Thursday, January 17, 2013

Common Sense in Higher Education?

This whole Manti Te'o thing has me bothered. But not for the reason that it has everyone else all riled up.

The people who regularly follow college football and watch ESPN and the like are pissed off that they were duped. For weeks, months, they had to listen to a "heartwarming" story about a guy and his dead girlfriend. (The fact that his grandmother also died seemed to be an unimportant fact.) Now, after Notre Dame was humiliated in the national championship game, it comes out that it was all a hoax.

I could actually give a shit about Manti Te'o. The guy has a girlfriend thousands of miles away who he talks to on the phone and internet and has either never met, or only met a couple of times. Whatever floats your boat dude.

What bothers me, and I'll fully admit reading this article is what triggered it, is the fact that Notre Dame knew it was a hoax, and they covered it up just like they cover up other things. More important things, like assault and rape by their own players. How many crimes have been committed by Notre Dame players where real, normal people were hurt and no one had to suffer any consequences? A girl committed suicide after reporting rape to the police by a ND player. She went to the hospital and it was only investigated after she died. And even then, nothing happened. Even if the rape didn't happen, even if she made it up, (which I sincerely doubt considering she killed herself), shouldn't the alleged crime have been investigated as if Joe Schmoe did it? Joe would have gotten into trouble. Perhaps (hopefully) gone to jail. The girl would not have been blamed. This particular girl was brave, at least she reported it. In the same year, another girl claimed to have been raped by a player, but she was harassed so much she was too terrified to report it. So that guy walked too.      

Everyone was shocked when details of the Penn State scandal were revealed. Frequent cover-ups and dismissals of players breaking laws, from everything to minor consumption to violence, was not unusual. The NCAA handed down an extremely harsh ruling, hoping that Penn State would be an example to everyone else that shit that happened 50 years ago does. not. fly now. The "Penn State culture" had to be changed. Everyone seemed to agree upon that fact. It is NOT OK for the members of the football program at any school to have a higher power than the president of that school. I (and they) don't care how much money it brings in. 

And yet, here we are again. The media is focusing on the fact that this kid lied, and it was widely reported, and it was a hoax, and the school knew about it, and nothing was retracted. Nothing was done. There was no investigation. They did even less research than the reporters who told the story of Manti Te'o. The sad thing is, it isn't unusual.

Athletes have a lot of pressure on them. If you are a Notre Dame football player, it feels as if the weight of the school, of the world, is on your shoulders. And to top it all off, God is on your side, so you really should be winning. There is no excuse for not winning. But that is not a reason to be treated any different than any other student at your college. There are thousands that were before you, and thousands that go after you. In 10 years, most people will not remember your name.

The old men who run these schools, run these programs, are responsible for the student athletes of the NCAA. Yes, they are young adults. But if a 19 year old kid killed someone on his parent's property and they knew about it and helped to cover it up, then they would also be held responsible. They would be charged with a crime. These kids leave their parent's houses and those parents trust the coaches to keep an eye on the athlete.

If you read this blog, you know that I am a Purdue fan. Not just a Purdue football fan or basketball fan. I LOVE Purdue. All of it. I am proud when the teams do well and disappointed when they don't. If there is a crime committed on campus, I expect Purdue police and the West Lafayette police department to investigate it. And I while I think the administration should be kept informed, they should not influence it. Am I naive to think this is what really happens? Perhaps. But it is what I EXPECT. And I believe that the leaders of Purdue understand this.

Gene Keady was our basketball coach for 25 years. I'm going to admit I don't know his graduation rates, but I do know they were above average. He expected more from his players than just basketball. He expected them to be decent human beings. Players who were not were disciplined. He did not tolerate insubordination. He demanded respect, and also believed in actual consequences. Not many of his players went on to the NBA, but many turned out to be coaches and many more had successfull lives. A lot of them credit Coach Keady for teaching them positive life lessons.

When Coach retired, one of his ex-players was brought in to lead the team. One of the reasons the Boilermaker community loves Matt Painter is because the guy has morals, much like Coach Keady did. While he has been known to give a kid a second chance (or more, looking at you Barlow), I'd like to think that he would never ever ever tolerate and cover-up a report of violence. Especially against women. He WILL sacrifice a win, perhaps even a season, if a guy doesn't follow the rules. (I'm not naive enough to think that there has never been a cover up or influence of a coach or faculty member at Purdue. I'm just naive enough to think that it won't happen again, and wasn't commonplace in the past.)

I would hope that every alumni, every fan, has the same expectations of their alma mater. Don't be a dumbass and try to cover something up. In this day and age especially, it WILL COME OUT. Besides the fact that it is the right thing to do. Every report of a crime that a student athlete commits should be investigated. By the police. With no input from the administration. Or the coaches. This seems like common sense. I guess the people who run (ran) places like Penn State and Notre Dame just don't have any.

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