LSU Football Program Under a Microscope
Recent allegations that the Louisiana State University (LSU) dismissed charges of sexual harassment by one of its star football players brings into question the culture of the athletic department and university. It seems quite evident it is a culture that tolerates misbehavior.
The LSU Case
On November 17, 2017, USA TODAY reported that LSU ignored allegations that a star running back in its football program, Derrius Guice, allegedly raped a woman after she had passed out drunk at a party. The incident was reported in the spring 2016 semester by a member of the LSU diving team who had told her coach and an athletic department administrator about the alleged rape.
That summer, a female student told two senior athletics administrators that Guice took a partially nude photograph of her without her permission, and then shared it with a team equipment manager and possibly others.
In April 2017, the athletic department received reports of a second rape allegation against Guice by a tennis player.
The story doesn’t end there. On August 7, 2020, Guice was arrested on domestic violence charges, including one count of strangulation, which is a felony offense, three counts of assault and battery and one count of destruction of property. Upon notification of his arrest, the Washington Football Team (aka, Washington Redskins) released Guice.
You can learn more about these events in my Ethics Sage blog. The purpose of today’s Higher Education Ethics Watch blog is to compare the LSU case to other recent scandals in college sports.
The UNC Case
There are those occasions where faculty or the university promotes cheating even though they know it is wrong. As I point out in another blog, a case in point is the 2014 case I call “Tar-Heel Gate,” a so-called paper-class scandal, in which 3,100 student-athletes at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill (UNC) were essentially allowed to take classes without attending classes and given grades good enough to keep them eligible to play men’s football and basketball during a 20-year period.
The NCAA failed to act responsibly and took no action against UNC, reasoning that since all students on campus were allowed to take classes under similar circumstances, the university wouldn’t be sanctioned. In other words, since all students were allowed to cheat at UNC, there would be no penalty against its sports programs. This is a weak argument at best. The fact is that the NCAA didn’t want egg on its face in light of seven UNC basketball championships between 1924 through 2017.
Some of you might remember the Penn State sexual abuse case a few years ago and read my blog about it. Briefly, former Penn State defensive coordinator, Jerry Sandusky, raped a 10-year old boy in the Penn State locker room on March 1, 2002, and the crime went unreported for years. This despicable act is made that much more despicable because Sandusky had offended eight boys over a 15-year period all of whom were part of a charity started by Sandusky for disadvantaged kids known as the Second Mile.
These matters were reported to legendary football coach, Joe Paterno, but not acted on by the university. Penn State officials buried their heads in the sand and wished it away. Of course, that didn’t happen. Sandusky is now serving a term of between 30-60 years in prison.
The NCAA did initially react responsibly in the Penn State case. It imposed a $60 million fine, equivalent to the approximate average of one year's gross revenues from the Penn State football program. It also imposed a ban on participation in postseason play for four years. The NCAA reduced the grants-in-aid the University could allocate four years. It also placed Penn State on probation for five years and vacated all wins between 1998-2011 and the record of Paterno would reflect the vacated records.
However, in 2015, the NCAA lifted the on-the-field sanctions placed on the Penn State football team for the Jerry Sandusky scandal, including immediately eliminating the postseason ban and restoring scholarships. I don’t know why it took that action but it doesn’t matter. The NCAA has no moral campus where sanctioning college sports programs are involved, especially those with high visibility.
While the LSU matter pales in comparison to that of Penn State, the NCAA should take the LSU incident seriously. Anything less is an abrogation of its responsibilities as an oversight commission.
Posted by Dr. Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, on November 17, 2020. You can sign up for his newsletter and learn more about his activities at: https://www.stevenmintzethics.com/. Follow him on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/StevenMintzEthics and on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/ethicssage.