Now in category: General
Steve Cameron: Cleveland won&39;t cut corners to win
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C'mon, we know how it works.
Big-time college basketball players stay eligible even if they struggle to read and write.
Universities love the national publicity, the TV money and all the rest of it -- and after all, they've got thousands of real students to study chemistry and Russian literature.
So why not just wink and let a couple of power forwards cruise through a basket-weaving class?
Fans don't care.
They want to win, so the bottom line is that you keep your stars on the court.
Surely they get it at Fresno State, right?
I mean, the program is on the verge of taking off after 22 wins and an NIT appearance in Steve Cleveland's second year.
Folks are dying to fill the Save Mart Center and raise the roof with noise.
It's the Bulldogs' time again.
Cleveland's got to lure blue-chippers into the family and let 'em do their thing.
If he has to cut a corner here and there, well...
No choice, right?
As badly as Cleveland wants to haul his hometown Bulldogs up among college basketball's elite programs, he won't cheat.
Not even fudge things a teeny bit.
I know that sounds a little strange, considering that Fresno State has a reputation for something close to anarchy in men's hoops.
The presence of Jerry Tarkanian spoke for itself, then Ray Lopes showed up and managed to make Tark look like Mr. Clean.
But when Cleveland was hired prior to the 2005-06 season, the university made a commitment to running an honest program.
History shows us that outlaw schools tend to take a stab at going straight, but then after a couple of bad seasons...
Hey, losers don't sell tickets.
And so it's right back to forging transcripts, recruiting gangsters and taking your chances.
Except for Cleveland.
It was easy to celebrate his honest approach off that 22-win season, but what might happen if things went wrong?
Earlier this season, Cleveland booted post player Rekalin Sims off the squad -- even though the university was willing to give Sims a reprieve.
Then Cleve told freshman center Brandon Webster -- a bona fide prospect -- to forget about coming to practice until he got caught up in the classroom.
Here came the cruelest hit of all, dismissal of sophomore Bryan Harvey -- potentially Fresno State's best all-around player -- for failure to keep pace academically.
"Over the long haul, you have to build things on the right kind of foundation," said assistant coach Jeff Reinert. "That's why you'll never see Steve letting these guys slide.
"It was the same thing with Kevin Galloway a transfer from USC, who showed over the summer that he didn't have the academic goals that we expect. So he's not around."
Trust me, there are plenty of big-name programs around the country that would have made excuses for Galloway, Sims and now Harvey.
But it won't be Fresno State with Steve Cleveland in charge.
The Dogs will feel some pain in the win-loss column this season, but Cleveland wants a solid program.
Harvey has promised the coaches that he'll get his grades in order and give them two great years -- starting next autumn.
Cleveland believes him.
And that Harvey will be better off because things were done the right way.
Fresno State hoops, too.
bSteve Cameron is the Sun-Star sports editor. He can be reached at .
Copyright © 2007 The Merced Sun Star.
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Article publication date: 14 Germinal Ray80 (20 Jan 2008)
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