I stepped up to the makeshift free throw line with the weight of the entire recess period resting on my shoulders.
No one wants the last shot of a fifth grade pickup basketball game to be in the hands of the kid picked last, but that’s how it was going to finish this time.
The bell signaling the end of the period rang out, reminding everyone that my free throws would be the last play of the game.
With my team down by two points, I clanked both shots off of the iron. As the winning team began to rejoice, one player in particular made sure he flaunted my failure in my face.
In that moment, a bitter rivalry was formed, and I realized that while losing feels awful, losing to a rival feels so much worse.
Traditional rivalries are usually formed between schools or teams in the same district or conference because familiar competition is a breeding ground for smack talk.
There’s also a category of non-traditional rivalries that happen for a variety of reasons, but the elements of familiarity remain the same.
Watching Baylor take home the national championship in women’s basketball on Sunday certainly should’ve felt familiar for LSU fans.
Bears guard Chloe Jackson played at LSU for two seasons before transferring to Baylor and winning MVP honors in the championship game. Baylor’s team also featured Moon Ursin from Destrehan, Louisiana and Kalani Brown from Slidell, Louisiana.
I’m not saying Baylor has become a new rival for LSU in the women’s basketball realm, but I am saying that it never feels great to watch a team have so much success with players who could be wearing purple and gold.
This especially hurts considering the fact that LSU hasn’t won an NCAA tournament game since 2013. Considering the success the LSU’s women’s basketball program has historically had, its recent track record is a gross example of underachieving.
While it’s never fair to lay blame at one person’s feet, LSU coach Nikki Fargas deserves some scrutiny for the Tigers’ fall from grace. The problem is, I feel as though Fargas hasn’t gotten enough scrutiny.
Sure, fans aren’t happy with the state of the program, but if any other LSU team had a track record like the women’s basketball team, the coach leading that program would certainly be facing stiffer criticism.
Instead, Fargas has been able to continue to skate by and was even recently given a three-year contract extension last October.
It’s time that LSU’s athletic department demand a higher standard for a program that should have so much potential. Yes, I understand that not every sport on campus will draw out passionate fan responses like the football team does, but that doesn’t mean that we have to accept mediocrity from other sports.
There was a time when women’s basketball drew impressive crowds at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center because the LSU fan base doesn’t shy away from supporting winners.
Now, the team plays in a near empty arena, hasn’t won a NCAA tournament game in five years and has had a coach that has been here for seven years.
I cannot speak to Fargas’ ability to draw up plays on the hardwood, but building winning cultures and recruiting classes are also vital aspects of coaching. In my opinion, Fargas has not done her due diligence in these areas.
Women’s basketball doesn’t have to be a sport we all write off before the season begins. Having a program that enjoys success is fun no matter the sport, but that winning culture has to start from the top.
If the athletic department and the school truly want to show a commitment to excellence, placing higher standards on the women’s basketball team would be a good place to begin.