Salutations from our nation’s 48th state, where I currently find myself vacating on the same road that I live by several hours to the west. Yup, this is as close to Rich Rod as I’ll ever get… probably for the best. Knowing that we were headed this way the wife let me plan our trip around two sacred OSU sites, although she did boycott one of my musical selections for the journey. Ah, well… at least she let me watch the 2002 game on the BTN this evening.
- Rolling In The Deep- An updated depth chart was released today, with a few interesting things of note. First, unsurprisingly, Storm Klein is no longer in the two deep, being replaced by Connor Crowell. Also of note, though, was that Jake Stoneburner, Jack Mewhort, and Jordan Hall were still listed as starters; we know that the first two have had their scholarships removed for the time being, and that Jordan will miss time due to injury recovery. Also of note- Chase Farris is still listed as a defensive end, even though news out of the WHAC has him being moved to offensive line for the fall campaign.
This “update” seems to be merely a reflection of Coach Meyer’s decisions regarding Klein’s actions, and there may not be any more to read into it. Again, Urban stated at the end of spring practice that the chart would be set- fall camp was about preparation and not position battles.
- Watching The Watchers Who Watch Watchlists- Several Buckeyes are on national award watchlists this pre-season, including Stoneburner’s place on the Mackey list for the nation’s best tight end. Others to keep an eye on include John Simon and Jonathan Hankins for the Bednarik award (Nation’s best defensive player), while Braxton is one of only a few sophomores on the Maxwell list (Nation’s outstanding player). We’ll keep a… uh… watch on these as they develop. UPDATE- Drew Basil has been listed on the list for the Groza Award for the nation’s best place-kicker.
- Sully, Making Friends And Fools- With his 20 point performance against OKC in Monday’s D-league game, Jared Sullinger has won the praise of
Celtic Homer ESPNGrantland editor Bill Simmons, while making the GMs who chose to pass him by look really really stupid. On the twitters today someone posted (help me out in the comments) that Sully’s back issue and work ethic made him drop in the draft, while DHoward’s back issue and work ethic are making him a key free agent this summer. Yeah…
- Happy Landing! While regular readers of tBBC will recognize our love/hate/water-under-the-bridge with the gang at SBN, I can’t be more excited than when I saw one of our favorite “independents” join their newest Ohio State offering. Hats off to Ian… and give him a follow on twitter as well.
- Belated- Happy Birthday to Urban Meyer, who turned “still lower cholesterol than Brady Hoke” on Tuesday.
This Week In Scandal
- Prepare Yourself- On Thursday, the Freeh Report will be released at 9:00 AM EST (yup, I’ll be up at 6 AM reading it). Commissioned by the PSU Board of Trustees, this will be seen by the public and the media and the BoT at the same time, to avoid any appearance of improprieaty or influence on the findings. While initially concerned with the Sandusky situation, whispers and leaks over the past few weeks indicate that it may be a wider look at the “culture” around Penn State University’s athletic and football program. In other words- the Lion (and Paterno) “Legacy”.
- Ahead Of The Story? Both the Paterno family and the counsel for ousted president Spanier issued statements today, and each were reported on and then evaluated by numerous websites. Here’s Fox’s take on Spanier’s statement, as well as Deadspin’s look at the Paterno press release.
- Something’s Brewing- When PSU’s Board starts meeting in ways that get around the “sunshine laws”, you’ve got to expect big news.
- We Are… not handling this well- While many fans of the Nittany Lions are doing some soul searching in ways similar to this great article, several other vocal sets of folks have already started building ammunition. The most common one I’ve read on message boards is that the Freeh Report will be a hatchet job because that’s what the Board paid for- to justify their termination of Coach Paterno. Now, again- I’m not casting stones in this: My faith in college sports is still wobbly after seeing my allegedly virtuous favorite coach toppled in the past two years. I’m pointing this out to remind our gentle readers that there are multiple perspectives to every story… and the truth may not ever see the light of day (or the light of reason).
