I can’t wait to see what CSU’s pitch to draw fans is going to be next year. Will “Cleveland State Basketball: At Least We’re Not Youngstown State!” be the slogan?
As it stands right now, it won’t be because fans will have any kind of hope to win anything next season. That tends to happen when you lose your top three scorers and four of your five starters. It’s kind of sad that fans may be referring to the back-to-back CollegeInsider.com Tournament bids as the salad days.
Though not entirely unexpected, redshirt junior forward Anton Grady has been given his release to leave Cleveland State and transfer. As was the case with Trey Lewis, Grady, who will graduate this May, is immediately eligible to play for another school.
But that wasn’t the only bad news this week coming out of the Wolstein Center, which seems to be a fountain of crappy news as of late. Assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Jermaine Kimbrough is leaving the Vikings to join Nevada and its new head coach, Eric Musselman.
So, when Cleveland State ends up finishing at the bottom of the Horizon League because of these recent events, I want you to have expected the flood of excuses and gripes coming out of the Wolstein Center.
“Oh, the system is broken!”
“The NCAA needs to change its transfer rules!”
A variation of each of these two statements is pretty much all you’re ever going to get out of the men’s basketball offices or Athletics, for that matter. And unless CSU is planning to cut another sport, you’ll probably read about all of these events in some news dump that’s lumped in with Akron and Kent State on cleveland.com.
So instead of waiting for questions that will never be asked and answers that will never be given, let me go ahead and start throwing around some ideas.
I will go ahead and start with the most obvious problem; the elephant in the room, if you will. If you have the opportunity to play at a high-major school, like Lewis, Bryn Forbes and, most likely, Grady do, aren’t you going to take it? And it’s not like the Vikings haven’t been able to go toe-to-toe with the big boys in years past.
No, this is all about the attention.
Take Lewis’ final destination of Louisville, for example. Thousands of people showed up for the Cleveland State game in November. Thousands. When Lewis announced his transfer, countless Cardinal fans were all over it, as was the local media.
Meanwhile, the Vikings, who only lost three games at the Wolstein Center this season, finished last in the Horizon League in home attendance, drawing less than 2,000 a game. Yes, Cleveland State was outdrawn by conference doormats YSU and Illinois-Chicago.
And I threw UIC in there to head off a well-heeled point constantly made by the folks at CSU about how it’s hard to draw in a pro town.
Chicago, of course, has five pro sports teams and four Division I programs (including nearby Northwestern). And Illinois-Chicago has bested Cleveland State in attendance two years in a row, including the 2013-14 season in which the Vikings finished second and the Flames won only a single game in the conference.
And if you have aspirations of a professional career, as I expect Lewis and Grady should have, you want as much media attention as possible.
How exactly is that going to happen when the largest newspaper in the area pays more attention to Ohio State and lumps your coverage in with two schools not located in Cleveland? Plus, how is that going to happen when one of the two sports radio stations largely ignores everything about your school (except your ad dollars, of course)?
I admit that I’m terribly frustrated by Lewis and Grady’s departure, but I understand why they left. In fact, I’ll bet that there are hordes of self-loathing CSU students who would transfer out the first chance they got.
And I also understand why Kimbrough would want to seek life elsewhere. After all, if you’ve been at the same job for nine years and you basically had no hope for a promotion, wouldn’t you want to get a better deal?
Yes, all of this sounds pretty harsh. So what? All anybody within the confines of Cleveland State is going to do is secretly grumble about anything I just said. It’s not like you haven’t been doing that for nearly 20 years anyway.
The transfer system may be broken, but perhaps you should look inward to see if you’re not a little broken yourselves, CSU.
The program has had a decent run. There’s no doubt about that. But the good times were brief, and we’re looking at a very low time once again that hasn’t been seen since coach Gary Waters took over. With three years left on his contract, Waters needs to check to see if complacency hasn’t set in and that it hasn’t infected his program.
Otherwise, we may soon have to do away with the “at least we’re not Youngstown State” point.