute Olson and football head coach Mike Stoops are mentioned more by the Daily Wildcat than President Robert Shelton and Provost Meredith Hay, who actually make decisions impacting the entire university. Since Hay was hired in March, these four names have appeared respectively in 117, 103, 85, and 21 Daily Wildcat articles and features.

    Something is rotten when seven out of eight “”BREAKING NEWS”” e-mails I’ve received from the Wildcat during the last year concern the status of a small number of athletes and coaches.

    The only other topic the Wildcat deemed noteworthy enough to deserve breaking news status was when a UA student shot two home invaders in self-defense.

    These are symptomatic of the worshipful attitude we have toward athletics, which includes the unquestioned assumption that UA athletes “”represent”” us in some meaningful sense (so that sports games are penis-measuring contests), the idea that “”supporting the UA”” and “”attending sporting events”” are related and the notion that football and basketball are more important metrics of our school’s success than lesser sports like volleyball and swimming, which are in turn better than cherry-pit spitting or Buzkashi or the Putnam Mathematical Competition.

    Given that we’re an educated and, presumably, enlightened lot, one would expect more of us to be critical of this attitude.

    One would expect us to question the herd mentality and militaristic behavior that lead us to idolize not just Lute, but a number of UA athletes – people who play sports, albeit very well, but who aren’t gods. And one would expect us to devote slightly more of our time and energy elsewhere.

    If you need help with this, here’s a list of discussion topics that are more pertinent than the trivial details of every single move made by Mike Stoops or Olson’s interim replacement, Russ Pennell.

    Will my academic department still exist in two years’ time? Are Gen Eds going to continue to be useless and in dire need of reform indefinitely?

    What can the university really do to become a top-tier academic school rather than merely a mediocre athletic one? How will we ride out the financial crisis, and will a new United States president and Congress help us?

    I’m not a cloistered nerd who’s upset because he never understood the big deal surrounding sports. I’m not a bourgeois snob who views sporting events as proletarian and beneath him. And I acknowledge that UA athletics, far from being a liability, is self-supporting and intensely profitable for the rest of the university. I’m sure that some commentators will accuse me of lying about all three of these things, though.

    But the UA is an academic institution, not an athletic one. And the entire hullabaloo surrounding Lute makes me wonder why more people haven’t realized this.

    Like it or not, Lute is not anyone’s bitch and does not have a sacred duty to continue working here.

    Lute’s demands during the last year have been unreasonable, yes, but no one is morally obligated to spend the rest of his life coaching basketball. Coaching is not humanitarian work; the only thing Lute owed anyone was to perform the duty for which he received his salary.

    The world is not going to end just because UA basketball players will be worse for a few years; the only meaningful consequence is that revenue at sports games might decrease slightly, which could trickle down to the rest of the university.

    Let’s not damn Lute for deciding that he doesn’t want to spend the rest of his life teaching kids to put a ball through a hoop for our amusement.

    – Taylor Kessinger is a senior majoring in ecology and evolutionary biology, math and physics. He can be reached at

    More to Discover
    Activate Search