Today's generation of anonymous blog contributors, Internet hypochondriacs and hometown cheerleaders clash dramatically with old-timers who cherish the traditions that youngsters take for granted, traditions that built reputations of universities and their sports programs.
What is tradition?
According to Webster's dictionary, tradition is "the handing down of information, beliefs and customs by word of mouth or by example from one generation to another without written instruction, an inherited pattern of thought or action."
Larry Hawkins said it more directly and eloquently. The late educator, coach and founder of the Institute for Athletics and Education at the University of Chicago often reminded his students and players:
"You must remember that you are standing on the shoulders of those who came before you, the ones who set the tone and established the traditions and built the programs and paved the way."
For example, today's yahoos tend to disregard Indiana and Kentucky as significant players in college basketball, pointing out that Indiana hasn't won an NCAA championship since 1987 and Kentucky hasn't won since 1998. Some even try to downgrade Duke, which hasn't won since 2001.
All of the schools we haven't mentioned--are you on the list?--would kill to be so successful even once a decade. The elite programs are disappointed when they don't reach the Final Four every year while most programs struggle to qualify for the conference playoff. Think about it.
Kentucky has seven NCAA championship banners, more than any school except UCLA, and Indiana has won four. Only one other SEC school (Florida with two) has won an NCAA title while the rest of the Big 10 has claimed five. Kentucky has won more games than any other school, boasts a state-of-the-art 20,000-seat cathedral and has scrapbooks dating to the 1930s and legendary coach Adolph Rupp.
That's all in the past, the e-mailers say. Today's kids don't know who Rupp was, they say. Kids only care about what is happening today, they say. Can the high school prospect play right away? Can he get national television exposure? Can he be groomed for the NBA? Will he be a lottery pick? Can we make the Final Four?
But tradition, like history, is about where we've been and where we're going. As the late Civil War historian and author Shelby Foote once said: "You can't know where you are going until you know where you have been." History has a way of pointing us in the right direction.