Why Character Matters

One of my favorite people is Sen. John McCain.  Regardless of what you think about his politics, his life has been well documented in many forums.  His actions throughout his life have been a great inspiration to a great many people.  While what he has been through is at the far end of the spectrum it gives me a good point to aim for in so far as how to act in a tough situation.  Medal of Honor winners and POW's have always been held in the highest regard to me, for reasons that I think are obvious.

Why do I bring this up?

Recent allegations/incidences at a number of schools including USC, Texas and UCLA bring to the forefront the issue of character in college sports.  This isn't just about criminal behavior but also about rules infractions that could be a violation of NCAA policy.

While its obvious what the stigma of criminal behavior can bring to any program, how these issues are handled can also stain the fabric of our society if they are not dealt with in a decisive and timely manner.  I certainly believe that we should treat all criminal incidences with the view of "innocent until proven guilty" but we also should not be naïve to ignore that if it's a high profile program people will look for anything to take that program down.  

If an athlete is guilty of any infraction than he should be punished, as the rules require. But if no charges are filed or if there is no evidence of an infraction then we should let it go and move on. If it is a rules infraction then that becomes a bit trickier. As we have seen recently sometimes it's not the player but the player's family who will instigate a rules infraction. No coach or AD can police all of his team members or their family's actions. But a better effort should be made to look for tell tale signs of questionable actions.

I have always lived by the standard that there are three sides to every story, yours, mine and the truth.  I've taken heat for my stance on the Sanchez situation and recently on the Rucker situation. I have also taken Reggie Bush to task for his family rent issue. I've been accused of jumping off the SC bandwagon for daring to call out Bob Leinart for his actions in the Jarrett situation.

Most important is our respective team's image. I'm not sure if I buy into the perception that everybody does it, but I would agree that high profile programs with get more than their fair share of attention when it comes to bad behavior. Someone is always looking for a competitive edge or a way to skirt the rules. That's just how it is. If schools can be more vigilant in their enforcement of the rules or try to ensure that young and naïve players are educated in the pitfalls of new stardom we would see a difference in how the public reacts to these type of acts of bad behavior.

Playing college sports is a privilege and with that privilege comes a great deal of responsibility, and coaches and staff alike should make a better effort to protect their players from the trappings of being a celebrity. The schools have made a tremendous investment, shouldn't they at least try to protect that investment?

In the end it is all about character. A moral compass is all that is needed to keep you out of trouble.  Is that a complete failsafe? No. Mistakes will happen or sometimes time you're at the wrong place at the wrong time. But if you stop and think before you make a move you will be more inclined not to make a mistake and get into trouble.  I also understand about peer pressure and wanting to fit in, but is it so important to fit in that you would sell your soul to questionable behavior just to be one of the guys?  I hope that the staff at SC has learned a little more street smarts when it comes to these types of issues.

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