Bradley basketball fans may rue the loss of playing time for Daniel Ruffin, but more is at stake here than athletic success.
I have shocking news for some red-sweater fanatics who follow the Bradley Braves: There’s more to the university than just men’s basketball.
I know, I know: To some red sweaters, that’s just crazy talk, bordering on sacrilege.
But it’s not just my opinion. The school’s Web site posts the BU "vision": "Bradley University is committed to excellence. Already one of the best private comprehensive universities in the Midwest, Bradley will be one of the finest institutions of its type in the nation."
Those ideas are furthered in the school’s mission statement. It’s lengthy, but focuses on goals like academics, research and student-faculty teamwork.
But nowhere in its 239 words is there anything about beating Southern Illinois University or winning the MVC tourney. There’s no mention of hoops or hard courts.
Imagine that, huh?
Bradley has a fervent fan base, especially for men’s basketball. That’s great. Bradley and its fans should be proud.
But sports nuts need to fully understand that BU does not exist for basketball. If basketball were outlawed nationwide tomorrow, the school still would exist — and quite well.
That’s why the Daniel Ruffin case is vitally important not just to the basketball team but the school as a whole.
Basketball fans urge caution here. They say Ruffin is a decent guy. They say don’t rush to judge him until all facts come out.
I get it. We don’t know exactly what happened that night.
But we do know this: Ruffin was arrested by the Peoria Police Department. And this isn’t Mayberry: Peoria police are very competent. And the Peoria police have no vested interest here. The responding officer took all information available and decided a crime likely was committed.
Do cops make mistakes? Sometimes. That’s why we have the courts, part of the checks and balances.
But wheels of justice grind slowly. That’s why BU is in a pickle. If it suspends Ruffin for the rest of the season, he might or might not be found guilty.
Basketball fans point to the latter scenario. They rue the squandering of Ruffin’s playing time because of a possibly misplaced allegation.
That’s a possibility. That would be unfortunate. Yet sometimes life is unfair.
Still, think about this. What would be the tragedy? A player misses a few games? A team loses a few contests? BU doesn’t get a tournament bid?
Sure, I’d prefer that BU’s athletes succeed. I’ve taught there 11 years, and I always try to make reasonable accommodations for athletes’ hectic schedules.
But look at the other possibility. Say fans get their way and Ruffin returns to action soon. What if it turns out he is guilty? What sort of message would that send — and right after other transgressions in the athletics department?
And most importantly, what would that say about Bradley as a university, a place of learning? Mind you, this is happening at the same time the school’s new president is pushing a new marketing campaign to boost BU visibility.
Bradley administrators are in a tough spot. But the risk to the school’s name is far greater than the risk of losing a few ball games.
Phil Luciano is a columnist with the Peoria Journal Star. He can be reached at email@example.com.