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Balancing act (cont.)

Posted: Tuesday March 8, 2005 6:16PM; Updated: Tuesday March 8, 2005 6:16PM
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How are other women's teams from the men's establishment doing? Kansas had fallen on hard times (four straight losing seasons) near the end of Marian Washington's 31-year tenure. But its future is bright. Athletic director Lew Perkins, the former AD at Connecticut, made a huge investment last spring when he forked over $523,000 to buy out the remaining three years in Bonnie Hendrickson's contract at Virginia Tech, where she led the Hokies to seven 20-win seasons and as many postseason berths. On top of that, he offered her a compensation package worth more than $500,000 a year. The Jayhawks are 12-15 (5-11 Big 12) this year, but will be a force in the Big 12 soon enough.

In his two years at Syracuse, former Vermont coach Keith Cieplicki has snagged a pair of top-25 recruiting classes (Bill Laimbeer's daughter, Keri, will arrive this summer) and given the Orange hope that they can be competitive in the Big East again.

Kentucky? Not exactly a power in the SEC recently, but there's no way former Pat Summitt-assistant Mickie DeMoss would leave Tennessee for a program that wasn't committed to improving. As a gesture of good faith -- or smart management -- AD Mitch Barnhardt gave DeMoss his office.

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Still, when are Indiana and Oklahoma State going to get with the program. Julie Goodenough, a personable former D-III coach, was supposed to be Oklahoma State's answer to OU's Coale, but unlike Coale, who puts herself out in public for her program at every opportunity, Goodenough and her staff keep a low profile -- even on the recruiting trail in Oklahoma and neighboring Texas -- two states that could provide OSU with most of the talent it needs to compete in the Big 12. Indeed, it sometimes seems the program is trying to avoid attention; this year the school didn't send a sports information director to the Big 12 media day, and when a local TV station offered Goodenough a live-TV spot to promote her team's game against Oklahoma last week, she showed up too late to take advantage of it. The Cowgirls are 7-19 (2-14 Big 12), 11th in the Big 12; last year they went 8-19. They draw just 1,765 fans a game. Yet there is little-to-no public discussion about whether Goodenough should keep her job. No commentary is sad commentary indeed.

In the wake of coach Kathi Bennett's retirement, Indiana has a golden opportunity to follow Michigan State's example and put years of mediocrity behind it, "to go in a different direction," as Bennett put it when she stepped down last month. Bennett did some good things in her five years, including a 20-11 record in 2000-01 and a Big Ten tournament championship and NCAA berth in 2002. Her team even knocked off a few top-10 teams. But few people get excited about IU women's hoops; attendance is barely better than Oklahoma State's and Bennett made no apparent recruiting inroads in Indiana, whose best players have long shunned the Hoosiers in favor of Purdue, Notre Dame or points beyond. Bennett's replacement has work to do. Let's hope the IU administration is willing to supply all the necessary tools.