Rutgers coach Mike Rice was fired Wednesday after a videotape aired showing him shoving, grabbing and throwing balls at players in practice and using gay slurs. The videotape, broadcast Tuesday on ESPN, prompted scores of outraged social media comments as well as sharp criticism from Gov. Chris Christie and NBA star LeBron James. (Associated Press)
Last Modified: Monday, April 08, 2013 10:00 AM
If you want to see what is wrong with college athletics look no further than the campuses of Rutgers, Penn State or even Auburn.
And, if given a chance, glance inside the NCAA offices in Indianapolis.
All are prime examples of how college sports got so out of control.
We have sexual abuse scandals, physical and verbal abuse scandals and the talk of cash for play and grade-altering scandals lurking in the past, present and it appears future.
Most interesting of all is it is not the athletes who are getting in trouble.
Sure, there was the whole Ohio State tattoo thing, but a few ink drops for game jerseys hardly stands up to some of these other messes, which have been started and covered up by older and supposedly wiser members of their campus communities.
Folks who come into our homes and say trust us with your children as they grow under our guidance into young adults are to blame, leaving one to wonder who is watching them?
Penn State’s mess may be the worst of all, but the others all show signs of campus officials out of control, or at the very least out of touch.
We saw the video tape of the Rutgers basketball coach firing balls at his players, kicking and pushing them while screaming inappropriate words. Wonder if it could have been worse when the camera was turned off.
And who knows where the Auburn thing will end? A report has grades being changed, players being paid and extra cash handed out to impress recruits. All this and Cam Newton’s name wasn’t mentioned.
The school and NCAA said it is taking this all seriously and looking into the matter.
Rutgers did that and closed ranks by slapping the coach on the wrist. It was a firm slap, but just a slap nonetheless.
Each one of these debacles has taken place under the watchful (blind) eye of the NCAA.
I remember not so long ago how Mark Emmert, the head man at the NCAA, promised he was going to clean up college athletics.
Just last week he said he felt like he was making progress. Fact is, NCAA sanctions are flying out of his office, but few have learned from them or maybe they just don’t care.
When colleges can up and leave conferences at the first sight of fresh money, you wonder if the NCAA has any real power or how long any of its power will last.
The University of Miami seemed to have gotten caught red-handed again. Now there are more questions about what the investigators did wrong than the Hurricanes themselves.
And when Emmert, the former top gun at LSU, was asked about his own history at schools, he sounded like a guy who was too powerful to be questioned.
No wonder the president of Rutgers, Robert L. Barchi, tap danced his way through a news conference Friday about the non-firing and then firing of men’s basketball coach Mike Rice.
Barchi sounded like an out-of-touch politician caught in a cover-up. He had no defense, just a foolish attempt at misdirection.
He even tried to play off the media with a couple of subtle jokes. He never really answered major questions and not once did he take responsibility.
This is the key to this mess: No one is standing up and taking the blame.
When it comes to college sports, the buck never stops as long as the bucks keep rolling in.
Blame goes to the person left without a chair when the music stops.
There is no loss in the communication process, no institutional breakdown. Barchi even tried to pass it off as “a failure of process.”
No Mr. Barchi, it was a failure of leadership.
The bosses of college sports, namely the university presidents, would much rather point fingers at others than look themselves in the mirror.
Rutgers is just the latest.
Barchi seemed to blame everyone from lawyers to fans, to the players themselves for the mess his school was in. He said he didn’t see the video tape until after the rest of the world did. He knew about it, but sounded like a man too busy to take the time to do his job.
It’s all a part of this messed up mix of athletics and academics.
Eggheads and jocks have never really been on the same page, yet it is the college presidents who are making the decisions about the direction college sports is headed.
We don’t have a true football playoff at the big level because the presidents think it would hurt the student-athlete.
Yet firing a basketball at the student-athlete must seem like a good idea, at least until it’s caught on video.
How can we trust these men and women to make the right choices when it comes to sports when they can’t figure out what is right from what is wrong?
Barchi seemed to point the biggest finger of blame at Athletic Director Tim Pernetti, who resigned Friday, and some outside lawyers who told the AD it was best to keep Rice than dump him.
True leaders make tough decisions. Rutgers officials appeared to cower in the corner and hope all went away.
It was something they took right out of the Penn State playbook. If if didn’t work in Happy Valley it sure isn’t going to work in toxic New Jersey.
Yes, you can argue we have lost our way while chasing the dream of winning games on the field and on the courts, but it seems more than that.
College athletics have lost touch with doing what is right and teaching us how to do it.
Now, more than ever, we need leaders to make the tough calls and do the right things.
For that, maybe we should start looking off campus.
• • •
Jim Gazzolo is managing sports editor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted By: Jimbo On: 4/9/2013
You can blame the problem on college sports and isolate this behavior to that only, but that wouldn't be accurate or fair. This is a people problem, a human nature problem. It happens in all walks of life and all professions. Blame college sports if it makes you feel like you aren't part of it, but you are, because we all are.
Posted By: Willie Green On: 4/8/2013
Title: Superficial Commentary
Gazzollo jumps on the tabloid bandwagon and smears entire organizations of people, holding them accountable for the inappropriate actions of a few individuals.
Self-righteous windbags are a dime a dozen.