At what price, basketball?

In the threads following virtually all basketball articles, we've begun discussing the future of the Boston College basketball program. Who should be our next coach? What kind of players should be recruited?

Too often, the discussions become derailed by folks delving into the particulars of alleged transgressions committed by coaches on the wish list, or by past BC coaches. But it will be impossible for the BC community to reach a consensus on our basketball future until we finally decide what role athletics should play at the school, what is genuinely necessary to succeed at them, and how much dirt we're willing to tolerate.

So, is basketball truly that different from football and hockey? Would Jerry York have been a failure had he chosen to play and coach basketball? Some have opined that the basketball landscape has changed recently, that a school just can't win being squeaky clean. Tainted coaches and players are just part of the price to be paid for regular appearances in the Great 8.

Others say that the price tag is just that: a price tag. Pay enough money to the right coach, and we'll be cutting down the nets.

Is any or all of that true? And if it is, what do we do? We'd all like to win without shady coaches. We'd like our players to have a passing interest in receiving a college education, to have no interest in drugs, and to forego the NBA player tradition of having a child in every city visited.

But what if we can't have it all?

Are we willing to "go Kentucky" and take the "one and done" players, thereby abandoning the flimsiest of pretenses that basketball players are college students? Are we willing to pay a basketball coach $3m or $4m per year?

Or do we protect the University's reputation by continuing to endure teams like this one? After all, Columbia and Cornell are known to be pretty good schools, even with dreadful team sports.

We're at a crossroads here. Decisions on these issues should be made within months, not decades, or even years. The direction taken will speak volumes about the school. What should it say?

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