Friedian Hypocrisy

Bill Frieder clearly has a retarded person's view of modern communications.
Frieder is too dense to realize those cute and self-serving remarks that he makes to sportswriters from New York and Detroit have the ability to bounce back to Arizona within minutes.

So when Arizona State University's new basketball coach expresses ill-concealed contempt for his employers, it's quickly relayed to Tempe.

And when Frieder playfully indicates that Arizona is some kind of cultural backwater, that also soon becomes part of the public record here.

Frieder is a loose cannon. He talks so fast that he continually outsmarts himself. A self-centered hustler, Frieder is his own worst enemy. Nobody has to be out to get Frieder. Just give him enough time to talk. Frieder will put the gun to his own temple. Frieder already shot himself in the foot last March on a national scale. That occurred when he accepted the Arizona State coaching job only a few days before his Michigan team was to begin play in the Final Four of the National Collegiate Athletic Association basketball tournament.

Incensed by Frieder's disloyalty and lack of sensitivity, Michigan's athletic director, Bo Schembechler, told Frieder to stay in Arizona.

Michigan found someone else to run the team. And without Frieder, they won the NCAA title.

Last Sunday, the New York Times reported a conversation Frieder had about the negotiations leading to his ASU basketball job.

"I played hardball with 'em," Frieder boasted to Malcolm Moran of the Times. "They said okay to everything I requested." I know we've all become numbed by sports salaries these days. But even so, Frieder's contract at ASU is something the state legislature should investigate.

Bear in mind one thing. No one pays to see Frieder stand on the sidelines with a towel on his shoulder while he shouts and screams at his players and the referees.

Nevertheless, Frieder brags that his Arizona State salary can reach $700,000 this year, with bonuses included.

The first question I'm inclined to ask is: Who is the imbecile who gave away the store?

He isn't hard to find.
For months now, Charles Harris, ASU's athletic director, has been walking about with his chest puffed out over his theft of Frieder from Michigan.

He has even been buying huge quantities of expensive space in the daily newspapers boasting about the joys the so-called Frieder era will bring. This prompts a suggestion. When law and order raises its head again at Arizona State, athletic director Harris should lead the rest forced to walk the plank. Incompetence and foolishness should still be reasons in this country to get a man sacked from a responsible job. I understand why ASU would be envious of Lute Olsen's success with the University of Arizona's basketball program. But instead of taking the high road to catch the people down in Tucson, the gullible Harris has opted for the opposite direction.

By hiring Frieder, Harris has made it clear he intends to achieve a quick fix no matter what the consequences.

Harris will embrace the philosophy made infamous by Jerry Tarkanian at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and Jim Valvano at North Carolina State.

The financial rewards come quickly. But the damage to the reputation of the universities is terminal. Tarkanian has always been frank about his philosophy of recruiting basketball players to UNLV.

Tarkanian says:
"If you bring in a kid that can't read and write, somebody nobody will touch, and you keep him here four or five years . . . at the end if he can read and write a little, you've done him a favor." It is this philosophy that has made Las Vegas a regular camping ground for NCAA investigators.

It was also this philosophy that made ASU laughable as a university during the Frank Kush era when football players left school after four years without minimal reading skills.

Harris made it clear in recent years that he would like to go back to that period. Not long ago, Harris publicly fought to have a football player's eligibility reinstated despite failing grades.

Harris' reasoning was that the football player's only chance to make a living after school was to play professional football. Keeping him on the sidelines because of academic failures would prevent the young man from demonstrating his prowess to the pro scouts.

If you embrace the Harris theory, you are left with very little reason to have anything more on a campus than athletic facilities.

All of those classrooms, science laboratories and libraries are really unneeded. All you need are the playing fields on which to showcase the football, basketball and baseball players.

In this light, let's look at one of the many questionable clauses in Frieder's ASU contract.

For those who think that they are supposed to be running an educational institution in Tempe, the Harris-Frieder alliance has set us all on the downward path to wisdom.

Frieder receives an extra $20,000 each year his Arizona State basketball recruiting class is ranked among the Top 20 in the country by basketball organs such as the Basketball Weekly or the Basketball Times.

Last week, Frieder proudly announced he'd recruited four of the top high school basketball players in the country. Frieder expects more to sign up with him before the year ends.

