There has been much debate about the future of Ernie Kent both on this site, and among Duck fans everywhere. I've publicly stated that I understand both sides of the issue, and won't be too upset with either scenario--whether it be Ernie Kent staying another season, or Ernie Kent being shown the way out. I stop and wonder, however, why women's head coach Bev Smith isn't being held to the same standard. Some of it has to do with the popularity and importance of men 's hoops versus women's hoops, no doubt. However, continuing to employ Bev Smith as women's basketball coach is both antithetical to the athletic department's philosophy, as well as harmful to the long term health of the women's basketball program. With Ernie Kent, there have been very low lows, but also very high highs, and no one can dispute that he has helped our program reach another level. Bev Smith, on the other had, has been consistent--consistently mediocre.
I don't pretend to know what transpired back in the 2000-01 season that resulted in Jody Runge resigning the position. I do know that eight players asked that she be fired. Clearly, she had lost her team, and was no longer in position to be a leader of the basketball program. However, she had made the NCAA tournament for eight consecutive years. Women's basketball in Eugene was actually fairly popular, and while asking for eight consecutive NCAA berths was a bit much to ask of a new coach, certainly to be one of the better programs in the conference on a consistent basis wasn't. In that task, Smith has been a failure.
She has made the NCAA tournament only once in those eight seasons. Only twice has she taken the team past the first round of the Pac-10 tournament. And the team is a loser again this year, losing to such powers as Montana and South Dakota State. Smith took what was arguably the second best program in the Pac-10, and has it firmly entrenched in the bottom three.
The athletic department has not put up with terrible programs lately, even in non-revenue sports. Our softball and volleyball teams were inarguably the worst in the conference, and we shelled out the dough to get some of the best coaches in America to fix them (Kathy Arendsen and Jim Moore). When wanting our track and cross country teams to return to past glory, we got the best coach in America, Vin Lananna, and promptly have won two national titles. When getting a baseball team, we weren't willing to accept mediocrity, and went out and got a top five coach in George Horton. And we know that in Mike Bellotti and Chip Kelly, our football program is in good hands.
Pat Kilkenny will have a tough choice in making a decision on Ernie Kent's future. Bev Smith's future should be much more obvious. In eight seasons as women's basketball coach, she has done nothing. Perhaps there should be more outrage over that.