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Hansen: Iowa, Hubbard still quiet on departure

[ 9 ] August 27, 2011 |

Why did Anthony Hubbard leave the Hawkeyes? He left to attend Morgan State, which is closer to his home in Virginia.

That was the stock answer a month ago when Gary Barta, the Iowa athletic director, said any additional information would have to come from the athlete himself — the 26-year-old basketball player and former inmate who chose the Hawkeyes over at least 50 major-college programs and had some Iowans wondering whether this was really such a good idea.

Four weeks later, while Hubbard attends class and reviews hurricane safety tips in Baltimore, it’s still the stock answer. On Friday, Morgan State Coach Todd Bozeman stuck with the script.

“All I can say,” he said, “is Anthony wanted to come back closer to home. People change their minds sometimes. Things happen and we welcome him with open arms.”

Was he pushed out of Iowa City, as an online report indicated?

“I didn’t get anything like that,” Bozeman said, “and I talked to Sherm Dillard, who’s from back this way. I’ve known him a long time.”

Dillard joined the Iowa staff a year ago. For seven years he was head coach at James Madison, his alma mater in Virginia.

Hubbard is from Woodbridge, Va., 60 miles from the Morgan State campus.

“Everybody I talked to told me Anthony was a good kid,” Bozeman said. “People make mistakes in life. Some of us get more attention than others. But everybody deserves to move on. I made a mistake in my professional career, got another chance and made the most of it.”

Long before taking Morgan State to three NCAA tournaments in the past four years, Bozeman was forced out at Cal for recruiting violations.

At Morgan State, Hubbard joins a born-again program. Before finishing 17-14 last spring, the Bears won at least 22 games in three consecutive seasons.

Bozeman had a question of his own: How is Hubbard any different from all the coaches who change jobs?

“How’s that different from Dana Altman going to Arkansas and coming back to Creighton? People change their minds.”

Fine, but why doesn’t it feel like we know the whole story?

Partly because Iowa won’t directly address the zero-tolerance talk other than to say no special restrictions were placed on Hubbard.

And unless you count a few words in a written statement, Hubbard isn’t talking, at least not to certain reporters with a 515 area code.

A few months ago, he showed up in Iowa City with great fanfare, averaging 24 points a game in the Prime Time League and giving Hawkeye fans reason to hope that, at long last, the fortunes of the once-successful program were changing for the better.

Why is it so important to know the whole truth? While it isn’t vital to the security of the nation or even the state — OK, maybe the state — it’s a loose end that shouldn’t be left dangling when character was such a big issue during the recruiting process.

Struggling big-time programs take calculated risks. That’s a given. And everybody deserves a second chance, even after spending almost four years in prison for playing lookout in an armed robbery. Maybe especially after serving that much time.

Fran McCaffery, trying to bring the Hawkeyes back, did the due diligence. Hubbard’s grades were good. His junior college coach even said he’d be fine with Hubbard dating his daughter.

But there seems to be an old double-standard in play. When a prominent athlete decides to play basketball or football at a university with a high sports profile, the public celebration can last for days.

The festivities begin with a happy news conference where the quotes flow freely. But when an athlete leaves unexpectedly, everything changes.

Phone calls go unanswered. Everybody isn’t so chatty anymore.

A big-time athlete choosing a school quickly becomes everybody’s business. When a big-time athlete leaves unexpectedly, it turns into a right-of-privacy issue.

We heard much more about Anthony Hubbard’s arrival in Iowa City than we did his departure, which doesn’t seem quite right.

Register sports columnist Marc Hansen can be reached at (515) 284-8534 or mahansen@dmreg.com

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball

About Marc Hansen: Marc Hansen is a sports columnist for The Des Moines Register. View author profile.

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