But Frieder's week wasn't all sunshine.
He was forced to call an embarrassing press conference to discuss his very first recruit.

The recruitment of Sam Mack should be written into a ballad so it can serve as a perpetual warning to coaches who think they can get away with turning a university into a prison annex.

Mack played last season at Iowa State, where he was a standout performer as a freshman. At six feet five inches, Mack is reputed to have what gym rats refer to as NBA potential.

But on the road to professional basketball, Mack experienced an unfortunate detour at Iowa State.

One night, after the basketball season was over, Mack found himself with time on his hands.

So Mack and a friend, who was a member of the Iowa State football team, decided to hold up the local Burger King restaurant.

They entered the place just before closing. Mack brought along a knife. His friend carried a gun. They hustled customers and employees into a freezer. But before they could get away, an employee escaped and called the police. The Burger King was surrounded by police.

Mack was shot twice in the legs but escaped serious injury. What is more important was that Mack somehow escaped conviction when the case went before a jury.

Mack told them he was forced to participate and they believed him. The football player was sentenced to serve 25 years.

Mack subsequently became Frieder's very first recruit for the shiny new program at Arizona State. Imagine the arrogance it took for Frieder to make this move.

As Frieder himself explained it to the Detroit News:
"Can you imagine what the press in Michigan would have done if I tried to sign a guy like that? But out here, they're ecstatic." The inference is clear. To Frieder, Arizona State is a place where he can run roughshod over everyone in his sight.

It isn't that Frieder hadn't pulled off some highhanded deals at Michigan where he had been head coach for nine years.

The star of last year's Michigan squad, Rumeal Robinson, was admitted only after Frieder went over the head of the admissions director to the president.

He is used to getting his own way. Frieder was pleased that Mack was accepted with open arms. He would be ineligible for one year because of the transfer rule, but he still had three years of eligibility remaining. In the team's first intrasquad game, Mack led all the scorers. He was clearly the team's best player.

Then everything suddenly exploded.
An ASU co-ed has accused Mack of sexual assault. The story was uncovered by an enterprising student reporter for the State Press.

The sex charge against Mack eventually became the lead story one night on Channel 10 news.

Frieder called a press conference to announce that he was suspending Mack until the investigation was complete.

"This is the United States," Frieder told the assembled reporters. He boasted of giving Mack another chance.

Then he attempted to impress them with the importance of college basketball.

"If this was a normal student," Frieder said, "I guarantee you that there wouldn't be this many people attending this press conference." But something else happened during the Mack investigation that, somehow, became even more embarrassing to Frieder. In his usual highhanded manner, Frieder had called the University Police Department to demand information about the charges pending against Mack.

Frieder was told that nothing could be revealed because the matter was still under investigation.

"If it's an ASU player," Frieder shouted into the phone, "then it's not a police matter, it's a basketball matter." The implication was clear. Basketball at ASU, under the Frieder regime, will be above the law.

Somehow, Frieder's attempt to bully the police department also made it into print. Clearly, a member of the police department leaked the information to the State Press.

This became the chief focus of Frieder's reaction to the story. He felt embarrassed and he wanted revenge.

When Frieder called his press conference to deal with the Mack situation, he gave lip service to all the old chestnuts.

Mack was innocent until proven guilty. His scholarship would continue.
Then there was this marvelous bit of Friedian hypocrisy.
"The ASU athletic department will not tolerate antisocial behavior," he said. "It is not an acceptable standard." What is an "acceptable standard" at ASU? Frieder himself is the one who led off his recruiting drive by seeking out the only hotshot player to be acquitted in an armed robbery in which he had been shot two times.

And so rather than mull over the possibility that he was at fault for his recruit, Frieder tried to toss the blame over to the police.

It wasn't smart. But Frieder doesn't do many things that would indicate he's qualified to handle rocket-science courses.

In a totally silly effort to shift the focus of attention, Frieder called upon the press to find out for him just who the police officer was who had embarrassed him.

"They didn't have the guts to tell me," he said of the police department. "Someone in that office needs to be fired because no one, not even my wife, knows I made that call.

"I challenge you to find out who it was," Frieder said, "so we can fire his ass." Frieder is right about one thing. Someone does deserves to be fired.

I can think of two likely candidates--Frieder and Harris.


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