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Sunday, April 02, 2006

It Could Happen To Your School, Too

Meanwhile, David Steele of The Baltimore Sun posted his thoughts on the Duke lacrosse scandal the other day, and they are very much worth reading. Put simply, from many responsible accounts, the Duke men's lacrosse team was a runaway train en route to a major wreck before the rape allegations ensued. Unfortunately, it's taken the rape allegations to show what a disaster that program has become.

Let's not sugarcoat matters here. Where was the Duke Athletic Director when a third of the team was getting charged with misdemeanors for alcohol-related offenses? Where was the coaching staff? Where was the Dean of Students' office? If there were one or two kids implicated in incidents, you could argue that the incidents were isolated. But when 15 of 47 kids over a three-year period get charged with misdemeanors -- which, last time I checked, are different from -- and more serious than -- the university's disciplinary charges, there is a big problem.

And one that apparently no one took a meaningful stand on. If I were the Duke trustees, I'd order an immediate investigation regarding the behavior of the Duke lacrosse team even before the rape allegations (and, of course, involving those allegations). Most specifically, I'd want to know what set of circumstances permitted this athletic team to become the runaway train that it apparently became -- and why no one was willing to put the brakes on the program and kick kids off the team if not out of school, at least for a year (or more, if warranted).

Duke alums, you should take a stand too. The current disarray of the men's program will cheapen the brand value of the sheepskin you have if knuckleheads like these are permitted the same privileges as the large, large majority of you -- the benefits of a Duke degree. There are so many of you who have made, and continue to make, wonderful contributions to society, and you shouldn't let the current administration let a team commit these types of transgressions and get away with it. Duke faculty, the same goes for you, and Duke students, ditto.

You deserve better.

We all want to support winning teams, and but there is the right way to go about building a winning program. And that way has to involve not permitting any group to go around a campus -- and into the surrounding town -- with little regard for apparently anything other than their personal enjoyment at the moment.

Yes, I am being tough here. Because there have to be Duke men's lacrosse players who have nothing to do with the kids on the team who have behaved badly (and publicly at that). But you have a choice to make too -- you can stand up to them and to the coaches who seemingly have turned a blind eye to the overall problem this group of young men has -- and say that you won't tolerate it any more. Then again, for most people, it's far easier to steel yourselves for a tough game against Carolina than it is to stand up to the guys in your own locker room and tell them that they've been acting foolishly and wrongly. At the end of the day, the Duke and Carolina teams go their separate ways, but teammates have to live with each other.

But take a stand you must.

No one should take perverse pleasure that Duke has this type of problem. My guess is that the Duke men's lacrosse team isn't the only team in the history of college athletics that has had a systemic problem, disrespected other members of the University community and carried over their bad behavior into the town in which the university is situated, altogether bringing shame to the school and tarnishing the brand name of the athletic team to those who know it the best -- one's neighbors. So, if you're at a place where a core group of a team is really behaving badly, now is the time to take a stand. If you're afraid for repercussions, most schools have hotlines and ombudspeople, and you probably can complain anonymously. My guess is that if situations are that bad, those who field the complaints won't be surprised by what you say.

If you're administrators who know of these unfortunate situations, now is the time to act on them -- swiftly and strictly. My guess is that there are certain people in the Duke administration who could lose their jobs over the fact that the systemic problems on the Duke men's lacrosse team were permitted to ensue. If that's the case, then the job of no coach or administrator is safe if they don't do what they're paid to do -- encourage, teach and demand -- yes demand -- that the young men and women who are offered so many privileges on your campus act like adults and leaders.

All involved -- including the players themselves -- will thank you for the stands that you take. For if you don't take them, then they'll learn some tough lessons in a very hard way -- when they become the subjects of a national scandal and end up tossed out of their schools -- without scholarships and degrees.

This isn't a case of "Revenge of the Nerds" or the scholarly inclined taking it out on the athletic programs. What it is a case of is accountability and responsibility -- and making sure that the standards to which any school holds itself are applied evenly throughout a university community. No team honors its school if it dishonors the entire community in the process of achieving excellence on the field. Champions walk with their heads high on campus and in the college towns -- they do not run drunkenly through the major thoroughfares urinating -- literally and figuratively -- on their fellow students, their professors, their coaches and the townspeople.

Let Duke University show the way and turn this crisis into a positive for everyone.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

So this is going to be the new spin from the corrupt sports establishment? I gotta hand it to you guys: it's brilliant. "The Duke team was a rogue element, headed for a train wreck months before. Has nothing to do with all the other sports programs at Duke or anywhere else."


But I gotta say, you sports scum are indeed brilliant.

4:17 PM  
Blogger SportsProf said...

First, you're putting words in my mouth that I didn't say. I don't have any information on any other program at Duke to make any comments about them -- one way or the other.

Second, I am not part of any sports establishment. I don't know where you'd get the idea that I am.

Third, your insult is certainly much more a reflection of your temperament than it is anything about me. That utterance alone takes away credence from your message. In case you hadn't noticed, this site tries to elevate the debate, not reduce it to name-calling. Please remember that the next time you post.

10:16 PM  

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