Somebody made the mistake on a FB thread about saying (paraphrase) it’s hard to tell what kind of (sports) fan I am. Perhaps it’s because I still hear the amazing words of Taylor Mali and teachers, perhaps it’s because I see the NCAA as owners and some student athletes as over paid athletes (and before ANYBODY jumps down my throat, let me be clear: it’s a handful of athletes but every time I hear an athlete complain about “not being paid” and I’m writing a check to my student loan company, I think “you are being paid: in your education. Yes you are expected to balance sport and academics, but most of us balanced work, academics and still have loan payments that rival mortgages or rent).
And I knowingly tread into hostile waters over defending the dismissal of Bruce Pearl: he lied, the lied about lying and then he asked the student-athlete to lie about it. In a Jimmy Swaggert ”I have sinned” moment, he asked for forgiveness and called this a “lesson he has learned”. Let me be clear: Bruce Pearl is an adult: his son played for him at UT. I would hope that any college coach (or any adult) engaging in business practices (and that is recruiting) would follow basic ethics of their industry.
Look, I get that the NCAA has insane recruiting rules (can’t tweet but can respond? can only met on every other Thursday’s in months with A’s but never if it’s an odd-numbered month – ok, I made that one up) and you probably need 2 attorneys in the compliance office TO understand the rules. AND at the same time, a high-profile coach is probably the single most recognizable face of the university. Name somebody affiliated with Duke, University of Oklahoma, UConn, UT (Texas or Tennessee), USC, Ohio State, Nebraska: how many name coaches versus academics.
So, when I said it was right for Bruce Pearl to be dismissed (and I think Jim Tressel should be shown the same door), and got some snark back, I thought I’d give a longer answer. Here is what kind of fan I am:
1) I’m the type that shows up and roots for the underdog in early round actions and will watch the qualifying matches because that is where you can see people competing for the chance. You know, the races where the runner or swimmer from some unknown country finishes next to last in a World Championship or Olympic Games and that is as triumphant as a medal.
2) I’m the type of fan who will root for a team who is dominant because their coach wins by 20 when s/he could win by 80 because that is a lesson.
3) I’m the type of fan who really can’t root against many teams (er, Duke aside) and I enjoy watching good games.
4) I’m the type of fan that will be critical of my team and give credit to the opponent.
5) I’m the type of fan who thinks there can be good losses, ugly wins.
6) I’m the type of fan who loves it when the coach puts in the “never play” athletes early on so another team isn’t embarrassed.
7) I’m the type of fan who will stay up until 2 to finish watching a game on the west coast.
8) I’m the type of fan who thinks that if a coach leaves, the players should get to leave without having to sit out for a year: I also think that a player should be allowed to transfer after their freshman or sophomore year without penalty. Maybe it is a program fit, a major or simply homesick. Let them leave at the end of the year without penalty as underclass students.
9) I’m the type of fan who thinks coaches should criticize players behind closed doors. And I love my Lady Vols but I don’t see the point of letting people know when they are locked out of a locker room or calling out a specific member of a team in the press. Did you know the UConn freshman were locked out? Probably not: one of their freshman guards let it slip. And Geno admitted it.
10) I’m the type of fan who thinks that college athletics is a part of the system. It excites the alum, the surrounding communities. And it shouldn’t define the university. In many states, the highest paid public employee is a coach: that is before the shoe contracts,tv contracts and all the other perks. Because of this, I think the greatest lesson a university can show its students is, you break the rules in such a major way, we will show you the door. We don’t tolerate that here. Why? Because the university is not there for athletics. Sports are there for the university.
That’s what type of fan I am. Of course, I’m a Cubs fan so that makes me an idealist and a dreamer. And I think that when you stand up for doing what is right, you deliver the greatest message about sports and community. Winning isn’t the only thing: having the courage to compete is the most important thing.