SALT LAKE CITY — This is a crazy time of year, when March Madness is peaking.
Oh, did you think I was talking about basketball? Mostly I was referring to the mood these days. Everyone’s mad. Many are upset at former Rutgers basketball coach Mike Rice, who was caught on video shoving, verbally abusing and throwing basketballs at players. He has since been fired. People were also upset at athletics director Tim Pernetti — so much so that he resigned under pressure on Friday.
Auburn A.D. Jay Jacobs is getting heat for allegations that players had grades changed for eligibility purposes, and that some players repeatedly failed drug tests. Never mind that Gene Chizik, the coach when the alleged infractions occurred, has been fired. The blame goes up from there.
Which means there’s a decent chance Utah athletics director Chris Hill won’t survive his school’s scandal, either. Parents of some former swimmers say Hill did too little when informed of allegations of abuse by former swim coach Greg Winslow, who was fired last month.
That’s the mood of the country right now. If there’s a problem, it goes beyond the perpetrator. The higher-ups are considered guilty of a cover-up or negligence, no middle ground.
If you’re keeping score, it goes like this: Chizik is gone from Auburn, Rice is gone from Rutgers and Winslow is gone from Utah. Problem solved? Hardly. In all the aforementioned cases, the next person up — and beyond — is being blamed, too. Pernetti’s resignation sent a telling message: Don’t just fire the coach, fire the A.D. and maybe the university president.
That might seem like dismissing the president of G.M. if a car catches fire, but it happens.
The country is in no mood for abuse or cheating, and that’s a good thing. But critics won’t stop until everyone connected is out the door. If that holds true at Utah, Hill has little chance of surviving the swim team scandal.
A major reason Americans are so perturbed by these types of stories is because of Jerry Sandusky, the longtime Penn State assistant coach. When it was learned Sandusky had abused children for decades, and head coach Joe Paterno and President Graham Spanier knew of it, they too were forced to resign. Athletics director Tim Curley was suspended.
But none of the aforementioned situations are the same as Penn State. None so far has involved sexual abuse (though Winslow is being investigated over allegations he sexually abused a teenager before coming to Utah). The claims at Utah, Auburn and Rutgers range from knowingly covering up misdeeds to doing nothing, to not acting quickly or forcefully enough.
Hill’s fate rests on what the investigation shows: how much was done by Winslow and what action was taken. Another component is former associate athletics director Pete Oliszczak, who was in charge of the swimming program. He resigned last fall, though there has been no proof it was related to the scandal.
Either way, the swim coach is gone and the associate A.D. is gone. But parents of some former swimmers want Hill —and perhaps even President David W. Pershing — gone, too.
Sometimes you do throw the baby out with the bathwater.
There is no excuse for cover-ups. If that happened at Utah, Hill should go. (He is keeping quiet on the advice of legal counsel.) If he simply didn’t know, or didn’t act quickly enough, it’s another story.
Many say abuse is abuse. Yes, kind of. All abuse is unacceptable, but throwing basketballs at players is different than sexually abusing children for decades. The punishment can be different, too. Not acting quickly isn’t the same as knowingly harboring a predator, either.
Still, people don’t want details; they want closure. And retribution.
Yes, this year in March, there’s more than enough madness to go around.
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