Cracks in the Foundation
Brick by brick, the physical structures of colleges and universities are built; however, these bricks can also be used to symbolize the intangible beliefs and values of a school. Bricks of integrity, respect, and responsibility should form a foundation strong in pride and reputation, and the mortar that holds them together should function as the school’s mission statement. Unfortunately, a growing trend exists where certain bricks are overriding the value of others, and the necessary equilibrium needed to uphold institutional integrity is no longer being achieved. As the bricks representing collegiate athletics place mounting pressure upon universities, the mission statement mortar can no longer effectively support them, and it is only a matter of time before cracks in the foundation begin to form.
The mission of an intercollegiate athletic organization should focus on principles such as integrity, responsibility, academic success, and essentially the aspiration for what is best for student-athletes. Unfortunately, as institutions feel increasing pressure to achieve athletic victories, gain recognition, compete among other programs, and secure revenue, their mission statements are consequently convoluted or distorted. Internal weaknesses such as incompetent personnel and inside conflict contribute to this travesty. However, the foremost obstacle is the increasing external threat of collegiate sport organizations shifting focus from a purpose of providing education for students to supplying entertainment for fans. The costs associated with this shift are proving detrimental to the student-athletes and the overall integrity of the college. Primarily, these negative internal and external elements that invade colleges send a message that value of entertainment is greater than value of education. As institutions strive to achieve the benefits of operating as an entertainment business, unethical tactics displayed by coaches and other personnel taint the program. The pressures cause coaches to develop a win-at-all-costs mentality that promotes cheating, academic dishonesty, recruiting violations, and other unethical practices.
Certainly, successful athletic departments have evaluative and control systems in place, but instead of concentrating on the student-athlete and core values, they focus on finances, public relations, and win-loss records. Alternatively, these systems must include analysis of standards such as character, academic success, and social responsibility. This would allow institutions to bridge the gap between declared mission statements, and actual achievement of goals and objectives. Until grade point averages and graduation rates are rewarded monetarily, the bricks of morality and integrity will continue to deteriorate. Efforts must be made to remedy internal weaknesses and external threats, or the cracks in the foundation will continue to widen, and the structure of collegiate sport organizations will crumble, brick by brick.