“Normalcy” is a cliché, but it’s all Northern Illinois wanted this month. For two hours Tuesday night, the Mid-American Conference school in rural DeKalb, Ill., finally got its chance.
The Huskies hosted Western Michigan in the first athletic event on campus since a former student opened fire with a shotgun and three handguns in an auditorium and killed five students, then himself.
The Broncos wore NIU ribbons on their uniforms and held a moment of silence.
It was already a rough first year for coach Ricardo Patton, who took over a stuck-in-mud Huskies program 11 months ago and is 6-17 (3-8 MAC). Just when the team got its first road win against a decent Akron team, the bullets flew.
Huskies senior forward Shaun Logan had film class in the lecture hall earlier that day, a class which has now permanently changed locations. So, too, has Patton’s son’s theater class.
The auditorium remains surrounded by police tape.
Though less directly, Patton has been down this road before. He was a high school coach in Colorado during the Columbine shootings in suburban Denver.
Practice resumed last Wednesday and classes resumed Monday for the first time since the Valentine’s Day tragedy.
The Huskies have taken numerous calls from Virginia Tech coaches and administrators, who went through a massive tragedy when 33 were killed on campus last spring. Hokies coach Seth Greenberg called Patton to talk about handling teenagers’ emotions.
“There is a greater purpose,” Patton told the Chicago Tribune. “Even though athletics are very important, there is a greater purpose in life for us adults to nurture young people. That’s what our greater calling here is. I know we want to win as many games as we possibly can, but there is a greater purpose.”
GO AWAY SHOULD MEAN STAY AWAY
Recently fired Indiana coach Kelvin Sampson can’t seem to stay away. Several players received text messages Saturday night from their former boss after beating Northwestern.
It made his former players smile, and, to the Hoosiers’ credit, they avoided an all-out mutiny when assistant Dan Dakich took over following Sampson’s removal.
Six Hoosiers — led by Big Ten player of the year candidate D.J. White — purposely skipped Friday’s practice in protest of the school’s decision, but came to their senses. White was pivotal down the stretch in getting past the woeful Wildcats.
It’s hard not to feel for his players. Sampson was ultimately why they chose Indiana. It’s also a lesson they needed to learn the hard way: Life ain’t fair.
As for Sampson, we’re guessing those text messages were his first recruiting efforts in anticipation of his next stop.
REMEMBER WHEN ...
Once a fancy looking Final Four candidate (it still is), Duke has hit a rough patch of late with consecutive losses to Wake Forest and Miami (Fla.).
The last time the Hurricanes beat Duke (in basketball) was Dec. 21, 1962.
Penn State football coach Joe Paterno was 38 years old, four years away from taking over as head coach of the Nittany Lions.
Vermont has been all over the success spectrum this season, but sophomore Marqus Blakely hasn’t. The 6-foot-5 forward has only been dominant, notching a double-double in 10 consecutive games for the Catamounts. In his past three games, he’s compiled 76 points, 57 rebounds, nine assists, 10 steals and nine blocks. Sounds worthy of American East Conference Player of the Year.
Kent State has been a top mid-major program since Gary Waters ran the show in the mid-1990s. Then came Stan Heath and, most recently, Heath assistant Jim Christian, who has kept the Golden Flashes a perennial Mid-American Conference championship contender. Currently No. 29 in the RPI, Kent State got a big win at St. Mary’s last week in a bracket buster and gave itself a golden chance to return to the NCAA tournament for the second time in three seasons, potentially as an at-large bid if it doesn’t win the conference tournament.
UCLA at Arizona, 2 p.m. Sunday on CBS. Two of the best freshmen in the country will be on display in Kevin Love and Jerryd Bayless (especially Bayless, who’s done practically everything with point guard Nic Wise injured).
It’s a big game for UCLA in its quest to repeat as regular-season Pac-10 champion, with Stanford unwilling to wilt. It’s also a huge game for Arizona, which despite it’s lofty RPI isn’t yet a lock for its 24th consecutive NCAA tournament berth. The Wildcats should get in with a .500 conference record, but a weekend against the L.A. schools followed by a game at Oregon means they could easily finish 8-10. Then what?
THE LAST WORD
“I’m going to call Colin (Falls) up tonight and rub it in his face.”
who broke his former teammate’s Notre Dame record by hitting nine 3-pointers Saturday for the 21st-ranked Irish in a win over Syracuse
Our top seeds: North Carolina (26-2), Texas (24-4), Kansas (24-3) and UCLA (24-3).