Monday, November 7, 2011

Should Joe Paterno be fired

Joe Paterno has the most wins in Division I NCAA football.
Joe Paterno holds the record for most wins.

Penn State football coach Joe Paterno has won more games than any coach in college football history. But now he faces a fight to keep his job because of something he could have done, but didn't.

The story involves one of the worst crimes imaginable -- child sexual abuse. Paterno is not accused, but one of his former assistant coaches has been indicted for the crime of molesting eight young boys.

The question for Paterno is whether he could have prevented more children from being harmed by acting differently when he first learned of the allegations. And the question for us is whether Paterno had an ethical duty to do so.

The man accused is former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. Sandusky was long considered to be the the heir to Paterno's job. But Paterno continued to coach. He's now 84. Sandusky retired in 1999.

However, Sandusky remained close to Penn State, hosting summer football camps and working with a charity he founded called The Second Mile. A grand jury now accuses Sandusky of sexually assaulting eight boys between the years 1994 and 2009. The indictment alleges that about 20 of the incidents took place while Sandusky was employed at Penn State.

The charges say Sandusky would give boys sporting gear, sports clothing and trips to sporting events, including a Penn State bowl game. The grand jury says Sandusky then coerced the boys into involuntary sexual relations. The key incident occurred in 2002, after Sandusky had retired. According to the indictment, a graduate assistant walked into a Penn State team locker shower room and saw Sandusky sexually assaulting a boy about 10 years old

Sandusky being arrested.
The assistant reported it to Coach Paterno, who immediately informed his boss, the athletic director. The athletic director barred Sandusky from bringing children to the the campus. But the athletic director never informed police, and now he has been indicted himself for covering up the abuse. No one ever tried to discover the identity of that 10-year-old victim or stop such crimes from happening again.

Police did not become aware of sexual abuse allegations against Sandusky until 2009, when another boy's mother made allegations to the high school her son attended. That school not only banned Sandusky, it triggered a state investigation.

"The failure of top university officials to act on reports of Sandusky's alleged sexual misconduct, even after it was reported to them in graphic detail by an eyewitness, allowed a predator to walk free for years -- continuing to target new victims," Attorney General Linda Kelly said in the report. "Equally disturbing is the lack of action and apparent lack of concern among those same officials, and others who received information about this case, who either avoided asking difficult questions or chose to look the other way."

The question for you is what what was Coach Paterno's ethical duty in this case. He broke no law. He did what the law requires, and reported it to his supervisor. After all, Paterno's job is to be a coach, not a police officer. And even now, no one has yet been convicted of a crime.
However, some people think Penn State needs to immediately clean house because of this scandal, firing everyone including Paterno.
Others say the scandal was allowed to grow like a mushroom in the dark because Paterno wrapped his football program in a shroud of secrecy. "Practices are closed to the media. Assistant coaches are off-limits. Reporters have virtually no access to players," writes one reporter. In such a program, many dark secrets can be hidden, the writer says.
Sandusky and Paterno
Paterno's defense is that he was never told about the "very specific actions" of child abuse observed by his graduate assistant, implying he might have acted differently if he had known. Paterno said he met his responsibilities by reporting the incident to the athletic director. He's saddened about what has happened to the victims, Paterno says, but now people need to let the legal system do its work.

Did Paterno do enough? Did he have a duty to protect that unknown 10-year-old and other children? Did he have a moral obligation to inform police? Did he have a duty to ask deeper questions of the graduate assistant and discover the details of what happened back in 2002?

Or did coach Paterno do enough by following the law, reporting it to his supervisor and expecting that they would uncover the truth? Should the winningest coach in college football keep his job?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

What can we do to reduce fan violence?

Fans riot in Vancouver following loss in Stanley Cup

How far is too far if you’re a sports fan? Is name-calling OK? What about trying to distract the opponent? We probably agree that when fans commit violence, that is going too far. Yet we seem to be seeing a growing amount of fan violence in sports around the world.

When the Vancouver Canucks lost in the Stanley Cup finals of the National Hockey League, the city erupted in rioting and looting. After a baseball game in March, two hometown Los Angeles Dodgers fans severely beat a visiting San Francisco Giants fan, nearly killing him. In August, following a professional football game in San Francisco, a fan was shot because he was wearing a T-shirt that nastily denounced the hometown San Francisco 49ers.

The San Francisco incident led to calls for curbing violence by football fans, perhaps by reducing alcohol sales. The National Football League fears the perception of violence is driving away some fans, particularly families.

Fan violence has not been limited to North American sports. Italian soccer fans have been banned from a match against Serbia because of fear of riots, as happened at a match between the teams last year. In Uganda, the police have opened an inquiry into violence at soccer games and they’re threatening jail time to soccer hooligans. In Turkey, which has a long history of violence at soccer matches, hundreds of Istanbul fans stormed the field during a competition this summer.

But Turkey’s football association has come up with a novel solution to the problem of fan violence. In response to such problems, some soccer leagues force teams to play a series of games in front of an empty stadium. But in Turkey, rather than close a game to everyone, the league decided to penalize only men. For that day of violence in Istanbul, all men were banned from attending one game. However, women and children under age 12 were allowed to attend
Female fans cheer in Istanbul.
Last week, more than 41,000 women and children were admitted free and watched Istanbul play to a 1-1 draw with Manisapor. Rather than fans hurling insults at the opponents, the game began with players hurling flowers at the spectators. And the visiting team was greeted with cheers instead of the usual jeering.

The Istanbul captain said, “The memory will stay with me forever. It’s not always that you see so many women and children in one game.”

A Manisaspor player said, “It was such a fun and pleasant atmosphere.”

Now the league says the same penalty will be applied whenever there are invasions of the pitch or unrest outside the stadium. Men will be banned for a game, and female fans will get the benefit.

Toronto Star writer Cathal Kelly recommends that sports leagues everywhere take a lesson from Turkey and do much more to fill the stands at the home games with women and kids – in part to deter violence. “There is no threat that works better on a surly drunk than, ‘There are kids who can hear you saying that,’” he wrote, concluding: “Feminizing a game can make its masculine attributes even more appealing.”

But some, such as James Calvert, wonder if this is just another example of rules that go too far, even in the interest of curbing violence. Under current anti-violence laws England, football fans convicted of shoving a rival fan or swearing at a stadium steward can find themselves banned from attending their team’s matches. In addition, they have to surrender their passport whenever the team plays abroad and they may be subject to police surveillance as high risk fans.

In Turkey, this new rule that blames all men for the acts of a few is the ultimate kind of guilt by association. If you’re a man, you must be the source of sport violence. Without doubt, it discriminates against men.

Do we need such strict measures to curtail violence by fans? And what is at the root of this violence, anyway? Tell me what your thoughts are on kicking out all men when a few fans get violent. Or do you have other ideas about how to make sports fans more civil?

Go to the comment section and share your thoughts.

