Friday, December 16, 2011

Do the Right Thing

Do any major college coaches do the right thing anymore? Any of them?

Do any big-time head football or basketball coaches take the high ground, put the concerns and even well-being of human beings ahead of their beloved programs or legacies?

Seriously, if you can think of one, please throw me a bone, 'cuz I’m having a hard time coming up with one right now.

And it goes far beyond Joe Paterno turning a blind eye to Jerry Sandusky, who he knew, at the very least, was “fondling” a young boy in the Penn State locker room. It goes beyond Jim Boeheim labeling alleged child-rape victims as lying gold-diggers, then taking nearly two weeks and several public opportunities to apologize for those words by reading a written statement.

Those are the most egregious examples, but there are so many more. (And we won’t even get into conference realignment and all the ugly, hypocritical behavior embedded in that process).

It’s Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly allowing a 20-year-old videographer to tape the Irish practice from atop a 50-foot lift in the midst of 50-MPH winds. Because, God forbid, if you can’t watch the tape of one of your own early-season practices, you’re surely in for a winless season.

Well, the videographer fell off that lift to his death. Kelly is still coaching the Irish, screaming at any player who makes the slightest mistake. None of them will likely ever make a mistake as grave as that of Kelly, who shouldn’t still be allowed to coach.

It’s Jim Tressel being handed information that his players are trading championship rings and other memorabilia in exchanges for tattoos at a parlor run by a drug trafficker -- and doing absolutely nothing about it. Then lying about it. Similar to what he was alleged to have done years earlier while coaching at Youngstown State. This from a man who always preached morality. Hypocrite.

It’s UCLA’s Ben Howland allowing Reeves Nelson, the Steve Howe of college basketball (minus the drugs), to slip up one time after another before finally booting him off the team. Reeves had been indefinitely suspended by Howland, only to have it lifted after one game as the struggling Bruins went off to play a competitive field in Maui. Gotta win, baby.

Only Nelson missed the team bus and plane to Maui. But Howland still allowed Nelson, the Bruins’ top returning scorer and rebounder, to fly out to the tournament – and play! Think he would have let a walk-on do the same?

It’s Cincinnati and Xavier suspending their players from just one to six games for their roles in an ugly brawl last weekend. Xavier’s Tu Holloway, who by all accounts instigated the entire incident with his taunting behavior throughout the game, then proudly labeled his teammates “gangstas” afterwards, got one game. Teammate Landon Amos got four games.

Holloway is the star of the team; Amos has played exactly two minutes all season. How shocking.

Cincy’s Yancy Gates hit Xavier’s Kenny Frease with a sucker punch that might have killed a smaller man, and he got docked six games. Ryan Boatright got the same punishment for having a plane ticket purchased for him by an AAU coach.

And yes, sorry folks … it’s Jim Calhoun asking Michael Bradley to forfeit his scholarship so that Andre Drummond can play for the Huskies this season.

Now, I am in no way comparing this situation to what happened at Penn State. I’ll repeat: I am in no way comparing this situation to what happened at Penn State. The two situations are on opposite ends of the moral spectrum.

And as I reported back in September, Bradley and his mentor were both very much on board with surrendering the scholarship.

Still, there was a moral high ground to take here, and Calhoun didn’t take it.

But then, find me a major college football or basketball coach in this day and age who does. Please. I'm begging.

And so, as we put a wrap on a 2011 that so often showcased the ugliness of big-time college sports, let’s hope coaches learn from their own examples or the examples of their peers and start doing the right thing every now and then. Stop being so wrapped up in your wins and losses and show some accountability. Maybe it’ll cost you a win or even a seed or two in the NCAA tournament. But in the long run, you’ll be able to look at yourself in the mirror – and believe it or not, your program may be better off.

Just ask Joe Paterno.

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