- Speaking of possible scape-goats- One target of some of the vitriol that PSU fans have aimed is former VP of Student Affairs Vicky Triponey, particularly given that her “conflicts” with Paterno regarding the way student conduct issues involving football players have come to light several times over the past year. While there may be legitimate reasons for concern regarding her credibility and lack of bias in these matters (again, no opinion on my part), the discussion around this matter brings me to another episode in our ongoing series...
Trying To Figure Out How Big Time Sports Fits Into A College’s Mission
Ok, so WVa gets his rant out of the way early on- I try to sneak it up on you. And to be honest, this isn’t really a rant, but a chance for me to process stuff I think about regarding this topic, particularly given my career choice (scroll down).
Fortunately, I work at a place where sports- while important- is still pretty small potatoes. As such, my current responsibilities regarding student conduct are always handled in conjunction with (rather than in opposition to) athletic interests. I’ve been told by numerous folks that when it happens, it’s two separate processes- University and then Athletics. Players who receive sanctions for violations may also receive consequences from their coaches… and these are not combined.
Where it gets sticky for me, though, are areas where there is some overlap. While I’ve not had to deal with this personally, I’ve got numerous colleagues at larger institutions where the “how do we treat student athletes?” is a real discussion. Here are three schools of thought on the matter (these are the extremes- many places deal with this differently):
- Scholarship Athletes are privileged, and should be held to higher standards. The logic here is that the University is providing a great opportunity for these young adults to represent the school and earn a degree/livelihood; as such, they should work to be above reproach. We’ve seen some of this over the past week with the Storm Klein situation- do you think an economics major loses their place in the program for an assault of similar status?
- Scholarship Athletes have more at stake, and should be treated as such. Say a student athlete violates a policy that has a standard sanction of an automatic one-semester suspension. This train of thought would say that they should be given a different sanction than their economics major roommate, as a semester’s suspension would also cost them their scholarship and therefore would be an expulsion.
- Scholarship Athletes are just students, and should be treated equally and fairly. Again, this is what most of my colleagues strive for; but the fact of the matter is that often the power and influence of high profile and big money sports can create bigger issues. And, given that we all seek to do what is the most educationally appropriate for each student on a case by case basis (as allowed by our University protocol), how much weight do we give to the special circumstances in an athlete’s life?
As you think about this from a fan’s perspective, consider the following- When a student athlete violates a policy, does your reaction as a fan depend on if it’s in season or not? If they’re a starter or not?
Now think about it from a co-student’s perspective- say you’re the economics major roommate who gets suspended while your buddy only has to “run stairs” or “clean the stadium” while staying in school. She’s already getting a full ride (that you’re helping pay for) and every advantage in terms of food and tutoring and gear… does this feel like a “just” process for you?
And if you’re a coach, who may have young adults who are “projects” and might not be ready for the university community or who might have only had mentors in their athletic contexts… are you excited for your charges to be treated as “equals” if that means significant sanctions? What about if they are expected to be held to higher standards? And what if you’re job is on the line after several difficult seasons?
Again, I have no clear answers on this matter, and no insights into what might have happened between Coach Paterno’s staff and Vice President Triponey’s team (if anything). However, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that this was one more area where I see the potential for a huge disconnect between what a University says it’s goal is for it’s constituents and what actually happens when the rubber meets the road.
- Along Those Lines- I met with two athletic directors I have the utmost respect for this week and talked with them about some of the “how does this fit?” questions that I had. One (a Michigan fan…) forwarded this article to me, and I thought it was worth bringing to your attention: What’s Left To Reform In College Sports (hat tip to his usage of “Silver Bullet”)
Based on my own reading of this nation’s century-long love affair with big-time college sports and a record of reform efforts with an almost unblemished record of failure, I am not optimistic that universities or Congress have the resolve to fix these five problems. The passion for athletic success and the winner-take-all character of the competition shackle most efforts to improve the situation.
Short of a court ruling against the NCAA or a widespread scandal, it’s unlikely that reform will happen.
Still, the optimist in me hopes a few forward-looking universities might try to build support for some system-wide changes that reduce the compromises with academic principles while preserving most of the infectious excitement of college competition. We just might yet see some surprising results. After all, few thought a playoff system would ever decide who is the champion of college football.