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Give up the act Gonzaga fans, you're not Cinderella anymore

From The Fringe...


Last updated 12/4/2020 at 9:33am

With college basketball starting, sort of, I just have to get something off my chest. It’s something that’s been bugging me for a long time, and since I like to write about things that bug me, here it is.

And my gripe is this: People need to stop acting like Gonzaga is still one of the little guys. Stop acting like the Gonzaga men are still the NCAA tournament Cinderella story they were 20 years ago.

Just quit it.

From their legions of fans, especially those of you who live in Montana, and would rather cheer for Gonzaga than one of our own Division I teams (more on that later), to ESPN and CBS, to Jay Bilas and Dick Vitale, just knock it off. Quit trying to prop up Gonzaga in some sort of David versus Goliath scenario.

I’m sorry, but that scenario hasn’t existed for a long time now. Like, Matt Santangalo was forever ago. These Bulldogs are not those Bulldogs. And they haven’t been for a long time.

For starters, Gonzaga is the No. 1 team in the country right now, for crying out loud. And little fish don’t make it to No. 1 in the big NCAA pond. The Zags did, however, and they did so for the same reason they’ve now been to 22 straight NCAA tournaments, and as far as a couple buckets away from beating my North Carolina Tar Heels in a national championship game, because they aren’t one of the little guys anymore.

Want more proof? I've got it for you.

Gonzaga pays Mark Few $1.9 million a year in base salary right now, and he earns a a lot more than that after all his incentives, TV and radio shows, and all the other ways in which coaches supplement their income. So I hate to tell you guys this, but, coaches of “little fish” programs don’t make $2 million a year. Just ask Travis DeCuire or Danny Sprinkle.

Oh, don’t worry, I've got plenty more.

In 2016-17, Gonzaga reported $12 million in revenue for its men's basketball program and turned a $4.8 million profit, according to figures from the Department of Education. That was more than the combined profit from the men's basketball programs at Oregon and South Carolina, who also made the Final Four that year, and those two teams play in major conferences — the Pac-12 and SEC.

I could go on and on about the cash cow that Gonzaga men’s basketball has become. Do you really think the West Coast Conference would have an exclusive TV deal with ESPN if the Zags weren’t who they are? No, they wouldn’t.

With all due respect to St. Marys, Pepperdine and others, the Zags are the WCC, period, and everybody else is getting rich because of them. In contrast, look at many of the other Mid-Major conferences in NCAA DI. Look at their TV deals and compare them. There is no comparison. Hell, the Big Sky, which plays some pretty dang good basketball, doesn’t even have a TV deal. They have a not-so-good streaming service for league games, and that’s it.

And while I could go on all night about why the Zags are no longer poor little old David, I don’t need to. But I will add one more little nugget of information — recruiting.

Recruiting is what college hoops is all about, and the Zags are now fully in bed with the Power five programs when it comes to recruiting. They spend big money in recruiting, just like the Carolina’s and Kentucky’s do, and they’re starting to land some big one’s in return, including this season’s one-and-done star Jalen Suggs. Enjoy him while you can Zags fans because he’s gone to the NBA after this season, and that’s my point, small-time programs don’t get one-and-done players that were offered by every major P5 program in the country.

But the Zags got one, and Suggs won’t be the last. Why? Because Gonzaga is a Mid-Major in name only now. Gonzaga is only a “little fish” because they still play in the WCC. If the Zags moved to the Pac 12 right now, they’d win the league more times than they wouldn’t. If they moved to the Mountain West, it would be the same story as it is in the WCC, they’d own it. That’s because Gonzaga is that good. They are, by all accounts, a Power Five program that is not playing in a P5 conference. And honestly, I’m completely fed up with people acting like they’re not.

It starts with ESPN. They’re the biggest guilty party of them all. Watching the Zags, the No. 1 team in the country, play West Virginia Wednesday night, listening to Bilas and the boys, you would have still thought Gonzaga was a perennial No. 14 seed in the NCAA tourney. It’s disgusting.

But, it’s not just TV. It’s Zags fans. They still believe, somehow that they’re the underdog. They believe somehow that they don’t get respect because they reside in Spokane, or because they have rigorous admissions standards, or because Few never left for a bigger program or for the NBA. Gonzaga fans will tell themselves anything to make themselves believe they’re still the Cinderella they were 20 years ago. It’s annoying.

Yes, you can tell I have a bit of an axe to grind with the Zags, but not because I’m jealous of them or their success. After all, I’m a lifelong Tar Heel fan, so, I really don’t need to be jealous of what other college basketball programs have.

No, my angst with Gonzaga started when they were still that great Cinderella story. And in the following years, I started noticing so many Montanans all of a sudden proclaiming Gonzaga as their team. Really? Why? Because Spokane is close to us?

It really made me angry, especially when we have the Griz and Cats to root for. Now, those are real Cinderella stories when it comes to the NCAA’s Big Dance. In fact, I actually watched the Griz beat Gonzaga in Missoula when I was a student at UM. Nowadays, the Zags would never play the Griz in Missoula or the Cats in Bozeman. They’re way too big and have way too much to lose. So yes, it’s bugged me for a long, long time how many Zags fans there are in Montana. But what bugs me the most is the answer I get every time I ask a Montana native why Gonzaga is their favorite team.

Every single time I ask that question, to this day the answer is the same: “I like to see the underdog beat the big boys.”

Yeah, that answer worked in 1998 and 1999, but not now. I mean, are you kidding me? For the past two seasons, Gonzaga has been favored to win every single game they’ve played, and the Zags always play a tough schedule. I’ll always give them credit for that. But, being favored in Vegas is the exact opposite of being an underdog. So again, knock it off with that answer.

If Gonzaga is your favorite team, no matter where you live, that’s fine. Everyone has their favorites. I don’t care who you root for. But, please, no matter if you’re a lifelong Zags fan, or if you just climbed on that band wagon a few years ago, and trust me, there isn’t much room left on that wagon, at least give up the underdog role. It literally doesn’t exist anymore. Gonzaga is not that program and will never be again.

Zags fans, I implore you, let it go. And instead, embrace the fact that Gonzaga is one of the most elite college basketball programs in the country. The sooner you accept that, the less annoying you all will be because, honestly, if you keep the underdog mentality up much longer, you might end up being just as annoying as Duke fans, and that ain’t good.


Reader Comments(1)


GEORGE - are you sure Ryan D. didn't write this piece for you?


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