Yesterday in Flock Talk, I briefly touched on the issues facing Michigan State. While driving to work last week, I heard Mark Packer mention that neither Tom Izzo nor Mark Dantonio had any responsibility to answer questions pertaining to the allegations that they were part of an issue at Michigan State where sexual assault investigations were handled improperly.
I don't want to delve too deeply into the actual allegations because they are broad and frightening in nature. It is impossible to say if true. However, following in the footsteps of significant evidence that a massive 'rape culture' exists on the campus at Baylor; which followed too closely the Penn State child rape cover-up allegations, it is becoming increasingly, and painfully clear that there is an issue not just on a single campus or with a particular extra-curricular activity. There is an issue nationwide which is getting ignored far too often and swept under the rug when the topic is broached.
It is easy to pile on to this story; there are columnists and writers around the nation doing so at the moment. Earlier this week, in defense of Tom Izzo and Mark Dantonio, Packer said that it was not really their responsibility to respond to the questions surrounding their potential mishandling of sexual assault allegations.
The analyst is simply wrong.
These are coaches who walk into the living rooms of young athletes. They start recruiting them as early as 13 years old (in basketball; 15 or so in football). When they walk into those living rooms, they are making promises to parents. Almost all coaches make some form of promise to keep their sons safe; to be a moral compass, guidance counselor and father figure to the very talented athlete. These are the promises upon which trust is built with parents.
But you do not get to step into a living room, promise to provide a moral compass, then deflect when there are questions about the accuracy of that compass. College coaches are paid seven figure contracts. Unlike the NFL, however, this pay includes more than just wins and losses.
When a coach takes it upon himself to be the arbiter of what is right or wrong, steps into investigations in which he has no business being involved and then faces scrutiny, he has a responsibility to answer the tough questions.
The campus handled this wrong; as did the campus at the University of Oregon when Kavell Bigby-Williams was a member of the basketball team. While fans of the team might have felt relieved that Dana Altman was (for the most part) kept sheltered from the problem, what does that say about us as men? Do we think it's okay because at least it was not the coach mishandling the situation?
The reality is that an investigation into a sexual assault allegation was swept away with a lack of follow-up. Regardless of who made the ultimate decision, it is sickening.
Many may wonder why I took up the fight, in my own small way.
It is difficult to talk about, but having known rape survivors; and having been a college athlete; I have seen the devastating consequences and been near the culture in which these crimes begin. In short, I have seen this from both ends of the spectrum. I feel so much for the victim; I wish I could have been there to protect her, but it is now time we create protection not for each of our individual loved ones, but as a society of men.
The patriarchal society in which we live has been passed down by our ancestors and it is us men who must be the ones to step up and say: enough!
Between my wife and I, we have raised four sons. We hope for their success in life, we prayed for their safety as they embarked onward from our home. But above all, we had hoped they were men who respected more than their own short term needs; more than their selves. We hoped that they respected all humanity in the process.
All four have made their own share of mistakes as adults; it would be impossible to grow without mistakes. But our utmost pride comes in the respect with which they treat the women in their lives.
Which brings us back to the coaches at Michigan State and across the country. They step into living rooms and promise to be the guiding light; a moral compass to young men. Being the moral compass for young men is a very difficult responsibility. Once you take it on, you own it one-hundred percent. You don’t get the right to be the compass only when it is easy.