Commentary: Matt Roth’s Scholarship Should Not Be In Question

Terry Hutchens wrote a terrific piece this morning that reminded me of a topic I’ve been wanting to address: Indiana’s scholarship crunch for the upcoming 2012-13 season.

Hutchens’ piece – entitled “Hoosiers need to find a scholarship for Roth” – echoes exactly what I have been thinking about this issue.

matt-roth-indiana
Matt Roth has been assumed as the odd man out in Indiana's scholarship crunch. That's not right. (Image credit: IDS)

Via the article, here is the crux of the issue and my opinion on it:

As of today, IU has 14 players for 13 scholarships and a decision needs to be made on that front. And that doesn’t even include Roth. If he’s in the equation, the Hoosiers have 15 players for 13 scholarships.

But Roth shouldn’t even be a part of that discussion. He should have his scholarship and get a chance to play. Tom Crean and his staff should have to figure the other stuff out with Roth not included in the conversation. If Roth wants to play one more season — and he does — he has earned that opportunity.

That final statement sums it up perfectly: he has earned that opportunity.

He most certainly has.

Remember that Matt Roth was a freshman during Tom Crean’s first year in Bloomington. He has watched the program go from six wins and national embarrassment to the being a preseason top 5 time next year. (Note: Roth would have exhausted his eligibility like freshmen classmates Verdell Jones and Tom Pritchard, but he broke his foot before his sophomore season and played just two games that year. The NCAA has granted him a fifth year of eligibility, which he deserves.)

Now, with Roth on the verge of being able to play his fourth season, and with the fruits of his and his other veteran teammates’ considerable efforts finally paying off, he might be denied that chance?

Frankly, I think that is unconscionable, and I think it would be a bad move for Tom Crean to make and a poor precedent to set.

Before you read any further, you should understand something: I don’t think wins and losses are the be-all, end-all in college sports. I continue to hang onto antiquated notions that scholastic achievement, sportsmanship, character, and loyalty are just as important in a college sports program as the number of games it wins.

I know. Crazy.

If Roth gets kicked to the curb simply because his presence on the roster is inconvenient, what does that say about the loyalty Indiana basketball shows its players? How can Tom Crean really preach “family” if the longest-standing current family member would be the first one on the chopping block?

Doesn’t that seem backwards to you?

The way I see it, of the 13 scholarships Indiana has available for next year, Roth’s name should go at the top of the list.

If he wants it – as it seems like he does – he should have one before anyone else. Matt Roth is the longest-tenured member of the program and has done absolutely nothing on or off the court to warrant any level of respect other than the utmost.

In fact, he was a committed member of Indiana basketball before even Crean was. And despite the turmoil surrounding the program, Roth maintained his commitment to Indiana basketball, kept plugging away during the tough years, and emerged last year as a veteran leader and valuable role player with a penchant for knocking down big threes.

After Roth, scholarships should continue to be guaranteed in the order in which the commitments were made from the university. That means that, yes, Maurice Creek gets to keep his too, even if his injuries mean that he is nowhere near the player he was as a freshman.

That also means that no pressure should be put on Jordan Hulls to give up his scholarship and pay his own way. If Hulls wants to do something like that in the ultimate act of selfless devotion to the Cream and Crimson, and it’s genuinely and completely voluntary, fine. The notion of it sounds crazy to me though, because Hulls has most certainly earned his scholarship.

So where does that leave the Hoosiers in my crazy loyalty-first scenario? It means that two members of the vaunted Movement recruiting class would be left without scholarships for the upcoming season. This means, I’m assuming, that two of them would need to attend prep school for a year or that Indiana would have to let them out of their letters of intent to pursue immediate opportunities elsewhere.

If that’s what the result would be of being loyal to Matt Roth, and also to Jordan Hulls and Maurice Creek too, then so be it.

I’m sure that would be a little embarrassing for Tom Crean and the Indiana coaching staff, but so what? They over-signed, which I don’t like in the first place, and such a practice can have consequences.

