Friday, October 15, 2010

Institutional Control

There'll always be folks who pretent to be something they aren't.  Case in point: a recent commenter to an online article claimed to be a UNC fan who isn't disappointed the football team members cheated, but that they had gotten caught.  I'm a Tar Heel fan.  I hope all the cheaters get caught and receive stiff punishment, whether they be star players with questionable scruples, manipulable and manipulative fellow students,  coaches with selective attention spans, and most importantly the scum-bag agents.

There's lots of commotion in the lamestream media these days about so-called "institutional control" among the athletic departments of major colleges.  Carolina-hating Caulton Tudor wants Butch Davis fired and Bomani Jones (who?) writes for that "Davis' defense rings hollow."  The thrust of their points?  That the head coach should have known about (or knew, and covered up) improprieties committed by several of his players and one coach.  Much of that rhetoric reminds me of the Nifong vs. Duke LaCrosse witch-hunt, so I say consider the source before subscribing any value to their perspectives.

Former assistant/co-head coach John Blake certainly appears to have been doing as many things wrong off the field as right on it, and someone that knows him as well as Butch Davis did or does admittedly could have given much more scrutiny to Blake's allegiances and behavior.  But the student-athletes?

I remember when I was a just a high-school athlete, and hearing reports from former teammates who had gone on to the college level, of boosters palming C-notes to them in the post-game locker rooms.  Perhaps the coaches charged with monitoring their behavior were intentionally looking the other way.  Until a diligent coach got wise (or suspicious) and banned locker-room visitation, how easy was this practice?  For what it's worth, I played a little college ball to and witnessed zero ethical or institutional misdeeds.

Knowing the current schemes by agents to recruit "runners", fellow students who earn a few bucks befriending and distributing gifts to athletes on behalf of those agents, how much "control" can anyone have regarding the kids.  The best you could hope for in such situations is a player having the self-control and wherewithal to refuse something he hasn't earned.  You can try teaching that, but it's a tough climb trying to mandate it.

Those gifts could be obvious, like a car or wardrobe that seems out of place given that kids perceived means, but it can also be something the coaches never see, like a trip off-campus while not obligated to class- or team-required attendance.  Or jewelry, perhaps.  There isn't a coaching staff in the world that can (or will) monitor young adults 24 hours a day, 365 days per year.  It just can't be done.  And my point is that it shouldn't even be necessary.

You can say that everybody cheats, but that's not true.  You can suggest that every program has cheaters, but I ain't buying that either.  It is true, however, that given the right set of circumstances, any kid willing to break the rules governing agent relations and acedemic integrity can probably find a way to do it, especially if the reward is great and the punishment is always greater on others than it is on him/her.

In light of this disproportionality, I'd propose the punishment be applied more directly to the root of the problem.  That is, let the offenders be saddled with paying the price for those misdeeds.  These solutions would require a set of agreements between the NCAA and the NFL (of other pro sports leagues), but should absolutely be possible...

A player caught cheating academically is immediately expelled, and may not be drafted into the pro league for 1 year past the date of finding.

Receiving improper financial perks from agents or their lackeys should result in a player having his earning potential limited for the first two years of his professional tenure to a rookie minimum.  That is, for the first two years of his/her career, they get paid no more than the least valuable player in the league.  Most "star" players get those obscene contracts long before having to prove their pro potential and durability.  Given the possibility of getting injured (or cut) before having a chance at those big dollars with short-circuit most of those short-cuts.

And the offending agent should have their fees capped at a nominal percentage of the pro's earnings.  Or have their priveleges (assuming there are such) revoked or suspended.

When I was in school, I loved being on my campus.  But, I would jump at any opportunity for a ride out of town, much less an island-hopping trip between semesters.  I may be arguing this point in support of Butch Davis, but the same point can be made in support of your coach.  How much so-called "control" can a coach be expected to exert?

Cut off the money flow and punish the perpetrators.  Quit believing that more misplaced accountability can solve the problem.  When impressionable young adults and shady characters witness real disadvantages to their crimes, things may stand a chance of improving.  And coaches can focus on coaching, instead of surrogate parenting, or policing.

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