Everyone involved with Minnesota basketball can agree on this much: Any video involving any Gophers over the past six months should be erased.
The university whose most recent full-fledged athletic director resigned over allegations of sexual impropriety now has suspended three basketball players for their alleged involvement in an illicit video.
That was the backdrop on Wednesday night as the Gophers basketball team, down to a handful of scholarship players and a lone senior on Senior Night, took on Wisconsin’s latest well-coached team.
Joey King, the only current senior who made it through a Gophers career without being dismissed, was introduced as “The Gophers’ Senior Class.’’
The brief ceremony honoring King was followed by the usual rattle and hum of a basketball prelude. The fans dressed as barnyard animals were introduced, then the spirit squad, and, after the national anthem, the teams.
The usual inspirational video played before the Gophers were introduced. The video falls a little flat when you have more suspended players than Big Ten victories.
What is most amazing about the state of the Gophers basketball program is that the public seems to have become numb to both failure and scandal.
In the good old days, when Clem Haskins was tossing his jacket off the raised floor, or Jim Dutcher was trying to build a powerhouse, scandal was the mark of a coach overreaching to win, or averting his eyes to trouble.
The current coach, Richard Pitino, is presiding over scandals that may be more signs of recruiting desperation than cynical planning.
What’s most remarkable about the Gophers basketball program, as fondly as it is regarded in these towns, is that playing a game in the wake of a scandal is nothing new.
There was the infamously vicious brawl with Ohio State.
Dutcher kicked star guard Mark Hall off the team during one season, and Mitch Lee played after being acquitted of sexual assault.
The Gophers played after three players were arrested for sexual assault in Madison, Wis., in 1986.
They played after Courtney James hit his girlfriend with an address book and was later suspended for a year before leaving the program.
They went through the academic violations under Haskins that, more than any other scandal, led the Gophers to the bed of nails upon which they currently recline.
Dan Monson, hired to run a clean program, did that, but not much else. Tubby Smith took the job to escape pressure, not win a title. Pitino arrived because Norwood Teague couldn’t stand to watch Smith’s teams, and because Teague deluded himself into believing he could hire a better coach than Smith.
Pitino may survive this, may develop into a good Big Ten coach, but his résumé shows Big Ten records of 8-10, 6-12 and now 2-15. Any belief in him at this juncture is purely faith-based, like hoping the Tooth Fairy will leave the mortgage payment under your pillow.
Over the decades, the occasional dramatic victory at Williams has obscured the plight of the program.
In a sport that prides itself on the unpredictability of March, the Gophers haven’t made it to the Elite Eight since 1997. They haven’t made it to the Elite Eight in a season that wasn’t wiped out by the NCAA since 1990.
Pitino is the current face of the Gophers’ problems, but he is more symptom than affliction. To compete with programs like Indiana, Michigan State and Michigan — and in recent decades Wisconsin — the Gophers have always had to take chances in recruiting, and hiring.
Difficult night, Richard?
“You’ve got your rival in town, you want to have everybody juiced up, and it just didn’t have that feel,’’ he said. “It’s hard when you don’t have all of your options and you want to give them your best shot.’’
At the end of his third season, with scandals tainting even his few victories, a 13-point loss to a quality team might have been just that.
Jim Souhan’s podcast can be heard at MalePatternPodcasts.com. On