Southern Methodist University has received punishment for breaking rules from the governing body of Collegiate Sports, the NCAA. Among the“charges” against SMU include Academic Misconduct and Unethical Conduct in the Men’s Basketball Program along with lack of control of the program by Head Coach Larry Brown. SMU has been banned from the 2016 postseason and Brown has been suspended for the first 9 games of the season. While this is not the first time a college team coached by Larry Brown has received NCAA punishment (he coached at Kansas and UCLA previously), the real issue here is the double standards in collegiate athletics in terms of players, coaches, universities and the NCAA.
Let’s first focus on the coaches and what their role is as Head Coaches in collegiate athletics. What is their job description exactly? Because if you ask the NCAA, an Athletic Director, a University President, Players, and NBA Scouts you may get 5 different answers. The reality is that the system makes it difficult to do any of the duties asked of these coaches. First and foremost, these coaches are expected to win ball games, but they have to do so with limited practice hours every week. These coaches are expected to recruit talented players, but they are expected to do so with numerous limitations in place on how much they speak to recruits and when/where they interact with them. These coaches are expected to oversee the sport’s program they coach while also monitoring their players. Yet these men and women at the collegiate level are expected to also be life teachers, mentors, and university representatives.
While many of these “duties” I state above conflict with each other, I ask what is most important: Academics, Winning Games, Mentorship, or Program Management? The truth is that every time you hear about sanctions against a school’s Athletic Program or its players, there are three other incidents that never get reported. There are guidelines published by the NCAA but no consistency in punishment. Why is the University of Southern California Football program more “evil” in their lack of institutional control than SMU Basketball program? Why was what Dez Bryant did years ago worse than what Johnny Manziel and Jameis Winston did? Why is Jim Boeheim better or worse than any other coaches who didn’t have institutional control?
I know as the reader you may be saying “I don’t remember half those incidents you are talking about” or “Why are you comparing ‘Apples to Oranges’?” but the whole point is that you don’t remember all the details of every NCAA punishment and that these situations are not all that different. The reality is that the NCAA is the overseer of a multi-faceted, multi-billion dollar business that hundreds of Universities cash in on every year. Lots of green is made from televised sporting events and game tickets are sold just like the professional ranks. But we are told these are “Student-Athletes”, that this is “Amateur athletics at its highest level”, that “Academics come first, Sports come second”; so then why do we hire and fire coaches in college for the same reasons as the professional ranks?
The double standards come down to the simple conflict between what is important. SMU didn’t hire Larry Brown to be their Men’s Basketball because he graduated so many student athletes or he has a great relationship with Academia. He was hired to win basketball games, to recruit the best players, because when you bring in the best players and win ball games then the University makes big money. The truth is that these Universities treat their Head Coaches and Student-Athletes like business investments. But as soon as the NCAA comes in the University distances themselves from their Head Coaches and Student-Athletes, blaming them for everything. Everything is alright for the NCAA and Universities to make money off Collegiate Athletics, but when these players and coaches do “whatever it takes to win” then we start the blame game.
I do not blame Larry Brown for what happened at SMU with the Basketball program, just like I do not blame Pete Carroll for what happened at USC with star Football player Reggie Bush. I blame the system that is in place for putting these coaches and players in a position where they feel the need to “bend the rules” in order to meet expectations. The NCAA wants their big time TV contracts but want to maintain the “integrity” of Student-Athletics and Academic environment. The NCAA and their member Universities want the best of both worlds and the Public Relations that go along with it. They do not care about the Students’ futures or their Academics. The Universities point to statistics and say “Look at our graduation rate” but do not mention these Student-Athletes majored in Liberal Arts, Communications, Sports Management and other degree fields that have limited real world application for employment.