The Criminals in College Sports Debate Verdict

March 29, 2011

Read the opposing arguments from Loyal Homer and Sports Geek.

 

I must give my colleagues, Sports Geek and Loyal Homer, credit. After two years of working together, debating all the biggest issues in sports, they managed to bring out yet another first in TSD history!

For the first time ever, I actually disagree with BOTH arguments (well, at least partly).

The question was to debate whether or not coaches and universities should look into juvenile records before deciding which recruits to extend scholarship offers to. Both Sports Geek and Loyal Homer, although arguing for very different causes, essentially raised the same point – that character matters in sports.

According to Sports Geek, character matters in the sense that it helps people to gain experience. To Sports Geek, growth and second chances for everyone, not just athletes, to make us all better people. Past mistakes do not always serve as an indicator for future actions, though, and so Sports Geek feels that they should not be held against the children (that, after all, is what they are) who commit them.

On the other hand, Loyal Homer argues that character matters, which is precisely why college sports need to clean up their act. Too much is forgiven in sports, and it is tarnishing the reputation of what is supposed to be honest and fair play among student athletes. Instead, we hear more and more about Player ‘X’ from university ‘Y’ and their escapades that resulted in someone getting arrested, or worse, hurt.

But as I said, I disagree with both of them – Character does NOT matter in sports.

We like to SAY that character matters in sports, and realistically, it SHOULD matter in sports, but it is time for us all to stop perpetuating the lie.

We don’t care about character in our athletes at all. We want our athletes to win, and that’s it. We as a fan base may curse athletes who commit some act of moral or criminal wrongdoing. But then we conveniently turn that ire off when the player brings greater success to our team.

It is true that the Florida Gators had a plethora of criminal charges stocking their active roster for the past five football seasons. But they also have two National Championships during that stretch. What do you think Gator fans care about? Would any of them trade in even one of those two National Championships to clear the names of their beloved team’s roster? Hardly.

When Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes caught TD passes in the New York Jets playoff victory over the New England Patriots, were any of the Jets fans booing them?

How long did it take before Steelers fans welcomed Ben Roethlisberger back into the fold with open arms? My guess is about 20 minutes and 20 seconds into his first game back, when he completed a scoring pass to Mike Wallace.

It is time to stop pretending that we demand our athletes to live to a greater moral standard, because when push comes to shove we do not really care at all.

But now that it is time to step off of my soap box, I still need to crown a winner for this debate.

Just because I fundamentally disagree with the key message in both arguments, that does not mean I disagree with their entire arguments. And while I disagree with the principle of Sports Geek’s position, it is for that exact same reason that I am awarding him the verdict.

Because an athlete’s character does not REALLY matter to us in sports, past flaws should not be counted against recruits. As Sports Geek points out, kids make mistakes all the time. Some may be more serious than others, but that does not mean that they should be excluded from the opportunity to better themselves.

In fact, if we as fans REALLY want to see those games that we love cleaned up, then we absolutely MUST forgive the past transgressions of the kids that make childish mistakes. Those who are supposed to be “responsible” adults should assume that responsibility and actually COACH these kids. That’s right – It is the program administrators that must be held to the higher standard.

Coaches like Bruce Pearl, Jim Tressel, Lane Kiffin, and countless others are the ones setting the example for these kids that it is okay to bend and break the rules as long as you win games, and THAT is where accountability should be held.

In many cases, these coaches will have a greater impact on the lives of the student athletes than anyone else ever could. They need to act as mentors, role models, and leaders for the kids they are guiding. If they can live up to a higher standard, I can GUARANTEE you that the athletes will follow suit.

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The Criminals in College Sports Debate

March 15, 2011

Read the opposing arguments from Loyal Homer and Sports Geek.

College football coaches are always on the lookout for the next possible gridiron superstar.

Each coach’s wish list is different, but the criteria is almost always the same – speed, smarts, and size usually rule the day.

So where does an intangible like character come into play?

Every program would love to have a guy like Tim Tebow in their locker room. He was a good player with a solid moral foundation to back it up. He was a leader on the field and off, and became the poster child for the ‘good guy’ in college football.

But while Tebow was hoisted up as the pristine face of the Florida Gators, the rest of their football program were certainly no Eagle Scouts. Since 2005, 25 different players from the Gators have been arrested, including 12 charges of felonies or violent misdemeanors.

Florida is not the only program to deal with criminal activity from its players, either.

Every year we hear more reports about college athletes who find themselves involved in illegal matters that can make Ohio State’s tattoos and Brigham Young’s honor code violations sound like a church bake sale.

