College Sports is Not the Vessel for the Moral Police

We live in an incredibly funny time in the world of sports, what is right or wrong and how we go about judging people from a distance. Maybe it is because it is rather easy to tell others’ how to go about their lives via the avenue of anonymity that social media provides. It could even be a change of culture throughout the entire human species. Or maybe, more than likely probably, we have yet to learn any lessons from any of the past transgressions that have graced the sporting world before.

It is that, our naïvety and refusal to acknowledge we are as much to blame for allowing the perception for sports being a vessel for the moral police to being with, which constantly brings us full circle to discussions that have zero meaning. The Tom Crean, Indiana debacle being the latest.

Not that long ago we romanticized sports and the athletes that participated in them. That was well before social media, ESPN and other 24/7 sports coverage would expose athletes as being normal humans that make the same mistakes they tend to. But the same idea that made Mark McGwire —  before we stopped pretending he didn’t use juice — an American hero for hitting lots of homeruns while we ignored every other aspect of his life, is the same reason we can never get past these meaningless “talks”.

Because being good at sports makes you a good person or something. Likely something, but narratives.

College sports is no different than professional sports. Don’t let the guise of student-athletes doing it for the love of the game fool you. In the business of college sports – yes,it is a business – we have coaches making millions upon millions of dollars, athletic department employees’ job securities relying on the success of their sports programs and the universities themselves relying on the sports-generated money to fund so many other things. Yet we honestly expect any of those people to put virtues on a pedestal above winning — which provides a better life for themselves and their families.

They can pretend that they care about things. Whether that’s education, directing a young student-athlete to “living the proper way” or whatever else, although, the only time those things are put above winning is when they are in the name of saving the school from NCAA penalties down the road. Rarely, especially in the last few decades, would a coach or athletic department make a move strictly for the betterment of the player — or those around him — on the sole basis of doing the “right” thing. Whatever the “right” thing is anyway.

Yet here we are. Years after making the mistake of making flawed baseball players heroes, months after realizing the once worshiped Adrian Peterson is not all that great of a human and moments away from it happening again, we want Tom Crean of the Indiana Hoosiers to get a grip on his program because the players underneath him have gotten in trouble for numerous off-the-court wrongdoings in the eye of the law.

Well, um, okay? There is a funny fact that some might be unaware of. Tom Crean is paid by Indiana to win basketball games. Sure, he isn’t supposed to let the players he recruited run amuck, but babysitting wasn’t the reason the Hoosiers hired him in the first place. If they were really concerned about discipline over winning Crean would have never been hired to begin with. Instead, the athletic department would have went the route of hiring a coach known for that, even if it was at the expense of having a quality, name recognition basketball coach.

The balancing act of having a coach who could win lots of games as well as be some form of disciplinarian is possible. That doesn’t mean it should be expected. Nor should it be something the public cries out for. If we are being honest with each other, which we should because we are friends, the same people who scream at the top of their lungs and are calling for Crean’s head on a stick are the same people who pout when their favorite program’s sports programs are on the decline.

Answer this honestly: If a genie came to you, promised you 10 National Titles in a row in both money sports, but the student-athletes in your program would be mired in mini controversies and/or transgressions, would you take that deal? Think about it. I’ll wait…

If you said you would tell that genie to stick that wish up his rear, well, either you are the most noble college sports fan walking the planet or a liar who claims one thing during hot-button issues and another privately.

There is really no debate to be had here. If college sports didn’t have coaches making millions of dollars, or players who are being used as free-laborers to generate millions of dollars for schools, or the countless other factors that make college sports a business, maybe then — but only then — could we dream of a world where college sports could be used as a vessel for the moral police.

Until then we all have to realize a few things. Being good at shooting jumpers does not mean that person is good at holding the door open for strangers; just because a coach can recruit better than most others does not mean he actually cares about the kid(s) he is attempting to scoop up; when someone says they want a stricter disciplinarian at their favorite school it is just because that coach or athletic department has under-performed for some time (like, you know, the bizarro world of Bob Knight at Indiana until Bob Knight wasn’t Bob Knight anymore).

In a perfect world we could have everything we claim that we really want. Between having programs that truly care about the kids they bring in, to winning as well as disciplining on whatever level it is that you think is appropriate, all the way to to grown adults not judging teenagers just because they are public figures, it would be just swell.

Oh yeah. About that. Um, we do realize most of these kids range from 18-22 years of age, right? Would you like us to dredge up what you were doing during that time frame? Or, if you’re that age now, dissecting everything you do under a microscope? Probably not. And please, for the love of having a rational conversation, don’t say that they are Division I athletes so they have a responsibility to act better. Act better for who? For what? For their horrid stipends? For their decreased scholarship value? To be discarded by a university like a piece of trash when they are done with them?

The college sports as a vessel for the moral police playing field is simple, unfortunately. It is tilted in the public’s favor of wanting whatever it is they (actually) want whenever there’s blood drawn they don’t like.

Now, what exactly is it that everyone wants?

*Section Photo credit to Jed Jacobsohn, Getty Images; Featured Photo (above) credit to Pat Lovell, USA Today Sports

Week 11: Key Big XII Matchups
Week 11: Key Big XII Matchups