SBJ/June 6-12, 2011/Opinion

A contrast in coaching: Accountability vs. entitlement

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The fact that Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel resigned on the same day that coach Dom Starsia’s University of Virginia lacrosse team won the NCAA championship was both ironic and annoying (annoying because ESPN decided to run “Jim Tressel resigns” information at the bottom of the screen for about 90 percent of the game, as if this was information critical to the public’s safety).

Let me be clear about my position: I think that Dom Starsia should be considered ordinary. I think that Jim Tressel should be considered repulsive.

You probably don’t follow college lacrosse, but if you did you would have learned in the last few days that Coach Starsia has dealt with a number of difficult challenges in the last 12 months. Before last year’s NCAA playoffs, one of the University of Virginia lacrosse team members was charged with the murder of a member of the women’s lacrosse team at Virginia. Before this year’s NCAA playoffs, the coach dismissed the two best players on his team, both All-Americans, for infractions related to team rules and behavior. During this year’s NCAA playoffs, a third All-American player was suspended for a game during the semifinals.

Yet, on Monday, the University of Virginia won the college championship by defeating the University of Maryland.

What does this say about Dom Starsia as a coach and as a person? I think it says he’s probably a good, decent adult who provided the appropriate leadership that we other adults should expect from any college coach.

This is no slight on Coach Starsia. I think he did a commendable job in which he should be congratulated — just not honored. A year ago, he provided leadership to a group of young men between the ages of 18 and 22 as they tried to understand a tragedy for which they had no experience to draw from. This year,
GETTY IMAGES (2)
University of Virginia lacrosse coach Dom Starsia (top) provided the appropriate leadership expected of any college coach. Ohio State University football coach Jim Tressel did not.
he punished individuals with no consideration of their skill level, for behavior that was detrimental to the team.

I’ll say it again — he did what we should expect any adult in a leadership role to do. Nothing more. I hope the athletic director and the administrators at the University of Virginia reward Coach Starsia with a handshake and a smile and tell him “good job” — which would be commensurate with the job he has done. But, by no fault of his, I’m sure he will be lauded as a hero for making “tough decisions” (I would simply call them “right decisions”).

I guess you would call Coach Starsia heroic if you are comparing him with Jim Tressel. (I can’t even call Tressel “Coach”.) Tressel provided no leadership whatsoever. Himself overpaid and self-entitled, he allowed the teens and young adults for which he was responsible to behave similarly (despite the fact that being paid at all is breaking the rules and to be self-entitled will result in difficulties out in the real world — so much for college football coaches teaching life lessons!).

I could write 100 paragraphs on how disgusting I think his behavior is, but it’s a bore. To me, Tressel is a nobody. He’s a footnote. I hope I forget about him by the end of this week, though I doubt ESPN will let me.

No, what I think is worth writing about is The Ohio State University. Isn’t it considered an elite research university? Isn’t its athletic department held up as a model of success? And if so, what were they thinking? The Ohio State University has embarrassed itself.

And not just for those who love Ohio State football, but the many more who simply go to school there or went to school there or teach there.

Because if we think that winning football games can engender school pride, then a football program like this one can surely bring disgrace.

It’s really a shame that Tressel got off so easy and that the administration, including the athletic administration, at the school did not have a Dom Starsia around — or apparently any reasonable adult — to make the simple decision to hold accountable those who have lied, stolen or broken rules that dishonor the university. The second that it was determined that Tressel had lied, he should’ve been fired. His name should’ve been stripped from any locker room, field or anywhere else it appears. The university should have come out and publicly stated that he had been fired and that no individual associated with the university would ever be allowed to engage in deceptive practices and that leaders would always be held to accountability. That would’ve been the adult thing to do. That should have been an easy thing to do.

Congratulations to the University of Virginia men’s lacrosse team. Good job.

Bill Carter (bcarter@fusemarketing.com) is a partner at the youth/sports marketing agency Fuse.

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