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OSU basketball: Eddie Sutton will get into hall once voters get off their high horses

STILLWATER — Asked to make a sales pitch for Eddie Sutton to be voted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, Randy Rutherford didn't have to think long.

“Eight-oh-six,” the former Oklahoma State sharpshooter said. “I don’t have to give a sales pitch.”

Hard to argue with that.

Sutton won 806 games during his college coaching career and is one of only 10 coaches to win at least 600 games at the Division-I level. That elite group includes Mike Krzyzewski and Jim Boeheim, Jim Calhoun and Bob Knight, Roy Williams and Dean Smith. All legends of the game. All in the hall of fame.

Except for Sutton.

It’s been a few days since the former Cowboy coach was named a hall-of-fame finalist. This is the seventh time he’s been so honored, but he’s yet to get the call for induction.

That needs to change.

But for that to happen, the voters will have to get off their high horses.

We don’t really know why Sutton isn’t already in the hallowed hall. It shrouds its selection process in secrecy. We don’t know who the voters are, what their process is or how they have voted over the years.

Ballots, by the way, are burned after the vote is taken.

The hall has contended measures such as that insure confidentiality. But let’s be honest, that's not about being discreet. That’s about hiding. The hall doesn’t want to tell us why some people are in and others aren’t.

We are left, then, to try to deduct the answer.

What makes Sutton different than other coaches in the hall?

He has no national championship on his resume while many other major-college coaches in the hall do. Bill Self. Tom Izzo. John Calipari. But a national title isn't a prerequisite for hall inclusion.

Just two years ago, for example, Lefty Driesell was inducted, and he didn’t so much as make a Final Four, much less win a championship. What’s more, he won less games than Sutton, 786 versus 806. While Driesell became the first coach to win 100 games at four different schools, Sutton was the first to take four different programs to the NCAA Tournament.

So, why exactly is Driesell a hall of famer and Sutton isn’t?

Again, we are left to our own deductive reasoning, but you have to think Sutton’s presence during unsavory days at Kentucky and OSU must be the answer.

He was coaching Kentucky when an envelope of cash addressed to a player’s father popped open in a shipping facility and blew open a scandal of epic proportions. Sutton was never found guilty of any wrongdoing by the NCAA. He wasn’t even named in any of its charges. But he resigned under pressure.

Then 17 years later, his tenure at OSU came to an end after he was involved in a car accident and cited for driving under the influence. Sutton would later admit to taking prescription meds and buying a bottle of alcohol on the night of the accident.

Neither what happened on his watch at Kentucky nor what occurred in his final days at OSU are good.

But here’s the thing — the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame has plenty of coaches in its hallowed halls with less-than-pristine resumes. The behavior of some has been downright scurrilous.

Bob Knight tried to choke a player.

John Calipari and Rick Pitino each had to vacate national titles.

Jerry Tarkanian had a laundry list of NCAA violations at Long Beach State and Nevada-Las Vegas that included: improper entertainment, financial aid, lodging and transportation; extra benefits, improper recruiting entertainment, inducements, lodging and transportation; excessive number of official visits; academic fraud; unethical conduct.

But those guys are in the hall and Eddie Sutton isn’t.

It makes no sense.

"Look at his body of work," former Cowboy Chianti Roberts said over the weekend as he and Rutherford and the rest of the 1995 Final Four team gathered for a reunion. "He's coached in multiple eras and has been very successful. He coached in an era where no 3-point line, no shot clock. Coached in an era with 3-point line, no shot clock. Coached in an era with a 3-point line, shot clock, and then coached in an era when they shortened the shot clock.

"And he's managed to be successful through decades of coaching. When you look at his body of work, it speaks for itself."

Eight-oh-six speaks for itself, though it has yet to speak to hall-of-fame voters.

Again, we don't know what their reasoning is, but if they want us to believe they’ve taken a moral high ground by denying Sutton’s inclusion, they need to know we see through that charade. They vacated that lofty perch long ago.

The hall needs to get off those high horses and welcome Eddie Sutton.

Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at 405-475-4125 or jcarlson@oklahoman.com. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK or follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok.

***************************************

NAISMITH HALL 2020 CLASS ANNOUNCEMENT

When: 10 a.m. April 4

Where: NCAA Final Four, Atlanta

TV: ESPN (Cox 29)

Enshrinement will be Aug. 28-30 in Springfield, Mass. Tickets available at www.hoophall.com.

Related Photos
<strong>The day before Oklahoma State's 1995 Final Four team was honored, Eddie Sutton was named a finalist for the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. Former Cowboy guard Randy Rutherford said Sutton's case for the hall is simple -- its the coach's 806 career victories. [ROB FERGUSON/USA TODAY SPORTS]</strong>

The day before Oklahoma State's 1995 Final Four team was honored, Eddie Sutton was named a finalist for the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. Former Cowboy guard Randy Rutherford said Sutton's case for the hall is simple -- its the coach's 806 career victories. [ROB FERGUSON/USA TODAY SPORTS]

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-39afd67c2991a0d97a2fab43dd141777.jpg" alt="Photo - The day before Oklahoma State's 1995 Final Four team was honored, Eddie Sutton was named a finalist for the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. Former Cowboy guard Randy Rutherford said Sutton's case for the hall is simple -- its the coach's 806 career victories. [ROB FERGUSON/USA TODAY SPORTS] " title=" The day before Oklahoma State's 1995 Final Four team was honored, Eddie Sutton was named a finalist for the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. Former Cowboy guard Randy Rutherford said Sutton's case for the hall is simple -- its the coach's 806 career victories. [ROB FERGUSON/USA TODAY SPORTS] "><figcaption> The day before Oklahoma State's 1995 Final Four team was honored, Eddie Sutton was named a finalist for the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. Former Cowboy guard Randy Rutherford said Sutton's case for the hall is simple -- its the coach's 806 career victories. [ROB FERGUSON/USA TODAY SPORTS] </figcaption></figure>
Jenni Carlson

Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football... Read more ›

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