I was finishing my last beer at the Black Rose last night when the news came across my Twitter feed that Chancellor Michael Lovell was leaving our beautiful East Side campus for Wisconsin Avenue. As the news sunk in, a thought occurred to me. Actually, this thought had first surfaced in the wake of the Buzz Williams departure across town and the circus it has created for Marquette. Here at Milwaukee, we have something special, but not many of us (myself included, until now) have taken time to appreciate it.
I set foot on this campus for the first time in spring of 2010, to inquire about enrollment. I knew immediately that this was where I wanted to be. That was two chancellors ago and five athletic directors ago. I am now nearing the end of my fourth year here. We go through administrators around here like McDonald’s goes through fry cooks. But through all of the turmoil and change, there is one face of this university that has stayed the same, and the number of chancellors and ADs he’s had to deal with is higher than mine is. That face belongs to our head basketball coach, Rob Jeter.
Those of you that know me well will say, “But Chad! Weren’t you pining for Bruce Pearl as recently as Senior Night at The Cell?! This is quite the 180 turn!” That would be correct, but everyone around our basketball program had good reason to be hacked off after that debacle. Truth is, I’ve pined for Coach Pearl plenty over the years, especially during our excruciating 8-24 embarassment last season. I knew that Coach Jeter wasn’t at fault for the 2012-2013 season, but I found solace in reveling in past Panther glory. The fact that Bruce wasn’t invited to the 2003 Tournament team’s reunion until it was assured he couldn’t attend further angered me, but Bruce is at Auburn now, and I’m sure he’ll do well there.
Coach Jeter has been stuck firmly in Bruce’s shadow since Day One, however unfair that may be. The man was a tough act to follow. Coach Jeter doesn’t have the flash or larger-than-life personality that Bruce has. If this year’s tournament run taught me anything, it’s that he doesn’t have to. The fact of the matter is, Rob Jeter has been 100% loyal to this university, his players, and all of us since the first day he set foot on this campus. He has had numerous chances to leave for greener pastures, and numerous reasons to say “See you later, I’ve had enough.” He never has. He’s still here.
The time has come for all of us embrace Coach Jeter as the face of this university. It’s been long overdue. If you run into him at the Klotsche, take the time to stop and say, “Thanks for sticking with us, Coach!” I know that’s what I’ll be doing. A lot of people around campus have been paying lip service to being #PantherProud lately, including Marquette’s new president. Rob Jeter has embodied it EVERY DAY for the past nine years. The time has come to reward him for that.