From the media perspective, it’s tough times running a major college athletics program in the Grand Canyon State. There’s bravery to be admired among the athletic brass who keep returning our phone calls.

Sports talk radio alights with cross-country gripes from egotistical coaches who complain about estranged wives and bait fans into staying home — inadvertently convincing their recruits to do the same.

Meltdown-prone football coaches nervously twiddle thumbs, hoping to keep players from serving hard time, while wondering how they can anchor themselves to the sideline next season, lest they incur newly enacted penalties.

And the bubble-wrap phraseology of an “economic slowdown” presses top-heavy athletic programs to lump players into fire-sale packages, sent off to rival schools for not generating enough income — when one coach alone receives a $775,000 raise.

In the athletic office, on the other end of the phone line during business hours, one might feel like a fluorescent-orange Hummer creeping through the alleyways of Nasiriyah.

But when it comes to real trouble, it’s always the quiet ones, popular wisdom warily recites.

A few hundred miles up I-17, Northern Arizona University quietly continues about its business, graduating student-athletes who avoid mug shots, forced transfers or sullen hauls to the NBA draft.

They say mountain air makes you smarter. But were NAU your neighbor, you might wonder what that freezer in the garage held.

Of course, the Northern Third isn’t pumping out much in the way of championships, which is one way to stay out of the news. Methinks that any sane athletic director wouldn’t trade their banners for anonymity by a long shot.

However, if you’re going to have a high-maintenance coach — er, vehicle — it ought to turn some fast laps. Either that, or trade it in. Because there’s no bravery in letting a storied program stall.

The recent success with our collegiate swimming program — and the potential three-peat of a softball championship — does well to outshine the negatives circulating this spring.

It gives reporters something positive to cultivate, before they borrow an axe from the Lumberjacks and start chopping.

Let’s hope that carries into the fall.

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