Women and children were the only fans allowed into this soccer match in Istanbul.
Here's what one expert, Dr. Sharon Kay Stoll of the Center for ETHICS*, says about banning men from games as a way to reduced violence in sport.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Is it winning to beat a cancer survivor?

This is a video blog about the case of Romney Oaks, a 9-year-old baseball player from Bountiful, Utah, that we are using as part of a research project.

We also use this video from Dr. Sharon Kay Stoll of the Center for ETHICS, who provides an expert view of the case.

The research project is examining whether a sports blog like ours can affect moral reasoning scores.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Are stem cells medical treatment, or cheating?

By Tom Grant
PhD student, Center for ETHICS*

The comeback of New York Yankees pitcher Bartolo Colon has been phenomenal. So phenomenal that Major League Baseball is investigating whether his rehabilitation surgery may have been cheating.

Colon was the Cy Young Award winner in 2005, when he went 21-8 for the Anaheim Angels. But he tore his rotator cuff during the playoffs, and his career went downhill rapidly. His best season since then was 4-2 with the Boston Red Sox in 2008. He didn't play in 2010.

When the Yankees signed him to a minor league contract in 2011, he was 37 years old and 25 pounds overweight. He's 38 now. But his record is 5-3 and he's throwing his fastball in the mid-90s.

The secret of his recovery, according to The New York Times, was stem cell treatment. 

Stem cells, according to the National Institutes of Health, serve as sort of an internal repair system. The doctor who treated Colon in the Dominican Republic says he used a pioneering technique of removing stem cells from Colon's bone marrow then injecting them in his elbow and shoulder to help repair his ligaments and rotator cuff.

Was this just good medical treatment? Or is it cheating? The line is not clear. Here's what ESPN columnist Howard Bryant wrote:

The real question is where on the continuum of available therapies rehabilitation and recovery ends and gaming the system begins. One end of the spectrum is Gatorade and aspirin, which are legal, available to everyone and widely used. But it gets murkier as the treatments grow more aggressive, experimental and scarce: from ibuprofen to cortisone, glasses to laser eye surgery, Tommy John surgery to stem cell procedures. What of cloning and gene therapy and the ideas doctors and scientists are just beginning to explore in labs? It is a question that has never been answered, and the league's attempts at regulation -- such as limiting the number of cortisone shots a player can receive in a given season -- disappear in a pennant race or contract drive.

If Colon's doctor had used human growth hormone (HGH) to supplement the stem cell treatment, as he has done for other patients, the case would be clear. Major League Baseball has outlawed HGH and can test for it.

But neither Major League Baseball nor the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) have a position on the use of stem cell treatments. Is using stem cells to rehabilitate a pitching arm like using laser treatments to improve eyesight or getting Tommy John surgery? Or is it more like using HGH in baseball or blood doping in bicycling, which are both illegal. After all, doctors can use HGH treatment for non-athletes and blood doping is just taking an athlete's own blood and transfusing it back at a later date.

One way to look at it may be to consider whether the treatment is truly for rehabilitation, or whether it is being used to gain an advantage. Athletes should be allowed to rehabilitate. But even that line seems blurry sometimes.  HGH can be used for rehab, but it's illegal. And anabolic steroids can help healing, too. And they're illegal. In fact many medicines are banned in competition. Even beta blockers, a common heart medicine are banned in some sports. Should the old guy in a curling match be forbidden to use his medicine? WADA says those beta blockers are cheating in curling.

Another way to look at it may be to consider whether the athlete is being honest. If Colon or his doctor lied about whether there was HGH in the treatment, that would clearly be a violation of Colon's agreement with Major League Baseball. But what if they told the truth about the treatment, but lied about whether it was being used to gain advantage. What if he used stem cells not merely to rehabilitate but to strengthen this arm. What if anyone could use stem cell treatment to create a stronger throwing arm? Would that be honest and fair?

And what about the other athletes the doctor has treated with stem cells. No one noticed until Colon made this dramatic comeback. But now many are noticing. Major League Baseball will have to address that issue as more athletes try to for the Colon effect. Should stem cell treatments be allowed or outlawed?

Monday, May 30, 2011

For the health of a catcher

By Tom Grant
PhD student, Center for ETHICS*

Baseball is not a contact sport -- except for catchers, that is. San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey guarded home plate in the traditional fashion earlier this month, standing over home plate as the throw came from outfield. The runner also responded in traditional fashion, smashing into Posey to score the winning run. Posey never caught the ball. The video shows Posey took a frightening hit. And he's now out for the season with a broken leg and torn ligaments.

Some have suggested that if Posey were a third-string catcher, no one would care. But Posey is a star player for the World Champions and one of the top hitters in baseball. The team has a huge investment in his performance. Many are now asking whether regulations to prevent -- or at least reduce - contact at home plate.

In light over rising concerns about concussions in football and hockey, baseball's attention to home plate collisions seems warranted. Baseball already has rules against blocking runners in the base paths. But the home plate collision is perhaps the most exciting play in the game and fans like it. The movie A League of Their Own climaxed when the base runner smashed into the catcher to score the winning run in the World Series.

The proposed rules include forbidding the catcher from blocking the plate -- unless he has full control of the ball. An alternative is to prohibit the runner from having any contact with the catcher if the catcher has control of the ball. Both alternatives have a downside. Catchers are often forced up the third base line to catch the call. And runners may have difficulty making split second decisions about whether the catcher has control of the ball.

However, in other sports we expect players to make those split second decisions. Pass rushers have to avoid hitting the quarterback if he has already thrown the ball, for instance.

And some catchers are opposed to changes. They think the home plate collision is just one of the risks of playing the game. Players can get hurt, and not just a home plate. The can be hurt sliding into third, leaning into a slider or catching a pop fly.

But it seems that if you have a game like baseball, a game of inches where speed and finesse are as important as mass and power, the game could survive without the home plate collision. Yes, it's an incredibly exciting play. But wouldn't a sneaky hook slide be just as exciting?

And if we want to see the best-of-the-best on the field facing each other at the end of the year, why would we want to sacrifice a few of them to injuries that might be avoided? If we looked at the Posey collision and considered the principle of beneficence -- that one ought not to inflict harm -- such plays would be avoided. Or you can weight the harm of the collision against the entertainment value it offered professional baseball. Is the excitement of one play in May worth the loss of one of the heroes of October?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Manny Ramirez and the sport of lies

By Tom Grant
PhD student, Center for Ethics

Manny Ramirez retired this week rather than face a 100-game suspension following a positive test for a banned substance.  And the taint of steroids continues to plague baseball. It's Manny's second positive test.

The Barry Bonds case continues to look like just the tip of the iceberg. Bonds' remains in the hands of the jury, though that group is deadlocked on all but one count. And the fate of baseball is in the hands of fans.

