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Coaching Quagmire 

The NCAA's game of conference musical chairs may bite a former local star athlete.

Rebecca Chilton Peoples is being buffeted about by forces over which she has no control. Even the forces themselves are out of control, barreling forth in a torrent of greed and callousness that is wiping away decades of tradition, raising cynicism to unprecedented levels and damaging the lives of countless people who are in situations similar to Rebecca's.

She's one of the Arivaca Chiltons, a pioneer cattle-ranching family that's been in Arizona for generations. (Heck, there were Chiltons on the Mayflower.) She grew up on a ranch outside of Buckeye in western Maricopa County and was an absolute stud athlete. She rodeoed for several years and used to beat future national barrel-racing champion Sherry Potter (of Marana) on a regular basis. But, in high school, Chilton gravitated to other sports. She played tennis and ran track, and starred in volleyball and basketball. She went to college on an athletic scholarship and then went into coaching.

We worked together one year at Amphi. She coached the JV girls team and I, the freshmen. Our coaching philosophies couldn't have been more different--the varsity coach thought she and I would someday exchange gunfire--and yet we both had successful teams. Off the court, we were good friends, but boy, did we love to argue. She was all into Tao (I called it "Duh!"), while I'm prone to delivering mid-game bon mots like, "I've already seen you make that mistake! Make a different one next time."

One time, she had laryngitis and could barely whisper. I sat next to her during the JV game and helped coach. This big kid from Pueblo kept catching the ball in the middle of the lane and turning around to shoot. I yelled to Amphi's big kid, "Don't let her catch it there!" Chilton said, "We don't use negatives! Speak to her in a positive way." So I yelled, "I'm positive that I don't want you to let her catch it there!" Chilton dug her nails into my arm and said, "We don't use negatives."

"But 'don't' is a negative," I said.

She glared at me, so I finally said to the kid, "Let her catch it someplace else!"

So driven was Chilton that in a three-year span, she went from coaching the JVs at Amphi to being an assistant at Yavapai Community College to being an assistant at Northern Arizona University. She always said she wanted to be a head coach in college by the time she was 30, and I believed it would happen.

But, as B.B. King would say, "That was the day before loooove came to town." She met an NAU assistant football coach and got married. Her new husband, Kevin, took a job with the XFL (the white-trash spring football league started by WWE wrestling honcho Vince McMahon). The job was in Las Vegas, and Rebecca reluctantly derailed herself from her career track and went along. The XFL folded in about a month and a half, and both were out of jobs.

They bounced around, and Kevin got a job with Arkansas State in Jonesboro. The first month they were there, a spot opened up on the A-State women's basketball staff, and Rebecca was back in (the) business.

Things have been going well these past couple years, but now The Madness has gripped the NCAA. It must be noted that the average college president, despite public proclamations about integrity and honor, would bitch-slap his own mama for $1.75. Please keep that in mind as you read on.

First, the Atlantic Coast Conference recruited the University (the loosest use of the term EVER!) of Miami, because the Hurricanes have a national thug audience and always go to big-money bowl games. But Virginia (of the ACC) said they wouldn't vote to admit Miami unless Virginia Tech got to come, too. Then, Boston College jumped in--not because it's on the Atlantic coast, but because there's a huge TV audience in Boston.

When the three teams left the Big East to follow the loot, the Big East raided Conference USA of Louisville, and four others. In turn, C-USA felt obligated to gobble up teams from smaller, weaker conferences as a way to stay afloat in the suddenly shark-infested waters. While this whorefest was going on, the head of the NCAA, a spineless weasel named Myles Brand, threw up his hands and proclaimed that the carnage was out of his purview.

Well, the feeding frenzy finally trickled down to the Sun Belt, the conference that includes (this week, anyway) Arkansas State. A couple teams are thinking of movin' on up to the Eastside, leaving the conference with too-few teams to merit official NCAA recognition. The Sun Belt must now try to hold on to the teams (using some kind of financial leverage) or turn around and raid a Division 1-AA conference, perhaps even the traditionally all-black Southwestern Athletic Conference.

The sleazebags at the top have forced dozens of other schools to become either whores or whoremongers in order to survive.

If Arkansas State loses its conference affiliation and/or has to drop to a lower classification, the NCAA will force the school to get rid of coaches in every sport, and since Kevin and Rebecca are the new kids in town, they'd be the first to go. The NCAA is real strict about guidelines like this, but it has no clue about how to handle the greedstorm that is consuming their membership.

Young coaches and support staff members all over the country are sweating it out, waiting for the last domino to topple and to see whether they'll have jobs next year. Meanwhile, the ACC is like the cat with the feathers sticking out of its mouth, wondering what the big deal is.

This whole mess stinks. It stinks for the fans; it stinks for the coaches who will still have jobs because the need to win just got ratcheted up a couple more notches; and it stinks out loud for Rebecca Chilton Peoples.

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