As further evidence of this growing problem in college sports, a recent study has uncovered that there is an alarming number of student athletes with criminal records, specifically among the ranks of the top programs.

Because these athletes become high profile representatives of high profile schools, does it make sense for those universities to dig even further into the respective pasts of their prospective recruits?

Should Universities in the NCAA examine the juvenile records of those students they intend to recruit?

Our resident Loyal Homer believes that universities absolutely should begin examining those juvenile records, while Sports Geek feels that they should not.

Is this a viable way to clean up the game and its programs? We are about to find out…

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The Criminals in College Sports Debate… Character Matters More Than Oversight

March 15, 2011

Read the opposing argument from Loyal Homer.

At times we have an inclination as a culture to abdicate responsibility for things rather than commit to being accountable. Sure, we could take the lead on that project at work, but it would be visible to management and it’s easier to play it safe. Yes, I could run down that dude that just stole that old lady’s purse, but it’s safer to stay put and hope things work out for her. Being accountable – having a true sense of responsibility – is often hard to come by as our culture evolves. But it is an absolutely essential trait to having good character – and winning in sports.

You may be wondering what the heck I am writing about. Fair. I am reminding everyone of a simple principle it seems all too easy to forget – that character matters in sports.

Reality dictates that not everyone is perfect. Translation? People screw up! No single demographic group screws up more in life than high schoolers. They have nearly adult bodies, and a poor understanding of how to properly use them. That means poor choices are made. Sometimes poor choices put a kid in jail, giving them a juvenile record. Should that juvenile record prevent a kid from being recruited as a college player? Absolutely not.

If character is important and must be measured, then this is one area where the world can do with a bit less oversight and regulation, and bit more people owning up to their actions.

I concede that young kids, especially high schoolers, are dangerous ones to invest the future of a high profile athletic program in. Just ask Jim Tressel what his most recent opinions on the subject are.

But, if a kid is going to commit a crime, knowing about an existing juvenile record isn’t necessarily a key indicator that they are sure to commit of committing another crime. America is a country of second chances, remember? If everyone that ever made a mistake was not given a second chance, we would be missing out on an awful of great businesses, and I’m sure a few important personal relationships, too.

It’s worth repeating – young kids make mistakes, mistakes that even put them in jail. In fact, they are entitled to make mistakes. Yes, that’s right – entitled. Mistakes are often how a youngster gains experience – some better than others. Some experience is gained easier than others

But that does not necessarily mean high schoolers with a juvenile record are broken human beings, or unworthy of competing in athletic competition. More than anything, college sports coaches are leaders that try to instill values in their players in addition to winning ballgames. Leaders need young men to lead, those who can benefit from their influence. Athletes who have made past mistakes need leaders willing to “take a chance” on them. Leaders willing to invest in their character.

Character has to matter in college athletics. A recruit should never be in a situation where a records search dictates whether or not a player is offered a scholarship. It should never come to a records search. If it does, then the recruit is hiding something or trying to fool the coach, and it is wise to stop pursuit.

It is true that these kids are important representatives of their respective universities. A kid a recruiting coach meets as young junior in high school could one day blossom into the face of an athletic program, and the brand of an entire university. Such is the case with college sports today. That potential evolution of a recruit to college superstar further solidifies the importance of character.

During the recruiting process, coaches should carefully inquire about important matters such as a juvenile record. And kids should readily admit mistakes what they learned. If the coach does not have a good feeling that the youngster has learned from the mistakes, then they probably will not be very coachable either. In other words, they are a bad recruit. But that determination is made through conversation, not through a end around background check.

It is fair for additional oversight to be added – if anywhere – within these college programs themselves. To force a head coach to always know where every player is at all times and what they are doing just isn’t realistic. Ensure that collegiate institutions are doing what they are supposed to be doing in protecting the youngsters they give responsibility and scholarship to, but let their lessons learned be part of their admitted character – not a sneaky way to prohibit to a second chance.

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The Criminals in College Sports Debate… Eliminate The Bad Seeds Early

March 15, 2011

Read the opposing argument from Sports Geek.

It’s really unfortunate that we even have to have this type of debate. But it is 2011, and it’s sad to say that many of today’s student athletes have a checkered past – to say the least. It’s becoming very disturbing to turn on the local sportscast and see that “______ of _______ University has been arrested for _______ crime.”

A deeper investigation, spearheaded by Sports Illustrated and CBS News, uncovers the cold hard facts about the criminals that played for members of the SI’s pre-season top 25 in college football. I’m one who wants to see the best overall product on the field, but I also get tired of reading about the off the field sketchiness going on at nearly every major collegiate program. There’s no realistic way to totally eliminate those problems, but I believe there is a way to somewhat clean it up. Why not allow the programs to start looking into the juvenile records of the recruits?