Will fans find it repulsive that so many players have been caught trying to cheat, using human growth hormone and designer steroids to try to gain a competitive advantage? Or will they quietly accept that baseball stars use the juice to get a little extra power. Some even dare to say that steroids saved baseball. They suggest that the muscle-bound home run hitters gave the sport excitement at a time when it was becoming upstaged in the public mind by football and basketball.

But to others, this writer included, baseball has become a sport of deceit, not much different from bicycling or professional wrestling. And it's not so much about performance enhancing drugs as it is about the lies. Who can trust any power hitter today?

Albert Pujols has been hailed by such top-flight media institutions as 60 Minutes as the new savior of baseball. He hits more than 30 home runs a year and has never failed a drug test. Yet the rumors continue even about Pujols.

The concensus seems to be that baseball players will do whatever it takes to improve their game, then lie about it. The Bonds' trial is about his lies. Ramirez's retirement shows that the steroid era continues. And so does the lying era.

Professional wrestlers were once the used car salesmen of sport. Then bicycling, with stars such as Tour de France winners Floyd Landis and Bjarne Riis admitting doping, became the sport of lies. And now baseball has so deeply mired itself in the liars and cheaters club that we can't trust the heroes of America's pastime.

You can say it ain't so, Joe. But in the back of our mind, we still won't believe you.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Character matters even in basketball

By Tom Grant
PhD Student, Center for ETHICS*

The Aggies of Texas A&M played great basketball Tuesday night, with Danielle Adams scoring 30 points in the second half to help her team to a win over Notre Dame in the women's NCAA basketball championship

Compared to the ragged play in the men's NCAA championship matchup -- which one writer called "cover-your-eyes awful" --  the women's game was a sign of what basketball at it's best can be: smart, aggressive and thrilling.

Adams represents the American dream in athletics. She was a great high school player and signed with Missouri. But that plan was derailed because she had to attend a junior college. She had to fight her way back. She used junior college to get her academic and basketball career on track, then signed at A&M after being named junior college player of the year in 2009. But she had a lot more work to do.

Here's what she told ESPN: "After I had to go to junior college, I knew it was a chance for me to work harder and get better," Adams said. "I thought, 'Maybe another team will pick me up that I really like.' And A&M gave me that chance."

Even that wasn't enough. Adams, a 6-1 post, was overweight. She needed to lose 40 pounds to get in shape to become competitive in Division I. And she did.

The Texas A&M team represents what is rarely seen in men's basketball, a team of  highly skilled and highly experienced players committed to a great team performance. A&M was led seniors Adams and Sydney Colson along with junior Tyra White. They were experience heavy, and had worked together for years.

In men's basketball, the one-and-done has changed the character of the game. John Feinstein writes that it's one of the things leading men's basketball downhill:

"Many college coaches call this the 'AAUization' of the game. Stars are coddled from the very beginning; no one tells them they have to play defense, no one teaches them fundamentals and no one gets on them if they don’t play hard. Why? Because if a star gets yelled at by one coach, he goes and finds a new coach. That’s why it is now common for players to go to three or four high schools and play on a different AAU team every summer. Then they come to college knowing they hold all the cards with their coach: They only have to deal with him for one year, so why put up with him if he makes unreasonable demands such as 'Would you please try on defense?'"

Feinstein says the NBA needs to change its rules, allowing high school players jump to the NBA if they think they're good enough but forcing those who commit to college to stay there for at least three years. Such a rule would mirror Major League Baseball's relationship with colleges.

Feinstein also argues that men's college basketball needs to clean up its act: "There is also the continuing issue of what everyone who cares about college athletics has known to be true for years: cheating pays. The team that just won the national championship is on probation for major rules violations. The Hall of Fame coach who just joined John Wooden, Adolph Rupp, Mike Krzyzewski and Bob Knight as the only coaches to win at least three national titles will be suspended for his team’s first three conference games next winter because of a “lack of compliance” with NCAA rules. In English, a lack of compliance means you cheated."

NCAA men's basketball could learn a bit from Adams and A&M. They won their title with dedication, perseverance and hard work. They had to make the grades and come together as a team. And they did it without a blot on their recruiting record. And, in my opinion, they played a lot better game than the men -- and not just on the floor.


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Respect for older NFL players

by Tom Grant
PhD student, Center for ETHICS*

At least one NFL player needs a lesson in respect, Hall of Fame linebacker Sam Huff said in a letter to The Washington Post.

He was aiming at New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees, one of the leaders for the players in the NFL labor dispute.  Brees has been critical of some older players who think they deserve a place at the bargaining table.

The QB said in an interview: “There’s some guys out there that have made bad business decisions. They took their pensions early because they never went out and got a job. They've had a couple divorces and they're making payments to this place and that place. And that’s why they don’t have money. And they’re coming to us to basically say, ‘Please make up for my bad judgment.’ In that case, that’s not our fault as players.”

Former running back Mercury Morris says Brees was merely parroting the talking points of the union's labor lawyer, according to the New Jersey Newsroom. Morris says Brees and the players association have taken that stance to decline responsibility for older players.

Huff points out in his letter that modern players seem to have lost their respect for other athletes: "When I was playing, the players had a great deal of respect for each other, even for the opponents you tried to beat. I had a great deal of respect for both Jim Taylor and Jim Brown, two of my main opponents. There were great athletes and helped make football the nation’s favorite sport. I think that respect is not as prevalent today among the active players."

Part of his message to Brees is that players in the '50s and '60s made what seems like very little money by today's standards. Huff, for instance, made $19,000 in his final year with the New York Giants and $30,000 when he went to the Washington Redskins in 1964. Huff, who had a successful business career following his football years, isn't asking for help, but he pointed out that some older football players need it:

"I know about the players of the 50’s and 60’s, and they gave everything imaginable to make the game what it is today. Some of those players need help from the NFLPA. They deserve it, and Drew Brees needs better credentials before he makes such derogatory statements about those players," Huff wrote.

Brees would do well to consider former players such as Pat Matson, who has required more than 30 operations for injuries suffered while a player. "He admits he is fortunate despite the surgeries as he played 10 years and had a business career after football. He probably should be getting more than $1.064 a month in pension but that is considerably more than many who played for roughly the same amount of time during the same time period that Matson was employed in the AFL and NFL," according to a report in The Sport Digest.

Insurance companies are unwilling to cover old football injuries. When someone like Matson needs a knee or hip replacement, their current employer's insurance is apt to sidestep responsibility, citing pre-existing conditions.

Brees may be rich enough that when the day comes that his knees and hips begin failing, he'll have enough money pay the hospital. But for him to disparage players who made a paltry $20,000 or $30,000 in their prime shows how little he appreciates the people who paved the way for his multimillion dollar salary. That old football player's hip replacement is going to cost an easy $50,000.

Maybe Brees will take it out of his pocket.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Who's corrupt? Athlete or the system?

