Column: Play by the rules

With a win, maybe, just maybe we can squeak into the NCAA Tournament. Oh, I wish we could rebound better. Come on, play defense. That was a foul, ref. What game are you watching? Oh, we’d be such a good team with another year of experience. These are thoughts I’ve had while cheering on the Colonials this basketball season.

I wish my thoughts about college athletics only related to events on the court and not off. The past couple of weeks, this hasn’t been the case.

I’ve been extremely disheartened to read about several college programs in trouble. College athletes in trouble isn’t a new story. Increasingly, though, it hasn’t been individual members of a team doing wrong, but the programs themselves.

At the University of Colorado, high school football players were taken to strip clubs and alcohol parties as part of their recruiting visits. Although there is nothing in the NCAA rulebook that specifically prohibits taking recruits to strip clubs, there are prohibitions against “excessive entertainment,” a category under which, I assume, a strip club field trip would fall.

Former Georgia assistant basketball coach Jim Harrick Jr. was fired, and his father, head coach Jim Harrick, resigned after charges of paying for player expenses and committing academic fraud. Last week, the University of Georgia released its official report about the incident. Perhaps the most embarrassing piece of evidence for the University was the final for Harrick Jr.’s “Principals and Strategies of Basketball” class. The 20-question, multiple-choice final included such brain busters as diagramming the three-point line and asking basketball players the number of halves in a basketball game.

When I first heard of recruiting violations at Colorado, I must admit, I felt a tinge of superiority. As a Nebraska fan, and long-time despiser of the Buffalos, it was fun to see the program with egg on its face. My sense of moral superiority increased as I read how Nebraska was able to pick up a Minnesota recruit because Minnesota players took him to a strip club.

As I thought about it more, I reflected inward. I’m a fan, not a fanatic. It’s quite possible that a college player I’ve ever rooted for came to my favorite schools because of recruiting tactics similar to that of Minnesota. At the same time, I can’t cite a specific instance of this happening. Reading about Colorado and other places left doubt in my mind about what could be going on at my favorite schools.

I have a feeling I am not alone with this. No doubt other fans are watching their teams on the court or field and thinking the same sorts of thoughts. Is our star player on our team because he was feted with beer and girls? Is he taking phony classes? Did he even have the academic credentials to make it to college?

The reason these violations are so damaging to college athletics isn’t that they are widespread, but that fans can’t be sure that they aren’t. By engaging in illegal activity, these programs not only tarnish their schools but also hurt the reputation of all universities.

This issue hit all too close to home recently. The Hatchet reported claims by the members of the GW softball team that their coach, Shaunte’ Fremin, allegedly violated NCAA rules by extending practice times past 20 hours per week. The players also accuse Fremin of being mentally and physically abusive. As a result, the University has begun an investigation. A recent trend regarding investigations of athletic programs is that the offending schools will offer to penalize themselves in hopes of avoiding NCAA penalties. The University of Michigan did this to its men’s basketball team after it was shown that boosters illegally gave money to members of the team. The University of Georgia is trying to do the same thing in the wake of the Harrick era.

It is still early in the investigation, and certainly all the facts have not been tried and aired, but should our softball team require sanction, I hope that University would let the NCAA decide punishment. Although that punishment may be a harsher one, it would show that GW takes responsibility for its actions.

No doubt these violation problems are caused by a multitude of factors. One that is often pointed to is that teams and coaches are too concerned with winning. If this is the case, either they, or I, have a warped definition of the word. To me, winning is, yes, about doing better than your opponent, but doing better because you were better, not because you broke the rules. This is a definition that all fans want their teams to play by.

-The writer, a freshman majoring in political science, is a Hatchet columnist.

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