Friday, November 11, 2011

What's Wrong With This Picture?

A dozen major Division 1 football programs have been investigated and/or punished just in the past few months for scandals involving prostitutes, illegal gifts and cash from boosters. There are literally hundreds of complaints of sexual misconduct brought against Division I athletes, coaches and staff every year, and hundreds more criminal complaints of other types.

UT is probably better than most big time programs in dealing with these issues, but I personally know of three recent cases where women complaining of being assaulted, raped, not harassed, 2 by UT football players, 1 by a UT basketball player, that were "settled" with cash payments to the women from boosters. I know of another recent case where a female UT athlete transferred when her complaints weren't taken seriously. In all of these cases the athletic department looked the other way.

I'm a sports fan, but the problem is endemic to our culture of glorifying sports, nowhere more inappropriate than in higher education. The massive amounts of television money - a BILION dollars in the case of Penn State football - and fervid boosterism has turned college football into a religion. And, as we've seen with the Catholic Church, True Believers will all too often act to protect their beloved institution, not the innocent victims of heinous crimes.

It's easy to blame JoPa and the "leaders" at Penn State who did nothing as little boys were anally raped for 14 years. And they deserve it. It's not quite as easy to acknowledge our own role in this farce. This is a much bigger problem than Penn State. As long as we, as a society, elevate college sports to a religion, we, as a society will continue to see these terrible tragedies and we, as a society, will bear some of the blame.

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