Yesterday’s news about the late night arrest of two basketball players rocked the Gonzaga University community in a significant and long-lasting way.
At 9:00 am, there had been a total of approximately 3000 posts in the short history of this bulletin board; by the time the Zags took the court Saturday night to defend their home winning streak, nearly 400 posts had been racked up and by midday Sunday the message board thread that first announced the incident (Heytfelt and Davis arrested ( Tell Me NO ) had 6500 page views.
If you’re reading this thread, you’ve probably waded through the hundreds of postings on the “basketball forum” portion of this community bulletin board and perhaps even weighed in on some of the debates raging here in cyberspace: Would this be as big a deal if they weren’t basketball players? Would the school treat them like any other student when it comes time to administer discipline? What’s the big deal—they’re just “kids”? Could the basketball team withstand the loss of a star player and still beat St. Mary’s College and preserve the country’s longest active home court winning streak?
All of which made for some lively, candid, sober, discussions as well as some heated disagreements about casting stones, passing judgments, and remembering what 18 – 22 year-olds can be like.
Hoops hope and the basketball team’s wonderful run of success have built the MAC, paved the way for successful fund-raising, and made GU more than a regional standout on U.S. News & World Report’s annual rankings report. I’ll wager the bookstore’s sold more logo hats, sweats, and T-shirts than books in the last five to seven years.
Hoops and hope took a body blow yesterday, but not a knock-out punch. The legal and disciplinary aspects of this incident will pass in relatively short order. The damage to Gonzaga’s basketball program reputation will take longer to mend.
No matter how many student athletes receive academic All-American awards, no matter the tens of thousands of volunteer hours of service outreach performed by GU students in the community, yesterday’s news cycle proved behaviors of the few can quickly alter perceptions of the many.
One hopes not to be painted with such a broad brush but there’s little to do except keep one’s chin up and remain proud of the good things and good people that make Gonzaga University and the greater community of friends, alumni, and supporters special. No tabloid sensation can take that away. Not now, not ever.