By Tom Grant
PhD student, Center for ETHICS*

There seem to be opposing views on the recent revelations about payoffs, strip clubs and sexual favors in sport. One side says sport needs to remake itself. The other says all that matters about sport is what happens on the playing field.

The latter view was expressed by LaVar Arrington in the Washington Post.  Responding to coverage of the Barry Bonds trial, Arrington says that when people pass judgment on Bonds, they're just responding to their own insecurities and fears. People rejoice at seeing athletes such as Bonds brought down because it makes the superstar seem more human and points out that no one is immune to bad judgment.

Arrington says people should focus on what the athletes did on the playing field. "My memories are based off of what I saw them do on a playing field; I don't know them beyond that. For what it's worth, it suits me just fine to leave it that way," Arrington wrote.

Bob Hertzel, writing in the Washington Times-Herald, took a different tack. Looking at the scandals involving Ohio State, Auburn, Michigan, Connecticut and the Fiesta Bowl, Hertzel the structure of college sports is crumbling.

He suggests major changes in sport, including separating the major revenue sports from the rest of college sport. He says major college football and basketball clearly have different goals that sports such as soccer or gymnastics, and they need to be run differently and under separate leadership. He thinks the money made in those sport should be shared with the players, and that college presidents should be calling the shots, not coaches.

On Fox Sports, Jason Whitlock ripped the NCAA for the way it uses and abuses young college athletes. "The kids are disposable," he writes. "They’re totally controlled by the NCAA rule book and dictator coaches. They have little value to the media. We in the media can’t resist exploiting them. We’ve wasted two decades of energy pushing college presidents to add a playoff system to college football. Could we spend a year or two pushing college presidents to do the right thing for football and basketball players?"

Frankly, they all make good points, and their views may not be as far apart as it seems at first glance. They all call for refocusing attention on the most important thing in sport -- the athlete. Our obsession in sports with money, winning and statistical glory now overshadows the purpose of the game and the people that play it.

Mr. Arrington, I do want to remember Bonds for the way he played. But if he used steroids to gain an unfair advantage, then he failed to perform honorably on the field and therefore I must judge him by that. But he's was also a great athlete before all this talk of steroids.  He's just one more indications that our obsessions with money in sport have corrupted the people who play the game.

Until we start thinking like Mr. Whitlock, and asking ourselves what's the right thing for the players, sport will continue down the same road. And we'll have more casualties. Mr. Hertzel's idea of letting college presidents call the shots sounds like a good one for college sports. College presidents, while still subject to the lure of big money in sports, at least understand that education is the primary business of universities.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Opening of baseball marred by beating

By Tom Grant
PhD student, Center for ETHICS*

The opening day of baseball should be the herald of spring. It should be full of hope. But this year baseball not only opened under the shadow of the perjury trial of San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds, but it also opened with terrible beating of a fan in Los Angeles.

Barry Stow, 42, is now in a coma. His only crime was being a Giant's fan at Dodger Stadium.

According to news reports, two men in Dodger clothing began taunting three Giant's fans, then attacked them. They were punched, kicked and knocked to the ground. Stow, a paramedic and father of two young children, was kicked repeatedly in the head.

Perhaps we can't blame baseball for every assault that occurs in the parking lot. But this sounds like a warning that some sports fans have taken tribalism too far.

Baseball is supposed to be the All-American sport. And if we're all Americans, why are we beating each other up over regional rivalries. For the Giants and Dodgers there will be another game tomorrow. For Stow, we wish we could be so sure.

Some in Los Angeles are raising the questions: Is it safe to go to baseball games? And should alcohol sales be promoted so  boldly around sporting events? After all, some criticize the Dodgers for being so eager to sell beer that they built Dodger Stadium without drinking fountains.

Fans in the soccer world fear British soccer hooligans. Now it appears we have our own hooligans of sport. It's time to begin controlling it.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Sleaziness rises in college football

By Tom Grant
PhD student, Center for ETHICS*

Coverage of sleaziness in college football this week has rivaled the Barry Bonds trial. We learned about the "money handshake" and sexual favors offered to recruits at such schools such as Ohio State and Auburn. As HBO reported on "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel," former Auburn players say they were given cash payments in book bags and envelopes, as well as offered sex.

In another story, Jim Tressel, coach of Ohio State, is being assailed for covering up NCAA violations by his players. Tracee Hamilton of the Washington Post says Tressel betrayed his duty to his players. She writes:

"If I were a coach and I knew that five of my players were not only violating NCAA rules, they were doing it with a man being investigated by the federal government for drug trafficking, I wouldn’t turn to a 'mentor' of one of them. I’d turn first to my athletic director and the university counsel to see how best to keep these five players from ending up on the wrong end of a very unpleasant federal investigation — or worse.

"That’s your job as coach: to protect your players. You go into parents’ living rooms and promise them you’ll take their kids, coach ’em up, give them an education and keep them out of trouble. You don’t make promises to their 'mentors.' And if you do, you’d better stop. 'Mentor' is a word that should be raising eyebrows at the NCAA all the way to the ceiling."

And then there's the case of Fiesta Bowl CEO John Junker using money from the non-profit organization to pay for strip clubs, birthday parties at Pebble Beach and sending friendly politicians to football games in Chicago and Boston. Junker said he needed to take clients to the strip club because athletes are known to frequent such establishments and that makes them a good place to do business.

Some female sports fans are disgusted. Here's what The Stir said about the allegations involving Ohio State: "And it's gross. Morally. Ethically. Legally. Buckets of cash dropped on college athletes are an insult to the other hardworking students of the university, and we've been promised plenty of money stories on tonight's Real Sports broadcast. But a case of prostitutes sent to players is demoralizing to the tens of thousands of women who make up the Buckeye nation."

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Hold Fiesta Bowl as accountable as errant athletes

By Tom Grant
PhD student, Center for ETHICS*

"It is expected that all parties contracted with the BCS will live up to the highest standards," said BCS director Bill Hancock following revelations about mishandling of Fiesta Bowl funds.

How refreshing.

Fiesta Bowl executives were caught taking lawmakers on junkets to football games in Chicago and Boston. They held fundraisers to support various politicians. They gave away game tickets to politicos. And they concocted a scheme to funnel Fiesta Bowl money directly into political campaigns. All those things  violate the Fiesta Bowl's non-profit status.

The political contribution scheme involved employees being pressured to give money to politicians, then being reimbursed with "bonuses" from the Fiesta Bowl. And don't forget the $1,200 tab for a strip club for Fiesta Bowl executives, or the $33,000 birthday bash at Pebble Beach for Fiesta Bowl CEO John Junker.

Junker was fired following an investigative report on the Fiesta Bowl fiasco released Tuesday. Now Hancock and the BCS are reviewing whether the Fiesta Bowl should remain a BCS game.

Given that NCAA athletes are held to such high standards, it seems appropriate to hold the Fiesta Bowl no less accountable. If an athlete sells a bit of memorabilia, he or she can be suspended for several games. That makes suspending the Fiesta Bowl from the BCS for several games sound like an extremely appropriate punishment.

