Southeast athletics encounters hard times

Monday, October 15, 2007

As far as shedding a negative light on the athletic department, it would be hard to imagine a worse couple of weeks for Southeast Missouri State.

Two weeks ago, there was the national embarrassment of the university's men's basketball program having the NCAA Division I's second-worst graduation rate, according to the most recently released figures, on athletes who enrolled from 1997 to 2000.

Last week, the publicity was confined to the local level, but it was no more flattering.

First, Southeast announced that football tailback Timmy Holloman, who ranked among the top 10 nationally in rushing, was found in violation of NCAA eligibility rules and would be prohibited from playing indefinitely. The university, citing student privacy laws, said it would have no further explanation.

Just a few days later, although there was no announcement from Southeast, it was learned that basketball forward Brandon Foust would miss at least the first several days of practice, and it is possible last year's leading scorer will not be allowed to return to the team. Southeast basketball coach Scott Edgar, whose squad began practice Friday night, said Foust was suspended indefinitely from basketball activities.

A recent altercation in a campus dorm led to Foust being kicked off campus and prohibited from taking part in school-related activities.

Foust will likely learn his fate Wednesday, when the university's judicial process is scheduled to run its course and determine if Foust will be allowed to re-enter school and continue playing basketball.

Yep, it's been a rough couple of weeks for Southeast athletics.

But looking on the bright side, you can't buy that kind of publicity -- not that you'd ever want to.

By the way, I think it's real professional of Southeast administrators that, when the news is positive regarding their teams and athletes, they don't hesitate to notify the local media and flood us with press releases. But when the news is not so positive, like in the Foust situation, you don't hear anything about it until you find out about it yourself.

I know the university has to protect itself against violating student privacy laws, and I'm not saying Southeast should let us know every last detail. But when the leading scorer of arguably the highest-profile sport on campus won't be allowed to practice for a while, that's news, and the public has a right to know about it.

In Holloman's case, I don't think Southeast could have gotten around announcing that he won't be on the field because it would have been too obvious once the next game started. Otherwise, don't be so sure that the university would not have tried to keep that under the rug as well.

One more footnote to the situations regarding Foust and Holloman:

Several Internet comments have bashed the Southeast athletic department for basically being out of control and at fault, but I think that's off base.

I don't see how you can hold Southeast responsible for these incidents, which appear to be fairly isolated.

A university can't be expected to baby-sit its athletes, or its students, 24 hours a day.

Things are going to happen to the athletic student population, just like they'll happen to the regular student population, and that's just the way it is.

Congratulations to local high school softball teams Notre Dame and Kelly for advancing to the final four, and good luck to those squads as they chase state championships.

Notre Dame has had an especially incredible season, with a 28-0 record entering the state semifinals.

For area high school football teams, the games will begin taking on much more importance this week as district play begins.

By far the feature district opener among all the local squads is Friday's contest pitting Eureka at Jackson in what will likely decide the Class 5 District 1 title.

Eureka is ranked second and Jackson fifth in the state poll, and both squads are undefeated.

That should be a great game.

Marty Mishow is a sports writer for the Southeast Missourian

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