I understand that we are all guilty of doing some stupid things as juveniles, and some of us may have skeletons that we wouldn’t want schools like Auburn, USC, and Ohio State to find. Maybe you stole a pack of baseball cards from the local Wal-Mart as a 14-year-old boy and got busted and put in county lockup. Maybe you got in a fight one Saturday night in town and you got escorted to the county jail in the local patrol car. Or maybe something bigger happened. Unfortunately, these are patterns of behavior that have to be looked at and evaluated. During the recruiting process, of course the recruit can explain what happened and hopefully clear up any questions and misgivings the coaching staff has regarding the recruit.

To me, this is no different than having to go through a background check when interviewing for a job. In fact, it is the EXACT same thing. In essence, you are applying for a job at said university. Your past is part of who you are and the university that you may be representing every fall for the next four falls has every right to check you out full TSA style!

Now, let’s say that Player A has something on his juvenile record that concerns a coach of the school that is recruiting him. It would be up to the coach to make a judgment call on whether to offer that particular young man a scholarship after reviewing each individual situation on a case-by-case basis. Maybe the guy has changed and deserves a second chance. But if that same guy has run-ins with the law while in college, it falls at the hands of the head coach. Hopefully, this would extremely lessen the chances of reading stories like the one Bleacher Fan wrote about in the intro, where the Florida Gators had a plethora of arrests in the past five years. The goal would be to rid the programs of the multiple offenders.

I know the ultimate goal is to win the game. But in the process, the goal should be to clean the game up. I for one am tired of getting up every morning and reading about another college football player having a run in with the law. A simple way to eliminate of lot of these issues is to allow coaches access to juvenile records of the players they are recruiting. It’s a simple solution.

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The New York Influence Debate Verdict

March 9, 2011

Read the opposing arguments from Loyal Homer and Optimist Prime.

In the debate about whether the success of New York sports teams is important to the success of professional respective leagues Loyal Homer got right to work airing his grievances against the dominance of the New York sports market in his argument. Rightfully so, he criticizes the all encompassing coverage that New York teams receive even when they are mired in the deepest slumps of mediocrity. His assertion, that this undeniable truth may be due in no small part to the proximity of New York to ESPN headquarters, holds some validity. But that is about where our agreements ended.

Loyal Homer focuses too much of his attention on attacking the weak links of the New York sports scene. Obviously the Mets haven’t met (pun unintended) the unprecedented success of the Yankees, but then again, for this debate, that is not a requirement. Both are MLB teams and though the Mets may not always reach the postseason, their cross-town rivals almost always do. While the Mets may be floundering to survive, the Yankees shoulder the burden of league leading success, which I would like to remind Loyal Homer comes at a price. At least in baseball, the unlimited spending the Yankees are able to do yields immediate benefits for the rest of the league in the form of revenue sharing.

But I digress. I simply wasn’t sold on Loyal Homers argument that New York teams aren’t necessary for professional league success.

As for Optimist Prime… while I would love to let you know you are leaving today on that all expenses paid trip to NYC you wrote about in your argument, you are just going to have to settle for a victory in today’s debate.

Optimist Prime won this debate because he was successful in convincing me that New York sports franchises are indeed important to the overall success of a league. He did so, surprisingly enough, with numbers, and not a sheer emotional appeal. Admittedly it probably would have been easy to sway me with a barrage of sentimentality over the rich history of New York franchises. I fully expected him to explain how the storied legacy of Big Apple franchises like the Rangers, Yankees, and Giants have come to transcend geographic boundaries, thus making NYC the national fan base critical for the survival of leagues. Instead he chose to take the majority of this debate down a very different path.

Optimist Prime explored the magnitude of the New York market as a whole. He explained that the 19.1 million fans (roughly 1 in every 16 Americans) in the greater NYC market are a force that quite simply cannot be ignored. Add to that the fact that New York is one of the most demanding sports markets in the world and we are talking about a fan base that must be appeased with winning. If New York teams win, the peripheral popularity and buzz is sure to trickle down to the rest of the league, Reaganomics style.

Loyal Homer tested this premise thoroughly by pointing out how the NBA survived and even grew in popularity despite the decade long struggles of New York Knicks, but the fault with this logic is that it does not rule out the possibility of the NBA doing that much better following in the wake of a league leading Knicks team. There is absolutely no telling how much more growth the league would have seen had the Knicks landed a Carmelo Anthony type player, or just established a winning record over that time frame. Judging by what we actually can measure, we see that there is popular support and growth in leagues that have seen New York dominance in recent years (i.e. the NFL with the Giants 2008 Super Bowl victory and MLB with the Yankees 2009 World Series Championship).

