Notice this is not in the news. No one is talking about this. Why? Because we are accustomed to the nonsense. School spirit, frustrated students facing poor job prospects, classroom tension; one reason is dumber than the next. Write it off to March Madness, in a bizarre sense-that even sells! It is useless to discuss why students rioted. Left in the wake was what happened: two nights of street riots by 15,000 students, cars set on fire, more than 50 fires set, 20 hospitalized, and several dozen arrested. More to the point the NCAA and the University should provide decisive leadership and send a clear message that if you riot you will suffer serious - it will never happen again - consequences.
Athletes and coaches represent the University on the field and court; as does the student body. The Duke students, called the “Cameron Crazies,” are a major part of the visual basketball experience on TV. The image sells and generates serious revenue. Many colleges now have the chant “WE ARE – whatever school.” So if we are to believe that, and I personally do, the entire community in Kentucky’s case must be held accountable.
As we saw last winter at Penn State the University is often held hostage by corrupt athletic policies and the revenue they generate. Coaches and athletic directors have the power to directly and totally control the integrity of the athletic department. While many give heartwarming speeches at booster banquets, behind the scenes their integrity is a commodity that a winning record often cannot afford. Presidents have the same authority over the entire student body.
The NCAA projects the values of national college sports. But what do they do? If a coach makes too many phone calls to a recruit, they’re on it! If an alumnus gives a player a gift, they’re on it! If a coach practices too many hours with his team, they’re on that too! Hey, these are the rules and like it or not, they must be obeyed. But what happens when the University riots? What happened to “WE ARE
The NCAA and the Universities so frequently advertize that the players and the school are one community. If the athletic department is caught cheating academically or in recruiting, the University is penalized in several ways: fewer scholarships, trophies, tournaments, or post season play. So if the University community is one, the team should be sanctioned for students’ actions, especially as egregious as two nights of rioting by 15,000. Then that enforcement would send a clear message to future celebrations: you may have won it on the court, but you lost it in the street.
Leadership Actions with Integrity
The University of Kentucky would gain well deserved national respect for their integrity if they returned the National Trophy. But they will most like divorce themselves from the student body…until they need them again.
The NCAA’s biggest revenue block comes from the Basketball Championships. That’s why nothing will be done. Publically censoring the team would put a black eye on the tournament. Ignored, it will fade into the calendar, because that’s part of the intensity of sport. No it’s not.
So please, no more “we won’t tolerate this behavior” speeches—of course you will! There’s literally too much money at stake.
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