From Stuart Rojstaczer’s Blog 40 Questions
SUNDAY, JUNE 04, 2006
On Integrity in College Sports, In Particular Coach K and College Basketball
As a rule, when people start bandying words about like “integrity” and “honesty” I get very worried about the fate of the contents in my wallet. It seems like frequent mention of words like these only takes place under the seediest environments. So it is with college sports and in particular so it is with college basketball.
This past week, Harvey Araton yet again talked about Duke Lacrosse in the NY Times. One would think that the NY Times had moved its headquarters to Durham given the attention that it has paid to what should be a very local issue. Are there no rapes or sports teams in New York? But I digress. In his latest installment on the Lacrosse Scandal, Araton focused on Coach K at Duke and why Coach K hasn’t said a word concerning the scandal. I won’t summarize his views, but in his article he makes allusions to the integrity of the Duke basketball program.
There is no integrity. It’s one of the curious myths that Duke somehow “does things right” when it comes to its basketball program.
The fact is that all of college basketball is a sewer. No one “does it right.” To be competitive in college basketball requires you to throw all integrity out the window. Duke is no different.
No, Coach K doesn’t run a program with integrity and he isn’t a man of integrity. Let me count the ways.
First, you bring in athletes that have no interest in school and have academic credentials well below the rest of the student body (average SAT scores about 500 points lower). In at least one case, you bring in an athlete from a high school diploma mill designed for athletes to avoid NCAA requirements.
Second, you work the academic system through sympathetic professors and “independent study” classes to ensure your athletes have to do little academic work, but remain academically eligible. As a former faculty member at Duke, I served on a committee that recommended restrictions on independent study classes. That recommendation went into the ether.
Third, you meddle in an athletics director search and make it impossible for Duke’s president to hire someone from the outside. Instead, you bully a university president to hire a friend of yours, Joe Alleva, even though the consensus is that he doesn’t have the skills for the job. I note that the Lacrosse Scandal might have been avoided if Duke had a capable athletics director. The same is true for the Baseball Scandal at Duke of last year.
Fourth, on the first day of the new president’s job, you show him who is boss by orchestrating a crass power play over a job offer that you have no real intention of taking. You and your friend Joe Alleva work over the new president for millions of dollars of concessions, the prize jewel being a separate practice facility for the basketball team.
Coach K is a talented basketball coach. But his program has no more integrity than any other major college sports program. It is in fact, like other sports programs,a sewer. As a man, he has no more integrity than is typical of successful, power hungry CEOs. I’d say his integrity relative to most other human beings is on the low side.
Why Duke and Coach K have been anointed as angels in the world of college basketball is a curious thing. But the facts belie the reputation. There are no angels in college basketball. College sports is about many things including “school spirit” and entertainment for alumni. But the words “college sports” and “integrity” are incongruous.