And perhaps it will send a message about the purpose of sport to college football leaders. The college game is supposed to be about education. When executives at the Fiesta Bowl are allowed to use the game for self-serving and illegal purposes, they teach athletes that all the talk about building character and seeking excellence is just a bunch of hot air.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Sordid tales in the Barry Bonds trial

By Tom Grant
PhD student, Center for ETHICS*

The mistress of Barry Bonds told a sordid story about the ballplayer's physical changes during the years that he was allegedly taking steroids.

As you can read in the Twitter reports from George Dohrmann, Kim Bell testified that Bonds developed acne, suffered sexual problems and began making violent threats toward her. In tears, Bell testified Bonds threatened, "He would cut my head off and leave me in ditch.... Would cut out my breast implants because he paid for them," according to Dohrmann.

Bell also testified that Bonds directly acknowledged using steroids. "He had an injury on his elbow, big lump, but started out loose conversation, how it got that way, he said cuz of steroids," Dohrmann tweeted. 

Here's an AP story about the trial discussing those issues.

In opening statements, Bonds' attorney admitted that Bonds used steriods, though the did so without the knowledge he was using them. Supposedly, he was being duped by his trainer into thinking he was using flaxseed oil and arthritis medicine.

But when Bell testified about the dramatic changes in Bonds' physical and emotional condition, there's no question but that Bonds and those around him must have recognized that this was no side effect of flaxseed oil. These are classic side effects of steroid use.

And young athletes should see this as a powerful reminder of the consequences of the drug. Yes, Bonds got bigger and stronger. Yes, he will be remembered as the home run champ. But in our minds there will always be an asterisk beside his name reminding us that he was also that man who threatened to rip off his girlfriend's breasts and failed in his bedroom performances.

Is winning worth that? And even if it was worth it to Bonds, what was the price for those around him?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Are you sure Jose Canseco signed that?

By Tom Grant
PhD student, Center for ETHICS*

Jose Canseco and his twin brother Ozzie were caught trying to play bait-and-switch in a celebrity boxing match, according to ESPN.

Jose was supposed to fight in a match at the Hard Rock nightclub in Hollywood, FL. However, patrons saw that it was actually Ozzie, primarily because the two men have different arm tattoos. Sleeves matter. Apparently they've pulled this trick before at autograph signings, ESPN said, where tattoos would be less visible than in a boxing match.

The South Florida Sun Sentinel noted this might seem like just an off footnote to the ballplayer's career if it weren't for Jose's past: "It's one thing to roll your eyes at a faux boxing event that fizzled. It's another to hear how the man who brought down baseball with steroid charges allegedly tried to pull off this silly switcheroo."

Now Jose is in a legal fight with the promoter over the $5,000 he was paid in advance. Perhaps Jose was a respected millionaire athlete at one time. Now he's looking more like Tonya Harding.

Like Harding, he's not much of a boxer, either. As the Sun Sentinel reported, Canseco has lost two fights already and fought to a draw with Partridge Family star Danny Bonaduce.

Is this is the same Jose Canseco who recently said the Barry Bonds trial was a waste of time and money because there were more important issues in the world than steroids? (Like celebrity boxing, for instance?) His point in the article was that people lie all the time and get away with it.

Well, perhaps Jose will one day learn that lying is not the best policy -- or even an acceptable policy. But for now, he doesn't inspire much trust.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sport and public health

By Tom Grant
PhD student, Center for ETHICS*

Is sport becoming a public health problem? And if it is, do we, as members of the sports community, have a duty to address that problem?

This a tough question being addressed at multiple levels of sport. In Sunday's New York Times, they address the issue of knee injuries in female athletes, who are five times more likely than men to face ACL injuries. And those injuries have the potential to create osteoarthritis 10 or 15 years down the road. According to the Times:

"'This is more than a sports medicine problem,' said Dr. Edward Wojtys, the director of sports medicine at the University of Michigan. 'It’s becoming a public health problem.'

"A number of coaches and trainers have criticized youth development in sports, where far more attention is paid to winning and athletic skills than to injury prevention. [Connecticut's Geno] Auriemma and other coaches also wonder whether girls are reinforcing poor biomechanical behavior by specializing in a sport too soon."

In hockey, we're seeing growing concern about concussions. Boston Bruins center Mark Savard is suffering serious memory problems following a concussion, according to ESPN. He complains of being sleepy all the time, that things seem to move slower, and of depression. In a game where fighting has been a key part of the sport, the NHL now struggles with the health ramifications facing its multi-million dollar players.

In the NFL, where concussions are up 21 percent, the league is changing rules to try to reduce the problem. Kickoffs have been shortened. And the NFL now supports changes in laws to help protect young football players from head injuries.

But as NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said, it's going to require a change in culture to change our attitude toward injury in sport. We often see injury as an accepted risk of the game. But that attitude seems to ignore the player.

We need to put ourselves in the place of, say, football player Kort Breckenridge, whose story you can see at The New York Times site. The Idaho high school player suffered severe mental problems following multiple concussions. After listening to Breckenridge's slurred speech, no coach could say the young man's mental disorder was a fair outcome of a game of football.

And as a grandfather with a touch of arthritis in my hip, I can't imagine my granddaughter facing the same pain at age 30 simply because she wanted to play soccer or basketball. She deserves a game that maximizes the fun and educational value of sport, without placing her long-term health at risk. If that means better educated coaches who clearly understand the biomechanics of athletes, as Auriemma suggests, that should become a priority for sport. If that means new rules for sport down to the high school level, as Goodell suggests, that should become a priority, also.

Health is more important than a game. The game can survive changes of rules, but our kids may not survive intact if the hazards are not contained.

Friday, March 25, 2011

HGH testing in the NFL

By Tom Grant
PhD student, Center for ETHICS*

The NFL is insisting that all players in the league be tested for human growth hormone (HGH), according to ESPN. Owners want the testing as part of the new collective bargaining agreement, saying that it's important to the integrity of the game.

No one knows how widespread the use of HGH may be. FDA regulations restrict its use and say it must be administered by a physician. However, movie stars such as Sylvester Stallone have promoted HGH as part of their fitness regime. And tests for HGH have generally been regarded as ineffective, in part because they can only catch someone who has used it within 48 hours -- or perhaps less.

But new tests are in development that could increase the testing window to two weeks. Terry Newton, a UK rugby player, was the first professional sport star to be caught by an HGH test when he tested positive and accepted a two-year suspension last year. But his story ended in tragedy when he killed himself a few months later.

In an interview before his death, Newton admitted he became a cheater, in his own words, as he tried to resurrect his career following an injury. He'd heard gossip that there were other players using it and that it was undetectable. "I was cheating, but I thought other people were cheating too – and that there was no way of getting found out," he told the The Independent. But even after admitting his own failings, he refused to name others who he knew were using HGH.