Why should incoming freshmen who have never played a second of college basketball be given more loyalty and respect than a fifth-year senior who had the program’s back at its lowest point and who, oh yeah, led the best conference in America in three-point shooting last year?

(I bring up this latter point about Roth’s marksmanship to counter those who make the argument that Indiana “needs” next year’s fourth or fifth best freshman as opposed to a floor-spreading veteran with big shot experience. And with the stars seemingly aligning for a banner run in 2013, shouldn’t our #1 on-court priority be maximizing the potential for next year’s team?)

Look, I know that not everyone feels the way I do about college sports. I idealize them. I actually believe that college sports programs are more than just revenue factories where success is driven only by won/loss records.

I believe that college sports programs should actually be about school and development, both athletically and personally, and about “molding young men” and “setting the right example” and all of those other supposed mumbo-jumbo buzzwords that too often get used as a punchlines as opposed to guiding principles, which they should be.

With these being my beliefs, I can have only one response to Indiana’s scholarship crunch: Tom Crean and Indiana should honor Matt Roth’s scholarship. It shouldn’t even be a question.

If it is, it suggests that winning is more important than loyalty, and it suggests that all four years of impeccable on- and off-court character earns you in Bloomington is disrespect. That’s not right.

What is right is Matt Roth playing next year. I hope it happens.

*****

And here is an opinion to counter what I present above, from John at Crimson Quarry. It’s well worth the read.

He makes some very good points, though they do not change my opinion of what the right thing to do is in this case. I don’t really think Roth is being “wronged” per se, and certainly no rules are being broken. I can understand the opposing argument, and it’s a compelling one. I just think that Roth has earned the respect of being able to play, on scholarship, if it’s what he wants to do…plus I think it’s actually a good on-court decision for next year’s potentially excellent team.

Update: While I still think Indiana should find a way to reward Matt Roth for what he has contributed to the program during the unprecedented last four years, I understand that there are some extenuating circumstances that it’s not an easy black/white call. And a prominent member of the media just told me this, which made me feel much better:

I would say this: Tom Crean is a good, good man. This is a fluke, bizarre and maybe even honestly handled situation. IU in good hands tho

And I agree. It is a fluke, bizarre situation that occurred because of Roth’s injury, the uncertain status of Maurice Creek, and Christian Watford’s potential to leave for the NBA.

So hopefully I didn’t come across TOO harshly above at Tom Crean. I do think Indiana is in good hands and that he’ll deal with it the right way, given all the particulars; I just know that if I had my druthers I’d want Roth in IU’s uniform next year. I think the message it would send about loyalty and commitment to the program and all of that would be a great precedent to set for the next decade of Hoosier hoops.

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Comments

  1. Gerald says

    Terrible article. Think with your brain not your heart. It’s a four year scholarship, not five.

    • says

      It is perfectly fine if you don’t like the article, although I think “terrible” seems a bit harsh. I do appreciate the visit and your comment, but I won’t apologize for thinking with my heart when it comes to IU hoops. I always have. The minute I start looking at IU hoops with my head rather than my heart is the day I start to question why I care so much in the first place. I’d prefer to just keep caring. It makes seasons like last year’s more rewarding.

      As for the scholarship length, I suppose you are right to a point. But let’s say that Cody Zeller was a entering his fifth year with the program, with one having cut short due to injury, and he received a medical redshirt. Would anyone question his return? Of course not, because he’s one of the best players in America. That fifth year would simply be assumed, as it is for kids who redshirt their first year. Why should it be different for Roth? It’s only an issue because he is a borderline rotation player now that the talent level of the roster is back up. But to me, considering the journey this program has gone on over the last four years, not treating Roth’s position in the program with a special level of deference would be the wrong move. His fifth year should be every bit as assumed as it would be in five years if Yogi is in the same situation. Roth has earned that.

      And frankly, it’s both my heart AND my head speaking when I say that.

