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The Decline and Fall of the Hoya Nation

How a sports dynasty dissipates: From Ewing to booing, the decline of Georgetown basketball.

11:00 PM, Feb 19, 2003 • By VICTORINO MATUS
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"The first thing any prospective coach needs to ask," says Feinstein, "is what are the parameters? How involved will the administration be in what I want to do? And where will the team play?" Feinstein thinks that playing in the 20,600-seat MCI Center, home of the NBA's Washington Wizards, is "disastrous." "You can't possibly fill up those seats. It's the same way for Seton Hall. Then you look at schools like Notre Dame and Syracuse who have great on-campus facilities and great records." True enough, Georgetown is only averaging a little over 7,000 spectators per game. If the team could play at on-campus McDonough Arena, the atmosphere could certainly improve. Unfortunately McDonough holds fewer than 2,500 seats--below the league minimum.

On the other hand, if the university decides to extend Craig Esherick's job until 2009, then the struggle over Georgetown's identity will have taken a decisive turn. "Do we want to return to our Jesuit roots or do we want to be Harvard-on-the-Potomac?" questioned one professor. Or, as some students hope, do we want to become more like Duke or Stanford, both athletic and academic powerhouses? With Esherick at the helm for another six years, the university is actively approving of his performance and saying that basketball isn't a priority.

The students are enraged--a banner demanding a new coach was recently seen hanging from a main campus building. Alumni and other fans are equally upset. And there doesn't seem to be any indication that Esherick is in trouble. He ought to be. But there is a lesson here: Great sports programs evaporate for two reasons. The first is scandal. A dirty coach can tar a school for a generation. And when a bad coach sullies a program, it's a tragedy.

But ordinary neglect is just as harmful. For whatever reason, the powers-that-be at Georgetown have decided to turn their backs on the Hoyas, to look past problems that are obvious to everyone else. Perhaps it's cronyism. Perhaps it's a softness of spine. Any way you look at it, it's a travesty.

Victorino Matus is an assistant managing editor at The Weekly Standard and, like Patrick Ewing, a graduate of Georgetown University.