College sports scandals prove leadership is lacking

Dec 6 2011 - 7:23pm

Prostitutes, booze and bounties have become irrelevant pastimes in college sports. And free tattoos with a little side cash for college athletes? Well, that's elementary stuff.

We've moved on to far more sinister acts of moral destruction in this "pure" world of amateur athletics.

Raise your hand if you predicted former Miami booster Nevin Shapiro would be the least vile character in the 2011 edition of "when college sports goes bad."

Some heavy thoughts weighed on my mind after a group of reckless Florida A&M band members hazed a drum major to death two weeks ago in downtown Orlando.

When are we finally going to hit the ground on this ethics free fall? And who, if anyone, is morally qualified to clean up the mess?

Just look at the timeline of how the controversies this year grew progressively destructive.

Jim Tressel resigned in the midst of controversy after it was discovered he hid NCAA violations from administrators for multiple athletes, including Maurice Clarett, Troy Smith and finally Terrelle Pryor.

A jury found University of Central Florida athletics liable for $10 million in damages in a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the parents of wide receiver Ereck Plancher.

Conference realignments ended several long-standing college rivalries and tradition for the pursuit of more money and exposure.

Shapiro exposed a corrupt system of recruiting young athletes to Miami's football and basketball program with allegations made to Yahoo! Sports that he provided a myriad of inappropriate benefits to recruits and players.

Penn State's board of trustees fired longtime beloved football coach Joe Paterno and college president Graham Spanier for their roles in covering up for an alleged child predator, former football assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.

Syracuse University fired associate head coach Bernie Fine after multiple allegations of sexually abusing young boys dating back to the 1970s became public.

Finally, we saw that even the marching bands were no safe haven from scandal; Champion's parents plan to sue FAMU for after the Orange County sheriff said hazing was involved in Champion's death.

The consistent theme to the storylines of amateur sports in 2011 is that the system of irresponsible and immoral leadership runs far deeper than anyone could have suspected.

We've long accepted the fact that the NCAA and college presidents don't mind selling out for TV contracts. We accepted the win-at-all costs attitudes by administrators as many of them ignorantly turn their heads aside as coaches send runners and boosters to entice student-athletes with money, alcohol and sexual favors.

But I don't think anyone was prepared to accept the abuse of children and disregard for the health of young men and women.

There have been a lot of dark days in college sports lately, but if there is a ray of light in the midst of these scandals it's that we've finally put the attention back where it belongs on school leadership.

I was bothered by the public roasting of Cam Newton and the Ohio State unfabulous five last year. Newton's character was the subject of much criticism during the Heisman Trophy race for which the NCAA eventually cleared him and Auburn of any recruiting violations. Terrelle Pryor was held up as enemy No. 1 at Ohio State.

Let me be crystal clear on this. I'm not making excuses for Pryor and his teammates. But let's direct our harshest criticism at those who actually influence and guide our children rather than chastise young adults for petty scams while institutions are hiding felons and failing to protect those who cannot protect themselves.

I've accepted the fact that college sports is big business and this pretense of purity is gone and I don't believe we can ever regain that. But at the very least, we can demand that college leaders prioritize the safety of young people's protection over the pursuit of financial gain.

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