If Colin Powell ever needs to recruit a swarm of diplomats prepared to help him with deal with the European duplicity, he could mine a rich vein of them from the alumnae of intercollegiate sports programs. If football and basketball recruits learn nothing else in their four (or five) years of college, they will learn how to deal with being lied to. Not even the French could unsettle one of these guys.
A recently primed reservoir of potential diplomats can be found in Oregon State University’s recently signed recruiting class. Twenty-one young men were abandoned by the coach, who just last week promised them everything in exchange for their signatures on the bottom line of a letter of intent. Their letter of intent binds them to Oregon State University, even though the coach who asked them to come to OSU, and certainly promised to be there when fall practices begin, will be coaching the San Francisco Forty-niners instead.
That letter of intent snare binds those young men to Oregon State. It obligates the coach who seduced them to nothing. In fact, most of the rules promulgated by the NCAA serve the interests of the member schools to the detriment of the “student athletes.”
A high school kid who should be free to shop his skills to the highest bidder is bound by these rules to play for nothing whatsoever. Accepting any reward at all will leave the young recruit branded as a cheater. Meanwhile, the colleges and universities that shelter underneath these self-serving rules are free to treat athletic recruits as chattels. All the while they maintain the facade of moral legitimacy by adhering to immoral rules.
"You believe in somebody, you make a commitment, you sign a contract and you think the coaches would honor that commitment right back," high school senior Bob Moore said. Just one week before taking the San Francisco job, Erickson had enticed this young man to sign on the dotted line. "It's not like Dennis Erickson woke up one morning and decided to coach the 49ers. He had to have an idea. And he sat in our living rooms and told us otherwise. That bothers me."
It should. It should bother everyone.
This all seems very familiar to Palouse sports fans. Both universities know what it is like to be jilted by Dennis Erickson. Once again Coach Erickson has come to the expiration date of another of his eternal commitments. The man who was always a Cougar in his heart, until Miami came calling, has turned and left another lover feeling disrespected the morning after.
Fans of Washington State University know very well how Oregon State feels. After all, Dennis Erickson assured the Cougars of his undying eternal devotion to old Wazzu shortly before climbing aboard the private jet that ferried him to the University of Miami. Oddly, the Cougar faithful seemed surprised at Erickson’s deceit even though WSU had lured him away from the University of Wyoming, to whom he had also pledged his eternal devotion.
Of course, Cougar fans expect to be jilted in the morning. Mike Price’s departure was a thing of beauty compared to that of Erickson’s and others. But, sniffing around for a better deal between the end of the regular season and a bowl game fouls the air with its own special odor.
It’s sadly ironic that athletic department morality diffuses throughout universities. Universities have become cesspools of cynicism. All the while, institutions of higher learning advertise themselves as beacons of moral enlightenment. Universities try to manage the speech of their students and tell them what to think of such matters as homosexuality, abortion, the military and the environment. But all the while, universities, follow the examples of their athletic departments and give not the slightest weight to the value of a promise.
Every academic department has had a faculty member who recruited a graduate student and then left when a more attractive job was offered elsewhere. Department chairs, deans, provosts and vice provosts are all looking for greener pastures, but when asked about their loyalties will place their hands on their hearts and proclaim their devotion to whomever signs their last paycheck.
With our youth maturing in such swamps, it’s no wonder there is so much work for our legions of lawyers. One cannot trust a promise and handshake.