Latest in Southeast women's soap opera surrounds banners

Sunday, November 19, 2006

The soap opera that is Southeast Missouri State women's basketball right now just keeps getting better and better.

First, head coach B.J. Smith is placed on mysterious paid administrative leave. University officials do not give the reason, although sources say it's just a matter of time before Smith is terminated.

Now the latest flap centers around whether the Redhawks' 2005-06 Ohio Valley Conference regular-season and tournament championship banners were supposed to be raised in a ceremony prior to Tuesday night's home opener.

The university says that was never the plan and had nothing to do with Smith's situation, although many fans and players evidently expected it to happen, apparently because Smith had publicly said so before he was put on leave.

I don't know that there's a set standard across the country as to when banners are raised. It's likely done more often than not at the first home game, but probably not all the time.

Personally, if I'm a Southeast player or fan, I'd rather not have it done when only a few hundred people are in the stands for a typical women's game, which was the case Tuesday against Central Arkansas.

I'd rather see the banners raised at a men's/women's doubleheader -- and preferably during halftime of the men's game -- when there are several thousand people on hand to truly appreciate the occasion.

Maybe that's the university's plan, although I have no idea.

Anyway, here's hoping that whenever the banners are finally raised, Smith will be allowed to take part in the ceremony even if he is no longer involved with the program.

That would only seem like the right thing to do, and would be a definite embarrassment to the university if it doesn't happen.

It's already embarrassing enough that things have gone on so long without the university giving any kind of explanation for the Smith situation.

Not letting him help raise the banners would simply add to the list.

Speaking of Southeast women's basketball attendance, an impressive crowd turned out for Friday night's game against touted Florida State.

While there probably weren't quite as many fans at the Show Me Center as the official box score listed (2,183), I bet there were a good 1,500 people in the stands.

That's quite a number for a Southeast women's contest that isn't part of a doubleheader with the men's team.

In fact, I can't remember the last time that many fans turned out for a single women's game.

And the Redhawks gave a solid performance, staying close with the powerful Seminoles before FSU pulled away late to win 64-50.

One more Southeast women's hoop note:

For people wondering why assistant coach Lisa Pace was not on the bench Friday night, acting head coach John Ishee said Pace was being inducted into a county hall of fame in her native state of Tennessee.

Ishee said Pace did not want to miss the Redhawks' game with Florida State, but he encouraged her to go.

Turning to Southeast men's basketball, the Scott Edgar era has certainly gotten off to a rocky start.

Instead of fast and furious, the Redhawks have been more slow and sluggish thus far.

Being crushed by 40 points at powerful Arkansas in the season opener was not really that surprising.

But falling by 27 points to Drake on Friday night on a neutral court in Alaska was certainly not good.

And then losing by 32 points Saturday night in Alaska to a Centenary team that won four games last year was simply embarrassing.

But before Southeast fans -- who saw visions of OVC championships dancing in their heads when Edgar was hired -- jump off tall buildings, I can only suggest they calm down.

I know what has transpired so far is alarming, but remember the season is only three games old and Edgar has the Redhawks playing an entirely new system than what most of them had been used to, which is never an easy transition.

Also remember that Edgar's first Murray State team in the early 1990s also got off to an extremely slow start before rebounding to win the OVC title.

It remains to be seen if the current Redhawks can pull off a similar feat, or even come close, although the OVC appears to be about as mediocre as it's ever been right now.

But an 0-3 start is certainly no reason to push the panic button.

At least not yet.

It's great that former Southeast All-American Willie Ponder has found another NFL home -- and this time with the St. Louis Rams.

Ponder, who began his NFL career with the New York Giants in 2003 before being released prior to this season and catching on with Seattle, was out of work for a few weeks after the Seahawks let him go.

Now the former NFL kickoff return champion will try to help the Rams' putrid kick return unit get going, starting with today's game at the Carolina Panthers.

Marty Mishow is a sports writer for the Southeast Missourian.

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