      • Gerald says

        Terrible article was a little harsh…i will say that Indiana more then any other school respects the game and values amateur athletics. At a certain point it is about basketball and not about just being nice – I certainly dont think they are disrespecting Roth in any way

      • Brisco_0317 says

        You people that view this article as “terrible” and don’t think Roth should get a schollie for his 5th year should be ashamed of yourselves.  But I guess that’s what you get when you have a “win at all costs” attitude.  Personally, I would not be proud to be a fan of Hoosier basketball if this is the norm…

  2. Jeff Smith says

    Jerod, curious whether or not you think scholarships should be four-year guarantees. Should  a player be able to lose his scholarship in the manner that Patrick Bade or 
    Bobby Capobianco did 
    ?

    • says

      Really good question Jeff, and one I’ve been thinking about a lot since I wrote this. No, I don’t think a scholarship should be a four-year guarantee, because there has to be a way for a school to get out of having a player on its roster who doesn’t do what is asked of him or the minimum that a college athlete should. BUT…I think the expectation on the player’s side should be that if he does everything asked of him effort-wise in the classroom and on the practice floor, then he should have his scholarship. If he turns out to just not be quite as good as you’d hoped, but doesn’t want to transfer somewhere where he might play more, I think the school needs to honor its commitment. So…I don’t think there should be a set rule, but for a kid like Roth, who to my knowledge has been exemplary off the court and as a worker/leader on it, I think he should expect to have five-years-to-complete-four as so many get (unless something else was communicated to him), should he want them.

  3. TimberJoey says

    Crean is not a “good, good man.”  He has a long history of doing this at Marquette University.  He makes up for his lack of coaching acumen by the fact that he is a very good recruiter and with his lack of integrity.  The guy would throw his mother off scholarship if it meant making the team better.  The situation you describe is not at all a fluke.

    • says

      Joey, thanks for the visit and the comment, and perhaps this is true. I don’t know enough about Crean’s tenure at Marquette to say one way or the other, but I appreciate the insight. I just know that he’s earned the benefit of the doubt from me, so far, with what he’s done during his four+ years at Indiana, so I am judging Coach more based on that. Time will tell, of course.

      • aduke says

        I think if you did some research on Crean’s tenure at Marquette, you would find many, many situations like this and you might have a different angle on the overall situation. This is a common occurrence for him. There’s even a term named after him for it, “housecreaning”.

        Whether or not Roth is a good kid and deserves a fifth year (which by all accounts he does) shouldn’t be the story here. It all comes down to the fact that this entire situation was created, once again, by Tom Crean’s actions.

    • Rob H says

      Timber, can you please reference a case or two from Marquette so that we can read up on your contention?

  4. lafreedm says

    I would just say that Roth has graduated so he wouldn’t need a scholarship to pay for classes.

  5. Rpasky says

    Add this to your thoughts, both Jordan and Derrick Elston have completed their undergrad. Matt has completed his masters. What are the scholarships for but to pay for that. If they need a job, I’ll give them one so they can get on the bus.

  6. Areteacat says

    We all know how this is going to end, every spring in bloomington their is “HouseCreaning”. Get rid of the old and bring in the new, Its a rite of spring in bloomington with Tanned Tommy.

  7. magnushanso says

    Time for Spring Housecreaning.  Clappy the clown likes to do it every year… at least he did so in Milwaukee.

    So kind of him to always be so “honest” and to “grant a release from scholarship.”

  8. Timber Joey says

    Word on the internet is that Crean has additional verbal commitments for next year now as well.  Which makes him currently over signed.  I’m sure someone will “decide” to play closer to home or that they need more minutes and leave the program just in time to make way for the Top 50 kids that are so excited to play for Mr. Snake oil salesman.

  9. Sam says

    I am  personally disappointed with Crean. Roth stuck with IU and Crean in it’s darkest hour. For him to be thrown to ther curb in this fasion is an embarrasment to IU CREAN and IU’s fans who agree with it. 

  10. Timber Joey says

    Surprise, Surprise Hoosier Fans.  Looks like my crystal ball showed me the future three months ago.  I’m sure you’ll all buy into the cover story about Patterson not qualifying academically.  Awfully convenient story given the need to reduce one scholarship player by season’s beginning…

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