In the end, as Optimist Prime aptly points out, “size does matter” and numbers don’t lie. Like it or not, New York matters.

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The New York Influence Debate

March 7, 2011

Read the opposing arguments from Loyal Homer and Optimist Prime.

New York… The Big Apple… The City That Never Sleeps. No matter what you call it, you are referring to a very special place.

It is a city that serves as THE preeminent cultural trendsetter since virtually the birth of this great nation. It is also a city with one of the richest sports histories in America. Since baseball was being played on the Polo Grounds, New York has been leading the way for the American sports scene. The Yankees, Mets, Giants, Jets, Rangers, Islanders, and Knicks have kept that rich history alive. Sure, there have been lulls in the various teams’ relevance, like the Yankees of the 1980s or say… the last ten years for the Knicks. But overall, New York seems to find a way to always be at the forefront of championship contention.

It is often said that when teams from New York are good, that is a good thing for their respective sport. For instance, the Knicks were a complete non-factor for nearly a decade, but in the wake of the block buster Carmelo Anthony deal, they are back in a big way. So are good things in store for the NBA?

This prompts us here at the Sports Debates to tackle a very intriguing question Is a good team in New York REALLY good for the league as a whole. Does the success or failure of a New York team make no difference?

Loyal Homer believes that New York teams make no difference on a league’s health what so eve while Optimist Prime argues the better a team in New York is, the better the league is overall.

Gents, let’s see what New York’s got. Ponder the meaning behind Sinatra’s statement, “It’s up to you New York, New York!”

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The New York Influence Debate… New York Good for Quantity and Quality

March 7, 2011

Read the opposing argument from Loyal Homer.

It’s not often that I find myself arguing in favor of New York sports teams.

Although I am quite fond of New York City itself, that opinion is derived more from its food, culture, and general vibe than whatever the sports teams are up to at that any in time. Although my wife is from New Jersey, my interaction with most of the New York sports teams has consisted of me antagonizing her regarding their various failures and crushing defeats. When I was assigned the task of arguing that a good New York team is important to a league’s overall health, I originally asked the TSD editorial board for a stipend to travel to New York to research this topic in-depth. Unfortunately, that was summarily rejected. Perhaps they were on to my plan of hitting every food spot I’d ever seen on the No Reservations shows shot in New York City. Whatever the cause, I was forced to research this article from my humble abode rather than the Big Apple. Nevertheless, I believe I have come up with some compelling arguments.

The first, and most obvious argument, is that size does matter. The New York metropolitan area has 19.1 million people in it. Basically, roughly 1 of every 16 Americans lives in and around New York City. Logic follows that if an adequate percentage of those fans become Knicks, Rangers, Giants fans (etc.), then that volume of fans will be healthy for the league’s overall health. Basically, if a big city’s team is good, that generally helps the league’s standing among the fans and media overall (see the Chicago Blackhawks for a prime example of a large city’s team increasing a sport’s overall profile).

New York City is America’s largest metropolitan area, so it seems like the most obvious example of this.

Another interesting argument that occurred to me is that the center of New York sports is, arguably Madison Square Garden (it’s close to Manhattan’s geographic center, at least). Madison Square Garden’s slogan is, “The World’s Most Famous Arena” – and it’s hard to argue that is not the case. The fame and history is borne out by the passion of the Knicks and Rangers fans who have filled the building to seating and noise capacity if either team is within shouting distance of a post-season berth or any post-season success.

Beyond statistical and arena angles, there is the more subtle angle that many New York teams are intimately connected to the past, present, and future of the leagues. The Rangers are an Original Six NHL franchise. The Giants played in the NFL’s “Greatest Game” and have won several league championships and Super Bowls combined. The Yankees are, well, the Yankees (you’ll enjoy this part, Babe Ruthless). Whatever you think of the Yanks, they are the most successful professional baseball (and, arguably, professional sports) franchise in American sports. They have more championships, more pennants, more money, and more fans than any other team. They fill stadiums when they play on the road because some fans love to love the Yankees, and some fans love to hate the Yankees. Even the Mets and Jets have reached notable status repeatedly in the last several years. Even the team that time forgot, the New York Islanders, have won four Stanley Cups. New York sports teams – love them or hate them – often represent the pinnacle of success in their respective sports.

I believe I have laid out a thorough, compelling case for the necessary relevance of New York sports teams in their respective leagues. And if I have not, please donate to my “Travel to NYC To Do More Research” fund (I’m working on a catchier name).

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