Thursday, December 22, 2016

Players Should Suit Up for Bowls

Players Should Suit Up for Bowls
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
December 22, 2016

While there is no “I” in team, there most certainly is, in “selfish.”

Three running backs, Leonard Fournette from Louisiana State University, Shock Linwood from Baylor, and Christian McCaffrey of Stanford have each opted to forgo their teams’ postseason bowl games. Instead, they will prepare for the NFL draft and hope to raise their personal stock.

Were I an NFL team general manager, I would look upon these players, regardless of their individual talent, as demonstrating poor personal character in abandoning the team that helped make them an NFL prospect in the first place. One player does not a team make. A quarterback is only as good as his guards and a running back is only as good as his blockers.

Coaches should insist upon their teams operating at full strength – and that includes potential Sunday players. Those players should be obligated to play unless injured or suspended because the rest of the team deserves the same opportunity to win a bowl game as they did their regular season games. (Coaches who jump ship early when accepting a better job offer to coach elsewhere are no better than the players for whom they should be setting the example. Coaches should demonstrate the loyalty they expect their players to emulate.)

In fact, the athletic scholarship is akin to a contract, which should be enforced. Schools recruited those players to bring victories to the universities in exchange for tuition, room, board, and an actual education. Such an education should include lessons learned off the field and out of the classroom. Character is one such lesson, as is putting team above self.

For the same reason – putting team above self – the system of “one-and-done” should not exist. A student-athlete commits to a university and accepts a scholarship for the duration of their NCAA eligibility. Leaving school early is a breach of that contract and the student-athlete should be required to repay the value of the unused portion of the scholarship back to the university.

College football and basketball serve as de facto minor leagues, and as such, players who may not typically be found on a college campus will accept recruitment offers for lack of any other venues to put their talents on display. A minor league system should exist to nurture and grow the talents of players who, academically, should not be taking the spot on a campus of a more qualified student. Clearly this is a subject for a future column.

Perhaps another reason for players to skip their final college game is that bowl games are no longer special, but a money making scheme. (OK, they have always been about the money – I’m not that obtuse.) This is an indictment of the enormous number of bowl games being played – 40. Ten years ago, in 2006, there were 32 bowl games. In both 1996 and 1986 there were 18 bowl games, 12 in 1976 and a mere nine in 1966.

There are 128 schools in the BCS – Bowl Championship Series, of which, 80 or 62.5 percent, have “qualified” for a post-season invitation. Of this year’s 80 bowl invitees, 19 have records of 6-6 or worse – 14 at .500 and five sub-.500 records. Simple solution – ditch 10 bowl games and those 19 schools. This is as bad as the NHL and NBA playoffs that drag on through June. When the NCAA ran an 11 game season, and six wins qualified a school for a bowl, at least they would be over .500. Now, with a 12 game season, and conference tournaments, a school with six qualifying wins could “earn” a bowl at 6-7. An above .500 record, regardless of how many games played, should be the line of demarcation for bowl qualification. If there aren’t enough schools, start cancelling bowls from newest to oldest in terms of existence. Far too many of these games are played before thousands of empty seats masquerading as fans.

Receiving a bowl invitation meant something – a reward for a regular season well played. Today, a bowl invitation to a 6-6 team, or worse, is akin to a participation trophy, and that is wholly unacceptable. Want to earn a bowl game? Play better. (For the same reason any more than 64 schools participating in March Madness is too many.)

Jason Gay, in his December 23, 2016 Wall Street Journal column “Beware the Zombie Bowls!” wrote that “A playoff has rendered bowls near-irrelevant so it’s tough to chastise a player for opting out.”

I disagree with Gay on this one because for years, fans, students, players, and sponsors knew the mid-December bowls were not going to determine the national championship. These games are played with and for pride by the participants and will remain lasting memories long after the applause fades and the clocks strike zero. All the players should suit up for these bowls as they are team events that will speak well of their character – character that their fans will notice and emulate.

Sanford D. Horn is a writer and educator living in Westfield, IN.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Teach the Constitution TO Carmel High Admin

Teach the Constitution TO Carmel High Admin
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
December 18, 2016

When thinking of the administrators at Carmel High School in the heart of ultra-red Hamilton County, Indiana one of my favorite scenes from Mel Brooks’ classic comedy Blazing Saddles immediately springs to mind.

The late Gene Wilder is attempting to console the late Cleavon Little following a vicious racial slur aimed at Little. Wilder to Little: “These are people of the land; the common clay of the new West – you know – morons!”

That is the appropriate adjective for the administrators of Carmel High School following their very short-sighted decision to remove an anti-abortion, pro-adoption sign posted, with permission, by Carmel Teens for Life. This act of censorship came at the heels of one, a singular, student’s complaint that the sign was offensive.

Picture this hand drawn sign reading “3,000 Lives Are Ended Each Day…,” in rainbow colors at the top, with about 300 multi-colored hearts filling the poster, and the word abortion at the bottom with the letters “b” and “r” crossed out, replaced by “d” and “p,” to turn abortion into adoption. A great message.

How is this offensive? To whom is this offensive? Is it offensive to people who support the murder of the unborn? Is it offensive to those opposing adoption? What reason could there be to find this sign offensive? Apparently a reason for the complaint is unnecessary, just the mere objection, and the censors are quick to act – the First Amendment be damned.

Does the Constitution cease to exist at the front door of Carmel High School? Or at any school for that matter?

Enter the Liberty Council, a non-profit, legal organization in Florida willing to take action against the school district following the singling out of the conservative student group. After all this is the same school that has permitted posters supporting the homosexual community as well as political groups. Fair and balanced – certainly not. Schools should not be picking and choosing which opinions to favor and support, yet the conservatives seem to be more under fire than the liberals.

“Schools can limit speech or other forms of expression if it is disruptive and would disrupt the school’s education mission,” said David Schuman, a professor at the University of Oregon’s school of law. How is a sign promoting life and adoption adorned with hearts disruptive to the school’s mission? One would think a sign promoting the murder of the unborn to be more disruptive and disconcerting to people. Schuman also said the reason for removing the poster would play a role, but Carmel High administrators have not been forthcoming with one.

Schuman suggested that disallowing “posters that generate complaints from students who have been emotionally upset and unable to study, or prohibiting speech considered lewd,” could be acceptable reasons.

Those would be enormously broad based and vague reasons as to prevent any sign of any subject from being hung at Carmel High and set a dangerous precedent for schools nationwide. Consider a poster hung advertising baseball tryouts and based upon the above criteria, should one student complain that the poster is making that singular student emotionally upset and unable to study, that sign would have to be removed. Perhaps the student had a bad experience at a baseball game when younger or was rejected from the team in a previous year. For that matter a student lacking the talent to sing could lodge a similar complaint about a poster advertising auditions for the school’s annual musical and that poster, again, based upon the above criteria would need to be removed.

It’s a slippery slope to the point where no communication would be allowable because of the possibility that a singular student could be emotionally impacted negatively. This is not what the Founding Fathers had in mind when writing the Constitution. We the people do not have the right not to be offended. As Iowa State Representative Bobby Kaufmann (R) said recently about some group of whiners, “suck it up, buttercup!”

Speech that one finds distasteful or offensive should not be silenced. Instead, it should be challenged with even more speech. Open the lines of communications – argue, debate, challenge – albeit respectfully, and perhaps everyone can learn something. The Carmel Teens for Life’s anti-abortion, pro-adoption poster should absolutely be returned to the walls of Carmel High School thus supporting the life of the Constitution and the First Amendment to the Bill of Rights.

Sanford D. Horn is a writer and educator living in Westfield, IN.