Monday, March 23, 2009

Star’s Vow to Win or Pay Stirs Women’s Basketball "IOWA CITY — Early this month, Courtney Paris, an all-American center at the University of Oklahoma, made a promise that was rare and provocative: if the Sooners did not win the national basketball championship, she would repay the cost of her scholarship.
Her pledge became a primary story line of the women’s N.C.A.A. tournament and elicited strong reactions in support and in criticism of Paris, a senior. The vow has raised questions about personal responsibility in sports, the emphasis placed on winning and an athlete’s obligations in fulfilling a scholarship contract.
What made Paris’s assurance even bolder was that Oklahoma was considered unlikely to win the national championship. Connecticut is undefeated and heavily favored to take its sixth N.C.A.A. women’s title. In November, the Huskies defeated the Sooners, 106-78.
Oklahoma (29-4) won its opening tournament game here Sunday against Prairie View A&M and will face Georgia Tech on Tuesday. The Sooners did not advance past the Round of 16 in Paris’s three previous seasons. Paris said that her scholarship guarantee, made to home fans during a Senior Day ceremony, was meant simply to show her belief in her teammates — which include her twin, Ashley — and to thank those who had supported her.
While Paris has completed her course work toward a degree in journalism and entered the N.C.A.A. tournament attempting to become the first player, male or female, to collect 2,500 career points and 2,000 rebounds, she said her ambitions would be fulfilled only by winning a championship.
David L. Boren, the president of Oklahoma, said Paris was apparently so serious about her vow that she checked beforehand with university officials to make sure that repaying her scholarship would not be a violation of N.C.A.A. rules. Since then, Paris has repeated her promise to follow through, presumably using money she will make playing professionally in the United States and perhaps overseas, and from endorsements.
“This program and university have given me so much support,” said Paris, who is from Piedmont, Calif. “I feel like I want to give them something back that’s really special. If I can’t do that with a national championship, I want to give back my scholarship because I don’t feel like I’ve earned it.”"

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