April 26, 2020

Wake Forest University Pays Coach Danny Manning To Take His Ball And Go Home

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Wake Forest men’s basketball coach, Danny Manning, has finally been sacked! Manning, a Greensboro native, failed to win games during his stint in Winston-Salem. Manning had a below 500 ACC record in five of his six seasons at Wake. His biggest win was an upset of Duke earlier this year. His most embarrassing loss was a stunning home loss to Houston Baptist in 2018.

But Manning’s greatest accomplishment by far was signing a six-year extension in late 2017, after his only winning season at Wake Forest. His buyout is believed to be $15 million ($3 million x 5 years). $15 million or whatever buyout number Wake Forest and Danny Manning agreed to is a hell of a lot of money during a pandemic. That amount of money could house the houseless in Winston. It could even save Crystal Towers twice-over!

It looked like Wake Forest would bring Danny Manning back for at least one more year. Manning was upbeat about his future at Wake in an interview on WXII, released just one day before he was terminated. It was thought that Manning’s huge buyout and the nation being on a COVID-19 lockdown would persuade Wake Forest to keep Manning. Instead, while Wake Forest Baptist is furloughing employees and cutting salaries, Wake Forest Univesity is going to pay Manning to not coach, while it pays his replacement as well. Firing Manning was a tone-deaf move by Wake Forest Athletic Director, John Currie.

In 1988, then collegiate basketball star Danny Manning led the Kansas Jayhawks to an improbable NCAA Tournament title. That team was dubbed “Danny and the miracles.” In six seasons at Wake, miracles were in short supply. Home attendance was lackluster. Worst of all, fans turned out not for Wake Forest, but to cheer for the three other members of the Big Four (Duke, UNC, and N.C. State).

The best thing anyone can say about Danny Manning’s tenure at Wake was that he wasn’t Jeff Bzdelik. (Bzdelik and the college game were never a good fit). But Manning wasn’t Dave Odom or Skip Prosser either. The glory days of Wake Forest men’s basketball (from the 1990s to mid-2000s) appears to be over. Wake is a small, private school in a loaded league. No matter who Wake hires to replace Manning, they won’t have Tim Duncan or Chris Paul level talent on their team.

Athletic budgets are academia’s equivalent to military spending. Colleges across the country are competing to have the most luxurious, state-of-the-art training facilities to lure unpaid athletes (see WFU’s Sutton Sports Performance Center and Shah Basketball Complex). I look forward to the day that college athletics cease to exist or are scaled back dramatically. That would be the best possible outcome both for colleges and for athletes. Colleges should focus on making their communities and ultimately the world a better place. They should be in collaboration with rival schools, not rooting for their death on gameday.

Buying out Danny Manning (assuming Wake is paying the full $15 million) is the equivalent of Wake Forest setting 150,000 hundred dollar bills on fire. Think about Winston-Salem’s forgotten folks living on the other side of Highway 52 that could use a small fraction of $15 mil to avoid eviction, buy groceries, or pay a medical bill. Danny Manning’s buyout is now the worst thing on Wake Forest Athletic Director, John Currie’s resume. This eclipses Currie’s coaching search debacle at Tennesse.

If Wake Forest has $15 million to spend simply to make a coach walk away, then they have $15 million or more to spend on affordable housing in their adopted hometown.

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