Double standard for Felton, players unfair

Daniel Pike

Two days ago, this newspaper ran an editorial which celebrated former men’s basketball head coach Dennis Felton’s decision to take the same position at the University of Georgia.

The majority opinion of the Herald’s editorial board was that Felton couldn’t be blamed for defecting, for in five short years he’d guided Western’s program to places unseen in nearly a decade.

A few more seasons of sustained success and Felton would have been crowned Hilltopper royalty. Under such circumstances, it certainly would have been nice if Felton had demonstrated a little Hilltopper loyalty.

But sometimes, people must do what they deem best for themselves. We’re given one crack at life, and we aren’t obliged to anything or anyone we don’t wish to be.

That same editorial board has determined that Western’s remaining players – some of whom are reportedly considering transferring in Felton’s absence – would be foolish to follow their coach’s lead one final time.

Apparently, while Felton’s departure was commendable, a player’s decision to act similarly is condemnable.

Nearly all of the reasons given in today’s editorial as to why the players should stay could have been applied to Felton’s situation a week ago.

But this newspaper didn’t lay a guilt trip on Felton. Although it has the right to do so, it shouldn’t treat the players any differently.

The blanket assumption that remaining at Western is the best option seems to imply that a decision to leave would constitute an act of betrayal against Western’s program, fans and students.

There are two reasons why the Herald would take such a stand:

•Spoiled by Western’s recent glories, the board realized that an intact returning roster is the Hilltoppers’ best chance to avoid the loss column.

•From its perch atop the Hill, the Herald considers itself in a position to disseminate life advice to a small group of individuals whose personal choices would have no tangible effect on the educational or professional experience of a substantial portion of Western’s community.

Such motives are selfish, especially when considering that a player’s future – or lack thereof – at Western involves so much more than basketball.

College athletes are held to standards that fans and other students never seem to comprehend. Players are generally handed full scholarships, but that benefit is offset by the NCAA’s barely legal restrictions, which prohibit even part-time employment and staunchly discourage transfers.

The NCAA grants athletes a single choice – where and for whom to play. That’s a choice that no one but those close to the player has a right to attempt to influence.

If Western’s wavering players decide to stay, fantastic. We’ll be happy to have them back and happy that they are pleased with the basketball program’s new direction.

But sometimes, people must do what they deem best for themselves. We’re given one crack at life, and we aren’t obliged to anything or anyone we don’t wish to be.

Least of all the Herald.

Daniel Pike is a junior print journalism major from Glasgow. The opinions expressed in this commentary represent only those of the writer and not of the Herald or Western Kentucky University.