The conflict started when UNLV grew as an academic institution even as Tark's band of hoopsters was making people think that the school was little more than a casino pit with glass backboards. Indeed, UNLV now boasts strong English, sociology, biology and engineering departments as well as one of the nation's best hotel administration programs. Since Maxson arrived in 1984, UNLV has established its first seven Ph.D. programs, in disciplines ranging from history to physics, and enrollment has risen from nearly 11,000 to 19,600. Whatever benefits the basketball team once brought to the university through name recognition have long been undone by the negative vibes the Runnin' Rebels cast over the school's educational mission. Whether Tark is guilty of all the sins he has been accused of is irrelevant; he is perceived to be. If only the man would go away....
But you live by the sword, and you die by the sword. Other schools on the make—Southwestern Louisiana, New Mexico, Oral Roberts, Cleveland State, Memphis State come quickly to mind—have used the big-time basketball quick fix for recognition and ego fulfillment and have gotten burned, just as UNLV has. But the coaches at those schools all went away. Tark just won't go down.
"This university hired me," he's saying. "I gave you what you wanted. Deal with me."
And you know what I say? Bully for him.