Just over week ago University of Pittsburgh football team made national news with the distinction of being the number one team in the country concerning run ins with the law. I needed to take a few days to let it all set in. Being a father of one of the players on the Pitt team, I needed to think on how to phrase my response.
Unfortunately Pitt got singled out this year whether warranted or not. Many of the arrests were very minor in comparison to drug, gun and sexual assaults that you see in all programs across the country. When you have 100 young men on a team you are bound to have some trouble but when you are starting to exceed 25% of them involved with the law, you have issues. Believe me, I understand these are 18 to 23 year old young men and that young men and women make mistakes but the trend is spiraling out of control in recent years and I feel that many of the universities are enabling these incidents to happen.
It starts at a very young age when some athletes are showing some promise with athletics and start getting preferred treatment, are allowed to get away with not making a practice or attitude issues, but are still being allowed to play in games. This starts the precedent. When a coach tries to discipline the player, often their parents get involved and this undermines the coaches decisions. The world of the privileged athlete has begun.
Fast forward to senior year in high school when athletes begin deciding where to attend college and the football recruiters promise the world to these young men. The pattern of parental enabling becomes outright interference. If you poll all the college coaches from all the different sports and they answer honestly, they would say that the biggest problem is parental involvement….it is interference.
I have a threefold perspective, I was a professional athlete, I have coached college hockey and I have 5 very athletic children. Whether in the classroom or the athletic field, they are guilty till proven innocent. The teachers did not need to discuss how to discipline them, if they didn’t do their homework or acted up in class they had my permission to stop them from playing whatever sport they were into at the time. If they were not playing (coaches decision) in a game I was not interfering, they either had to talk to the coach themselves or work harder.
My solution would be, any infraction of the law,(DUI, underage drinking, etc.) an automatic suspension. Do not attend class, automatic suspension. Any drug or weapon offense, an automatic expulsion from school and team. I know people will read this and say that they are not convicted in a court of law, well how about just being convicted of stupidity and putting themselves in that position. Just like in any contract there is a morality clause. Its time to enforce that with swift judgement.
To be an athlete at a high level you have to have self confidence but there is a fine line between self confidence and privileged to be there and to be cocky and its my right to play.