“Would I ever leave this company? Look, I’m all about loyalty. In fact, I feel like part of what I’m being paid for here is my loyalty. But if there were somewhere else that valued loyalty more highly, I’m going wherever they value loyalty the most.” – Dwight Schrute
Fortunately, Tony Bennett is not Dwight Schrute. Nevertheless, here we go again. Last year the Michigan and Minnesota openings had my stomach churning; this year it’s Indiana. It’s not that I think Tony will leave – on the contrary, I think he will be sticking around Pullman. But he could leave. And that’s what scares the crap out of me an a lot of Coug fans that have followed this team religiously over the past five years. It’s the possibility.
The coaching carousel demeans everyone involved with college athletics – the coaches, the athletic departments, the fans, the boosters, the media, etc., etc. It is at its heart all about the money. Because schools cannot pay players, they only control two things financially: staff and facilities. College sports, basketball and football in particular, make professional sport money but funnel very little of it to the players themselves. The result are coaches payed so highly that several head coaches are reaping the benefits of choosing the NCAA over professional sports leagues like the NFL (Bobby Petrino and Nick Saban are two that come to mind).
Money is not the root of all evil, however. You never see hoardes of people angry over an investment banker in Spokane leaving his firm for another one that offers a higher salary and more benefits in Chicago. The difference with college sports is that we as alumni or students are emotionally attached to our teams and therefore find that loyalty should rule out money. Those of us that would be irate with Bennett leaving for IU may also be people that didn’t care that Paul Wulff fled Eastern Washington to become the head football coach of the Cougs.
My feeling is this: if you as a coach have a good thing going, stick with it. Look at Dan Monson. He took the first train out of Spokane after Gonzaga’s Elite Eight run and several years later finds himself making a shred of what his former assistant Mark Few now makes at GU.
The frustration is that what we think of as fans really doesn’t matter. The ultimate decision rests with Tony Bennett and his family. That’s really how it should be. If he goes, we have to respect it, even if we don’t like it. But I still don’t think he will.
What do we really know at this point? Well, not much. As of Saturday morning no one official has contacted Jim Sterk about talking with Tony Bennett, despite media reports to the contrary. No contracts have been offered. That of course means nothing in the grand scheme of things, but there is a “ticking clock” here with ESPN reporting that Indiana wants to have a coach announced before the Final Four next weekend.
We could hear something tonight. The Daily Evergreen is reporting that the athletic department may make an official statement this evening regarding Bennett’s future. If it’s the definitive stay or go statement, I believes that is a good sign for WSU. I say this because, if no one has officially offered a contract or called Sterk until Saturday afternoon, I doubt Tony would only spend a couple of hours mulling over an extremely important decision with his family. The earlier he announces his intention, the more likely it is to be a favorable one for Pullman – so he can silence the media and have some peace and quiet from Indiana/Cal boosters and administration that may be trying to reach him. Unless of course there are dark forces at work behind the scenes, but in the end the official request to discuss a contract with Bennett must go through the AD, regardless of any off-the-record discussions.