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Chris Dufresne

It's Time for PCAA to Run Runnin' Rebels Out of Town

March 08, 1987|CHRIS DUFRESNE

The problem with basketball in the Pacific Coast Athletic Assn. is not going away soon. It's bigger and better than all of us. The commissioner can't stop it, drop it or whop it.

It's a monster with more arms, legs and eyes than any conference can handle. It's Godzilla, and the PCAA is Tokyo.

The trouble with the PCAA is not Jamaica, mon . It's Las Vegas, mon .

The Runnin' Rebels of same university have become the boot heel in a league of so many cigarette butts.

It seemed like a great idea back in 1982 when the conference, craving an occasional return phone call from the NCAA tournament committee, allowed the maverick misfits of college basketball to align with its members.

It was a beautiful marriage, this team with this conference. In one sweeping resolution, the Runnin' Rebels had a sidekick of a conference that would gladly accept any media leftovers.

The PCAA figured it would grow under the Runnin' Rebels' wing. It would prosper, pontificate even. It would, now and then, perhaps sneak a second team into the NCAA tournament under the old "Hey, but we we almost beat Vegas at their place" maxim.

Five years later, though, the sky isn't quite as clear.

The PCAA on Saturday completed its annual postseason tournament with the runnin' and funnin' Rebels winning their fourth title in five seasons. Nevada Las Vegas has won five consecutive regular-season championships.

It's not enough to say that the Runnin' Rebels won the league title this season. Rather, they took a pickax to it. They did the bunny stomp. They la-di-da'd their way to 18 conference victories without a loss. They won the conference title by eight games.

The Runnin' Rebels won three tournament games this week by a total of 94 points.

The PCAA commissioner, the able Lewis A. Cryer, earlier in the week described his conference in terms of parity. Or was that parody?

Since it hooked up with the PCAA, Las Vegas is 96-7 against the competition, a term we use loosely.

The conference schools that have never defeated the Runnin' Rebels in basketball include UC Santa Barbara, San Jose State, New Mexico State, Utah State, Cal State Long Beach and Pacific.

And so these schools are left to ask, "Are we having fun yet?"

Memo: To: Jerry Tarkanian, head coach, UNLV

From: Rod Tueller, head coach, Utah State Dear Jerry: Just a note to say that we hold no hard feelings for your team beating ours in two games this season by a combined total of 58 points. Of course, you've ruined our recruiting for next year . Still, bully for the conference! Can't wait for next year's clubbing! Sincerely, Rod

The act of being pounded into submission, twice annually, has deeply affected a conference's morale. It's disheartening and disconcerting.

Knowing from the first day of fall practice that you have no chance to compete in your own league can give a college coach the willies.

The PCAA has become as one-sided as a hanging.

The only answer, of course, is to bounce-pass Las Vegas back out of the PCAA. Hey, the Runnin' Rebels are playing in another league anyway.

Coach George McQuarn of Cal State Fullerton's Titans, a 34-point loser to the Runnin' Rebels Friday night, is leading a grass-roots movement we'll call C.R.A.B. (Coaches Repulsed About Basketball), a growing faction that would like to see the Runnin' Rebels take their ball and go home.

"The commissioner, administrators, presidents and those people . . . they have decided that it's good for our conference to have Vegas in there," McQuarn said this week. "I don't know that the other nine coaches feel that way. I know I don't feel that way."

A PCAA coach no longer in the conference said at the time of the Runnin' Rebels' admission that he could not envision in his lifetime a day when his school would ever have anything in common with Las Vegas.

You can call the PCAA coaches crybabies and soreheads. You can wonder how good they might be if they recruited half as diligently as they whined.

But their complaints are not without merit.

Most PCAA teams will never compete with Las Vegas. They share neither the academic nor financial liberties enjoyed by the Runnin' Rebels.

And though Las Vegas' Tarkanian is a gifted coach who is often overlooked as a basketball teacher, he clearly is playing with a different set of rules, albeit legal.

Las Vegas has built a legacy by recruiting hard-luck student athletes.

It hones and nourishes athletes who do not get by the academic boards of other PCAA universities such as Pacific and UC Irvine.

These are facts, not excuses.

Las Vegas will dominate the PCAA for as long as it remains a member.

For the betterment of a conference's psyche, the Rebels should go elsewhere.

Unfortunately, it's not going to happen.

The Runnin' Rebels are like the aunt who came to visit and liked it so much she spent five years on the living room sofa.

Las Vegas has found a home in the PCAA, a place to hang its hat.

Instead of bringing the PCAA credibility, the Runnin' Rebels have found legitimacy in a conference.

The PCAA has added soft tones to Las Vegas' once-marauding image. The Runnin' Rebels no longer have to scour the country in search of opponents.

They have a set home schedule. They have a television package that ships their product to the Los Angeles recruiting market. They have a national recruiting budget that won't quit. Las Vegas has it all, mon .

So let the muggings continue.

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