When discussing the Red Line with "others," they often like to point out a perceived grey area in the separation.
"Well, what about a team like...Marshall? You're telling me they are a major program and, say, Temple, isn't?" person remarks.
Well, yes. Even though Marshall hasn't made an NCAA appearance since 1987 -- and even though they've been classified below the Red Line before -- there is still a distinct difference with the other guys.
But during last Thursday's game against Belmont, the difference between mid-major and high-major had nothing to do with the near-million dollar gap in the two teams' budgets.
Justin Coleman, a Marshall guard, is a seriously talented basketball player. As the mixtapes on YouTube display, the kid's got bounce -- uncanny athletic ability.
That talent earned him a scholarship offer to the University of Louisville out of high school. But it never materialized -- Coleman couldn't qualify academically. So, he returned to his hometown of Huntington, W.V., and enrolled at Marshall.
Coleman has logged about 20 minutes per game for the Herd this season, once going off for 16 points against High Point.
He started the game at the Curb Event Center, where Marshall came to Nashville as the highest-RPI team to play at Belmont since 2003. Two thousand folks, without students, attended the game, making it possibly Belmont's highest attended non-conference bout in quite some time.
Coleman played in the first half, logged a couple points and a foul or two before being sent to the bench with around six minutes left. At the time, I thought nothing of it.
But as Belmont closed the half up 37-25, Coleman slowly meandered off the court, far behind his teammates who jogged to the locker room. In fact, an assistant coach (perhaps a graduate assistant) ran back on to the court and ushered Coleman to pick up the pace.
As the second half commenced, Coleman started it behind the bench. Not on the bench, behind the bench and the coaches, far away from the nearest action.
Then, I saw something I don't think I've ever seen at any level of sport. Coleman slyly slipped a cell phone out of the sleeve of his warm-ups and proceeded to look at it for most of the second half.
Yes, a player that STARTED and participated in a game, spent the entire second half doodling on his phone like a teenage girl at the movie theater. I could hardly take my eyes off of it, refusing to believe what I saw. It was so sophomoric, so appalling.
Hell, not only was it disrespectful, Coleman was missing a damn good basketball game. His team didn't seem to miss his absence as they quickly erased a 16-point deficit in the second half.
Stealthy point guard Damien Pitts' series of three-pointers whittled the lead down to three with less than a minute. Marshall had a chance to tie, but couldn't convert, as Belmont came away with the 77-72 win.
Coleman, meanwhile, hardly looked up. And he replicated his pathetic meander off the court when the game ended. A once-touted top recruit could barely muster the give-a-damn to even jog off the court after a loss to Belmont.
A quick Google search after the game revealed Coleman had been suspended indefinitely. Now, I'm a believer in second chances...I really am. And I hope Coleman can turn his attitude around -- and Marshall helps him in that respect.
But give me a call the next time you see a player in Our Game on his phone during a game.
at BELMONT 79, MARSHALL 74 12/29/2011
MARSHALL 9-3 (0-0) -- D. Pitts 6-18 0-1 14; D. Kane 6-10 11-16 25; D. Tinnon 2-7 0-0 4; R. Goff 5-10 4-6 14; S. Johnson 4-10 2-2 10; D. Pena 2-6 0-0 5; Y. Mbao 0-1 0-0 0; J. Coleman 1-1 0-1 2; N. Spikes 0-0 0-0 0; J. Hanner 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-63 17-26 74. BELMONT 9-5 (2-0) -- D. Hanlen 1-4 4-6 6; K. Johnson 6-13 3-5 16; S. Saunders 8-16 7-7 23; J. Mann 4-8 0-0 9; I. Clark 2-7 0-0 5; B. Baker 0-0 3-4 3; M. Hedgepeth 2-7 4-6 8; A. Barnes 0-1 2-2 2; B. Jenkins 2-2 0-3 4; T. Noack 1-1 0-0 3; R. Chamberlain 0-0 0-0 0; S. Turner 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-59 23-33 79.
Three-point goals: MRSH 5-19 (S. Johnson 0-3; D. Pena 1-4; D. Pitts 2-7; D. Kane 2-5), BELM 4-12 (D. Hanlen 0-2; I. Clark 1-5; K. Johnson 1-2; T. Noack 1-1; J. Mann 1-2); Rebounds: MRSH 41 (D. Tinnon 13), BELM 33 (S. Saunders 9); Assists: MRSH 9 (D. Pitts 3), BELM 15 (D. Hanlen 5); Total Fouls -- MRSH 25, BELM 22; Fouled Out: MRSH-D. Kane; BELM-None.