That's another sad part of his story. Newton had so much loyalty to his former teammates that he allowed them to keep cheating, even though he knew the consequences for the game and for other users. Loyalty trumped his sense of right and wrong.

That Newton would allow his mates to use the drug suggests that he still saw success in the game as more important than long-term health. As the Independent also reported, HGH can have even more dangerous side effects than steroids: "It can lead to swelling of the body's soft tissues, abnormal growth of the hands, feet and face, high blood pressure, blood clots, diabetes, increased sweating, and excessive hair growth. Organs including the heart, liver and kidneys, may also grow excessively, leading to potentially life-threatening problems such as cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscle. Researchers have also linked HGH to an increased risks of cancer and overloading of the adrenal glands, which can result in infection and illness."

One sense you get from the NFL negotiations is that attitudes regarding the health of players may be slowly changing. The clamor for rule changes to prevent head injuries and concern about testing for performance enhancing drugs may be an indication that long-term health costs are beginning to take on greater importance.

In the Barry Bonds trial
, his old friend Steve Hoskins testified, "I was the one trying to stop him from taking steroids because I thought it was bad for him." That's the kind of refreshing attitude that would be as valuable to sport as testing for HGH.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Self-regulation and boosterism

By Tom Grant
PhD student, Center for ETHICS*

With so much money riding on sport these days, self-regulation has begun to look a lot like self-justification.

At Washington State University, player DeAngelo Casto was cited for marijuana possession and suspended from the team shortly before the team's NIT game with Northwestern. He was the third Cougar this season to be suspended for marijuana, and the other two sat out short suspensions. But Athletic Director Bill Moos said there were special circumstances in this case, and reinstated the player just before the game. Casto proceeded to score the first four points of the game and contribute to a narrow victory by WSU, one that sends the team to New York for the NIT semifinals.

One can't help but wonder if those special circumstances Moos observed in this case include the tremendous desire for a financially beneficial Cougar victory.

That's not so different from the case of cyclist Alberto Contador. After he tested positive for a banned substance during the 2010 Tour de France, international officials recommended a one-year ban from cycling. Contador appealed, saying that he ingested the substance unknowingly when he ate contaminated meat.

Following the international body's ruling, the Spanish cycling federation had to decide the case. It was heavily lobbied by higher officials, including the Spanish Prime Minister, who said there was no legal justification for sanctions against Contador. The Spanish cycling officials then lifted the ban on Contador.

Contador said the decision was not the result of patriotism, but that's not what it looked like from outside. Contador is a hero in Spain. And the Spanish cycling authorities could sidestep political problems by reinstanting Condator. They knew that international officials would likely step again again, as they have. The International Cycling Union is appealing to the Court of Arbitration of Sport to have Contador's suspension reinstated.

But the Spanish officials have satisfied Spanish fans, and can now wash their hands of it.

Or take a look at the case of Ohio State and football coach Jim Tressel. Six football players were caught breaking NCAA rules on selling memorabilia last year. Tressel failed to report that violation to the NCAA after he learned of it. Ohio State disclosed a five-game suspension against the players in December, although the players were still allowed to play in the upcoming bowl big-money game. Later when Tressel was penalized, he was given only a two-game suspension. After public cries of unfairness, he asked to add three more games to his own suspension. But if all was fair, suspensions would be leveled immediately and decisively, not sent up like trial balloons to see which way the wind was blowing.

Give credit to Brigham Young University, which placed its honor code above the desire for victory when it suspended a key basketball player for what seemed to many on the outside as a minor violation -- having sex with his girlfriend. But that was violation of his promise to the university. They held to it even when it threatened to cost the team a shot at a national title.

That's a rare show of moral courage.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Gladiator sport

By Tom Grant
PhD student, Center for ETHICS*

"You can't eliminate injuries from football. It's a gladiator sport," said Cleveland Browns returner Josh Cribbs, according to ESPN.

That's why Cribbs is unhappy with the new rule on NFL kickoffs, which moves the kickoff point from the 30-yard line to the 35-yard line and restricts the kickoff team to a five-yard running start. The NFL committee rejected two other proposals, one of which would have eliminated the two-man wedge from kickoffs and a second that would have brought touchbacks out to the 25-yard line.

Cribbs said the new rules will take kick returners out of the game. He said the NFL is trying to "hide behind safety," appealing to some safety proponents with this move in a gambit to add two more games to the schedule.

Two more games will likely mean more injuries. But Cribbs eagerness to maintain the "gladiator" nature of football suggests a very short-term view of life. It has only been a month since former Pro Bowl safety Dave Duerson shot himself and requested that his brain be examined for evidence of chronic damage due to a lifetime of football hits.

Perhaps Cribbs and other professionals accept the risk of injury along with their paychecks, but millions of younger players have little understanding of the possible long-term consequences of repeated hits to the head. Football would survive even without kickoffs, just as basketball as survives without repeated jump balls.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Barry's defense: I didn't know

By Tom Grant
PhD student, Center for ETHICS*

In opening statements, Barry Bonds' attorney said Bonds' personal trainer misled him when he gave him steroids, according to ESPN. Bonds, the attorney said, was deceived into thinking he was using flaxseed oil and arthritus cream.

"I know that doesn't make a great story," attorney Allen Ruby said. "But that's what happened."

Actually, it sounds like moral justification. That's what happens when people get caught with their hand in the cookie jar and try to justify it by saying they didn't realize what was inside the jar.

Moral justification normally has a negative connotation, but it can have a positive connotation, according to some ethical experts.

"The positive sense of justification, on the other hand, involves bringing others to see our actions as reasonable. In this sense, a course of action is justified if there are better reasons in favor of it than there are against it. Preferably, these reasons should be ones that other people could agree are good ones. It is this sense of justification that is important for morality. Moral justification, then, means showing that there are more or better moral reasons weighing for a course of action than against it," writes Chris MacDonald on EthicsWeb.

If we want to remain morally positive and responsible in this case, however, we must ask of Bonds: Was it reasonable to see huge gains in muscle mass from flaxseed oil and arthritis cream? If he was really being duped by his trainer, he must not have questioned the treatment. Is Bonds that oblivious to the truth (which, he now admits, was that he was being treated with steroids)?

Perhaps that's why ESPN describes Bond as "slouched in his chair" during his federal trial on perjury and obstruction of justice charges. Part of the defense appears to be to present Bonds as somewhat less than the sharpest tack on the bench. However, that runs counter to Bonds' educational history. He graduated from Arizona State University with a degree in criminology. If I was on the jury, I'd have a hard time buying that.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Pearl without wisdom

By Tom Grant
PhD student, Center for ETHICS

Tennessee basketball coach Bruce Pearl was fired this week. But was he fired for recruiting violations or for losing to Michigan by 30 points?

