DECKER: Rumors Running Rampant

What's been occurring off the court is every bit as troubling as what's been happening on the floor for the IU basketball team.

Rumor has it…

That Mike Davis quit on Friday at practice. Told the players that enough was enough, and it was time to move on.

At least that's what my cousin told me, and he has a friend who works in the Foster Quad cafeteria who overheard a couple of the players talking while choosing between pepperoni pizza and bacon burgers…

Of course, that was Davis' second resignation in three days, coming on the heels of Wednesday night's farewell speech to the team in the lockerroom after the 18-point loss at Wisconsin. An IU official who was in locker room has confirmed that no such speech occurred, but that hasn't kept very detailed second and third-hand information from spreading like a California wildfire.

Looking for another juicy tidbit? Don't forget about the resignation offer that Davis made to IU Athletics Director Rick Greenspan in the wake of the Hoosiers' setback in Madison, one that the IU A.D. politely declined to accept with a month to go in the season.

Welcome to Indiana Basketball at its absolute worst.

The only thing that's more disturbing than what fans have witnessed on the court in recent weeks is what has been unfolding off of it. Rumors, innuendo and conspiracy theories have exploded, reaching their zenith after the walloping at Wisconsin and Davis' absence from Saturday's 70-67 setback at home to Iowa.

Stuck in the middle of it all are Indiana's players, who were attracted to IU by their affinity for Davis and their appreciation for the loyal fan following that Hoosier basketball has always boasted. Now, those two things are no longer pulling in the same direction (if they ever were in the first place), and the players have grown a bit disenchanted, to say the least.

"It's kind of hard for us players seeing coach Davis go through what he has to go through," sophomore guard A.J. Ratliff said. "We look to him as our leader. When everybody is criticizing him, it's kind of hard for us to come out and perform."

Whether the recent rumblings are partly to blame for Indiana's struggles or only a convenient excuse for some to cling to, the fact remains that talk of protests and "blackouts," – coupled with the ever-growing spattering of boos that cascade down on the team and occasionally individual players in Assembly Hall - isn't helping matters much.

Now, don't get me wrong or label me as an apologist. I'm not suggesting that much of the criticism directed toward Mike Davis is unfair or even unjustified. He's paid quite handsomely to coach in Bloomington, and with that comes the understanding that when things aren't going well people are going to voice their disapproval - loudly.

That's all fine, and Davis is fair game. But there's no doubt that some have not only turned on Davis, but the team as well. In addition, it's obvious that at least some of the rumors that are being spread are unfounded, and that's having an impact on a bunch of 18-22-year-olds who didn't necessarily sign on for this when they inked their IU national letters of intent.

The bottom line is, no one should be quitting on these players. Fans shouldn't and Coach Mike Davis shouldn't, either.

Rest assured, whatever is going to happen at season's end is going to happen. IU Athletics Director Rick Greenspan said the expectations were high for the 2005-06 season, and a reasonable person would conclude that they haven't been met to date.

But more boos, protests, and rumors aren't going to impact Greenspan's decision. The only thing that it might do is encourage some of the current players to depart if there's a coaching change, and dissuade prospective recruits from picking IU in the future. That sort of outcome could have both short and long-term implications for the program.

Don't quit on this team.

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