by Kent Sterling
Unless former Indiana University president and chancellor Herman B. Wells can be reanimated, the highest authority in Bloomington has spoken on the recent spate of misbehavior authored by athletes – primarily basketball players.
University president Michael McRobbie told a meeting of athletic department employees Tuesday, “What I do not want to see is any more stories of repeated student misbehavior. They embarrass the university, they embarrass all of you in Athletics, and they are a complete distraction from our primary role as an educational institution. This misbehavior simply has to stop.
“I expect all of you to ensure that my message is heard loud and clear by all student-athletes. I have stressed repeatedly that our student-athletes are first and foremost students! Our ultimate goal is to help them obtain a degree that will prepare them for career and life success. We owe this to them.”
Can’t argue with any of the words, but listening hasn’t exactly been a strength of the athletes who have recently been cited, arrested, and suspended. Admonishments haven’t been in short supply, but actions continue to embarrass.
That’s because young men aren’t stupid. They understand the difference between meaningless and meaningful consequence, and minus Hanner Mosquera-Perea and Devin Davis being shown the door a couple of months ago for reportedly getting stoned in a dorm room, responses to their idiocy by the supposed adults in the department has revealed a frailty in leadership.
Kids smell fear like sharks smell blood, and it has been clear from the time Tom Crean suspended Hanner Mosquera-Perea for two games following his OWI a year and a half ago that he was more concerned with athlete availability than student education and discipline.
The horse sprinted from the barn at that moment, and he hasn’t looked back since.
Basketball players aren’t stupid, just like the other 39,987 students on campus aren’t stupid. Before acting, they ask, “What’s the worst that can happen if I break a rule?” If the imagined consequence doesn’t reach a level that gets their attention, they act with impunity, and that is where the state of discipline within the Indiana Basketball team exists today.
For those who defend Crean by pointing out the patently obvious that Crean cannot monitor the players 24/7, I would remind them that no authority figure in life can do that either – not a parent, boss, coach, or mentor. What authority figures can do is hire or recruit the kind of people they feel can be trusted, establish solid boundaries through clear communication, and enforce a culture by exerting outcomes that serve as meaningful incentives and disincentives.
Judging by the rampant drinking and drug issues in the basketball program, Crean’s report card as a leader of young men in those three areas reads F, F, and F.
When Mosquera-Perea was arrested for that OWI, it was a Mosquera-Perea problem. When Perea’s behavior didn’t change, it became a Crean problem. When basketball players continued to break laws and department rules for alcohol and drug use, it became athletic director Fred Glass’s problem. And now, with yet more bad decision making, it is a McRobbie problem.
“Who are we? What do we stand for? What are we willing to do to enforce those positions?” are the questions that lead to the development of a culture. Those who assail Indiana Basketball for a lack of culture miss the point. The culture of the basketball team is clear. It was initiated through an indifference to enforcing boundaries and metastasized into routine debauchery shortly thereafter.
Words are not going to change the behavior of young adults, regardless of the level from which they are delivered. It is action that determines obedience. Crean has yelled. Glass has yelled. And now McRobbie has yelled.
When will they learn that the only people listening are those who don’t need to be told?