Column: Simply hoping for better days is no longer acceptable with Southeast hoops

Southeast Missouri State men's basketball coach Rick Ray talks with sophomore guard Alex Caldwell during a game against the Citadel earlier this season at the Show Me Center.
Tyler Graef ~ Southeast Missourian

With todayís 87-78 regular-season concluding defeat at UT Martin, the Southeast Missouri State menís basketball program wrapped up yet another disappointing season, which for this program historically, is nothing out of the ordinary. And I donít understand why that is.

The Redhawks (7-24, 3-15 Ohio Valley Conference) finished last in their 12-team league, two games behind todayís opponent and SIUE, and there is little purpose in acutely reviewing what went wrong during this specific season.

Southeast ranked 11th in the OVC in field goal percentage and the same in defensive field goal percentage. Though the coaches and players unquestionably showed effort and preparation until the final seconds of this season, it was clear that this team was inept at both ends of the court and had the record to show for it.

However, what does need to be assessed is why this program has often struggled since transitioning to the NCAA Division I level 29 years ago.

During that time, Southeast has enjoyed just seven winning seasons in OVC play, and this is a league that is generally regarded as one of the weaker in the country.

Regardless of which coach (the program at the Division I level has had five) has been guiding the program, a storyline of non-success has remained consistent.

Here is a look at each coachís tenure:

∑ Ron Shumate

He led the program for six seasons, four of which were losing seasons in the OVC.

∑ Gary Garner

He was the coach for nine seasons and had just four winning years in OVC play.

∑ Scott Edgar

He guided the program for two-plus seasons and was ultimately fired mid-season following the discovery of NCAA rule violations.

∑ Dickey Nutt

He served as the coach for six seasons, only one of which did the program have a winning record in OVC play.

∑ Rick Ray

He has led the program for five years and has achieved just one winning season in league play.

So as you can see, it is easy to castigate Ray as the villain of late, however, truth be told, he hasnít been entirely different from his predecessors.

Which begs the question as to why the Redhawks canít be more successful in a league that currently ranks 29th out of 32 NCAA Division I leagues in RPI.

If you are reading this column expecting me to answer that question, you can stop now. I donít have the answer, because, to me, there is no acceptable reason why this program doesnít qualify for the eight-team OVC Tournament ó outside of some anomaly ó every season.

Iíve had several coaches call me to speak about the potential for this job opening (there will be no shortage of candidates if it does, THAT, I can guarantee you) and Iíve truthfully told each of them that I think it is a solid job.

Sure, itís not Belmont or Murray State in terms of tradition or perhaps financial resources, but Iím supposed to accept that Southeast canít compete with ó and beat ó much of this league?

The Southeast program does not lack for assets in attracting talented student-athletes.

The Show Me Center is a nice facility.

The Holcomb Success Center is a nice facility.

The OVC currently has players in the NBA and countless others earning paychecks throughout the world playing professionally.

The Southeast campus is a nice campus.

Cape Girardeau is a nice, centrally located city.

And academically, letís keep this real; itís not extraordinarily difficult to get prospective student-athletes into Southeast.

I know the history of Southeast basketball states otherwise, but Iím not buying that this program canít be successful.

Southeast athletics is overflowing with high-achieving programs, so other coaches and athletes have figured out how to attain success against their peers.

If the Redhawk football program can win the OVC and compete in the FCS Playoffs in consecutive years with THOSE facilities, I refuse to accept that Southeast canít achieve some degree of success in the same league in menís basketball.

It is imperative for the university leadership to resolve this athletic dilemma if it has any hopes of continuing to grow the university as a whole. Crossing fingers and hoping for better days for another three decades is no longer acceptable.

Tom Davis is the regional sports editor for and the Southeast Missourian.

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