Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Abject Stupidity in the SEC

Great news report from a conference about which it recently was reported that an opposing coach told South Carolina men's hoops coach Dave Odom that his school would only schedule four teams in the SEC because of the ethical reputations of the rest of the schools.  Actually, this new story is a rather sad report about the state of affairs in the SEC.

Several years back, Tennessee Vols football coach Phil Fullmer reported to the NCAA what he thought were recruiting violations by Alabama boosters.  The NCAA investigated, and Alabama got some serious sanctions.  

Which had the Crimson Tide faithful hopping mad, calling Fullmer a squealer, a tattle tale, and, no doubt, creative names at the more profane end of the continuum.  A former assistant football coach at Alabama has brought a lawsuit alleging what on its face to be an Oliver Stone-like conspiracy theory between the NCAA and Tennessee (and Fullmer) to sock it to Alabama.  To make matters worse, the attorneys for the plaintiff had planned to serve Fullmer with a subpoena at the SEC 's media day in Birmingham this week.  (You have to hand it to the former Alabama assistant -- there isn't a better place to win than on your home turf with your own referees calling the game).

Except for one thing:  Fullmer elected, with the blessing of his athletic director and university president, not to go.  He didn't want to give more credence to the litigation, obviously, and he said that the media day is for the players and a sideshow like this litigation shouldn't detract from that.

Makes a good deal of sense, at least to many.  Fullmer has the right not to submit to jurisdiction if he doesn't want to (especially in state court in Alabama, where a jury once awarded almost $4 million to a plaintiff who didn't like the paint job on his new BMW), and given that he was the whistleblower, he also has the right not to give credence to what seems to be a bitter vendetta. 

Except for one thing:  the SEC Commissioner, Mike Slive, fined Fullmer $10,000 for missing media day.  The Tennessee administration tried to get the fine overturned, but what could Mike Slive possibly be thinking?  Here he has a coach who did the right thing by the NCAA, and here's how he thanks him?  What message can Slive possibly be sending -- that SEC teams shouldn't turn one another in, no matter how bad the cheating is, because they should settle all scores either in-house or on the field?  Can he really be serious?  Is cheating okay so long as it happens in the family?  Has Forrest Gump taken over the SEC head office?

Fullmer said that when he reported the violations, he did so in accordance with "our code of conduct."  It is unclear whether he meant Tennessee's, the SEC's, or the NCAA's.   But, whatever the case, he did the right thing.

And it also isn't clear what code of ethics Mike Slive is operating under.  Or perhaps, better phrased, what code of clues Mike Slive is operating under.  Because if he really wants to make a mark on the SEC and ensure that the college athletics that transpire in his conference are excellent and further the true values of higher education, it appears that he needs to get a serious clue. 

Because the fine sends an awful message. 

And it also could give rise to another lawsuit:  Fullmer v. Slive.  Someone can come up with a theory somewhere, and perhaps Fullmer should file in Tennessee.  Where he knows the field and the refs.

The SEC always has been known for its great games -- on the field.  Some of the wiser heads in the NCAA should put a stop to the Alabama lawsuit and move on from this most recent, sad chapter in Crimson Tide history.

And they should worry more about winning their football games through the quality of the kids they recruit honestly and the quality of the coaching and support they give them.

Blocking and tackling.  Just like they used to.

And not fines and subpoenas.