18.3.16

GOING COUNTER TO THE BUBBLE.

Last week, we noted en passant the reluctance of Wisconsin-Milwaukee athletic director Amanda Braun to accept a tournament invitation for the men's basketball team, which beat Minnesota and Wisconsin before the Horizon League season began, then finished fifth in the Horizon League.

Now Ms Braun has fired coach Rob Jeter, and the fan base (could we call them streetcar alumni if Milwaukee had streetcars?) is not happy.
Braun's desire to get rid of Jeter was so strong that she was "willing to disenfranchise the student-athletes in her effort to hurt him," said one source close to the program who asked not to be identified out of fear of retribution.

"She would constantly try to throw him off and create distractions," said another source who worked in the athletic department and no longer is at UWM. "All the time. It was bad. I felt bad for him all the time. I told him, 'You're a bigger man than I am.' It was brutal. Sabotage was in the cards."

According to several sources, Braun didn't congratulate the team after it won the Cable Car Classic to start the season. Where was she when the Panthers stunned the Badgers at the Kohl Center? Certainly not slapping Jeter's back or high-fiving his players.
And now the large donors -- perhaps one reason I continue to push the argument that all institutions in higher learning are in the same business as Harvard or Wisconsin is that you'll likely find a financially successful donor or six no matter where you look -- are withdrawing their support of Panther athletics.

But the director's ambitions are curious.
One can argue the relative merits of the College Basketball Invitational and the CollegeInsider.com Tournament, but there is no denying that a postseason appearance of any kind helps a mid-major program in many ways, not the least of which is recruiting.

Braun, who has been the AD for three years, said her decision was based solely on the team's performance.

"Fifth place, again, doesn't really merit...rewarding a postseason," she said.
Thus, she'd like to see a basketball team that's "a top program in the Horizon League."  Comparisons to "a top military in a banana republic" or "a top producer of film for intellectuals" come to mind. But in doing so, she's antagonized Wisconsin state senator Lena Taylor, who (unwittingly) is raising the possibility that there is a trade-off between hiring for diversity and hiring for merit.

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