Since yesterday the big story around these parts has been the resignation of the head football coach at the huge state university in town. I was surprised that the announcement came now--the NCAA's findings aren't due until August--but I'm not surprised that he's no longer in charge of the program. As is so often the case, the cover-up can cause more trouble than the crime. (In this case the players made the initial rules violation. The coach's fatal error was not informing the appropriate people when it was brought to his attention.)
I've read and heard a fair amount of the reactions to the downfall of the clean-cut coach--or maybe not as clean as everyone wants to believe--and some of it drives me crazy. So permit me today's post to get this out of my system:
-The coach is not a martyr or a victim of the players' misdeeds.
Yes, the players broke the rules. So did the coach when he chose not to report his knowledge of their actions and then lie about what he knew when. Whether you think the rule regarding players being disallowed to sell or trade their memorabilia is sensible or not, everyone involved knows it's there, especially the coach. Hiding violations tends to get schools in more trouble than reporting them. The now-former coach knew that but played his cards differently. (And spare me about how honorable he was being, that he was protecting his players. This was about protecting a credible shot at a title run.)
-Everybody's doing it, so why don't we? Because two wrongs don't make a right.
The thinking goes that there's rule-breaking and corruption at all major college athletics programs, so what's the big deal? I agree that there's definitely plenty of slimy business in big-time college sports, but that doesn't mean we ignore it when proof of it exists, especially if you're one of the watchmen. (The coach has been quite vocal about his Christianity and published books about ethical behavior, which only makes his stonewalling and suspect decisions all the more distasteful.)
-There's a place and purpose for athletics in a college setting, but these incidents suggest that the major sports and the money involved with them are working at odds with the educational mission.
The answer is not to begin paying these student-athletes, which some think is the solution. For one, you'd have to pay all Division I athletes, most of whom are not in revenue-generating sports. How many people are going to accept paying the star QB the same as the last person on the fencing team? And I get tired of hearing that they're not being compensated. A full college scholarship isn't nothing. Whether they choose to use it or not is on those individuals.
-Don't kill the messengers.
A lot of fan anger, at least in the local newspaper's online comments, is directed at the media for reporting this in the first place. No one likes feeling duped--and I think that's part of what's going on with the anger being expressed--but aim that displeasure where it's deserved: the coach. The players involved were clearly no saints, but the guy getting paid millions to keep things straight could have minimized the damage that will surely be greater because of how the situation's been handled.
OK, that's enough of that.