Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Holding College Athletes to a Higher Standard

A reader took me to task for my comments about the Dook Lacrosse team this past Sunday and as luck would have it, Sunday was also the day finally ran their "Maryland Athletes Behaving Badly" article that had the Maryland Athletic Department running a Preemptive strike a couple of weeks ago now.

Reading the Bhawlmuher Sun article, it isn't as one-sided and negative as the rumor mill reported heading into the preemptive strike. But because they still slant things in a negative way; I do want to address this article and also clarify my comments from Sunday which were written in haste at the end of a very long Sunday.

In general I am one of those who believe that College Athletes should be held to a higher standard than the general college student population. College Athletes represent their institution everytime they compete because they are wearing the school's name across their chest. Rightly or wrongly, that makes them as much a representative of the institution as the coach or any school Administrator including the President.

Additionally, many College Athletes are being given a free education in exchange for putting their athletic ability to use for the institution that they are attending. That is not a cheap proposition in spite of some people who think they should also draw a salary in addition to free room, board, books, and tuition.

David Carter of the University of Southern California Sports Business Institute has a $$$$$ quote that drives this home:

We don't hear about the chemistry major, but we certainly hear about the DUI of the starting quarterback.

Of course there are other reasons that College Athletes are held to a higher standard, the TV exposure and the $$$$$ wagered on college athletics legally and otherwise are front and center. I also think it is a legitimate debate to whether or not College Athletes should be held to a higher standard. They are after all college students and college students are world famous for doing stupid things. You could argue that doing stupid things is part and parcel of the college experience and I wouldn't disagree with you. I just believe that College Athletes have to forgo some of that stupidity as a part of the implied or explicit contract they are attending college under.

While the infamous Dook three did NOT rape the woman they were accused of raping or any other woman that night. It does not whitewash the actions of their teammates who misbehaved. The "college boys will be college boys" excuse does not fly with me for the reasons I just stated as does the "two wrongs don't make a right" which applies all over the place. NOBODY from the players, to the Dook faculty, to the "unbiased" media, to the race hustlers, to the accusers, to the District Attorney's office conducted themselves properly in that situation including the players who built a reputation and put themselves into a situation that made the allegations believable at first blush. While wild parties, underage drinking, racist comments, and violent e-mails are nowhere near equal to rape, they aren't the actions of fine upstanding gentlemen either.

Now for the Sun article... I would be very interested to see what the original version of the article contained. Maryland launched their preemptive strike just over two weeks before this article appeared and what was published is heavy on steroid testing, or complete lack thereof. It is mentioned that Maryland spends the extra $$$$$ on testing for steroids which is included in a separate test. While I disagree with the contention of the State Penn expert that steroid violations should always be treated with harsh punishment, I do think that Maryland is wrong not to have a standard that is in-line with the NCAA. A Maryland athlete who tests positive for the first time is subject to further testing in addition to the counseling and education. The NCAA mandates a one-year suspension for a first-time positive steroid test. Maryland's academic standards for freshman admissions are tougher than the NCAA and/or ACC requirements and Maryland has lost high-profile athletes to other schools because of this. I would like to see all of Maryland's policies tougher than what the NCAA and/or ACC mandates.

I also question the article's suspicion of the drug testing policy that Maryland has. I think it is a good thing that Athletic Department had no hand in developing the drug policy they follow. I think a further level of disassociation in allowing the University to conduct the tests would be an even better idea. What the article also fails to tell you is that the general student population is not subject to random drug testing. The drug policy is almost exclusively conducted on the athletes at Maryland. But again, this does not bother me because I think that College Athletes should be held to a higher standard.



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