The Cart or the Horse at Rutgers?

Rutgers v Washington StateIt is never a good idea to pile onto a bad situation because we somehow feel “entitled.”

For example, a professional baseball player has a day or two off near the end of a long, miserable season. He reconnects with a couple of his buddies, they go out drinking, and on his way home he gets pulled over for a DWI.

He gets busted for the first time in his life, because he made a dumbass mistake. I am not condoning drunk driving. He was a fool and could have killed someone, but after he gets arrested, ticketed and fined, punished by the team, opened to humiliation in the media and makes a public apology, what more is there to be done? Generally speaking, Sports Ethics wants to help rather than hurt, and to provide guidance without conceit. If he wanted a neutral and ethical source to talk to, we would do so.

However, if this was his second or third DWI or a drug charge or other delinquency, we would have a major problem. We would recommend he review where he is at with his life, why he is making bad decisions for himself, and ultimately, the consequences of his decisions.

Is the scenario we present that far-fetched? Not at all. It happens in all sports, all of the time. It affects coaches and sports executives, those in sports media and in most any position connected to sports.

The roots of unethical and often illegal behavior are planted in arrogance. It doesn’t have to be an athlete; it may be a coach who fails to understand what is happening to his or her program or an AD who is intentionally or unintentionally arrogant or when lines between teams and school departments get blurred.

Falling from the platform

Rutgers University has always been one of those schools that I have held in high esteem. They have produced an amazing array of scholars and they have a strong academic reputation that goes back to the beginnings of our nation. They have also been engaged in athletics longer than most every other school in America.

Currently part of the Big Ten conference, their football team bounced along, year-to-year until recent years. All of a sudden, Rutgers University football was on the national radar screen. Head Coach Kyle Flood has had a lot to do with it. However, the program has recently soured.

Within the past couple of months, six players were kicked off the team and three players who had previously been on the team were arrested for robbery and property damage, with one of the suspensions involving a pretty rotten case of domestic violence.

The standard line we hear at Sports Ethics LLC is usually: “We don’t need any outside training. Our players are held to high standards and (fill in the blank) from the (fill in the blank) department does a really good job for us.”

So, where was (fill in the blank) at the Rutgers football program this year? Where was Coach Kyle Flood and his team when (fill in the blank) was opening and closing his or her pie-hole?

The reason we ask is that question is an AP Story (September 16, 2015) entitled: “Rutgers coach suspended for contact over academic status.”

“Loading…Rutgers has suspended football coach Kyle Flood for three games and fined him $50,000 for contacting a faculty member over a player’s grade – an issue separate from a string of recent player arrests…The report found that Flood emailed and met in person with a faculty member even though he knew or should have known of the university’s policies prohibiting coach-initiated contact with faculty members regarding students’ academic standing.”

The coach has accepted the punishment, but even while doing so, he defended his actions by couching his behavior in his concern for the welfare of his players getting a good education. Nice sentiment, but not buying it. The coach has apparently also helped a student write papers by providing the student with grammar and content suggestions. I know the coach meant well, but it was unethical and wrong. Why, for example, shouldn’t an organic chemistry professor help an organic chemistry student do his lab work?

The coach knew that he had no business pressuring a professor and I cannot imagine the coach truly believing he could help a student-athlete write a paper.

Student-athlete – yes, you heard me

It is student-athlete, not the other way around. Until the NCAA and all of its conferences across the nation decide that athletes can function as minor league players, rather than as students, Rutgers and thousands of other schools are still in the business of education.

After the school packed off its suspended players and saw ex-players arrested, it is intuitive to believe the AD or assistants might have recognized an ethical breakdown was occurring in the football program. At least acknowledge that.

The coach was playing it loose and he should have not done so. He forgot where his power started and stopped. True to my word, I will not pile on Coach Flood, but his program needs ethical training and he needs to sit there and take notes with the rest of the team.

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