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Bill Kwon

Sports Watch

By Bill Kwon

Saturday, May 13, 2000

Criticism of Wallace

POOR Riley Wallace. I can't help but feel sorry for him. He says something rather innocuous about the Confederate flag issue and some folks are asking for his resignation as the Rainbows men's basketball coach.

Boy, you would have thought that he was John Rocker or something.

Or some of the other basketball coaches who made the news recently.

Like Bobby Knight, whose let's-get-physical coaching style is finally being called into question after all these years.

Or Clem Haskins, who apparently looked the other way when some of his Minnesota Gophers' basketball players got more academic help than needed.

Haskins resigned. But he was sent off with a golden parachute. Knight might not be as fortunate.

Now asking Riley to resign because of a losing season or his coaching ability is one thing. But pillorying him for his comments about the NCAA getting involved in the flag issue in South Carolina is something else. Something way out of line.

All he said was that the NCAA shouldn't force the hand of the people who live in South Carolina. Let them work out their own problems.

And it appears that the South Carolinians are trying. The South Carolina House passed a bill removing the Confederate flag from the state capitol.

It might satisfy the NAACP because the Confederate flag would still be displayed on a 30-foot pole and illuminated at night. But it helped to clear the way for the NCAA to hold its national basketball championship tournament in Greenville in 2002.

Notice, the PGA Tour didn't get involved. The MCI Classic at Hilton Head, S.C., went on as scheduled without a hitch. Those who chose to play or not to play made it their personal choice.

Tiger Woods didn't play in the event. But he didn't make a point of it as to why he did or didn't.

THE NCAA, indeed, doesn't have any business in South Carolina's flag controversy.

It might be the Big Brother of college sports, but there are limits. Next thing you know, the NCAA will be telling its member schools it shouldn't schedule the University of South Carolina.

Which, reminds me.

Nobody made a big to do when the University of Hawaii scheduled South Carolina's football team. Not once, but twice, long after the C-flag was flying atop the state capitol.

Or did anyone raise a fuss when the baseball 'Bows invited Winthrop University of Rock Hill, S.C., to the Rainbow Easter Tournament this April?

Nor did the Rainbows wear red armbands as Penn State players did when they met Winthrop's baseball team this season.

If anything, give old Riley some credit. He has never invited South Carolina to the Rainbow Classic.

In fact, the basketball 'Bows have never played the "other" USC.

Seriously, though, UH officials have not and shouldn't have to make any formal statement about Wallace's comments about the NCAA's stand on the Confederate flag issue.

As university President Kenneth Mortimer pointed out, Wallace was only exercising his right to speak his mind freely.

Isn't that what this whole much ado about nothing should be about?

The Confederate flag might be a symbol of slavery and hatred to some people. It represents something far different to others in the South.

All I know is, the only flag Riley is passionate about is the one fluttering at a golf hole.

Bill Kwon has been writing about
sports for the Star-Bulletin since 1959.

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