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Putting Some Responsibility on the Athletes

August 25, 2011 - Al Stephenson
I read the column of Ray Ratto from about the Miami mess. He suggested that there are hypocrites lurking around every corner when it comes to college athletics. Part of the article talked about Paul Dee who happens to be the chairman of the NCAA infractions committee. He has made a name for himself by getting tough on schools that break NCAA regulations. For example, he hammered USC for the greed exhibited by one Reggie Bush.

Then came the revelations of a Miami booster named Nevin Shapiro. He detailed widespread corruption at the U that he was responsible for that included providing players with prostitutes, paying for strip club parties, meals at high end restaurants - yada, yada, yada. He even suggested that he paid for an abortion for an athlete's girl friend. Shapiro did these hideous deeds from 2002-2010. Who, you ask, was the Miami Hurricane AD during much of that time? Try Paul Dee. Yes the current chairman of the NCAA infractions committee. Talk about asking the fox to guard the chicken coop!

As I read the article though, a paragraph caught my attention. Ratto suggested that it was time to stop blaming the players for the abuses. Here is what he said.

"And no, this isn't about the evil players taking things they know they shouldn't receive. That's a nonsense argument and always has been. An athlete may do a lot of dodgy things - ain't no saints in this church - but even the noblest of students will accept whatever he is offered if a prominent donor to the university is offering it."

That paragraph to me is just plain wrong for so many reasons. First, I would suggest that many college student-athletes are NOT taking benefits that they know are illegal. Let's give some credit to those who do know right from wrong. Secondly, Mr. Ratto seems to be telling those athletes that we know you are going to be greedy and we don't blame you. We cannot expect you to say no.

Well, to that I say HOGWASH! Not only CAN we expect them to abide by the rules, we should INSIST on it. If we give in and say there is nothing we can do about it, then the game is over.

There is talk about changing the NCAA rule book. That would be a good start, because some of the things a college athlete is not allowed to do is ridiculous. So streamline the guidlines. Then enforce the hell out of what you keep. Make the players responsible for abiding by the rules. Suspend them for an infraction, dismiss them from the team for a second one and boot them out of school if it happens a third time. Do not put up with the lawbreaking. Do not accept the theory that "everyone else is doing it."

Then get rid of the boosters like Shapiro. It's certainly not entirely the players fault.

The view from my seat suggests that college athletics can change, and change for the better. But everyone needs to sit back and say we need to fix it. Perhaps the best way to start is to show these athletes a "thought for the day" that I saw on a bulletin board in a teacher's classroom a few months ago.

It said, "There is a difference between what you have the right to do and what is the right thing to do."

That, I believe, would be a good starting point.


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