Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Players behaving badly: The enabling effect

The University of Colorado recently settled the Title IX lawsuit brought against it by two women who were sexually assaulted at a football recruiting party. The women believed the university had enough knowledge of the situation that they should have done something about it. In other words, powers-that-be knew there was sex and alcohol and general bad behavior and they, at the very least, chose to look the other way and may have even encouraged these parties to some degree.
This story was big news for years. It seemed sexual harassment and assault became part of the culture at the institution. Former Rams football player Katie Hnida spoke and wrote about her own such experiences and though she never filed her own lawsuit, she did provide testimony as to the climate at CU and how her situation was ignored by higher ups.
Turns out that CU was not the only institution where athletes were getting in trouble and the people in charge were letting it go. According to a recent article in the Seattle Times, the success of the University of Washington football team in 2000-2001 might have been made possible, in part, by administrators and even members of the law enforcement and legal communities who chose to impose light or no penalties on players who were under investigation for such crimes as assault with a deadly weapon, robbery, domestic violence, rape, leaving the scene of an accident.
And some of these players had been convicted, arrested, or wanted on outstanding warrants. And in one of the most egregious examples of aiding and abetting an athlete's bad behavior, a judge sentenced a UW football player to 30 days in jail but noted that the time could be served after football season. And this isn't even a case of the old boys' network: the judge is a woman.
An interesting, though not especially surprising, connection between the CU and UW situations: head coach Rick Neuheisel. Despite the problems at CU which included 51 NCAA violations, UW snapped him up. He was fired from there--for taking part in a March Madness pool, not for any of the above. He went low profile for a bit--you know hiding out in the NFL. (Pokey Chatman has to go to Russia but Rick Neuheisel gets a high-paying NFL gig.) And now he's back. In December, UCLA, his alma mater, named him their new head coach.
It's just kind of stunning how little people seem to care that those in charge of student-athletes seem to care so little for their charges. It's those numbers in the parentheses after a coach's name that erase all consideration of morals, justice, safety, and overall fair play.

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