By Colin Dunlap | 1:17 p.m. Monday
You might remember Saint Louis head coach Rick Majerus (pictured, above) speaking after his team's win against Fordham on Wednesday and making the following statements about the Atlantic 10 Conference and how he isn't so thrilled about his Billikens playing in it:
- "We belong in the Missouri Valley if we care about the kids' academics."
- "They are great kids, but their academics are in peril."
- "The A-10's a good league, but you've got to
cross two states. What rivalry do we have? Dayton or
Xavier? They sure don't consider us to be big rivals.
"No one wants to go to Olean, N.Y., (St. Bonaventure) and Massachusetts and those places."
- "Everything here is about money. You want to fly to
Rhode Island, New York, Charlotte, all these places and stay out and
spend and be in high-end cost cities, or do you want to go on a bus and
go to Bradley and Southern Illinois and Indiana State and those places?"
Well, today on Majerus' weekly Atlantic 10 conference call, I wanted to ask him a few things about his statements. Let me preface everything by stating this: Contrary to some reports out there (particulary some of the stuff on Deadspin) when Majerus recently visited Duquesne, he was tremendously warm with the media. He was candid, open and honest and for that I am thankful.
Anyhow, back to this issue.
My first question: "If you were going to many of the same cities to play Big East schools, would this be a problem for you?"
His answer, as I suspected, centered around charter flights. As in, if Saint Louis was in the Big East Conference, they would be flying charters to many, if not all of their games, making getting to and from campus before and after games a more expeditious endeavor.
Here were some of the other highlights of what Majerus had to say in regard to my line of questioning. His comments are in bold.:
- All the teams share the commonality of the Eastern time zone, we are in the Western time zone. That doesn't make sense to me.
It doesn't make sense to me, either, considering St. Louis is in the Central time zone.
- Ten teams are either in Philadelphia or East of it.
Simply not true. Six are. Saint Louis, Dayton, Xavier, Duquesne, St. Bonaventure, George Washington, Richmond and Charlotte are all West of Philadelphia. The other six schools (St. Joe's, La Salle, Temple, Rhode Island, UMass and Fordham) are in Philly or East of there.
- The office is in Newport News, Va., the director of officials [Jim Satalin] lives in Syracuse, the conference tournament is in Atlantic City and the league meetings are in Naples, Fla.
He is just about right on all of that -- although the league meetings will move to Williamsburg, Va. this year -- but I am not certain how much of it (other than the conference tournament) directly impacts the head men's basketball coach.
- If this is truly for the student-athlete and his well-being and acumen and success, there is a problem that we have missed more days of class than we have been to. We have missed seven and been to six because of the travel.
If that is, indeed the case, that is a very fair point.
- There was a day when we flew back just to go to class for three hours of one day. For the 8, 9 and 10 o'clock classes of one day.
OK, commendable, I have absolutely no question he has his student-athletes' academic best interests in mind.
- They (the other conference teams) make one trip to Saint Louis and we make 13 trips to the East.
Not true. The Billikens have eight away conference games on their schedule this season.
In sum, let me say this: There is absolutely not a question in my mind that Rick Majerus probably wants what is best for his kids from an academic standpoint, and the travel is tougher on the Billikens than any other school in the league. But, he knew that when he took the job, he understood as much when he got into it. Also, when he brings up the Missouri Valley, does Majerus not understand there would be lengthy bus trips associated with travel in that league, as well? Perhaps through the snow?
It also needs mentioned that Majerus complimented the A10 coaches and players, saying the league was "better than the Pac-10" and lauding it on a number of levels during our conversation. But with all that said, while he does make some decent points, the place to do it last week wasn't in a postgame press conference, but to the SLU president -- and he had to know the media was going to follow-up on it. And, if he is going to construct an argument, he needs to make sure all the points are 100 percent factual.
And the last thing, when SLU officials now show up at league meetings, I wonder what sort of predicament they could be put in because of what their basketball coach said. In a sense, could the administators at the other A10 schools call SLU on the carpet for what can be deemed, in some form, as having their most recognizable employee publicly threating to leave the league?
All things to think about.