Rotten at its core or it’s bigger than Rutgers

In classrooms across the nation, future Olivia Popes will learn about Rutgers University as an example of what not to do when responding to crisis.   From President Robert Barchi not watching the video of his basketball coach abusing student athletes to their failure to properly vet the academic credentials of new basketball coach Eddie Jordan, Rutgers has shown a level of ineptitude comparable to Tim Tebow’s throwing arm and Dwight Howard’s free throw shooting.  Yet, their failures are systemic; the consequences are severe.  The most recent example of not just incompetence but a level of blindness to the fundamental problems facing college sports can be seen with the hiring of Julie Hermann.  Dave Zirin describes the situation as such:

That’s what makes the goings-on at Rutgers University so maddening. In looking to move the school forward following the scandal that cost bullying former basketball coach Mike Rice and athletic director Tim Pernetti their jobs, school president Robert Barchi hired former Louisville assistant athletic director Julie Hermann. After the homophobic, misogynistic invective that will define the Mike Rice era, appointing an extremely competent woman must have seemed savvy. Unfortunately, in aiming to get beyond a bullying scandal, the school hired an athletic director with a history of bullying. In attempting to show that the athletic department is not a haven for misogynists, they hired someone with a history of misogyny. And worst of all, in boasting about the depths of their research into Hermann’s past, they missed a series of incidents that a Google search followed by ten minutes of follow-up phone calls could have revealed.

While clearly Rutgers has shown what not to do, while the reports about Julie Hermann are troubling and while what has gone on Rutgers from Mike Rice forward are an indication of the warped and troubling values of higher education, I find myself wondering if she is being held to different standards than her male counterparts. Is she becoming a scapegoat? It would be nice if male ADs and coaches (and professors, administrators….) were held to same level of scrutiny and accountability. It would be nice if we talked about police officers who go from one force to next with a rap sheet of complaints about brutality with same level of interest and questions about past behavior.

One can only wish that the anti feminist and sexist culture that pervades sports and university culture be called out in every instance.  One can only hope that the abuses and exploitation be highlighted, whether it be the sensational or the examples of the entrenched nature of collegiate athletics. One can only wish that warped values that lead to a barrage of racist, sexist, and violent tweets that follow each and every loss be called out.  One can hope that we begin to connect the dots from from incidence of abuse and violence to ever growing emphasis on sports within today’s sports culture.  Whether abuse at Rutgers and Penn State, or the decision to have weeknight football games at the expense of academics for student-athletes and their non-participating peers, profit in front of people, wins in front of education, TV contracts ahead of tenure track lines, define today’s collegiate landscape.

We don’t have to look any further than Chicago where Rahm Emmanuel is leading the charge to build a stadium and not schools.  Worse yet, he might as well be moving the nuts and bolts from some 50 schools in Chicago to this new stadium at Depaul. Is this gentrification we can believe in?   Dave Zirin highlights the profit before people mentality:

It all starts with the person who seems committed to win the current spirited competition as the most loathsome person in American political life: Mayor Rahm Emanuel. The same Mayor overseeing the closing of fifty-four schools and six community mental health clinics under the justification of a “budgetary crisis” has announced that the city will be handing over more than $100 million to DePaul University for a new basketball arena. This is part of a mammoth redevelopment project on South Lakeshore Drive consisting of a convention center anchored by an arena for a non-descript basketball team that has gone 47-111 over the last five years. It’s also miles away from DePaul’s campus. These aren’t the actions of a mayor. They’re the actions of a mad king.

These are symptoms of the value placed upon sports within society; they are indications of upside down priorities.  It reflects a shared disregard for the future, innocence, and livelihood of youth of color, whose schools are being shut down in record numbers furthering the both the school-to-prison-pipeline and the athletic scholarship-to-school pipeline, which each in their own ways are defined by exploitation, abuse, control and profit.   Its bigger than Julie Hermann or Rutgers.  Quoting Blue Scholars, in their song “Oscar Grant,

I hear them sayin that this shit don’t never happen in Seattle
And if it does is just a couple bad apples
But if you keep it count you will see this shit is not the apple is the tree
Its rotten underneath. Oh say, can you see no way that is true

When talking college sports, it’s not the (bad) apples, it’s the tree . . .  rotten at its core.


Dave Zirin breaking it all down

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