December 7, 2012
Each of the last eight years, I have had the pleasure and good fortune to attend and write about the men’s basketball team of Hofstra. I have also claimed that attending these games at Mack Arena is the best sports buy in the metropolitan area. But this one’s different, and it wasn’t an easy one to write.
Two weeks ago, the Hofstra community and part of the basketball world were rocked with the revelation that four Hofstra men’s basketball student-athletes (S-A) were involved (allegedly?) with stealing electronic equipment, including laptops, cell phones, iPods, etc.
My take follows.
I’m in the process of writing a book on college basketball. In the last chapter, which is concerned with the future of the game, I predict another major scandal involving shaving points and fixing the outcome of games. Why? Because the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has put in place one of the all-time great scams on the public. The S-As provide the entertainment that generates billions of dollars for the NCAA, and yet, they never see a piece of this monstrous, gigantic financial pie. T-shirts and sweatshirts are marketed with their names and numbers on them, and yet, the NCAA makes certain they don’t get any royalties.
The NCAA has perpetrated this fantasy myth of a S-A that includes the requirement that the S-A live a life of poverty during their scholarship years. Many of the S-As playing basketball (as well as football) in the major schools are not only poor but also anything but students. Hell, some of them can’t even spell “student” after graduation. For example, some time back, one S-A spelled student “stutan”; another worded the answer “yes’ on his application to the question on “sex.” All of the above is compounded by the fact that they come from low-income families – in effect, they’re broke; which is why 3 of the 4 were not able to post a measly bail.
So back to the Hofstra players. We are all a product of our society and environment. These four certainly didn’t know the difference between right and wrong. Who’s to blame? Their parents? Their church? Their school? The NCAA? No doubt, a combination of all four. And, no doubt, they will be made an example by District Attorney Rice and some school administrators, with all but the four kids essentially being absolved on any wrongdoings.
I am ashamed to admit that a well-to-do close friend of mine occasionally steals money from someone dear to him who is rich beyond words. When I prod him on what his God would think and/or how he handles confessions, his response is that the person could definitely afford it and would not miss it. How’s that for logic from a college-educated adult? Can one draw an analogy between my friend and these four? And how about the white-collar crimes committed on a daily basis on Wall Street, business,
and government? And what about those who cheat on their income taxes? I kept this in mind when thinking of these four, realizing that although their crime was more personal in nature, none of the others described above would be punished, or even reprimanded.
It is also important to note that these kids did not commit a violent crime. No rape. No muggings. No beatings. No murder. Should they be penalized? Of course, but we should keep in mind that there are rapists and murderers walking around scot-free. I do hope the four are penalized, but I also hope they will be given a second chance. That is something we all deserve for our indiscretions, particularly those of a first-time nature.
I was asked how do I really feel. There was essentially no surprise, but there was disappointment and sadness. Sadness more than disappointment. Sadness because of the impact the conduct of these four young men will have on not only those who love them, but also their coaches, teammates, friends and classmates, as well as all the legitimate S-As who do the right thing. I also feel for these four youngsters (three are 18 years old) and hope they realize that their world has not come to an end; they still have a lifetime to live.
Here are comments from two colleagues/friends:
Jack Powers,former Executive Director of the National Invitational Tournament (NIT), picks it up from there. “You have to feel sorry for everyone involved. This was different from some of the recent battery and rape cases involving some basketball programs. What they did was wrong but no one should jump to conclusions regarding punishment. I would need to know more about each kid. Perhaps a year’s suspension would be appropriate. But they shouldn’t totally shut the door on some of these kids. We all did crazy things when we were young. I’m reminded of the saying ‘people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.’”
Dr. John Wilcox, former Director of the Center for Professional Ethics and my ethics book coauthor, continues the outside narrative. “It’s important to understand that these four are not hardened criminals. Putting them in jail really won’t serve any useful purpose. Some form of rehabilitation is in order and one can only hope that they will become a useful and integral part of society.”
In the final analysis, it’s safe to say that this is a sad commentary for the four boys, their families, and the NCAA. One can only hope that this will play out in a fair, just and compassionate manner, and others will learn from what occurred at Hofstra.
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