Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Players share blame in college scandals

Right and wrong should go with you to college, just like notebooks, Bic pens and a checkbook. Right and wrong shouldn't be a class you take freshman year to satisfy a distribution requirement.

Just in case that's less than completely obvious, here's a quick refresher for all you basketball stars out there, either pondering a scholarship or working for one.

Right: Rolling out of the rack for an 8 a.m. class like everyone else, including those not privileged to attend for free.

Wrong: Blowing off a class completely, yet accepting an "A" for it.

Right: Making only phone calls you can pay for.

Wrong: Using someone else's long-distance access as if you invented hands-free dialing.

Right: Using your own money.

Wrong: Holding out your hand like a street walker.

Here is what we have read and heard about the college basketball scandals currently visiting Georgia, St. Bonaventure and Fresno State: It's the adults' fault. The university presidents are political animals, skilled at covering their own rear ends. The coaches live to win. To them, honesty went out with low-cut Chucks.

The players whose seasons ended prematurely are getting shortchanged.

Not exactly.

Jamil Terrell, the junior-college transfer and accomplished welder, knew he was wrong to take a free ride to St. Bonaventure. Or should have. Tony Cole, the Georgia player with his hand held out, knew he was wrong to accept, allegedly, a $300 wire transfer from Bulldogs assistant coach Jim Harrick Jr. Or should have. Rashad Wright and Chris Daniels, the two Georgia scholars who miraculously aced "Coaching Principles and Strategies of Basketball" without actually showing up for class, knew they were wrong. Or should have.

Should we feel sorry for all the players not involved? Not much.

To say these players didn't know what they were getting into when they agreed to work for Jim Harrick at Georgia and Jerry Tarkanian at Fresno - each a little light on integrity - is to patronize them in the worst possible way. It is to conclude they were too stupid to make a rational choice of where to attend school. It is to keep them children.

Life's not fair, kid

College coaches are con men. College presidents are as political as the governor. They'll lop a head in an instant if they think it gives them a chance to save their own.

When he needs you, Harrick will tell you what a fine person you are. He'll nod when you say you're "misunderstood." He'll call you a "good kid." When you turn on him, he'll get amnesia and call you every name in the book.

The innocent players cry they're being punished for something they didn't do. It's unfair, they say. That might be true. But if you are laid off when business is bad, should we make arrangements for you because it wasn't your fault?

Georgia star Jarvis Hayes did the smartest thing. Less than a day after the school canceled the rest of the season, Hayes declared for the NBA draft.

If college is partly about teaching young people to be adults - a favorite theme of coaches and presidents - isn't this a valuable lesson? Too bad for the players cheated out of more games. Let it serve as the first chapter in Real Life 101. It ain't always fair.


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