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Local Sports News / Opinion

Tuesday, 21 May, 2013 8:51 AM

Editorial: U of M, the NCAA & The "C-Word"

PHOTO BY MIKE WRATHELL / ©AMERICAJR.com

The May 2013 U of M Regents meeting was at the Fairlane Center in Dearborn, Mich.

 

by Mike Wrathell
mwrathell@yahoo.com

 

“Did you ever have a sister? did you?”
~~~William Faulkner from The Sound And The Fury

“Our purpose is to govern competition in a fair, safe, equitable and sportsmanlike manner, and to integrate intercollegiate athletics into higher education so that the educational experience of the student-athlete is paramount.”
~~~The Core Purpose of the NCAA from their Mission Statement

|

DEARBORN, Mich. -- Yes, I do, Mr. Faulkner. Thanks for asking. And so do Katie Hnida's brothers. Katie Hnida is the first woman to play Division I College Football, both at The University of Colorado Boulder, or CU-Boulder, or CU (where she was raped by a teammate and called a “cunt” during the despicable act) and at The University of New Mexico, or UNM, where she kicked two extra points in one game, becoming also the first woman to score points in a Division I football game.

A few months after Ms. Hnida was raped, President Betsy Hoffman of CU said about the word “cunt” in a deposition that “....I've actually heard it used as term of endearment.” Perhaps U of M President Mary Sue Coleman and Ms. Hoffman playfully used that archaic sense of the term to each other at a tea and crumpets party; but Ms. Hnida insists in her book Still Kicking that when she was being raped it was said with hate and viciousness, as most people would think the word is usually used. Unfortunately, some college presidents are as out of it as the Laputans of Gulliver's Travels. I'm not sure what circles Former CU President Hoffman travels in; but to make such an insensitive comment in reference to the rape of one of her own students poignantly illustrates the dire need for the NCAA to implement a Bill of Rights for student-athletes and revise or abolish a few of their existing rules.

Ms. Hnida was so traumatized by being raped, and the subsequent lack of support from Coach Gary Barnett, who contemplated smearing her in an e-mail to the Athletic Director of CU after she came forward about the rape, writing, “How aggressive should I be re; Katie...sexual conquests by her etc.” That was infamously followed by the bizarre comment of President Hoffman – forcing Ms. Hnida to decide to leave CU. Still Kicking well-documents the disgusting way in which the NCAA made Ms. Hnida jump through one hoop after another before she could finally play football again for NMU. It is a must-read for anyone who cares about collegiate student-athletes.

When I addressed the Regents of The University of Michigan at their monthly meeting this month at the Dearborn Campus on May 16, I told them I “highly recommend” they read Ms. Hnida's book. If you know any of them, or ever run into them, I'd appreciate it if you'd ask them if they've read it, and get back to me with their reply, in fact. There'll be a comment section after this article, and my email address is listed, to boot. I included in the supporting materials I presented the Regents and President Coleman before my address an excerpt from Still Kicking that contained the nefarious passage in which President Hoffman whitewashed the use of the word “cunt” during the rape of Ms. Hnida for the purpose of saving CU some money that would perhaps come out of her annual bonus. Can't have that! Here it is:

“CU president Betsy Hoffman had given testimony in a deposition
early in June, and on the 15th, her testimony was released to the public.
The deposition was for the case of the women suing the university, but
I was also one of the topics of discussion. Specifically, Hoffman was
asked if being called a “cunt” was sexual harassment. At first she answered
that it wasn't really her place to determine whether or not it was sexual
harassment.

The attorney then asked her if “cunt” was a “filthy, vile, offensive
term.”

“That word is...yeah. I mean, it's a swear word,” she answered.
But Hoffman then went on to say that the meaning of the word “cunt”
actually depended on the context in which it was used. She was then
asked if there were possibly any polite context where it might be used.

“Yes, I've actually heard it used as a term of endearment.”
Was she kidding? Hoffman had heard the word “cunt” used as a
term of endearment? When the papers ran the story, the word was
considered offensive enough that they didn't even use the term “cunt”
--they simply referred to it as the “c-word.”

University officials immediately went into damage control. A spokes-
person defended Hoffman, saying she is a medieval scholar and knew
that centuries ago, the word “cunt” was a compliment. Geoffrey Chaucer
used the term in a positive way in his classic 12-century book The
Canterbury Tales.

The player who called me the term was definitely not quoting
Chaucer and we were living in an enlightened 21st century, or at least
I thought we were.

