Bzdelik's Decision A Drastic One

CU basketball coach Jeff Bzdelik is blazing a new trail. It's not one that was expected when he took the job in Boulder less than a year ago.

It's extremely rare, if not unprecedented at CU for a student-athlete to be dismissed from a team in-season when no off-court issue is involved. Yet Jeff Bzdelik told Xavier Silas Thursday he was no longer welcome on the Colorado basketball team.

Silas has not run afoul of the law. The sophomore says he is in good academic standing. He also says he did not break any team rules.

All Bzdelik has said is that the move was "in the best interest of the future of Colorado Basketball," adding that the decision was "difficult."

Whether it was more difficult or less difficult than ridding the Buffs' roster of four scholarship players from last season's team is unclear. Kal Bay, James Inge, Sean Kowal and Marc VanBurck were classmates of Silas' last year, but were either urged to transfer or, in Bay's case, dismissed prior to this season.

At least their departure came during the offseason. The timing of Silas' dismissal makes it appear as if the 20-year-old is being made a scapegoat for Colorado's play during the conference portion of its season. The Buffs were 8-6 heading into conference play, but have put up a 2-9 mark in the Big 12.

Student-athletes shouldn't be made into scapegoats for a team's failures. The reason universities field athletic teams and hire coaches to run them is for the players' educational benefit.

If a coach can't get a player to realize his potential, that's on the coach.

Earlier in the year, Bzdelik had high praise for Silas. He said Silas was among the players on the team adapting most rapidly to the new offense the coach was implementing.

"He cuts hard. He plays hard," Bzdelik said. "He's a very intelligent player who's very strong and physical."

It became apparent in early February, though, Bzdelik was displeased with Silas. The starting guard/forward was benched for the Feb. 2 Kansas game in Boulder and never entered the game, a loss to the Jayhawks. Bzdelik would not elaborate on Silas' benching afterwards, only saying it was a coach's decision.

Silas did not appear sullen during the game. Just days later, both coach and player put on a positive face publicly about the situation.

"We've talked, and I'm going to do what he wants me to do, and that's what's going to happen," Silas told the Boulder Camera.

Earlier in the season, Bzdelik benched guard Dwight Thorne for a game as a motivational ploy. It worked, according to Bzdelik, and Thorne's minutes gradually increased.

This past Wednesday, Silas was on the bench when the opening tip went up in CU's home game against Texas Tech. Silas logged 26 minutes, scored nine points and grabbed seven rebounds in the loss to the Red Raiders. Bzdelik said after the game he was embarrassed by his team's play, but the coach did not single out Silas, or any other individual player when speaking about his frustration after the loss.

Still, Bzdelik said after the loss "I can't coach effort," implying he was strongly dissatisfied with his team's poor effort.

Did Silas get cut from the Colorado Buffaloes with five regular season games to go for not rotating quickly enough on help-side defense? Did he not get out and guard the perimeter with enough aggressiveness?

We don't know. We don't know what's transpired in CU's closed practices. We don't know what's gone on in the locker room.

Silas wrote in his own statement to the press Friday, "As a player this season, I believe I have represented the University of Colorado Buffaloes to the best of my ability."

We don't know if Bzdelik would agree with that statement. But this much is clear: To kick a player off the team in the wake of an embarrassing loss without an obvious incident that provokes the dismissal is a drastic move.

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