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"Mixed Signals": article draft by Roosevelt Fitzgerald




1980 (year approximate) to 1995 (year approximate)


From the Roosevelt Fitzgerald Professional Papers (MS-01082) -- Drafts for the Las Vegas Sentinel Voice file. On Coach Tarkanian and NCAA.

Digital ID



man001045. Roosevelt Fitzgerald Professional Papers, 1890-1996. MS-01082. Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.


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OCR transcription





A dozen years ago or so, while watching the evening news on one of the network channels, long before I got cable, I saw a report that stunned me and I haven't gotten over it yet. In case you're wondering what it was that jostled me out of my revelry, it was an announcement concerning the death of John Wayne. You read it right, the death of John Wayne just freaked me out. I don't know for sure how long I sat there and stared off into obiivion--seeing nothing, hearing nothing, saying nothing. At some point, as I began to come out of it I realized that my chest was soaked with my own tears. No, they were not necessarily tears of sadness for Wayne as much as they were tears of sadness for myself. I know, there are a lot of people who didn't and don't like John Wayne. I am technically one of them although I like most John Wayne movies. You see, I've been able to separate the man from his craft. Anyway, my tears had to do with my recognition of my own fragile circumstance especially after I justaposed it with the very formidable circumstances in which Wayne had lived.
Once I realized that "they" would let John Wayne die, whatever the cause, I knew that I did not have a chance at immortality. Afterall, compared to him, who am I? I have a problem looking at things that way. That's one
of the reasons why I become more into myself from day to day.
On my way out of Von's the other day, with . 78£ change in my hand, I
approached the bank of slot machines along the front wall. I was very near
to dropping a quarter into one of the machines when I caught myself--just in the nick of time. I looked around to see if anyone had seen me and then I hurried out of the store. That evening I waited impatiently for the evening, local news and when there was no report which said; "Local Professor Seen Gambling in Food Store" I was relieved. I was relieved because doing
that could possibly cause me my job, at the very least or be a reason for UNLV being placed on probation by the NCAA and, who knows, even get a winning coach fired from his job.
You see, gambling is a no-no at UNLV especially if one has contact with students and more especially if those students are athletes. I, like many others in the community, discovered in the past few weeks, that if athletes are seen in the company of people who gamble, cheat, make bets, have spent time in jail, manifest unethical behavior and such as that, that they can be removed from a team, the team can be put on probation and a whole bunch of other really terrible stuff can happen to a lot of people. Well, I did not want to causedany confusion so I put my change in my pocket.
Still, as I drove home, I gave a^lot of thought to the events surrounding Coach Jerry Tarkanian which contributed heavily to his fall. Let me preface this by saying that I have always liked and admired Jerry Tarkanian. I do not know much about him as a person but that is true of most of us. I only can speak of what he has done in his profession. He has won a lot. I like winners.
Twenty years ago I arrived at UNLV to teach and eighteen years ago, Tarkanian arrived to coach basketball. I think I've done a pretty good job but there really is no way of proving it. We know what kind of job he has done coaching and that is easily proven simply by looking at the record. I'm glad I don't have a position where anyone is able to scrutinize what I do. But, then, because I do not coach, no one is really interested in what I do. Afteral 1, all I do is teach and, as we all know, our society is more interested in sports than it is in education. We demand olympians on the playing fields but in the classrooms, even though we teachers do our level best and are truly concerned with what is happening with out students, it nonetheless strikes me as strange that we do not have something like a
NCSA (National Collegiate Student Association) to overlook what is going on in the classroom. Such an organization could ensure that as professors we must maintain a certain standard of excellence. We must educate more students than we fail to educate. The responsibility of that education must be the professors and not the students. As professors, we must ensure that any students who are enrolled in our respective classes must avoid a certain element in our society.. If our students are found in the company of anyone who is a convicted felon, in the possession of illegal drugs, hot-tubbing with anyone who has one foot on the threshold of entering the Nevada Black Book, if any of our students are apprehended while in the process of committing any crime, if our students fail to pay parking violations, if any of our students have cars that are even semi-exotic, if any of our students pops anyone in the eye or slaps their girlfriend or spouse, if any of our students fail to either attend classes or pass classes at a proper interval while in pursuit of a declared major and any numbers of other things, then we are to be held up to public scrutiny, harassment and humiliation. We would be called upon to explain their behavior. We would be hounded by the local media. We would have our names flashed on the headlines in the papers and we would be the lead pieces on the evening news on television. If we did not turn out ideal students we would be given two options; quit or be fired.
To me, everything is relative. It is that way with most other people so I am not unusual in that way. However, there are some things which, for want of a better word, just piss me off about what has happened to Jerry Tarkanian. Butler, Scurry and Hunt were caught in a hottub with a convicted felon. Ok. Daniels is caught at a crack house. Ok. Young might have gotten some tutoring during the off season. Ok. Johnson drives a Corvette. Ok. Someone else drives a Benz. Ok. Others did whatever the heck that they've been accused of doing. Ok. Because of these and whatever other things, Jerry loses his job. Not ok.
Here lately we've been hearing a lot about the Bill of Rights. We've especially heard a lot about freedom of speech. This has been interpreted to even include saying that if some neo-nazi wishes to call me nigger he can do so; if some skinhead wishes to threaten my life he can do so; if some kluxer wishes to burn a cross on my yard he can do so. If some neighbor don't want me in the neighborhood and wishes to scribble some racial epithet on the walls of my home or fence he can do so. Seems like all these friggin' racists are getting all kinds of rights to do just about anything they want. They can stand on the corner or on the sidewalk in front of my house and call me any kind of S.O.B. that they can dream of and if I complain someone will accuse me of attempting to impose "politically correct" speech on someone. Poppycock.
If those guys can do all of that, and like Fred at G&F Motors say, "and they can" then someone has to do an awful lot of explaining to convince me that sitting in a hottub with somebody, anybody, even the devil, is worse than that.