BY TIM SULLIVAN
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Eventually, Xavier is going to lose Skip Prosser. He wins too much and he wears too well to escape the notice of larger schools. He catches your eye and he stands up to your scrutiny.
He is a coach who quotes Ralph Emerson as easily as John Wooden, a straight-shooting scholar whose style, substance and success are appreciated both by the basketball boosters and the English professors. He personifies the values any university would want perceived in its most visible employee. Some big school is bound to snap him up soon.
Prosser is considered a leading candidate for the vacancy at Arizona State, and his name has also surfaced in speculation at Virginia. If he does not leave for one of those jobs, there will be others.
''He's very well thought of, no question about that,'' said Ohio State spokesman Steve Snapp. ''His name would come up whenever a job comes open.''
This much would be true under any circumstances, but Prosser may be more receptive to outside overtures than he was at this time last year. The inability of Athletic Director Jeff Fogelson to negotiate another longterm contract with the Xavier administration has created an air of anxiety on Victory Parkway.
Fogelson a factor
Prosser's job is certainly safe, but his working conditions could be a lot more stable. When the guy in charge is no longer on solid ground, the footing seems a little more treacherous to all his underlings. Prosser is the last man on campus with a multi-year contract, but he has no real assurance of who his boss is going to be.
How much this might influence his decision to stay or go is speculative. Prosser has gone to bat privately for Fogelson, but he is not discussing his job prospects publicly. Still, when the person who hired you is being treated shabbily, it is always prudent to assess one's options.
Fogelson has been at Xavier since 1983, and has led the Musketeers from Schmidt Fieldhouse to Cincinnati Gardens (and soon to an on-campus arena), from the Midwestern Collegiate Conference to the Atlantic 10, from obscurity to prominence.
Consequently, the university has experienced a surge in both alumni donations and admissions applications. Emboldened by its heightened profile, Xavier asked the NCAA last year to drop the designation ''of Ohio'' in all official publications.
The Musketeers have reached the big time in college basketball without significant compromises in the classroom, which is no mean feat in an era of exploitation. Much of the credit for these achievements belongs to the coaches: to Bob Staak and Pete Gillen and Prosser. Some of it, however, is surely Fogelson's.
Yet instead of rewarding its accomplished AD, Xavier appears determined to drive him away. After 15 years of longterm contracts, Fogelson's choice this time around has been one year or nothing.
ASU option could develop
This hard-line bargaining reflects Xavier's new policy against longterm contracts - the men's basketball coach being the single exception - and a certain amount of institutional arrogance. Notre Dame might be able to impose one-year contracts on its employees, and expect them to be grateful to walk the grounds, but Xavier's position in college athletics is a trifle more tenuous.
Moreover, the market for seasoned sports administrators will clearly bear more than one-year contracts. Fogelson may ultimately find security at Seton Hall.
Whether any of this influences Skip Prosser's decision could depend on whether he has a decision to make. Arizona State's first choice remains Utah's Rick Majerus. In Phoenix, Prosser is viewed primarily as a fallback position.
That could change. Majerus might be leery of rebuilding a program devastated by a betting scandal, particularly if he should win a national championship Monday night.
If the hiring process should reach Prosser, he might have a hard time resisting Arizona State's financial resources and recruiting base. If Xavier is counting on his loyalty, it should remember it's a two-way street.