You root for Butler today not because of Matt Howards Hair From Hell, not because of Brad Stevens granite poise, not because of Blue II or Hinkle Fieldhouse or the Bulldogs less-then-authentic underdog rep.
No, maam. You root for Butler because of what happened in Scottsdale, Ariz., this week.
You root for the Butler Way because college athletics has lost its way, and what happened in Scottsdale is the latest Exhibit A. What happened was, Fiesta Bowl president and CEO John Junker got himself fired for apparently greasing employees palms in return for contributions to politicians cozy with the Fiesta Bowls interests.
That would not only be a violation of Arizona campaign finance law. It would also jeopardize the Fiesta Bowls non-profit status, which would in turn jeopardize its membership in the BCS rich guys club.
This would be a shame, because frankly it wouldnt be the first time the main players in the BCS greased a palm; the exchange of dough for services rendered, after all, is pretty much the lifes blood of the whole rotten edifice. I pay you, you pay me. And if we all keep scratching the right backs, the cash keeps right on flowing into the right coffers.
And somewhere in all that commerce, the idea that athletics should enhance the larger mission of the university becomes as quaint as a buggy ride on a Sunday afternoon.
Which is where Butler comes into this.
Butler, where the Way is based on bizarre, antiquated values like shared sacrifice and a common mission.
Butler, where there really is no I in team, dopey as that sounds in a world where the standard response to that is, Aint no We, either.
One of our core principles in our locker room is humility, Stevens told David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune the other day. If you dont have that, youre not here.
Heres something else youd better have, if youre there: Your butt in class.
It was viewed with amazement and an almost aw, how cute paternalism last year when it got out that the Butler players actually showed up for their scheduled classes the day of the championship game. Apparently, though, thats how they do things there. Its how every school ought to do things, frankly, but too often only says it does.
No surprise, then, that Butlers already won the Final Four in one area: academic progress rate. According to the NCAA website, Butler comes in with a perfect APR of 1,000. Virginia Commonwealth is next at 975, Kentuckys at 954 and UConn is at 930.
Roughly speaking, a four-year APR of 925 translates to a 50 percent graduation rate. So UConns close. And 10 schools who made the 68-team field came in below.
Theyll still pocket their fat tournament payouts, of course. That, after all, is the college athletics Way.
And the Butler Way?
Well, you can look at it like this: If theyve survived four nail-biters so far, its because theyve been smarter (See: 1,000 APR) at the end of games. Thats because they are, of course, exceedingly well coached. Its also because theyre exceedingly receptive to that coaching.
Which alone will make the Dogs a tough out this weekend. And, for reasons that extend far beyond the court, one worth rooting for.