“Winningism” Is a Bad Thing

Posted on July 17, 2012


It’s time to change the entire collegiate attitude toward the big-money, win-at-all-costs men’s athletic programs, but it won’t be easy.

In the wake of the Penn State scandal, there has been much hand-wringing and laments of, “Alas, how could this ever have happened?”  Oh, please.  The only reason anyone noticed or cared about the breaking Penn State scandal was because it involved covering up and protecting a pedophile who spent years systematically raping young children.  And that, only after it became public knowledge in the course of a drawn-out investigation launched by the 2008 complaint of the mother of one of the victims.  The trustees now lash themselves with wet noodles and weep crocodile tears of shame, but it seems a little inadequate – maybe even insincere – in the wake of years of cover-up by the university’s most powerful campus officials.

Forgive my cynicism, but the very same phenomenon continues at schools around the nation, and no one bats an eye.  No, no, not pedophiles in locker rooms.  I mean an atmosphere of shielding collegiate athletic programs from paying the consequences of misconduct, indeed, shielding the athletes from even having to fulfill the requirements of any other student.

Check out the story of just about the only person in the universe who apparently had the fortitude to stand up to the Winningest Coach and his excuses for his sometimes ill-behaved athletes.  Vice President of Student Affairs Vicky Triponey did her best to enforce student standards across the board at Penn State, but ran up against a brick wall with the football program, and paid the price.  Again and again she clashed with Paterno over disciplinary issues with his players.  When it all came to a head around 2007, she lost not only her job at Penn State, but her career in academia.  The university valued its football program, coach, and players far more than it did any semblance of integrity or equal standards for all students.

So, has anything really changed?  Check out the story of Georgia Bulldogs running back Isaiah Crowell, up on felony gun charges.  Georgia, bless their souls, cut his scholarship and ejected him from the team.  Well, how about that!  Finally, consequences… uh… wait a minute… oh, look.  He just got snapped up by Alabama State and will play for the Hornets this season.  Alabama coach Reggie Barlow says school officials “believe in helping young people” and that Crowell has learned from his mistakes.  Heh.  Sure.  And it doesn’t hurt that he was the Associated Press SEC freshman of the year and a three-time league player of the week last season, does it?  Once again, the ability to run and throw trumps integrity or scholastic aptitude.  Nope, nothing’s changed.

Sorry, but when “student athletes” don’t have to maintain their grades, can act like thugs and still get scholarships that no other thug would ever get, or spend one year on a collegiate team and then cycle out to professional sports, they are not real students, and the collegiate program is not collegiate.