Johnson City, Tn. – Times they are tumultuous on State of Franklin these days. As the new wears off for ETSU President Dr. Brian Noland, he continues to deal with a recurring theme with its’ most visible entity, men’s basketball. Just in 2012, he’s dealt with a botched sweepstakes, armed robbery, fraud, and the most recent, a drug bust involving two seniors that were supposed to be the “leaders” of this years’ squad. The fact is in the last few years, ETSU basketball has seen a developing trend in off the court issues that are starting to show up on the stat sheets as well as the win/loss column.
Think back a few years, the late Seth Coy made a mistake and was charged with DUI and underage consumption. He was driving drunk in front of the university, separate of the tragic events a short time later, but still a huge mistake. While Coy was “disciplined internally,” the whole thing quietly went away and Buc fans dismissed it as kids being kids.
Enter Tommy Hubbard. A 2010 arrest on a vandalism charge after he destroyed his girlfriends’ laptop following an on campus domestic dispute. After being suspended indefinitely by head coach Murry Bartow, he was allowed back. He never missed a minute of game action for this.
Fast forward to 2012. This past February, former ETSU player JC Ward was involved in another incident that just quietly went away with Sheldon Cooley where he was charged with filing a false police report. This, after an alleged break in at their on campus apartment. Ward withdrew from the university without facing any punishment, and Cooley missed a total of four games, two in the regular season and two in the Atlantic Sun Tournament.
All this brings us to present day, where Cooley and Marcus Dubose have been suspended indefinitely following arrests from a Drug Task Force, in which Dubose was found to have enough of a Schedule VI narcotic in his posession that he was charged with Posession with intent to resale. The paraphenalia charge was a set of scales. All of this without mentioning the halftime fiasco where ETSU didn’t ensure its’ halftime promotion properly for a halfcourt shot (2nd time that’s happened) AND senior Jarvis Jones was declared academically ineligible for the fall semester. A timeline of events where there’s not truly been accountability for the basketball players, and it’s shown on the court. Fans see a clear decline in ETSU basketball, where this year it’s really showing up on the stat sheet and the wins column. Barring the amazing performance at Charleston Southern where the Bucs came back from being down double digits, ETSU has been abysmal in the regular season. In the latest rankings, The Bucs are in the 300’s in points per game, assists per game and field goal percentage. Out of 347 Division I playing men’s basketball teams, that translates to the Bucs being ranked in the bottom 50 in three major offensive categories. And oh by the way, in the one offensive category that a guard oriented team SHOULD be good at in free throw percentage, the Bucs are a pedestrian 63 percent.
It’s clear there are problems, the message isn’t coming from the dome anymore, it’s coming from the President’s office, in a recent interview on WJHL-TV Dr. Noland let it be known that individuals “will be held accountable.” The question is, as the losses are piling up, fans are staying away in droves, and the on court product continues to show the same lack of discipline and accountability as its’ off court product, who will be held accountable? Players? Coaches? Administrators? Only time will tell, but it’s clear that after this dark cloud passes over, ETSU needs to sweep the “Front Porch of the University.”