When commentators express outrage over players trading memorabilia for tattoos or selling their autographs, I roll my eyes.
A broken college sports system motivates student athletes to make money in a petty, unscrupulous ways and it’s easy to understand. But, when college sports programs sidestep NCAA rules that prohibit paying players, one must take notice.
The Louisville sex scandal is the latest controversy to break both the rules of the NCAA and the law. As reported by Outside the Lines, a staff member paid escorts to have sex with recruits and players on campus. The Louisville case is not only illegal, it’s disgusting in the way that the bodies of women are used as currency to entice recruits and keep current players happy.
Unfortunately, it’s not unusual for women to be used in this way at powerful college sports programs. The objectification and exploitation of women is made normal through the consistent use of “hostess programs” that use female students as hosts during athlete recruitment. That may seem innocuous, but all too often, sex is viewed as a foregone conclusion by the recruits. This is a dangerous assumption and can lead to sexual assault.
While the Longhorn men’s athletic program has not been accused of running a hostess program or paying escorts, there has been sexual assault violations by its players.
Before the Alamo Bowl in 2012, quarterback Case McCoy and linebacker Jordan Hicks were suspended after being accused of sexual assault despite no charges being filed. Just last year, receivers Kendall Sanders and Montrell Meander were charged with felony sexual assault. Less than two weeks ago, Sanders was acquitted and Meander’s charges were dropped.
With that said, the Texas men’s athletic department hopes to avoid a scandal of any kind through the leadership of its current coaches. While head coach Charlie Strong has established a program that is committed to teaching his players to respect women, head coach Shaka Smart looks to do the same in his first year at Texas.
Both Strong and Smart feature a form of accountability in their value systems and neither coach has been embroiled within a domestic abuse or sexual assault scandal like the one at Louisville. The Strong and Smart approach to a college sports system that regularly objectifies women and uses them as college athlete compensation is refreshing.
Between the two coaches, there is a guarantee that both the football and basketball program will have a moral backbone that can avoid controversy.