If Tennessee was going to fire him for recruiting violations, one would think the university would have moved more quickly and decisively. According to ESPN, Pearl was informed on Monday that his tenure at Tennessee was over. Supposedly, Tennessee Athletic Director had been extremely supportive of Pearl, but then changed his tune in the last week of the season, when he announced there had been a lot of "soul searching" about whether to keep Pearl.

According to ESPN, officials at Tennessee have known since mid-December that Pearl's promises to abide by NCAA rules were worth little more than the crocodile tears he shed last Sept. 10. In a press conference that day, Pearl admitted misleading investigators who were looking into possible recruiting violations. But in December, Tennessee officials were informed that Pearl would be charged with another recruiting violation, one he's accused of committing on Sept. 14, just days after his tearful press conference.

But Pearl had developed a winning program at Tennessee, leading the program to six straight NCAA tournament appearances. That made him popular, with a recent poll showing that 70 percent of Tennessee fans supported him. Students still love him, even after the firing.

Fox Sports says the fear of NCAA sanctions pushed Tennessee to dump Pearl. But the university has know about the possibility of sanctions for months. If the university was going to fire Pearl because he misled investigators, and continued committing NCAA violations even after feeling the heat, the university should have fired him much sooner. But it's hard to fire a winner. It's much easier to fire someone who just got bounced from the tournament by 30 points.

And Sporting News points out that Tennessee leadership had some responsibility for the Sept. 14 recruiting violation. After learning of the NCAA investigation and that Pearl had misled investigators, Tennessee placed a self-imposed a recruiting suspension on Pearl and his staff. If the university had imposed that ban after the tearful Sept. 10 press conference, Pearl would not have been on the recruiting road on Sept. 14, when the NCAA says the latest violation occurred. But Tennessee wanted Pearl to be out recruiting during that critical period in September, so the university delayed the suspension. And that's when the NCAA slapped him again.

Bonds' steroid question may go unresolved

by Tom Grant
PhD student, Center for ETHICS*

The trial of Barry Bonds has begun. He's accused of four counts of perjury and one of obstruction of justice. But as reports, he could be convicted even without proof that he actually used steroids.

Three of the perjury counts accuse Bonds of lying about using steroids or human growth hormone (HGH). The fourth perjury count, however, merely accuses Bonds of lying about receiving an injection from his former trainer, Greg Anderson. So to convict Bonds, the prosecution must prove only (1) that Bonds received that injection from Anderson, and (2) that Bonds knowingly lied about receiving the injection. What the injection contained would be irrelevant.

Such is the way legal strategies work.

However, it seems likely most sports fans want to see the prosecution prove its case is a more straightforward manner. A recent poll by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) reported that most Americans see performance enhancing drugs as the most serious problem facing sports today. Yes, lying is unethical and Bonds should be responsible for his lies. But the poll finds that 75% of the respondents think using steroids or HGH violates the ethical standards of sport. And they're concerned what that says to children.

Athletes are role models, regardless of how they posture on the issue. And many Americans worry that if professional athletes use steroids or HGH, they're telling younger athletes that such use is acceptable.

"The [USADA] study also showed 41 percent of children believe if a well-known athlete breaks the rules it makes children think it is acceptable to break the rules to win," the Los Angeles Times reported.

If prosecutors in the Bonds case hope to send a counter message to children, a message that using steriods is unacceptable, let's hope they can prove their primary allegations -- that Bonds knowingly used performance enhancing drugs.

In the Wall Street Journal, one expert says the case is not really about steroids and HGH. "This is not a steroid case per se," said Richard Collins, a criminal-defense attorney specializing in cases involving athletes and performance-enhancing drugs, who has no involvement in this case. "This is the same as anyone who is accused of lying under oath."

But for most of us, this is a case about steroids, not lying. And after seven years of hearing about it, we want to see prosecutors to prove the steroid use. Only then will be truly believe that the legal system can catch up to cheaters, not just with fancy legal strategies but rather with hard facts that a jury will understand.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Coach fails at apology

By Tom Grant
PhD student, Center for ETHICS*

Here's how to fail at an apology. Holy Family basketball coach John O'Connor went on Good Morning America to meet with a player he had knocked down during a practice. Here's ESPN's story about it.

As you'll see, O'Connor says the incident was an "accident." The player didn't buy it. O'Connor should not be surprised. His apology lacked the basic elements of an effective apology.

According to Psychology Today, the three general components of an apology are a statement of regret for what happened, a clear "I'm sorry" statement, and a request for forgiveness. Furthermore, the psychology researchers find that there are three additional components that make an apology effective: an expression of empathy, an offer of compensation and acknowledgment that rules or social norms were violated.

From a moral perspective, the person apologizing also needs to accept responsibility for the action and commit to an effort to make sure such an action does not happen again.

O'Connor failed on most of those points. Calling the incident an "accident" shows that O'Connor neither recognizes the violation of rules against a coach striking players nor accepts responsibility for his obviously intentional action. The coach's statement of regret then sounds empty.

O'Connor also fails to emphathize with the player. He was caught speaking to the television host rather than to the player. He fails to address the harm suffered by the player. He doesn't anticipate the player's loss of trust and fear about his own future as a basketball player.

One suggestion to the coach: Before making such a statement, set aside your own personal concerns and spend a few moments imagining yourself in the position of the player you're apologizing to. Imagine the way the player felt when you pushed him down. Think about what was running through the player's head as you began to kick him, even if that kick ultimately was light and half-hearted. Consider the injury to the player, and how he may feel about it affected his basketball game. Think of how that player will view you next time you meet.

Learning to see things from the perspective of the offended person will help you build the kind of sincerity and humility required as part of an effective apology. Apologies, coach, aren't like X's and O's. Psychology Today may tell you the components of an apology. But if you can't deliver it from your heart, it's unlikely to work.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Golfers like the rules. Why don’t other athletes?

By Tom Grant
PhD student, Center for ETHICS*

Last week, professional golfer Padraig Harrington was disqualified from the Abu Dhabi Championship after a television viewer noticed that he illegally moved the ball and emailed officials. Harrington was one stroke off the lead.

But Harrington accepted the disqualification with incredible grace. “The rules are good, we abide very well, the players love the fact that we apply them,” he said. “We love the standard that we play by. When we have to stick to that, that’s the best thing about the game.”

Often, athletes in sports such as football have the opposite attitude. Last year, former running back Marshall Faulk said, “It’s a well-documented thing that if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying in sports. Some of the best things that are done in sports are illegal. You work around the rules to get things done.”

Angela Lumpkin, who wrote “Cheating and Gamesmanship among Amateur and Professional Golfers” as part of the book Golf and Philosophy: Lessons from the Links, writes, “Amateur and professional baseball, basketball and football players are often coached to act in unethical ways to gain competitive advantages, and many teammates expect each other to do whatever it takes to win. Professional golfers, unlike amateur golfers, play a game without on-course coaches and teammates who encourage cheating and gamesmanship and in which playing by the letter and spirit of the rules is revered.”

