- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 1, 2003

If you liked Bob Barker's cameo in "Happy Gilmore," you'll love his walk-on in "The Larry Eustachy Story." One of Eustachy's basketball players at Iowa State, Jackson Vroman, actually invoked the name of the ageless game show host the other day while defending his coach's inalienable right to nuzzle coeds.
"As far as being kissed on the cheek [by young women]," Vroman told the Associated Press, "I don't know if you've seen 'The Price Is Right' with Bob Barker, but he has that happen all the time."
My first reaction to this statement: What's Vroman majoring in, Daytime TV?
My second reaction to this statement: Eustachy must be thrilled to be compared to a guy who's been accused of sexual harassment. Couldn't the kid have chosen somebody a tad more innocuous, like Wink Martindale?
Boy, is this a brutal time to be a college hoops coach. To paraphrase Joe Gibbs, you're only one welding certificate away from disaster. Or in this case, you're only a couple of snapshots away from public humiliation and likely unemployment.
Earlier this week, the Des Moines Register called Eustachy "pathetic" and "sad" for partying with college students after games at Missouri and Kansas State and for having his picture taken hoisting a brew and "snuggling up to [females]." "Can parents and student athletes still trust him to be a leader?" the paper wondered aloud. "Not likely. He has to go."
Let's set aside Eustachy's drinking for a moment I mean, who wouldn't drink a little if he coached in Ames, Iowa? and concentrate on the photos that were published in the Register. The way folks are reacting Out There, you'd think there was a sheep in one of them, or at the very least the school mascot. But, no, it's just loveable ol' Larry distributing kisses on the cheek (and having them returned in kind). Everybody's clothes are on. Everybody's tongues are in their proper places. No violations of the Mann Act appear in evidence.
And for this, he's looking at his career going down the Eustachy-an tubes. A bit of an overreaction, wouldn't you say?
Guess they haven't forgiven Larry for that first-round loss to Hampton a few years back in the NCAAs.
Were it not for the presence of a camera, Eustachy's escapades wouldn't even make the Top 100 Dumbest Things A College Coach Has Ever Done. Was he busted for drugs? No. For drinking and driving? Uh-uh. Did he slug anybody? Nope. What he did do was embarrass the university and, by extension, the state. And, of course, his team has gone 29-33 the past two seasons, which doesn't help his cause.
So the Des Moines Register has wheeled out the guillotine. This is the same newspaper, I'll just point out, that decided after 65 years to stop calling Washington's NFL team the Redskins because it was offensive to Native Americans. And now the Register is campaigning to have a coach fired for what is, from all appearances, an alcohol problem.
Eustachy should be cut no slack, the paper says, because he "is a coach on the public dime, entrusted to be a role model for student athletes and to represent the university on and off the court. How can players be expected to behave when their role model is drinking at college parties? He is held to a higher standard, as reflected in his contract with ISU."
The university, clearly in damage-control mode, has seconded the motion. Yesterday afternoon, athletic director Bruce Van De Velde no relation to Jean said Eustachy would be suspended with pay and should be fired. Can a buyout be far away?
If I were Iowa State, though, I'd be worried about the message I was sending to the "student athletes" by showing no compassion, no forgiveness, no nothing for Eustachy and by meting out a punishment that far exceeds the crime. This is a coach who guided the Cyclones to the Elite Eight three years ago, farther than they had gone in the tournament since the '40s. The following season Iowa State received a No.2 seed, its highest ever. Seems that should be worth a little loyalty, something more than: One strike and you're out.
Sorry, but if you're going to can a coach, it's got to be for something more than a few PG-13 Polaroids. You might be able to justify such action, I suppose, if you got hold of his personal calendar, and it had entries like:
Monday Do shots with cheerleaders.
Tuesday Return "The Girls of Spring Break" to video store.
Wednesday Buy beer bong.
Thursday Have photo taken for fake ID the one that says I was born in '75.
Friday Memorize Otter's speech to the disciplinary council in "Animal House."
"The issue here is not whether we broke a few rules or took a few liberties with our female party guests …"
But the reality is much less sordid than that. Larry Eustachy is basically a man with a drinking problem one that would well cost him his job.
Bob Barker must be rolling over in his grave. Or rather, he would be if he weren't still alive.

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