College sport has reached out-of-whack proportions when you read that we should feel sorry for a fired football coach with a half-million-dollar payoff, or blame a university president who doesn’t put athletics at the top of his priority list. This is the case among some local media who have suggested this over the recent negativity surrounding the Minnesota Golden Gopher football program.
Something is seriously wrong when more outrage is expressed over the possibility that the school might lose out on bowl money than over the fact that players are nothing but money-making cogs being chewed up and spit out by a college sport machine that pays everybody but them solely in the name of amateurism.
“I thought the coach was OK — he went to two bowl games. [But the incident] wasn’t handled professionally,” states longtime Gopher booster Archie Givens on former coach Tracy Claeys and the Labor Day weekend incident where at least 10 U of M football players allegedly participated in an incidence of sexual violence with a young lady at an on-campus apartment.
“I think the young lady for sure was the victim,” notes Givens, “although she may have started out thinking it was fun.”
Instead, some would rather excuse bad behavior for the sake of making money. Some would rather suggest that the former Minnesota coach is a victim instead of accurately assessing that he didn’t do his job of holding players more accountable both on the field and off it. He seemingly set an accountability standard that told some of his players that they could get away with an alleged gang rape under the guise of having fun.
“The culture over there is a concern for me,” continues Givens. “I think it’s more than a new coach… Something needs to be changed more than just a new coach.”
Some also want to blame University President Eric Kaler, but I would rather hold him more accountable for why Black players aren’t graduating at the same or a better rate than their White counterparts, or for keeping tuition costs more affordable for all students. Athletics, as some would argue, should be near the bottom of a college president’s priority list.
I can’t get all that worked up if the U of M might have lost a few million in athletic bucks, especially if the players had followed through and boycotted the bowl game last month as they originally threatened. I’d rather know why the school doesn’t hold weekly classes on ethics, racial and gender sensitivity, and a better understanding on what “no” really means, especially when a female says it to the school’s male players.
If they do offer such classes, then either the instruction isn’t clicking or the players aren’t clicking, or both. In either case, something needs to change in this regard.
During his State of the Association address at last week’s NCAA convention in Nashville, President Mark Emmert said that sexual assault needs to be a continual focus, and that a Commission to Combat Campus Sexual Violence has been created as well, and there is an NCAA Sexual Assault Task Force “prevention tool kit.” Given recent events, the Gopher football program might want to put in a rush order for these kits.
Rather than make a fired coach a scapegoat, let’s call more attention to the historical exploitative nature of college sport, especially with Black players. Let’s put our anger spotlight on the historical problem of graduation inequality and the negative culture now surrounding Gopher athletics.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.