For What it's Worth: What's Next & The Problem with 4A

The exit---

Knowing the man, I cannot imagine Gene Stephenson handling his dismissal any better than he did yesterday. It’s not surprising to me that he insisted on being fired—for Gene that’s his last bit of defiance. He wasn’t going to sit with Eric Sexton and the accolades rain down to massage his anger---Stephenson has always been adversarial, he’s always believed it was ‘him against the world’ and that the way he chose to leave.

Give him his due---

You don’t have to have liked Gene, but I can’t imagine not respecting what he’s done not only for Shocker Baseball, but for the college game. WSU baseball was the man’s life work; it angers me when people take disrespectful shots at the guy. He lost his livelihood, isn’t that enough? What is in our society that inspires some to pile on so gleefully-- Especially when so many of those piling on haven’t accomplished a sliver of what Stephenson has in life.

Talk about his due---

Lost in this story is how hard it must have been for Wichita State Athletic Director Eric Sexton to have made and acted on the decision to let Stephenson go. Not only is he letting a legend go---he’s letting the founder of the program go too. Find me a precedent that Sexton had to draw from. You know that this had to be something that kept him up at night as he wrestled with the proper way to handle things. He knew he was dealing with a proud, combative man. He knew that it was a decision that risked alienating some fans. He knew that his department could take a public relations hit, but he also knew that it had to be done and he did it.

Do I wish Sexton’s meeting with Stephenson had been held off campus or at least out of earshot of reporters at the WSU Baseball offices—yes. Should the university have released a statement concerning Gene’s firing before Stephenson’s press conference---probably. Other than that a very difficult situation seemed to be handled very well by an AD making his first major coaching move---and what a doozie this one was.

Moving forward---

Keeping Brent Kemnitz on staff is brilliant. I sighted a whole ream of reasons in this space yesterday; suffice it to say that he provides continuity and familiarity with players and recruits that will be invaluable for whoever the next coach is. Who will that coach be? Who knows? There are obvious choices within the family. Kevin Hooper with the Wingnuts, Scooter Hibbs at UNC-Charlotte, Gregg Brummett up at Cloud County, Mark Standiford at Tabor. Travis Wycoff coached in the college game for 11 seasons before going into private business three years ago. What about outside the family—Brad Hill is making $220,000 at Kansas State this year where he’s under contract until 2015, of course we all know what contracts mean in college sports these days. None of this comes from anywhere but my own imagination, but Wichita State will be able to pull a top candidate.

Why?

My neck is sore from how long I shook my head today upon hearing the news that 4A is splitting into two classifications next year (2014 for football). This means, in a state with less than three million people, there will be no fewer than eight classifications holding champions in Kansas next year. For basketball this means that there will be 16 state championships awarded---sixteen! To call this plan ridiculous is to do a disservice to the word. We don’t need more classes in the state of Kansas---we need less. Why in the world are we watering things down even further when consolidation seems warranted?

Is this all to further balance the competitive playing fields for schools? At what point do championships start to ring hollow? Why not just give everyone a nice ribbon of participation and a juice box for their troubles? I loved 4A and 3A for its depth, diversity and much of the competitiveness; I’m so disappointed that schools voted to give themselves a better chance by simply eliminating the competition.

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