Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Lest you think Rene Portland was the only one...

...who was up in her players' business and who ran a team with an iron fist; who was controlling and a little bit out of control...
Think again. The story of coach Shann Hart, who is currently at University of Indiana-Purdue University Indianapolis, and the alleged violations of NCAA rules and general good behavior broke a while ago. It was well covered elsewhere and since I have this whole dissertation thing looming over me, I opted to bypass this one.
But the news that Hart, who has now earned a spot at the center of an internal investigation by a three-person UIPUI committee, perpetuated many of these same abuses when she was head coach at American University kind of has me perplexed. With a naivete so uncharacteristic of me, I had assumed that only male coaches got away with bad behavior at one institution only to get hired (and revered) at another institution. But some not-so-deep digging into Hart's tenure at American reveals similar patterns of NCAA violations of recruiting and practice times (practices on game days, exceeding the 20-hour per week limit) and behavior that seems a little bit homophobic including telling a player who kept her hair short to grow it out because it looked like she was gay.
A behavior Hart didn't seem to take to Indiana was the way she used food deprivation as punishment. Former American players allege that there were times when they didn't stop for food on road trips after losses. Hart is also alleged to have ignored player injuries and forced players to practice while injured creating such an atmosphere of fear that players began to not report injuries at all. [As bad as this is, from what I understand from recent intercollegiate athletes this is not an uncommon attitude among coaches. Again, not an excuse for the behavior.]
In other words, she had a history of bad behavior that would not have been too difficult for IUPUI to discover. According to IUPUI administrators, they did their "due diligence" when hiring Hart. Really? Because what it looks like to me is that they either knew of these potential problems and chose to ignore them or they didn't bother to look too hard. Either way, the institution has some liability here.
Skepticism abounds over the ongoing internal investigation because of its internal nature. People are right to be wary of most internal investigations. I think if IUPUI wants to save a little face here they better start seeking some external help.

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