Dave Begel graces us with his vast intelligence

This is the face of reason. And duck tails.

Upon learning that the website OnMilwaukee.com was no longer keeping Andrew Wagner as its sports editor, I promptly asked head honcho Jeff Sherman over Twitter what was going on with his sports section.  The Shermanator is active on the social networking site and I was hoping to get the Reader’s Digest version of the story that was safe for public view.

Instead, he must have assumed that I couldn’t find the link, so he replied with one to the entire sports section.  I must say, I’m not particularly inclined to read OnMilwaukee.com – their sports section doesn’t really add anything to the landscape (which is why I assumed Wagner was canned) – but sometimes it’s almost like they’re speaking directly to me. As in they’re standing on a soap box telling me what I love isn’t worth a damn because it’s not valuable to anyone. And by they, I mean Dave Begel.

For those of you who are blissfully unaware, Dave Begel is the wizard who came up with this little piece of magic in 2010 when George Koonce left the program.  If you don’t have the time to read that or don’t want to lose a few IQ points, basically it’s a slam piece that was done with less effort than the Gary D’Amato/Lori Nickel “Party’s Over” article that was published just a couple months later.

But Begel is at it again, not only taking the hard-line stance against the Milwaukee Panthers but doing remarkably no research in coming up with this article.

There's so little interest in football at UWM that 1,000 people showed up to support UWM's club football team play Marquette's club football team.

First off, Begel makes the assumption that the $87,000 study commissioned by new athletic director Rick Costello was not intended to actually research football and ice hockey, among other sports, but was actually intended to be a farce that would come back and tell the university that it instead should focus on current sports and go ahead with the on-campus basketball arena.  Begel also thinks this is a waste of time.

It’s painfully obvious, based on the complete lack of research and effort put into writing the piece, that Begel took the assignment knowing exactly what he was going to write, and be damned anyone who could actually set him straight.  This is no more apparent than in the following quote:

“I believe that the university has made it clear to the consultants what they want, and that’s what they are going to get.”

Really, Dave?  You believe?  Did you even attempt to talk to Rick Costello and figure out if your beliefs hold merit?

Without so much as putting in an e-mail to Rick Costello, he dove in and began blabbering on about how UWM athletics is a waste of time, something guaranteed to get some hits from Panther fans (and yes, I know I’m feeding the beast).

The real problem I have with this article, beyond the fact that it’s complete garbage, is that he just assumes that the basketball arena is part of the study, and that the study is being done to reaffirm our reasons for building an arena rather than actually pursue the idea of football and hockey.

A Panther ice hockey team would be one of just 50 or so in D-I and would help separate us from Marquette in a big way.

Anyone who has spent two minutes with Rick Costello knows there is nothing further from the truth. For one, Costello has already said that the planning for the arena is going on right now – if this study were to have any bearing on the basketball arena whatsoever, even the perception of influence – we wouldn’t be going forward with the arena.  As it stands, the Panthers are plunging forward.  I wouldn’t be surprised if an announcement concerning the basketball arena coincided with the UNO game on-campus on December 17th.

After getting through the consultant section of the article, Begel goes through a list of reasons why the basketball arena doesn’t need to be built.

First, he discusses how campus is largely quiet at 4:30 p.m.  It’s almost like there’s no entertainment options for the UWM community on-campus! I wonder how they can fix that…

After that shallow, no-thought remark, Begel mentions how there is no space for an arena on the East Side.  If he were at all familiar with the situation (i.e. spent 5 minutes researching or talking to anyone), he’d know about the Wisconsin Paperboard Corporation, the land by Riverview Residence Hall, the Hartford school, and the four locations an arena could be put directly next to the Klotsche Center (The grassy knoll, current footprint, east of the pavilion, and my personal favorite, the Norris Health Center).

Of course, this is the genius who assumed that UWM’s $10 million budget was all tax dollars, and there’s a better way to spend $10 million of state taxpayers’ money.  Idiot.

The fact is Begel here is far behind the times.  A commenter on the “UWM should drop sports altogether” article from last spring, “SarahintheCity,” said that the first thing she wondered was which school Begel attended, and that his piece was offensive to anyone who attended UWM, even non-sports fans, because it assumes that UWM as a university isn’t worth much.

