A moral cesspool: Dave Zirin on Notre Dame

It’s not just Notre Dame, of course. There is rot at the heart of collegiate athletics. Well, given Lance Armstrong, what happens with injuries in the NFL, and major league baseball’s coverup of steroid use, it permeates all of sports. But Zirin has pursued the scandals at Notre Dame fearlessly and writes:

Yet as with the far more serious previous scandals attached to this storied program, the problem is not just the behavior of students but the moral compass on display by the adults in charge. Within hours of the story breaking online, Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick held a press conference where he backed Te’o to the hilt saying, “Every single thing about this was real to Manti. There was no suspicion. The grief was real, the affection was real, and that’s the sad nature of this cruel game.”

Swarbrick revealed that a private outside firm had been hired to investigate just who had perpetrated this “cruel game.” The athletic director even cried. His behavior only raises more important questions than anything Te’o will face tomorrow. Why hasn’t there been any kind of privately funded, outside investigation into the alleged sexual assaults committed by members of the football team? Why was there no private, outside investigation into Coach Brian Kelly’s role in the death of team videographer Declan Sullivan? It says so much that Te’o’s bizarre soap opera has moved Swarbrick to openly weeping but he hasn’t spared one tear, let alone held one press conference, for Lizzy Seeberg, the young woman who took her own life after coming forward with allegations that a member of the team sexually assaulted her. Swarbrick’s press conference displayed that the problem at Notre Dame is not just football players without a compass; it’s the adults without a conscience. Their credo isn’t any kind of desire for truth or justice. Instead it seems to be little more than a constant effort to protect the Fighting Irish brand, no matter who gets hurt.

The cost to higher education is not just moral; it is also financial. A study released this week provides shocking evidence of how much more is spent on athletics than on academics:

Football consumes much of the athletic budget. At institutions competing in the top-tier Football Bowl Subdivision, the report found, median athletic spending per athlete was $92,000 in 2010, compared with median academic spending per full-time student of less than $14,000. In the other Division I subdivisions, median athletic spending per athlete ranged from $37,000 to $39,000, compared with median academic spending per full-time student of about $11,800.

Think about that the next time you watch a game on TV. For my friends in academe, think about that the next time your dean asks you to cut your budget….

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