Given that there is a U.S. congressman tweeting women pornographic pictures of his junior senator — and to somebody out of his district, no less — maybe this shouldn’t come as a surprise.
But the worst of infectious diseases currently destroying college athletics isn’t the recruit who’s trying to play one school off the other for a signing bonus. Or the star player who’s looking for a car deal or a condo. Or the hungry but cross-eyed coach who will lie and drop-kick his values for a BCS bowl game or NCAA tournament berth. Or the booster in the shadows who will do everything to help all aforementioned parties.
Grown, secure men who seemingly shouldn’t have anything to worry about are the biggest thing destroying college athletics.
Parents feel compelled to set an example for their children. So apparently do college administrators and coaches — they’re just setting the wrong ones.
West Virginia coach Bill Stewart wasn’t a terribly popular coach but he was coming off a co-Big East championship and was nearing the end of his career. He was forced to resign last week because word leaked that he – and possibly his wife –reportedly was trying to submarine the team’s coach in waiting, Dana Holgorsen, by spreading drinking rumors about him.
Oliver Luck, West Virginia’s athletic director, a well-educated man with a law degree, responded to this in an unusual way. He forced Stewart out the door (good) but he promoted Holgorsen one year ahead of schedule (bad). He did this even though last month an intoxicated Holgorsen had to be dragged out of a casino by police escort from a West Virginia casino (and you wonder: how drunk and obnoxious does one have to be to get thrown out of a West Virginia casino?). There also are strong allegations of other drinking issues.
Luck’s reasoning must have been that Holgorsen runs a good offense. Somehow, he has escaped criticism, I guess because he wears nice suits.
In Columbus, outgoing Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor is getting slammed for actions that almost certainly will lead to NCAA probation. But what about the men who enabled the system, the ones who stalled, deflected and lied when initially confronted with the issues: The school president (Gordon Gee), the athletic director (Gene Smith) and the head coach (Jim Tressel) – all of whom should have felt secure enough to do the right thing?
Tennessee, which annually has one of the largest athletic budgets in the nation, is facing 12 major NCAA violations in basketball and football. It fired athletic director Mike Hamilton but gave him $1.33 million as a separation gift, I guess because potentially having football and basketball programs slammed with probation simultaneously doesn’t disqualify upper management from such things in Knoxville.
Tennessee’s hearing with the NCAA’s committee on infractions lasted 11 hours Saturday. So many current and former coaches and administrators attended that the meeting had to be moved to a larger hotel meeting room, adjacent to one with a wedding reception.
Welcome to the scary remake of Wedding Crashers, staring Bruce Pearl and Lane Kiffin.
Pearl, who already has been fired and is charged with unethical conduct, showed up with an orange tie and orange suspenders. Even at this point, he apparently finds image more important than being genuine and honest.
These are the men who are supposed to lead. And we’re blaming the kids?
Last December, when Ohio State was still in firm denial mode when the players’ memorabilia-for-tattoos scandal broke, Smith said, “There are no other NCAA violations around this case. We’re very fortunate we do not have a systemic problem in our program. This is isolated to these young men, isolated to this particular incident.”
Pryor reportedly earned $20,000 to $40,000 selling autographed items. He seemingly changed cars every time one needed a wash. Does he deserve criticism? Absolutely. But we need to look higher on college athletics food chain for the real problem. Few are fostering an atmosphere of compliance.
Before we dump on the 21-year-olds, look at the men in the suits.
By Jeff Schultz