When a college athlete is caught operating outside the law, the story barely moves the “shock meter” anymore. Amazingly, we’ve become numb to negative stories in the paper, on television or on the Internet. Yesterday there were more of the same but two of them stood out.
A linebacker from BYU admitted to violating the school’s honor code by, get this, drinking alcohol and partying in, of all places, Las Vegas. Lucky this isn’t a nation-wide program or else college athletics might have to be postponed until . . . forever. He announced that his plan is to stay in school and ask for forgiveness.
Before the guffaws begin, let’s realize that the standards that make up BYU are consistent with their beliefs that have stood the test of time for the Mormon-based school. Everyone who chooses to attend, whether on a scholarship or not, fully understands and agrees to abide by them prior to entering the university. A degree from BYU means the student has completed more than just the required number of courses. Sure, there have been people - athletes and, I would imagine, others - who have gotten away with breaking the honor code but, suffice to say, BYU has, and is proud of, its honor code it and has no intentions of making any drastic changes.
The other story was about a quarterback from The Air Force Academy who was also suspended from his team. The school said he “is no longer a cadet in good standing and is not allowed to represent the Academy in any outside activities, effectively immediately.” There were no other statements from the institution or the athlete regarding what the offense was or whether there was a chance to get back into good standing.
This story hit a little closer to home because two years ago, our younger son, Alex, was recruited by the Falcons’ basketball staff. It was the first school to express a strong desire in Alex and, as recruits and their parents know, the first school to contact a prospect always has a special meaning. Not to rain on his parade, I told him (and my wife) that Air Force isn’t tied to any particular number of scholarships. Everyone who attends any of the academies is on scholarship - paid for by the taxpayers. Not that they hand them out like business cards - they do recruit the young men they think can help them win and also have what it takes to handle the school’s rigor.
I did remind him of something I told both of our boys (and that was seconded by my wife). “The greatest four years of your life are the ones you spend in college.“ Like high school, you’ll be going to class but, unlike high school, you won’t be having class from Monday-Friday, from the beginning of the school day until the end. You might have a class at 9:00 am on Monday (and Wednesday & Friday) but your next class might not be until 2:00 pm. Then you might have a night class. Tuesday an Thursday could consist of a couple courses that begin at 8:00 and end by 11:00 am. How you handle all the free time could very well determine your success. In addition, it will be the last time you won’t have to worry about the necessary survival aspects of life like bringing home a paycheck or shelling out money for food and rent (we had put away money in college accounts). Nor will you have to generate your own fun because usually, “fun” somehow is built into college.
What I felt was important to explain to Alex was that at Air Force, my advice didn’t apply. While the style of ball they employed at Air Force was ideal for the skills Alex has, his four years in Colorado Springs would definitely not be the best years of his life because The Air Force Academy wasn’t in the business of producing mere college graduates. Its mission is to produce leaders.
During my second year of teaching at Buchanan High School (2003-04), one of my teaching colleagues, knowing I’d come to BHS after a lengthy tour in the intercollegiate ranks, asked me what the difference was between teaching in high school and coaching in college. After I’d given the question a considerable amount of thought, I came up with what I believe is the answer. It can be applied to the two instances above, as well as other such stories:
“The problem you deal with in high school is immaturity. The problem you deal with in college is irresponsibility.”