Harrington epitomizes Lumpkin’s words. The culture of golf at the top level is a culture of principled behaviors. Research by Dr. Sharon Kay Stoll and others shows that that college level golfers score much higher on tests of moral reasoning that other athletes.

A professional sports culture that honors fair play can foster the development of high moral standards at other levels of the game. Reports about Harrington’s handling of the situation should be at the top of the news. Other sports should be asking how they can build a more golf-like sense of integrity into their culture.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Donor wants control of football program

by Tom Grant
Phd Student, Center for ETHICS*

Another PhD student and I were arguing today about multi-million dollar salaries for college football coaches. I complained that if most college athletic programs are lose money, as the NCAA president says, then it didn't make sense to pay such huge salaries to coaches. He said a lot of the money to pay the coaches was coming from outside sources, including athletic boosters.

A few hours later, ESPN posted this article on a donor from Connecticut who wanted a $3 million dollar contribution returned because he wasn't allowed to have any influence when the university hired its new football coach. The donor was Robert Burton, chief executive officer of Greenwich, Conn.-based Burton Capital Management.

The ESPN story read:

"Burton called the situation 'a slap in the face and embarrassment to my family,' and said he planned 'to let the correct people know that you did not listen to your number one football donor.' He called the search process flawed.'We want our money and respect back,' Burton wrote to [UConn Athletic Director Jeff] Hathaway."

Burton isn't the only booster who is said to want a big hand in major sports operations. Phil Knight of Nike has given millions to the University of Oregon, and is said to have a hand in many sport decisions at the school. Some worry that T. Boone Pickens, who gave $165 million to the athletic department of Oklahoma State University, has too much control there.

Yet with rising costs and state budget cuts, athletic departments are becoming increasingly dependent upon outside donations. Institutions have commonly sold the naming rights to stadiums and buildings as one way of attracting major contributions. Perhaps the era is already upon us when hiring rights to coaches are also being sold to donors. My friend believes he once lost a coaching job because a donor made the call.

It would make things so much easier if they'd just let donors hang their shingle on the coach, like they do on bowl games and buildings.

I can hear the commentators now: "The Burton Capital Management UConn Football Coach has just asked the referee for a time out...."

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Where does all the money go?

By Tom Grant
PhD student, Center for ETHICS*

NCAA President Mark Emmert says only 14 of the more than 1,100 NCAA schools made money on athletics last year, according to ESPN. So despite the NCAA's new $10.6 billion deal with CBS for the men's basketball tournament, the NCAA can't afford to sucn such things as an "Ultimate Frisbee" championship.

So where does all the money go? Emmert says the NCAA will make $700 million from its new contract and 96 percent of that will go to member athletic departments in support of athletes.

Or perhaps in support of giant salaries for coaches. Only 14 schools make money on athletics, but 70 are willing to pay more than $1 million in salary and bonuses to their football coaches, according to USA Today.

If you look at the 110 football programs in the USA Today report, the total salary and bonuses for coaches adds up to almost $200 million. And don't forget the 25 NCAA basketball coaches who make more than $1 million annually.

If you wonder why colleges aren't making money on athletics, it isn't because they've thrown it away on Ultimate Frisbee.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Rex Ryan: Motivating with Hate

By Tom Grant
PhD student, Center for ETHICS*

Jets coach Rex Ryan is being celebrated for motivating with hate. According to a quote in ESPN, an unnamed NFL executive says of Ryan, “His No. 1 ability is to get his players to identify hate in the week.”

And that pro exec apparently thinks motivating with hate is a good thing.

The story by Gene Wojceichowski reports that Ryan has been using hate as a motivational tool since his days with NAIA New Mexico Highlands in 1989.”He creates a specific reason to play that game and to despise that opponent.”

Without question, hate has been used as a motivational tool throughout history, from the Nazis to the Khmer Rouge. As a group phenomenon, hate divides people — often into groups that may only exist in the imagination of the hater. Yale history professor Ben Kiernan says the promotion of hate is generally delusional. “Hate speech extends hate to a fantastical target group and leads to violence against entire groups which only exist coherently in the mind of hate-speech utterers,” he said.

Keirnan's term "fantastical" can easily be applied to major professional sports teams. They have no coherent form other than through their city affiliation. Coaches, players, fans and even owners change frequently. A Patriot today could be a Jet tomorrow. According to Wojceichowski, Ryan’s technique follows the pattern of creating a group to hate when that group has no identity other than the uniform of the day and no relationship with actions worth of hate: “He invents belief. By the time kickoff arrives, Ryan has his players convinced that the other team not only needs to be crushed but that it deserves to be crushed.”

Why should Jets hate Patriots? The Toronto Sun lists the reasons, starting with a crushing hit on Patriots’ QB Drew Bledsoe in 2001. But that led to Tom Brady’s emergence to lead the Pats to the championship. Then there are some job switches between the teams involving coaches Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick. Is there something wrong about a professional athlete or coach taking a new job? Or could it be that the game itself is the source of hatred?

Such a thought is reminiscent of George Orwell’s 1945 essay “The Sporting Spirit” in which he condemns sport for creating bad feeling between nations: “Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play. It is bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence: in other words, it is war minus the shooting.”

Orwell, just as he warned against government oppression in 1984, warned against the “lunatic modern habit” of seeing everything in terms of competitive prestige. “If you wanted to add to the vast fund of ill-will existing in the world at this moment, you could hardly do it better than by a series of football matches between Jews and Arabs, Germans and Czechs, Indians and British, Russians and Poles, and Italians and Jugoslavs, each match to be watched by a mixed audience of 100,000 spectators.”

Why are we celebrating Ryan’s addition to the ill will in the world? Have we forgotten the $50,000 fine given Ryan for giving the middle finger to Dolphins fans? Now when outsiders view the Jets, they see the middle finger everywhere. The Boston Herald reported that Jets players were seen giving the finger to Patriots fans following Sunday’s playoff game. The Jets denied it, but taint remains. Patriots receiver Deion Branch called the Jets “classless” and it made headlines.

Dr. Sharon Kay Stoll of the Center for ETHICS* at the University of Idaho says hate may do more damage to the hater than the hated. Hate is a poison. It tears people apart. Educators would not use hatred in the classroom to try to motivate people to peak performances in, say, math and English. But when high school or college coaches see professional football success expressed as a function of channeling hate, they can’t help but be tempted to take a lesson from Rex Ryan.

For coach/educators, that seems profoundly wrong-headed. Coaches at the high school and college level are role models for their athletes. As we’ve seen in the Jets, athletes are believed to be modeling in their leader — right down to the middle finger to the fans. Perhaps high school and college coaches could get a better idea of where such tactics lead them and their athletes if they pictured themselves not as Ryan the championship coach, but as Ryan the guy in the picture with finger raised.