Monday, October 27, 2014

The Moral Warping of D1 Sports Shows its Head Again

For most of the first two decades of my life, I had the experience of most young American men, I played sports. Lots of sports. At one point or another, at varying degrees of mediocrity and length, I had the usual mix of football, baseball, wrestling, and basketball on an official level, and a smattering of other recreational ones as well.

I am a believer in the multi-faceted value of sports on the young mind and body, especially the mind. Team sports especially, I find them instrumental in learning many life lessons and better understanding your ability to control your mind and body, and learn to work with others under stress and emotion.

There is a dark side to sports, and the problem isn't mostly with the players - it is with those in the stands. The weekend tailgater or ESPN addict isn't per-se the issue, that is mostly social and from a love of the game. 

Even thought the root of all evil, money isn't a major source of the problem either. People do make a lot of money from sports (note how much USNA pays its coach) - though again, that is a primary driver of what vexes the institutions that go down the D1 route - there is an even deeper need that sports fill.

There are a lot of people who use sports to fill a psychological void in their life. For some it is reliving their own times on the field when they were younger, freer, more popular, and better looking than they are now in the post-compromise reality. For others it fills a primordial need for tribalism and conflict. When "their team" wins, they win. When their team does not, they are insulted, shamed, and feel less whole as if someone burned their village, raped their women, and stole all their cattle - all for a simple game.

It is that area where the problem comes from, the lower brain-stem drives. Straddling above that brain stem is the catylist of money for others - at that point you have a toxic mix ready to corrode and corrupt everything around it if it is not controlled and contained.

Many of you have read what happened to the Tarheals, but what happened at UNC Chapel Hill is not isolated to that august institution, and that culture is familiar to almost anyone who has gone to a major school with an D1 major sports team. As we have covered here over the years, people who should know better and should have a focus on a larger calling than a simple sport, football, have allowed sports to grow in stature and to enable an unnatural level of play, have compromised on the moral foundation of our military service academies.

You can search this site for the unforced errors by the US Naval Academy in their pursuit of D1 football, but for now - it is the Army's turn to slather themselves with the filth of their own misplaced priorities;
The Army football team wooed recruits this year with an alcohol-fueled party, a dinner date with female cadets, cash from boosters and VIP treatment on a party bus complete with cheerleaders and a police escort, documents obtained by The Gazette show.

The U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., which acknowledged the misconduct to The Gazette, disciplined 20 cadets for promoting underage drinking and other misdeeds and self-reported a recruiting violation to the NCAA. Two officers were reprimanded along with a pair of coaches. Those involved, though, avoided more serious punishments, including dismissal from the academy for cadets and courts-martial for officers.
I love this excuse;
"Although seen as a minor infraction by the NCAA, the U.S. Military Academy takes this very seriously and adjudicated this at the highest level of the disciplinary code," West Point said in a statement. "We adjudicated this under Article 10 of the Cadet Disciplinary Code and all cadets appeared before the Commandant's Disciplinary Board."
By all means, find a low standard and meet it. Yea team. Go Army, Beat Navy. Rah. Rah. Yawn ... rah.

How about that Air Force Academy leadership building team!
The superintendent of the Air Force Academy has called for an investigation into allegations of sexual assault, drug use, cheating, and favoritism among star student athletes. A report from the Colorado Springs Gazette found evidence that between 2010 and 2012, members of the football team and others took part in parties where heavy drinking, drug use, and sexual violence were commonplace.

According to The Gazette’s report, which was based on interviews and hundreds of documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, a drink laced with Rohypnol, a date rape drug commonly known as “roofies,” was made specifically for women who attended a Dec. 2, 2011, party. According to a confidential informant who spoke to investigators a few days later, “four or five females did not recall what occurred the following day after the party.” The informant added that a gang rape took place that night.

The Office of Special Investigations eventually looked at 32 cadets, including 16 football players. Eight faced punishment and were dismissed for separate instances of misconduct, three of whom were court-martialed for sexual assault.
It is what you get when you have grown men and women who desperately want to sit in the stands and live vicariously through others. Combine that with outstanding athletes who were special snowflakes starting in middle school, and there you go.
The findings are egregious enough that academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson told The Gazette that she has called for an Inspector General's investigation of the athletic department.

"These efforts will help in eliminating subcultures ... whose climates do not align with our institutional core values," she said in a statement released Thursday exclusively to The Gazette. Johnson said the academy has taken steps to correct the problems within the athletic department. "Despite all of our efforts, I expect we'll still have issues with a few young people who will make poor choices," she wrote.
No, start with the adults involved with your athletic program and set your priorities correctly. The young men and women will respond accordingly.

Speaking of people involved in athletics. Over at the Severn School for Wayward Boys and Girls ... look who pokes his head out of the scupper to tut-tut the tribe;
Just prior to kickoff of Navy's home football game against Western Kentucky, the atmosphere at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium was electric. More than 30,000 fans were standing and cheering while the Brigade of Midshipmen were making a ruckus with the thunder sticks they had been given.

It was a completely different story as the two teams took the field for the start of the second half. There were only scattered fans in the seats as the grandstands on both sides of the field had significantly emptied.

Navy had led the game, 14-13, at halftime, but was outscored 23-13 in the second half and lost by a score of 36-27. When the Midshipmen tried to mount a game-winning drive in the waning minutes, there was very little noise or excitement inside the stadium.

This has become a worrisome trend at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in the opinion of athletic director Chet Gladchuk, who issued an email to all season ticket holders on Thursday urging them to remain in their seats for the entirety of home contests.

Titled "All In… All The Time," the email used the slogan of the Navy football team as a call to action for fans.
"That's the marching order for all members of our football team. 'All In… All The Time' reflects the expectation that they give 100 percent on every play for 60 minutes of every game," Gladchuk wrote. "As a catalyst for emotion and fan support, I am asking our fans to give our players 100 percent of their support for the same 60 minutes."
Chet, dude, you can't make someone love you.

OK, there is a review of the issue, what is the resolution?

There is a good conversation over at NYT about if college athletics as we now misuse it should be done away with. One of the articles outlines perfectly the one I have recommended for years. It keeps the unquestionably positive aspects of sports for college students, but eliminates most of the bad things that come with them.

James Davis outlines it very well. No need for DI, enjoy the DIII like a pro;
I am a firm believer that Division III athletics, which prohibits scholarships, is a vital part of a student's education at small colleges when properly developed and managed as a part of the overall college mission. If competition and physical education are important goals for students, then athletics, properly guided and balanced as part of an institutional mission, can be a valuable part of programming.
Coaches can serve as admissions recruiters for students with proper educational credentials and motivations; counselors for athletes who need discipline, skill development and proper exercise and diets; tutors when students need assistance on academic subjects and study habits; and disciplinarians when student residential life becomes a challenge. In short, coaches should operate competitive teams that motivate and teach life skills and team building that are different from other skill sets traditionally found in academia.
... I do believe that scholarship-free competitive sports should be integrated into the full life of the college and be balanced with fine arts, academic research pursuits, scholarship and other leadership training. When done properly, Division III athletics is an important part of a student's college experience. When done poorly, it detracts from academic reputation, financial strength and basic mission.
It is that simple. It is that turnkey. It makes that much sense.

That is unless, of course, you have people in positions of authority that are letting their lower brain stem requirements, tender egos, and for some - yes - their pocketbook - give them an excuse to sell their institutions integrity for a few bits of silver.

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