Sunday, July 20, 2008

‘Don’t mess with Texas’, but unfortunately, I must

The University of Texas’ athletic department has agreed to retiring the jerseys and numbers of former Longhorn players. As of today, the Horns have only four jerseys retired, and they belong to Heisman winners Ricky Williams and Earl Campbell, baseball’s Roger Clemens, and hoops star T.J Ford.

In a ceremony planned for the 2008-2009 season, the number “10” will officially be retired, in honor of the achievements of Vince Young. What better way to honor a man that lifted Texas to their first National Championship in 35 years, and giving a “refuse to lose” performance in the BCS championship game to do it? For that decision, I can’t mess with Texas, because that one is a no-brainer. But there is one player number, among the 9 chosen for this year’s retirement, and it makes absolutely no sense.

Back in March, I severely criticized the University of North Carolina for their announcement of the retiring of Tyler Hansbrough’s jersey. I personally felt his collegiate achievements were dwarfed by other retirees. But Texas now makes the Hansbrough announcement appear more proper, by announcing that they will retire the jersey on Kevin Durant.

As a freshman, Durant received the college player of the year award. He was also the first freshman to receive the Rupp and Robertson trophies, but the accolades end there. Kevin Durant only played one season for Texas. In his one season, the Horns finished 3rd in the Big 12, became the runner up in the Big 12 conference tournament, and were bounced in the second round of the NCAA tournament by USC. So, tell me, why all the fuss over Kevin Durant?

The Longhorns had more success before, and after, Kevin Durant. They recorded a 30 win season in 2005-06, and reached the elite eight of March Madness. The most recent 2007-08 season showed the post Durant Longhorns again reaching the round of 8 teams in the tournament. The one season tour of Kevin Durant in Texas shows his team sandwiched between more successful units, so I'm having a hard time finding logic to support jersey retirement.

There are only two reasons possible for Texas to make this decision. First, they are desperate for basketball heroes, as Durant would mark only the second to be retired. Or secondly, they’re sending a recruiting message to future “one and done” players, saying you only need a single season stay to become a legend of burnt orange.

Can anyone make an argument for Durant’s jersey retirement? If so, I’d love to hear it.

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