By Ryan Stieg, AllPuck.com
When I first wrote a column about Boston University’s hockey team and its trouble with the law, it was about two isolated rape incidents. I cautioned that people shouldn’t slam the university over the actions of two players.
Well, this past week the Boston Globe obtained a report which lays out in detail a culture of “sexual entitlement” and a wide variety of academic allegations.
My opinion of the school has changed… but not as much as you might think.
Do I think BU has a problem? Yes. The allegations found in the report say that there was a massive victory celebration in Agganis Arena after the Terriers won the National Championship in 2009 that involved players having sex with girls in the penalty box and skating naked onto the ice to shoot pucks at the net.
Head coach Jack Parker then performed his best Joe Paterno impression, saying he had no idea of the party before finally admitting that he knew players were drinking in the locker room.
The report also says that the some players left an impression that they didn’t need to “seek consent for sexual contact” and that a female student complained of a player shoving his hands down her pants and refusing to stop — both very disturbing, if true. Maybe, unfortunately, it bears repeating that rape is never OK, no matter how someone acts or dresses, and being a star athlete doesn’t give you the right to take advantage of another human being.
Some of the academic allegations laid out in the report include BU players having lower SAT scores than their fellow students and that an increasing amount of players are enrolling in the school’s continuing education program instead of the undergraduate colleges. Players are also accused of disrupting class and skipping lectures even when there was not a conflict with the athletic calendar, while faculty members have been accused of grade tampering in which the grades submitted by professors didn’t necessarily end up on transcripts.
BU has disputed these allegations, saying that there is no evidence supporting the claims and that they have ended the continuing education enrollment plan. Some administrators are also angry with Parker for not reporting about the 2009 party and for his means of disciplining players. Parker was stripped of his executive athletic director title, but will still maintain his salary as head coach and there will be no other penalties issued against him.
The school is also angry with a local bar, T’s Pub, which has been accused of letting players inside without ID’s among other things. BU has approached the bar with concerns, but has said there’s not much they can do about it because the bar is a private business.
Here’s the part where I lessen my criticism.
The remainder of the report alleges behavior evident on almost every college campus. Players engage in frequent group sex sessions. (Is that really a problem?) Parker says that he tells his players to have respect for women, but notes it’s not his job to say “You guys have to be celibate.” (Nor should it be.) It seems like in this case, the administrators mentioned in the report are taking on the role of Dean Wormer from Animal House, looking down and waving their fingers from their ivory towers. It’s not necessarily healthy to engage in group sex on a regular basis, but since when is it the school’s business to tell students how to be sexually active?
As far as the academic allegations go, if they are true, they shouldn’t surprise anyone. Athletes having lower test scores than other students? WHAAAAAT? That’s only been going on for decades. That’s why the NCAA always makes me laugh with its commercials about how there are “no dumb jocks.” Right. If you want to believe that, I have a tropical island I’d like to sell you.
There are plenty of smart athletes, too. At the University North Dakota, the hockey players I shared classes with attended on a regular basis, turned in their assignments on time and got good grades without any “assistance” from professors. It’s only delusional to think that every college athlete is as dedicated to his schoolwork as the NCAA’s marketing department would have us believe.
The report’s obvious flaw is that it doesn’t offer actual evidence that grade tampering — or any of these disruptive incidents — occurred. They could have, but if you can’t prove it, all you are doing is pointing fingers and creating rumors.
As for a college town bar letting underage athletes inside, is this news anymore? Just because it’s commonplace doesn’t mean it’s ethical, but institutional behavior is hard to correct without enforcement.
Considering everything that was alleged against the BU hockey players, we should give the university some credit. The school took it upon itself to investigate these incidents and is trying to place policies and plans in place to deal with them in the future. Administrators could have a serious problem on their hands in regard to the “sexual privilege” culture, but it appears they’re responding with vigilance. Having players attend a mini-seminar before and after each season on sexual assault and respect for women could be a good starting point.
BU was also right to keep Parker on as head coach. He’s earned respected over several years, both on and off the ice, and with the exception of the 2009 party there isn’t really anything to say he isn’t doing his job well. He also never actually broke any university rule in failing to report the party to administrators, so if the school were to fire him, it would appear unusually harsh.
If similar allegations persist and more evidence comes to light, maybe penalties need to be harsher and the school needs to do more — possibly to the extent of removing Parker. Until that happens, I applaud BU for dealing with these issues and trying to fix them before they really get out of control and those champions of morality in Indianapolis have to get involved.