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CHANGE, PORTENT, PROMISE
John Underwood
September 01, 1980
A new season begins with programs tainted by academic scandal, many of the old, authoritarian coaches gone and their successors obliged to bellow, "Please run through that wall." Ahh, but all is not lost: consider the walk-ons
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September 01, 1980

Change, Portent, Promise

A new season begins with programs tainted by academic scandal, many of the old, authoritarian coaches gone and their successors obliged to bellow, "Please run through that wall." Ahh, but all is not lost: consider the walk-ons

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The Coach sighed ponderously. "That would be much too broad an indictment even for you, Scribe," he said. "There is, however, a correlation."

He paused. Academic fraud in intercollegiate sport is an old nemesis of his, but fighting it has tended to tire him over the years.

"You could look at what happened in the Pac-10 two ways," he said at last. "One, chickens coming home to roost. Something that should be happening all over the country, in every major athletic league and conference—and I mean every conference. Today. What happened on the West Coast might very well be merely the first domino to fall.

"The second way is to see it as a positive thing. An awakening. School presidents and chancellors saying, in effect, 'We're mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore. No more prostituting the academic process in order to further the athletic. Never mind waiting for the NCAA to do something, we'll clean it up ourselves. Stand aside.'

"You take the latter view and you see something much stronger coming out of this—a new commitment to virtue and principle. I tend to agree with that latter view. Come to think of it, I tend to agree with both views."

"You're not blaming coaches for this, are you, Coach?" I asked, smiling. "And how does it relate to 30/95?"

He eyed me suspiciously. "No, I never blame coaches," he snapped. "Except the cheaters. I blame the cheaters. But coaches don't allow morons to pass through the educational system, educators do. Coaches don't make it possible for a 4-year-old girl who can't read or write to get college credits, as the Chicago Tribune proved was possible last month. Our administrators have done that. If academicians had spent half as much time caring for and looking after kids as the coaches do, they would have realized a long time ago that you can't satisfy every special interest and cater to every 'noble cause' and still maintain academic fealty.

"But, you say, does that have anything to do with 30/95? Only laterally. A matter of economic necessities crashing head on into coaching realities. First we put unremitting pressure on the coach to win, and to balance the budget. Then we are shocked when, left to his own devices, he finds loopholes in the system and makes the school look bad. We are the fools, not him.

"Limiting a coach to X number of players is not the bad part. The bad part is telling him he has to win, immediately if not sooner, with that number, and then expecting him to go out and recruit class valedictorians when we've made it possible for him to deal off the bottom. That's not only unrealistic, it's stupid."

The Coach looked at his watch and slid back his chair.

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