"Blue" Demons

The DePaul program has fallen far in the last several years. There are many reasons and no easy answers. Marco Radenkovich weighs in on where they go from here.

What has happened to the basketball program at DePaul?

If you're asking yourself this question, you're not the only one. People everywhere are coming to the unfortunate realization that this team won't win a game in conference.

Not one.

The Blue Demons have everyone in Lincoln Park feeling rather "blue." DePaul has not won a home game in conference since February 9, 2008, and have lost all three Big East games at the Allstate Arena this season.

Blame has been placed everywhere, from the administration to the head coach to the players. Even the fans.

The administration has not showed support for a basketball team in the best conference in the country. There's been a push from the alumni to build an arena on campus, but it's a long way away.

Head coach Jerry Wainwright has been able to get a few stars, but the lack of role players and cohesion amongst the players has led to head-scratching losses. The players lack the sense of accountability, and they lack a leader to rally around.

Perhaps playing in front of packed houses would excite the players, but it's hard when the student section is more than half empty on any given night. They're too busy at the nearest bar in Lincoln Park throwing up "deuces" for the camera.

Just winning won't bring the students to the games, though. I had a season ticket for three years, and even when the team was winning, students still didn't come out. In 2004, against then 12th-ranked Cincinnati, DePaul still drew only 70 percent capacity. That season, the Blue Demons made the NCAA tournament and advanced to the second round, so they were competitive. A week before the UC game only 8,500 fans came to see their Blue Demons play Southern Miss.

Even if the team doesn't become a consistent contender in the conference, the university cannot continue to embarrass itself. This is a team that has a great tradition. The city deserves a good college basketball team, but more importantly, the school deserves it. The legend of Ray Meyer isn't extinct, but lays dormant in the hearts and souls of many DePaul fans. Meyer led the team to two Final Fours and over 700 wins.

Everything starts with the administration. The first step might be giving Jerry Wainwright the pink slip, and hiring a young, energetic head coach that can recruit the city of Chicago. And it's not just recruiting the best players, but developing a system that allows the players to mesh together.

Despite all the woes this team faces, there is a glimmer of hope. With such a large market, people from all over the Chicago land area would love a competitive team to watch, either live or on TV. People in the city felt that the Blackhawks would never survive, but look at them now. There's no reason why Chicago can't get excited about college basketball. In a state where the best college basketball team is hundreds of miles away from the city, DePaul can attract a lot of attention, but only if they're competitive.

Winning solves every problem, and if the administration puts forth the effort, don't be surprised to see the Blue Demons return to glory.

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