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Published: Thursday, 10/11/2001

UT athletic director is tough job

Even non-fans of Mike Karabin have to respect the dignity with which the interim athletic director at the University of Toledo has handled his undignified DUI charge. He didn't try to duck the cameras and note pads, he contritely admitted a terrible lapse in judgment and he went about his professional business as best he could.

Almost immediately after his arrest, Karabin seemed to recognize that the publicity surrounding the DUI citation, not to mention the deed itself, disqualified him from seeking the AD job on a permanent basis. He apparently has experienced a change of mind, saying he is heartened by support from UT administrators and boosters.

What has really changed over the past three months, other than Karabin's mind, eludes us, but if he decides to seek the job, that's his business. If a selection committee decides that his interim performance outweighs the DUI charge, that's its business.

The truly important thing is that the university understands the importance of this hiring.

The UT athletic department is operating on a fiscal shoestring and will face further challenges as the NCAA goes about its never-ending business of restructuring Division I-A football. The university has never adequately funded the department, and that isn't about to change at this late date and under higher education's current economic climate.

A new AD needs to be a money wizard, someone who can assuage the warring factions within the department, someone who can rein in an expensive football program without diminishing its quality, someone who can oversee improvements in lagging academic performance among athletes, someone who can effect significant competitive progress by UT's non-revenue sports, someone who can find a way to renovate a growingly-decrepit Savage Hall and create an indoor practice facility during tough economic times.

In other words, Clark Kent would be a good hire. It will be interesting to learn whether UT eyes Karabin, whom we've never seen in a cape, as its Superman.

tMarty Mornhinweg says, repeatedly, that a quarterback must play to a high standard, and that those standards should never be compromised.

Perhaps Matt Millen should have adhered to that philosophy when hiring a head coach for the Lions.

What Mornhinweg, the guy Millen picked after interviewing a comprehensive pool of one whole candidate, has done with his quarterback position has made the Lions an NFL laughingstock in the early going this season.

Mornhinweg is an interesting personality, part Vince Lombardi, part Fred Flintstone. He arrived in Detroit as the cock of the walk, the new rooster in the hen house, a rough, tough-talking hombre in cowboy boots and wrap-around shades, riding a Hog.

His team is 0-3, his offense is impotent with a line that doesn't pass block and receivers who run imprecise routes in a scheme that calls for utter precision. His players seem on the brink of tuning him out. There is far more potential for mutiny than for bounty.

But Mornhinweg remains as cocky as the day he arrived, which has become a problem. Because with cockiness comes stubbornness and the inability to admit fault.

Pulling quarterback Charlie Batch after one game was a panicked, stupid move. Allowing Ty Detmer to remain in the starting lineup after throwing seven interceptions in Cleveland was a stupid move. Saying that rookie Mike McMahon will likely not be allotted more practice time with the first team and will remain designated as the third quarterback, which is under most circumstances an inactive position on game days, is a stupid move.

Mornhinweg must realize that he has no quarterbacks, barring McMahon's development, who can play at the standard that he and his West Coast offense demand.

That isn't going to change between now and the end of a 4-12-type season, so he might as well make the commitment to one quarterback, giving the job to Batch and allowing him the inevitable mistakes. He said yesterday that Batch will start this Sunday; he should make that appointment permanent, making the most of a bad situation and correcting it in the off-season.

Doing anything else would be, well, stubborn and stupid.

Dave Hackenberg is a Blade sports writer.



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