College coaches deserve the brunt of the blame in recruiting scandals

Reagan Stuart

College athletics can be a lot of fun — the pageantry, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. All of these things together create what’s become an integral part of the American pop culture landscape.

But what college sports is really about, the reason stadiums fill up year after year and TV contracts keep inflating, is pride. For better or worse, college sports teams are often the public faces of their respective universities. Win or lose, the results can affect the reputation of an entire institution.

So, in the high-stakes multi-million dollar industry of Division I athletics, this pride can compel programs into ethically compromising behavior. Perhaps it’s behind the latest recruiting scandal involving the University of Louisville’s men’s basketball program, where allegations surfaced of a Louisville assistant coach hiring prostitutes for recruits and players. 

In response to these allegations, Louisville has self-imposed a post-season ban for this season. Meanwhile, the NCAA investigation continues, meaning the possibility for further sanctions could be on the horizon.

Expectations for this program are always high. Louisville basketball is a storied program, complete with multiple national championships and many players who have go on to become NBA stars. This season they ranked as high as 13th in the country and hoped to make a run in the NCAA tournament. 

Louisville’s self-imposed ban unfairly punishes the players. It is a lot to ask of high school recruits to turn down the illegal benefits that often come their way, sometimes including thousands of dollars, cars and women. Many high-level recruits come from poor backgrounds, so these benefits come with the possibility of helping family and improving their financial status. In addition, it is unjust to ask players who follow the rules to suffer in the collective punishments that are handed down.

A just answer would be is to punish the coaches. However, in the Louisville case, it looks like head coach Rick Pitino will come out of the scandal mostly unscathed. He claims to have had no knowledge of the transgressions while they were occurring, but an experienced coach at a major program should have known. The program deserves more from their well-paid, well-seasonsed coach.

Coaches are ultimately responsible for their programs’ culture. They hire their own staff and choose which players to recruit. They serve as the primary liaison between players, administration and media. High expectations are reflected in their salaries, with coaches frequently ranking as the highest paid employees in the state. If we want to place blame for ethical failures on one position, the head coach is the best place to start.

In the end, it is important to remember that just like the wins and losses, how college sports teams behave ethically represents the institution. The University of Texas should value that our coaches put integrity over winning. Winning by cheating is never something to take pride in.  

Stuart is a Plan II and business honors sophomore from Lubbock. Follow him on Twitter @realreaganstu.