Fittest loser
Article posted: 3/1/2013 5:29 AM

Where is DePaul basketball headed?

He led Clemson to three straight NCAA tournament bids, but DePaul head coach Oliver Purnell is 30-59 overall since he was hired in 2010, and just 6-45 in the Big East.

He led Clemson to three straight NCAA tournament bids, but DePaul head coach Oliver Purnell is 30-59 overall since he was hired in 2010, and just 6-45 in the Big East.

 

Associated Press

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By Mike North

After reading about the new college basketball league now being referred to as the Catholic Seven, I smiled.

Thank you -- because one of my favorite Chicago teams, the DePaul Blue Demons, might become relevant again in this new conference.

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Jean Lenti Ponsetto, DePaul's athletic director, will get another opportunity to get it right.

But does the university want the one sport that can generate revenue and branding at the school guided again by the person who, according to many, is to blame for the demise of the program? Apparently so, since Ponsetto is under contract to guide DePaul athletics until 2017.

Hailed as a Title IX trailblazer, she has done a great job with most of the school's sports programs. But when I read her bio, men's basketball is only mentioned briefly. And the men's basketball program, at least on the court, has been her one major failure.

Money has been made, but DePaul's biggest revenue sport has become virtually nonexistent in Chicago and across the country.

Ponsetto gave Oliver Purnell, who led Clemson to its third straight NCAA tourney bid in 2010 with a 21-10 record, a seven-year deal worth $15 million, including the buyout.

After just three seasons, I don't think it can be said it has worked yet. Since the beginning of the 2007-08 season, DePaul men's basketball is 60 + games under .500, and in the Big East this year they are 2-13.

How many athletics directors would survive that record? And how many would be given an extension like Ponsetto has?

In 2007, DePaul President Dennis Holtschneider said Ponsetto's top priority was to seek the longest contract DePaul could offer. He went on to say "that speaks volumes about her commitment to the institution, and I am pleased to say we are equally committed to her."

Look, DePaul men's basketball cannot be treated as an equal with its other programs -- not when it was brought to the forefront nationally. It's the sport that created the buzz.

I know it's all about the money, and there is no pressure on Ponsetto. She may be great at the minor sports, but at least with the men's program it's hasn't come close to reaching a level of greatness.

Something has to change. She's been the athletic director since 2002, and has been given a free ride by most in the news media.

She will get the opportunity to get this right, but really does DePaul really care? I'm not convinced. So far in men's basketball, it's been a lot of talk.

Some critics have said that Title IX has hurt DePaul. I don't buy it -- bad hires and lack of resolve and commitment have killed DePaul basketball.

Marquette, Georgetown and others have the same challenges and still win.

Jean Lenti Ponsetto has a chance to bring DePaul basketball to life, or be the one who killed men's basketball completely.

• Mike North's column appears each Tuesday and Friday in the Daily Herald, and his video commentary can be found Monday, Wednesday and Thursday at dailyherald.com. For more, visit northtonorth.com.

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