So what's the big deal about the next home of Georgetown University basketball Coach John Thompson? Not much, seems to be the consensus.
Places worth $350,000, the reported worth of Thompson's new digs at 4881 Colorado Ave. NW, aren't a dime a dozen. Or a dime a gross, for that matter. But they do occur more frequently than, say, John Anderson commercials.
"Sure, we've heard of this type of thing before," said David Berst, director of enforcement of the National Collegiate Althletic Association, when informed of the purchase of the house by what the university described as a "small group of alumni and friends."
The purchasers then donated the property to the school with the specific provision that it be used as Thompson's home as long as he remains coach.
Thompson will pay rent on the house. He declined to reveal how much. "I'll talk to you about my basketball team, but not about my privacy," he said.
"It's somewhat unusual, but not all that much," Berst said. "There have been payments of mortgages and other outside assistance, such as public relations work, offered to coaches. I do know of similar arrangements."
"I wouldn't mind one of those myself," laughed North Carolina State Coach Jim Valvano. "I think it's marvelous. Unfortunately, I don't think it's going to start a trend. It's not your usual incentive, but in light of what other schools can do for coaches in other areas, I think it's a good thing to do. I think I'll call him and see if he'll let my parents live in the basement."
A random survey of other basketball powers, including Notre Dame and North Carolina, indicated that the practice is not widespread.
"I don't think this is any different from any other faculty member renting a house that the university owns," commented Paul Treado, chairman of the physics department. "Maybe it's a little nicer, but it's nothing new or unique. The university consistently makes such housing available to the faculty."
"I'm surprised they didn't do this sooner," said Treado's colleague, Wesley Matthews. "He was getting all those fabulous offers from other schools, and after the second one a lot of us started wondering why he was staying. This will obviously help. I don't think you'll find many objections among the faculty."
Thompson, who accepted the Georgetown position eight years ago and has guided the team to a 152-72 record and six postseason appearances, was heavily romanced by Oklahoma following last spring's NCAA tournament, in which the Hoyas lost, 81-80, to Iowa in the quarterfinals.
After agonizing for a week or so following the Sooners' offer, the former Carroll High School and Boston Celtic star declined the offer and was then almost immediately courted by Florida before withdrawing his name from consideration.
Now that they had him, the GU alumni weren't about to let him go.
Physics professor Joseph McClure, who is also the women's volleyball coach, said, "It seems like a pretty good idea. The school keeps the house and Thompson stays."
Even the students agreed.
"If it were somebody else, I might say, 'Hey, what's going on here'?" said John Bussey, a 26-year-old graduate student. "But he's really humble, and he's done a lot for the school. Besides, he's a great coach, and I think he deserves everything he gets."
"It's a legitimate thing to do to keep him here," said Junior Martin Van Opdorp. "It's very pragmatic, and it's consistent with (university president) Father Healy's philosophy of getting increased national recognition for the school. Basketball helps get that recongition, which in turn helps get increased financial support for the university. And we really need it, because the alumni doesn't come through with a consistent endownment.
"I do think, though, that an inordiante amount of grants are given to athletes in terms of what's available."
"If it's some kind of compensation over and above his salary, I'm against it," said graduate student David Rierson. "I think salaries and fringe benefits should be equal for all faculty members. I don't favor benefits for one over another because he's a good coach or he's black or whatever the reason. If it were compensation for a substandard salary, I'd say okay."