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Internet Diary Poses Another Problem for Northwestern Basketball

February 18, 1996

EVANSTON, Ill. (AP) _ Two years ago, Ricky Byrdsong took his infamous ``walk on the wild side,″ leaving the Northwestern team’s bench during a game at Minnesota, wandering into the stands and slapping hands with Gophers fans and their mascot.

Following a leave of absence, Byrdsong returned as Northwestern’s coach and the Wildcats sneaked into the NIT, even winning a first-round game during a 15-14 season that featured players left over from the previous regime.

But now in Byrdsong’s third season, winning has once again become a chore, and another stream of losses seems magnified by the success of the school’s football program, which won the conference championship and made the Rose Bowl.

After an eighth straight loss Saturday night, the Wildcats are 6-16 overall and 1-12 in the Big Ten. Last season they were 5-22 and 1-17.

And controversy is still following Byrdsong. The latest episode involves backup center Dan Kreft, an electrical engineering major who has een keeping a season diary on the Internet.

Last week the Chicago Sun-Times published a full page of diary excerpts, and some of the entries raised eyebrows.

Kreft revealed that during a season-opening trip to San Diego some of the players were given five or six hours off and went to Mexico.

``We all began to trade stories. Some of the freshmen told stories of Mexican bars hosted by geriatric strippers, in which one freshman got his camera stolen,″ Kreft wrote.

In a game earlier this month at Indiana, Kreft related this about the trip:

``The only problem with this trip was that Byrdsong decided that he was going to bring the whole Byrdsong clan with him _ Mrs. Byrdsong and the whole nest full of little Byrd fledglings, most notably little Ricky Jr. _ quite possibly the most incredibly annoying child I’ve ever had the dubious pleasure of knowing.″

A Chicago sports columnist, calling for Byrdsong’s removal, cited those two parts of the diary as evidence that the program was out of control.

``We run a first-class program. We’ve never had a kid late for a meeting. You don’t see them throwing towels or anything else you might see from a program out of control,″ said Byrdsong, who’d had no major objections with Kreft’s diary. He did make him apologize earlier for criticizing a student reporter.

Northwestern’s players came immediately to Byrdsong’s defense.

Before the Wildcats were beaten Saturday night by Michigan State, Kreft had the school’s media relations department distribute an ``Open Letter to the Media,″ apologizing for any turmoil he may have created.

``I never before now fully understood the reality of the phrase `the pen is mightier than the sword,′ but I know now what power the written word holds,″ Kreft said in the letter. He asserted that Byrdsong has always been in total control of the program.

``What started as a completely innocent venture to entertain and inform basketball fans around the world has turned against Coach Byrdsong,″ he said.

Leading scorer Geno Carlisle was even more to the point.

``People say he needs to go. I don’t agree with that at all,″ Carlisle said. ``It’s the players, not the coaches. If coach Byrd goes, I go and so do a lot of other guys. He’s a good coach and a great person and I don’t think he should be getting a bum rap for all of our losses.″

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