The Eagles lost five senior starters who accounted for 87% of their scoring and 72% of their rebounding. Among them were guards Derrick Dial, a second-round draft pick of the San Antonio Spurs, and 5'5" Earl Boykins, who led the MAC in scoring and earned the Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award as the nation's best senior under 6 feet tall. Barnes didn't have the depth last season to groom anybody for the future, and he has only three scholarship players back from last year's team. The leading scorer in that trio is Ajani Williams, who averaged 2.3 points a game.
To make matters worse, Eastern Michigan lost several key recruiting battles and signed only one freshman. As a result Barnes is trying to integrate into his lineup 10 newcomers, including four junior college transfers, a transfer from Coastal Carolina and two players who sat out last season because they didn't qualify academically. Although the Eagles have been competitive, they have also been unlucky: They lost two of their first four games on buzzer beaters. "We've found a lot of different ways to lose," says sophomore guard Avin Howard. "All that losing messes with your confidence, but Coach reminds us to keep the faith."
Eastern Michigan may have erred by failing to include any cupcakes on this year's schedule, which has featured opponents with winning records in nearly every game. Instead, the Eagles have become the cupcake. The timing couldn't have been worse: Eastern Michigan dedicated its new $29.6 million Convocation Center on Dec. 9 with a 23-point loss to Michigan.
Barnes believes he has a major building block for the program's recovery in 6-foot, 150-pound point guard Mosi Barnes (no relation), who is sitting out this season after transferring from Purdue. In the meantime the Eagles will take their lumps. "It seems like just yesterday we were on top of the hill," says Barnes. "Now I look at our schedule and ask myself, Where is a win going to come from?"
Black Coaches Association
What Happened To the Movement?
In 1987 about two dozen black assistant coaches got together in Las Vegas to discuss the lack of head coaching jobs being offered to minorities. That meeting marked the creation of the Black Coaches Association (BCA), an organization that over the next seven years grew considerably in size and visibility under the stewardship of executive director Rudy Washington, an assistant at Iowa at the time of the BCA's inception. But some of the nation's most prominent black coaches have distanced themselves from the association in recent years, and as the organization's prestige has declined sharply, its members have increasingly called for a change in leadership.
Its a sign of the hard times on which the association has fallen that when that change in command finally took place on Dec. 9, almost nobody noticed. Washington relinquished his position in what appeared to be an acrimonious divorce from the board of directors. "This isn't a good time for me and the BCA," says Washington, who's now commissioner of the Southwestern Athletic Conference. "I'm trying to work out some contractual things with the board of directors, but in terms of the association itself, I've walked away. Obviously, it's a difficult walk."
The BCA reached its apogee during the 1993-94 season when the association called for coaches and players to boycott games in protest of an NCAA vote against restoring one of the two men's basketball scholarships eliminated in 1991, a measure that reduced each school's limit from 15 to 13 free rides. The BCA also called for the NCAA to add minorities to its staff and to reconsider the academic restrictions of Propositions 42 and 48, which the association saw as discriminatory toward black athletes. The Congressional Black Caucus stepped in to help mediate, and the boycott was averted. "We got some things that we had wanted," says Washington. "We were also able to make some inroads at the NCAA, and we were able to let the country know that things needed to be addressed."
Five years later scholarship limits are still at 13, academic requirements have gotten even more rigorous, and the black coaches' organization is in disarray. The BCA's decline began in the autumn of 1994 when the four coaches on its legislative committee who had provided its strongest voices—Temple's John Chaney, then USC coach George Raveling, Arkansas's Nolan Richardson and Georgetown's John Thompson—began to sense that the movement was losing momentum. "I told them to take my name off the letterhead," says Chaney, and Raveling, Richardson and Thompson soon followed. "We were advisers. We were never on the board, so we didn't control the agenda," says Chaney. "We gave our best effort, but there was no more fight [in the BCA]. It was time to move on. The organization has really deserted kids as far as I'm concerned."
Now that Washington has abdicated, members are hopeful that the association can rejuvenate itself. The task of leading that effort presumably falls to BCA president Marianna Freeman, coach of the Syracuse women's team, who declined comment when asked about the future direction of the organization. "I wish them the best of luck," says Washington. "I would love to see them flourish. They can really help some kids."