By Jason Whitlock
Special to Page 2

Nancy Zimpher, president of the University of Cincinnati, will be hailed in some circles and assailed in others for the bold stance she took with her basketball program.

She basically fired Bob Huggins for recruiting too many poor, academically and socially underprepared black kids. She called off the whole, tired charade.

I offer her praise. I respect her honesty.

She's uninterested in playing statistical games about who did and who didn't graduate. She's unimpressed with Huggins' charitable activities in and around Cincinnati. She apparently doesn't believe Huggins has a legitimate interest in helping the underclass.

With the Bearcats safely tucked in the money-generating Big East, Zimpher wants to fix the nasty perception that Cincinnati is a halfway house for lawless, difficult-to-educate black basketball players. Getting rid of Huggins is the first step in that process.

Yes, the saga continues. Another institution used poor blacks for its benefit, disrespected them in writing and then kicked them to the curb. Some will blast Zimpher and UC for its callousness. I won't. Again, I offer her praise. I respect her honesty. What must be questioned is the sanity of the black community that continues to allow its youth to be used by institutions that don't respect them.

I spent the better part of two hours perusing the letters that flew between Huggins' attorney and UC's legal counsel this summer. Zimpher's message was concise and clear.

"Mr. Huggins continues to recruit individuals that exhibit a disregard for the law and respectful behavior," one of the university's letters read. "I fully understand that off-the-court trouble and the poor choices made by student-athletes are not restricted to UC's basketball team. Indeed, such discipline and control issues are a national problem. Yet problems appear to be more prevalent in Mr. Huggins' basketball program."

The letter went on to state that in a 16-year span, 21 of Huggins' players had run afoul of the law in a significant way, including three players/recruits who were scheduled to play at UC this season.

"In short," the letter continued, "although Mr. Huggins may claim some specific successes, the University is seeking an environment and climate where the development of the whole student is sought and the successful education of all our students is realized. And while some may argue that academically challenged individuals who experience difficulty conforming their behavior to appropriate norms deserve a chance at success that a winning college basketball team can provide, UC believes that it can better advance its mission by building a winning program around scholar athletes who earn degrees that will allow them to succeed not only in athletics but more importantly in life generally."

Now we can play games and pretend like we don't know what Zimpher and Cincinnati are saying. But we know what she's saying. We know the type of players Huggins used to resurrect the UC basketball program and garner personal fortune and fame. He raided junior colleges for poor black players, snagged an occasional transfer and patched them around other players from the other side of the tracks.

Those players served their purpose for Huggins. They elevated UC to a level where it would be worthy of joining a major conference, and now Zimpher and UC are ready to wash their hands of Huggins and his image-eroding junior-college players.

Yes, the saga continues. Another institution used poor blacks for its benefit, disrespected them in writing and then kicked them to the curb.

Some will blast Zimpher and UC for its callousness. I won't.

Again, I offer her praise. I respect her honesty.

What must be questioned is the sanity of the black community that continues to allow its youth to be used by institutions that don't respect them.

The University of Cincinnati basically just said that, for 16 years, Bob Huggins had little interest in educating the black athletes he recruited. That's not a secret nor is it much of a surprise. It's probably even unfair to blame Huggins.

The blame falls on the players, their families and the black culture that gleefully participates in and condones this exploitation because a handful of black kids sign NBA contracts.

Cincinnati, just like every other mainstream academic institution, has virtually no interest in properly educating the black underclass. It's not the mission of a mainstream institution. UC, Duke, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio State, USC, Notre Dame and all the rest are set up to educate upper- and middle-class kids.

"Academically challenged individuals who experience difficulty conforming their behavior to appropriate norms" are not wanted at Cincinnati or at Boston College, Nebraska, Texas Tech …

And you know what? It's not in the best interest of those academically challenged individuals to go to Cincinnati. When you go someplace where you're not wanted, you get treated like you're not wanted. You get used. You get used by the well-intentioned basketball coach, the well-intentioned school president, the well-intentioned student body and the well-intentioned professors.

Black athletes participating in Division I sports graduate at an alarmingly low rate because the people running the institutions don't view the athletes as capable of being truly educated, and the institutions are ill-equipped to educate the black underclass.

Again, I want to thank Nancy Zimpher for her honesty and integrity. Maybe one day poor black athletes and their parents will study their history and realize that countless black leaders and professional athletes were educated and groomed at historically black colleges. There's absolutely nothing second-rate about the education.

Jason Whitlock is a regular columnist for The Kansas City Star. His newspaper is celebrating his 10 years as a columnist with the publishing of Jason's first book, "Love Him, Hate Him: 10 Years of Sports, Passion and Kansas City." It's a collection of Jason's most memorable, thought-provoking and funny columns over the past decade. You can purchase the book at TheKansasCityStore.com. Jason can be reached by e-mail at ballstate68@aol.com.



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