My guess is that Begel went in-state, because if he’d have lived in another state, he’d notice that mid-major athletics gets a lot of support around the country.  If he went to Madison, it’s just another case of Bucky’s Boys slamming UWM.  If he went to Marquette (which I doubt, because in their journalism school you learn that research is somewhat important), he could be genuinely afraid of UWM distinguishing its athletics program as different from Marquette.  If he went to Green Bay, the rivalry is obvious.  My money is that Begel attended another UW System school, because it doesn’t take a lot for someone from a WIAC school to believe that Milwaukee should be playing at their level.  Of course, the possibility remains that he attended UWM, and judging by his age was around in the sixties or seventies, when UWM was still a fledgling school.

The thing I just don’t get, and this comes from our own fans too, is this belief that where we are right now is our ceiling.  Hello! McFly! Twenty years ago, this university made the jump to D-I after spending an ill-advised decade in college sports purgatory.  In 1991, if you said the Panthers would be in the MCC, you’d get odd looks.  In 1999, if you said we’d compete for MCC titles, you’d get a raised eyebrow.  In 2002, if you said we were going to the NCAA Tournament, people would look at you funny.  In 2004, if you said we were going to the Sweet 16 and were going to average 5,000 fans, people would say you’re crazy.

And that’s the point.  Bud Haidet loved to tell the story of when he was hired as athletic director.  He and Beth showed up at a basketball game on campus and could count on two hands the amount of fans in the stands in 1988.  Apart from the occasional rivalry game, 1,000 per game seemed nuts.  As much as 2,000 per game seemed ridiculous when Bo Ryan took over.  Five thousand seemed like a pipe dream when Bruce Pearl was hired.  And now, with Jeter entering his seventh year, we’re really going to assume that football and ice hockey are dead?  Why because a fossil like Dave Begel assumes it is so and tells us as much?  Because the Big Show on WSSP just thinks it’s never going to happen?

This is what I know.  For twenty years, this athletics program has gradually been growing.  The debt we currently suffer is from an ill-advised quick move to the Cell full-time and the acceptance of a ludicrous lease with the Wisconsin Center District.  It’s not because our basketball team doesn’t make money.  It’s that our basketball team, right now, is the only revenue sport on campus and is supposed to not only pay its way out of a stupid lease, but also pay for every other sport on campus.  You can bet your ass that if we had leveled the Klotsche Center and built an arena with it – completed in 2006 with the Pavilion – we’d be operating in the black.  But Nancy Zimpher got cold feet and wouldn’t go full-scale with an arena, we were stuck playing at the Cell because, wouldn’t you know it, we outgrew the Klotsche Center, and we were forced to swallow the terrible lease because we had no other alternative.

In Panther Gold are the places a basketball arena could go. Easily.

That should be the best indication for all of you who are skeptical.  In 2000, no one here thought the Klotsche Center was too small for us – outdated, maybe, but not small – and now our fans are so used to everything the Cell offers our fans that they actually avoided going to the Western Michigan game last season to make a statement that they wouldn’t accept a return to the KC.

So where Begel comes up with the idea that men’s basketball should stay in the Cell with its disgustingly awful lease (of which I’m sure he knows nothing), I have no idea.  The fact that the two major sports we’re looking into adding are, you guessed it, REVENUE SPORTS, should give everyone an indication that we’re ready to help the basketball program.

Football at many schools doesn’t make enough to cover its costs, and the possibility that it also could be like that at Milwaukee is significant.  But without football, and to a lesser extent ice hockey, Milwaukee continues along a path where men’s basketball is expected to put 15 sports on its shoulders and trudge along.

That’s why we’re building an arena, Dave. That’s also why we’re looking into adding revenue sports.

So don’t be offended if we don’t take you seriously.  I know you think OnMilwaukee.com is the bomb, but you’re the one that keeps bombing at his job.

Kindly leave the Milwaukee Panthers name out of your writing. And if you must, put in some research before you write something that a freshman at the UWM Post could easily beat.

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