Sunday, June 07, 2015

Competition over ethics implies Saban

I wrote last week about the new SEC policy preventing the transfer of student athletes with serious misconduct issues to SEC schools. Though it passed with ease among SEC administrators, it is not without controversy.

One person raising some objections is Alabama football coach, Nick Saban. Saban is worried about the competitive advantage other conferences will receive because they do not have such policies. So athletes, again athletes who have been found responsible for sexual assault and domestic violence by their former schools, will get turned down because of their record of, again sexual assault and domestic violence, and then attend non-SEC schools. Remember, Saban is the recipient of such a player--Jonathan Taylor. Taylor was under investigation at Georgia for domestic violence when he transferred to Saban's squad. He has now been kicked off that team because of being arrested again for domestic violence.

Let's be clear--these are arrests. Public record arrests. We are not even talking about sketchy (Title IX violating) internal investigations within athletic departments. We are not even dealing with, in this situation, student conduct hearings and the privacy issues attached to those. The lack of compliance with Title IX regarding policies and procedures, as I said the other day, is part of the reason the SEC policy is only one step in addressing the problem of student athletes who commit sexual and domestic violence. But it's a step Saban does not want to make because he believes it might harm the SEC and its ability to compete with the other power five conferences.

In short, he is saying f&^* ethics and the safety of (mostly) women on campus--we need to win. He is upset that the SEC is hindering the way he operates his program, but framing it as just looking out for the best interest of the conference.

He is not the only concerned SEC coach. Also notable is that the coach who lost Taylor to Alabama, Georgia's Mark Richt, was also a little concerned about the new rule. He was slightly more tactful and used a paradigm of second chances rather than the "but what if we aren't as good without the rapist on our team" argument.

Why is this policy being passed now when campus sexual assault has always been a problem? Well because the general public is starting to realize that it's an epidemic. And while sports fans might  allow some questionable practices that result in perks to student-athletes and wins for our favorite teams, the ability to get away with rape and violence is not one of those, and it is increasingly difficult to ignore the issue.

If Nick Saban took a little more time to think about this he could have both gotten his concerns addressed (without looking like a privileged, ignorant jerk) and been a hero (well for reasons other than football). Because what he could have said was this: This rule exemplifies the ways in which the SEC is a leader both on and off the field and is addressing a serious issue facing college and university communities. But we should not be the only ones. I urge the other conferences and the NCAA to implement similar policies regarding transfer athletes so that we can guarantee the safety of our student body and maintain the integrity of our athletic programs.

But that's not what he said.