Actually, I felt sorry for Hoffman. I don't believe she meant to
be offensive when she said the word “cunt” could be a compliment.
I think she got flustered under all the questioning and had something
come out in a very wrong way.” Pages 265-266, Still Kicking.


The honor of U of M and all member institutions of the NCAA is at stake. That includes CMU, WSU, WMU, OU, NMU, LSSU, UDM, and MSU. 1,281 members all told have their honor compromised as long as what happened to Ms. Hnida when she tried to transfer from CU can happen again. That Ms. Hnida had to grovel before the NCAA and use her own rape as a reason why she shouldn't be punished with the loss of one-year of athletic eligibility should never happen to another student-athlete anywhere ever. Supposedly, as stated in the Core Purpose of the NCAA, “...the educational experience of the student-athlete is paramount.” Really? If that is the case, why must a student-athlete lose a year of athletic eligibility if they transfer schools (absent a waiver one must grovel sufficiently for) while a football coach like Rich Rodriguez (who President Coleman proudly “enticed” to leave West Virginia University right before their appearance in the 2008 Fiesta Bowl) can actually coach the opposing team at said Bowl Game as far as the NCAA is concerned? So, not only does U of M tacitly endorse the Core Purpose of the NCAA being treated like mere boilerplate, it actively flaunts its contempt for the Core Purpose in the face of all student-athletes, past, present, and future.

How do you think the players on the UWV team's educational experience was enhanced by the defection of Coach Rodriguez a few days before the 2008 Fiesta Bowl, leaving seniors in the lurch before the last game of their collegiate careers? I wonder if President Coleman had a fleeting thought about them when she met with Rich Rod in Toledo a week or so before his defection. I bet not. She was just interested in “sealing the deal” ala Donald Trump. Was it so important that U of M traumatize the UWV football team and the entire state of West Virginia days before the 2008 Fiesta Bowl when the new football season didn't start for eight more months? What ever happened to integrity and honor in Ann Arbor? In fact, one of the Core Values of the NCAA, and every member institution should be held accountable to said values is, “The highest levels of integrity and sportsmanship.” Why is integrity such a hard thing for The University of Michigan to abide by? For the record, the time before I spoke to the Regents (the first two times being in Ann Arbor), I called for them to fire President Mary Sue Coleman. I didn't make such a demand this time as she is stepping down soon. By the way, I heard the Regents are saying their search for a new college president isn't subject to the Freedom of Information Act, even though U of M is a public university. Sound odd to you, too? With six of the eight Regents being fellow attorneys, you would think they would respect FOIA; but, like elected officials everywhere, I guess, once you get in office, you do everything in your power to see that the laws apply to everyone but you. Very sad.

Maybe if I bug the Regents enough, they'll get a clue. It's my hope that this article will show them the error of their ways, and give them proper guidance to restore the glory, integrity and honor, not only of the U of M, but also the NCAA. As a member institution, U of M and even me, as an alumnus, has a moral obligation, I think, to stand up and be heard, and not allow the NCAA to trample on the human rights of student-athletes. We all have the right to pursue happiness in America. It's a basic, human right, too – but it's even in the founding documents of our nation. The rule changes I'm proposing should be advocated at the next annual meeting of the NCAA this July in Indianapolis by a representative of the U of M. Is that too much to ask? If I am right, admit it and run with it. Is that so hard to understand, Regents? Need I add that standing up for the honor of student-athletes might help us land a few blue chips who might respect us for doing the right thing by showing some tangible courage?

NCAA President Mark Emmert in 2010 stated that, “We must be student-centered in all that we do. The Association was founded on the notion of integrating athletics into the educational experience, and we have to make sure we deliver on that 100-year-old promise. We have to remind ourselves that this is about the young men and women we asked to come to our schools for a great educational experience. We have to collectively deliver on those promises. That’s what you care about. That’s why we’re in this business.

The NCAA talks the talk; but it sure doesn't walk the walk. U of M, as the owner of one of the all-time, most-hallowed college football programs, cannot sit idly by as student-athlete after student-athlete is humiliated and abused and spit out like a cherry pit by the NCAA. U of M can, and must, stand up and demand full enforcement of the Core Purpose and Core Values of the NCAA or its own honor is also impinged. Furthermore, I think it's high time for a Student-Athlete Bill of Rights, a Bill that includes the right to transfer colleges without reprisal, the right to retain an agent when testing the waters of a professional league draft, the right for all claims of abuse to be investigated thoroughly, and the right to be treated with integrity and honor at all times by college personnel. This is necessary, unfortunately, to provide back-up to the NCAA's Mission Statement, given the sad history of its boilerplatification and the spineless lack of will of member institutions – ignominiously afraid to stand up to the NCAA's bureaucracy. Afraid, perhaps, that the NCAA will decide to retaliate and investigate any school that stands up to them for recruiting violations and whatnot, costing said school millions of dollars in teevy revenue, etc. Even if they probably will do that (and I don't put anything past them), U of M still needs to demand the changes I am outlining here.

