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The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Respect Majerus, retire his sweater

I recently was having a conversation with Andrew Tendick, a lifelong Ute fan and burgeoning intellectual, when he brought up one of his chief concerns. He wondered openly how former U basketball coach Rick Majerus will be remembered by the U and its fan base.

We both agreed that the fanfare surrounding his departure was inadequate to the point of insult, and that something further must be done to commemorate the man and his achievements.

While I struggled to think of an appropriate ceremony in addition to an all-you-can-eat ribs buffet, Andrew had the perfect solution the whole time: Retire Majerus’s sweater and raise it to the rafters.

Of course.

What better place is there than Huntsman Center heaven for the man who led the U basketball program from relative obscurity to national prominence?

A plaque seems insufficient and a gold-embossed statue would be an ostentatious depiction of a man who was anything but. After all, the man wore a sweater when everyone else was in a suit and tie.

So why not remember him that way?

Majerus’s disheveled appearance was never a detriment to his program. Instead, his trademark sweater was part smock and part symbol, both protecting fans from unsightly sweat stains and attracting them to a tough, workingman’s team through its tired, often rugged appearance.

But over the course of his career at Utah, Majerus and his sweater evolved and came to mean a great many things to the team, the fans, the U and even to the state of Utah.

Majerus’ dedication to his team and the game of basketball were never more apparent than through his strict, unchanging dress code.

His sideline appearance couldn’t possibly be a tangible concern of his when he could be thinking about how to slow down an opponent’s fast break, like he did in the Utes 1998 Final Four matchup with offensive juggernaut North Carolina.

Nor could Majerus afford to worry about the cleanliness of his residence while he was busy extracting the maximum amount of potential from his athletes, as he did with Andre Miller, Keith Van Horn and Michael Doleac, just to name a few.

So, much like his coaching strategies, Majerus simplified things and moved into a hotel.

Problem solved, and more time to think about the game.

Majerus even set aside his health problems more than once out of dedication to his team before doctors strongly advised him to retire in the middle of last season.

In fact, Majerus always looked like a balloon ready to explode on the sideline if not for his trusty sweater holding everything in place.

That image, along with his many awkward stepladder ascents to cut down championship nets, put the Runnin’ Utes and the U into the national consciousness for the first time.

Majerus and his team even gave the country a frame of reference for the state of Utah, which, for many people like myself, had previously been an enigma.

It’s easy to underestimate the importance of national recognition, but the impact it has had on the U is unmistakable.

Coverage from the national media, which was virtually nonexistent before Majerus’ arrival, has undoubtedly had a positive effect on recruiting, enrollment and both public and private funding at the U.

With Majerus at the forefront, the men’s basketball team had an element ESPN and the rest of the national media could market.

Combine this factor with a winning tradition and the result is a domino effect that eventually creates a formidable national reputation for the entire university.

Add an outstanding athletics director, Chris Hill, and suddenly, you’ve got great athletic programs across the board and fans coming out of the woodwork to be a part of it.

And to think, it all started with a sweater.

You can talk about Majerus’ 323 wins, his 10 conference titles in 14 seasons, his 10 NCAA Tournament appearances, or his Final Four appearance-which is arguably the most impressive feat in the history of U sports-but you wouldn’t be doing justice to the man who meant so much more than wins and losses.

Majerus brought a unique personality to Utah that, although brash at times, should be cherished now as it was when he was still making the big U blink with each win. Nobody outside of Majerus’s circle is more familiar with his quirks than Andrew Tendick’ brother, Evan, who worked at Majerus’ hotel domicile and was forced to perform a myriad of paltry tasks at the big man’s bidding.

Despite being privy to some of Majerus’ ugliest sides, the Tendicks are still among Majerus’ biggest supporters. To them, Majerus is a coaching genius, and sometimes you have to tolerate a genius before you enjoy him.

With that in mind, don’t forget about the man who brought recognition and mystique to this university.

Instead, raise his sweater up to the rafters right next to Van Horn and Miller so Ute fans past, present and future can pay him the respect he’s due.

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