Roselle and Co. have definitely won biggest battle
Who'll win war for control of UK basketball?
With the recent resignation of Eddie Sutton and his coaching staff, following the departure of athletics director Cliff Hagan in November, the administration of University of Kentucky president Dr. David Roselle
Cats' Pause Columnist
definitely has won the biggest battle in a 30-year struggle for institutional control of the Wildcat basketball program, but the question still remains as to who will win the war.
Often described by people close to the UK athletic scene as an island unto itself, the basketball program, fortified by unparalled success and statewide adoration, has operated at times on the outer edges of university control, a situation that has irked many top UK administrators.
The most notable challenge to such a state of affairs was launched by Dr. John W. Oswald, who came to Lexington from the University of California at Berkeley as UK's sixth president in June, 1963, succeeding Dr. Frank G. Dickey. Dr. Dickey, an athletic-minded former dean of the UK College of Education who held two degrees from the university, had succeeded Dr. Herman Lee Donovan, also very athletic-minded and one of the best friends of legendary UK basketball coach Adolph Rupp.
Despite the involvement of three of UK's NCAA and Olympic championship Fabulous Five squad in the gambling scandals of the early 1950s, which was accompanied by a scorching 63-page condemnation of the UK basketball program by New York Judge Sol Streit, and suspension of the program for one year, Donovan stuck by Rupp.
Judging by correspondence between Rupp and Dickey during the latter's term as UK president, those two men also got along quite well. This was evident in November, 1959, when, as a result of a conversation with Rupp, Dickey officially confirmed the fact that Rupp had the status of a professor of the university faculty with all of the rights and privileges accorded the position, which meant that the basketball coach had the tenure rights accorded to personnel who are paid from regular university funds and also had the same privileges of sick leave, vacation time, and change-of-work arrangements as all other predecessors.
(In February, 1938, after Rupp's seventh season as Wildcat coach, then-UK president Dr. Frank L. McVey had appointed him supervisor of basketball, which gave him the rank of professor in the College of Arts & Sciences and made him a member of the university senate. Rupp had earned his teacher's certificate doing post-graduate work at Columbia University).
Dickey also informed Rupp that he would receive an ample pay raise for the 1959-60 fiscal year, with an additional $3,000 for an unaudited expense allowance for the same period of time. In addition, the Athletics Association was to pay Rupp a bonus sum of five per cent of the gross amount received by the association as its share of the receipts of any national postseason tournament game or games as might be approved by the board.
"It is my personal desire that you be a part of the university and the Athletics Association for many years to come," Dickey wrote. "As I have indicated to you, it will be my recommendation to the board of the Athletics Association that the total of your salary and expense allowance for the 1960-61 year be increased to the sum paid to the head football coach, in order that these posi-
Look for University of Kentucky president phrase "institutional control" as it pertains to
tions may be placed on an equal basis from that point forward.
"I appreciate more than I can tell you the very fine job which you have always done. More than anything else I treasure your friendship and your willingness to work out this situation."
Three years later, after the Wildcats had finished 23-3 and participated in the NCAA Mideast Regional in Iowa City, Iowa, the board authorized that in the event the Wildcat basketball team should go to an NCAA tournament in the future, Rupp would receive one month's salary as a result of that activitiy, which Dickey explained should double the amount that Rupp had received in the past.
Two months later, Rupp expressed his gratitute to Dickey, but voiced bitter disappointment "that in a year that was regarded as one of the finest that the university has enjoyed in basketball, particularly in a year when all of the other sports were disappointing, that I did not receive at least some slight increase in salary."
"It is my understanding," he continued, "that every member of the Department of Athletics, with the exception of myself, has received an increase in salary, from the athletic director down to the maintenance field man. I regret that the athletic director (Bernie Shively) did not see fit to recommend me for an increase in spite of the fact that it was basketball that supplied him with the only black ink that he had available in any of the sports."
In addition to the letter to Dickey, Rupp aired his complaints at the annual preseason basketball press dinner. He received an increase in salary.
When Dickey left UK in the spring of 1964, Rupp wrote: "Thanks a lot for everything. It was a pleasure to work with you while you were here."
Rupp wouldn't be able to say the same about Oswald, a former football guard at Depauw University who professed an interest in athletics, but emphasized that the program should be kept in its proper place in the overall plans of the university.
Oswald also set up future confrontations with Rupp by endorsing a UK decision to integregate its athletic teams, and he let it be known that he expected all coaches to recruit black players.
Dr. David Roselle to put new meaning into the UK basketball and the entire athletics program.
The NCAA at the time was investigating the off-season football training program conducted by head coach Charlie Bradshaw. Less than a year after Oswald arrived on campus, the football program was placed on a one-year probation.
Meanwhile, Oswald succeeded in integrating the UK football team with Nat Northington and Greg Page in 1964, and the track team with Jim Green three years later. Rupp signed his one and only black player, Tom Payne, in 1969, the year that Dr. Otis A. Singletary came from the University of Texas to succeed Oswald as UK president.
The fact that Singletary was a friend and golfing companion of Texas football coach Darryl Royal was cause enough for Rupp to doubt the new president's interest in basketball. However, Singletary became a big booster of UK basketball, as well as football, and he managed to get along with the aging Rupp until Rupp reached the mandatory retirement age of 70.
Wildcat athletics under football coach Fran Curci and Joe B. Hall, Rupp's successor as basketball coach, enjoyed some great moments during Singletary's 18-year reign as UK president, but there also were low spots, including NCAA probation of the football team in 1977 and an investigation of the basketball team seven years later.
A prime example of basketball flaunting UK administrative regulations occurred when voluntary contributions resulted in construction of a new housing facility for the basketball team. Without going through the proper authority, in this case the Committee on Naming University Buildings, some basketball types erected a sign on the front entrance designating the facility as the Joe B. Hall Wildcat Lodge. Sometime in the middle of the night, UK maintenance personnel removed the sign; however, it was returned and today adorns the entrance to the Lodge.
Thus, the kingdom within a kingdom that is Kentucky Basketball won that skirmish, but by all rights should come out on the short end of such incidents in the future as Dr. Roselle puts new meaning into "institutional control" as it pertains to Wildcat basketball and the entire spectrum of UK athletics.