Kicking Dead Horses

I have been beating this poor horse until he is long dead. I speak, of course, about the corruption in collegiate athletics which I first started writing about twelve years ago. I dare say you have heard about the latest scandal at Auburn where athletes were paid to remain on the football team rather than turn pro and grades were altered to guarantee that certain players would be eligible to play in a bowl game. This comes on the heels of the scandal at Rutgers where a basketball coach was fired and his assistant resigned after films were aired on television showing both of those men hurling basketballs and homophobic epithets at their players, kicking at them, and generally making spectacles of themselves to the endless entertainment of the ESPN viewers. A handful of faculty  at Rutgers (only a handful?) has written a letter demanding the resignation of the athletics director and the president of the university who both knew about the behavior of the coaches since last November and chose to treat it lightly it until it became public knowledge.

There are several things about these incidents that concern me and move me to prod the poor horse once again. To begin with, why didn’t the president of Rutgers fire the coach immediately upon seeing the films that have recently become public knowledge rather than to merely fine him and require that he attend anger-management classes? Further, why didn’t he or his A.D. fire the assistant coach who simply was allowed to resign? And why was the head coach paid a $100,000 bonus “for completing the season” after he was fired? All of these questions are begging for answers, but are below the one that tops my list: why don’t the officials at these universities act prior to the release of information to the general public? As the talking heads on ESPN were quick to point out, everyone has known for six decades that things are rotten in the state of Division I athletics. What has been exposed at Rutgers and Auburn is almost certainly going on at other Division I schools, probably all of them. Why does it take public embarrassment to make the administrators at those institutions take action? If it’s not just plain stupidity, then I suppose it must be about money. There’s a tremendous amount of money involved in athletics at that level. The reason the athletics director at Rutgers has not as of this writing been fired, for example, is that (reportedly) he was instrumental in bringing Rutgers into the Big Ten — which will guarantee the school a minimum of $25 million a year as a member of that august athletic conference (which will soon consist of fourteen members: go figure). It really is all about money, isn’t it? Money is more important to these institutions of higher education than the students they are supposed to serve. You would think that at the very least they would want to avoid the public humiliation. Maybe it is stupidity.

There are those who will defend this sort of corruption on the grounds that it merely reflects the culture at large. While I must agree that this is true in this case, I have never understood that defense. Doesn’t that condemn the culture at large rather than defending the institutions that have sold their souls for filthy lucre?


13 thoughts on “Kicking Dead Horses

  1. Hugh, you are right, it is all about Monday. Why did the Penn State president and AD not doing anything about Sandusky when they first knew? The sad state of affairs, many of these young men will never make the pros, so when their four years are through, they get tossed aside. Their usefulness has expired. Great post, BTG

  2. There is no defense for this kind of behavior. Those who would defend it by saying it reflects the culture at large miss another major point: these coaches, college administrators are supposed to be leaders, and held to a higher standard than the culture at large. Alas, it seems more and more that society in general behaves much better than major-college athletics “leaders.”

    Leaders of real integrity would not wait until the whistles are blowing to stop the behavior we’ve seen at Rutgers, Penn State, etc. There must be an entire school of Nixonian leadership in our country now: it’s not wrong until you get caught, and maybe even then, you can still get away with it. (The same thinking seems to apply to torture, drones, Wall Street, lobbyists, etc.) Who knew a disgraced ex-president could be such a role model for so many leaders? 🙂

  3. The point you make about schools not doing anything about these cases until they go public is valid, and the issue is money.

    But it also occurs at lower tier schools. Cases of coach abuses abound, even in my local school, Fresno State. Past Football and Basketball coaches bought and paid for athletes, altered grades, threatened instructors and professors who were reluctant to go along, even attempted to cover up criminal behavior by players. All this went to the AD and even school president, to no avail. Even local businesses and the press abided by the coverups, similar to Stuebenville, Ohio. It was only when it all finally went public and viral, to the top echelons in the state, that things began to change.

    It was all about the money, and for mine, college atheletics should be dropped, and the purpose of education seriously reviewed.

    • I had a friend who coached men’s and women’s tennis at Stout State University in Wisconsin. He grabbed a player by the shirt and shook him during a match change-over and was summarily fired. Touching a player in any sport in that way is grounds for instant dismissal. But, as you note, those kinds of things simply get ignored in the “cover-up culture” that is college athletics these days — when there’s money involved. There’s not much money in men’s or women’s tennis!


  4. Good comments. The problem may actually get worse with more colleges selling their souls to football revenue. As to bad coaching behavior, it has been around for a long time and is just getting more notoriety – Woody Hayes, Adolph Rupp, Frank Kush, Bobby Knight, e.g. I was actually in attendance at Woody Hayes’ last game in the Gator Bowl when he punched an opposing player on national TV.

  5. Apparently our society at large condones looking the other way, so much so that they sometimes wish to shoot the messenger who points out the problems with athletic programs. The U of Montana (not a division I school) has reportedly had 70+ charges filed against athletes in the past 5 years, culminating in rape charges this past year against the team quarterback (who was later exonerated). One of the state’s former Congressmen, who was a candidate for the U system’s Board of Regents, said publicly that the athletic teams should stop recruiting “thugs.” The other regents—and now the legislature by official vote—rejected him as a regent.

    Evidently, people have no more regard for the truth than they did in Socrates’ day.😢

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