Why is U of M afraid of the NCAA's shadow? Don't we have enough money saved up? U of M's budget is $6 billion dollars a year – the highest budget of any public university in America. Okay, now and then, we get caught cheating and the penalty might be more severe if we sometimes call the NCAA out on their dung. This is the home of the brave, Regents; and if you're cowards, you don't belong in elective office; so do the right thing, and send a representative to the annual meeting to address these issues this July!

If you don't, knowing the story of Katie Hnida, and the case of the U of M female cross country runner reportedly raped by a U of M football player, and threatened by another football player with another rape if she didn't drop the charge (both of whom are still active members of the 2013 team), how can you look at yourself in the mirror? How do you sleep? do you? The same goes for the Washtenaw County Prosecutor...grow a pair, dude!

As I told the Regents and President Coleman in Dearborn last Thursday (my third address to them on the subject), the reason why schools are so keen on “enticing” (President Coleman's word) football coaches from other member institutions before the end of Bowl Season is to augment the likelihood of landing blue chip high school players on National Letter of Intent Day, which is now not even a month after the Bowl Championship Game. The competition is fierce for top prospects, as you might imagine, so integrity and honor fly out the window as member institutions fight like punk rockers in a mosh pit for the McDonald's All-Stars. Who will sign Mayor McCheese? Will it be USC or Notre Dame? Will Michigan sneak through the pile like a hungry rat with radar? Go Blue!

The obvious and absolutely necessary solution, like I told the Regents, is to push forward the National Letter of Intent Day from the first week of February to March, or even April. There is no compelling reason the Day can't be moved closer to high school graduation day. None. If you think you have one, let's hear it, bucco! There is a comment section and you can post on Facebook, too!

One of the stated Core Values of the NCAA is “Respect for institutional autonomy and philosophical differences.” Like I told the Regents, what about respecting the autonomy of student-athletes? That needs to be in their Bill of Rights, too! If a U of M pole vaulter falls in love with a Wake Forest hurdler at a track meet in Dayton and wants to transfer to Wake Forest, or vice versa, what compelling reason does the NCAA have in punishing one of the young lovers with the loss of one-year of athletic eligibility? I thought so! None! So much for Emmert's “student-centered in all we do” remark. Yet, when Rich Rod jumped ship, he didn't miss a beat. The double standard is nauseatingly hypocritical and lacking in any shred of integrity.

Another rule in dire need of change is if a student-athlete desires to test the waters of a professional draft with a sports agent by their side, they lose everything. All athletic eligibility and all scholarships. That exhibits the same cretinous mentality that presumes that if someone charged with a crime retains or requests an attorney, they must be guilty. As six of the eight Regents are attorneys, I hope my analogy isn't lost on them. The threshold for losing one's athletic eligibility and scholarships should be if, and only if, the student-athlete signs a professional contract. Furthermore, if said student-athlete is cut from the team and not signed elsewhere, never playing a professional contest, they should be able to go back and finish their degree with a “full pardon” and have their benefits reinstated if they want to come back. Otherwise, the words of President Emmert are a joke.

Lastly, I want to apologize to anyone whose minds were stunned into non-receptiveness for my use of the word “cunt” at the May 16, 2013 Regents' Meeting. It wasn't a premeditated act. I figured, on the spur of the moment, that Ms. Katie Hnida had to hear that word while she was being raped, and, there being no children at the meeting, but actually people who have the power to send a voting representative to the NCAA's annual meeting this July in my presence, it would be cowardly on my part to self-censor myself and deprive my presentation of its penultimate impact by sharing something of the pain Katie must've felt – using a facsimile of that pain to awaken dormant outrage that all Humanity must feel somewhere inside them at such a wrong done to a woman, whether you have a sister or not. That being said, I apologize to those who feel they need one. I realize you don't hear that word when you are watching your soap operas or listening to WOMC. Go back to your little world of Barbie and Ken dolls and peaceful strolls across the Diag on a Sunday afternoon when all that unpleasant riff raff aren't around.

Now then, what are you, my Regents, going to do to see that no woman ever has to endure the humiliation and pain inflicted on Katie Hnida by the NCAA? If you need a moment to gather your wits, go ahead and take it. Oh, and if President Coleman doesn't have the chutzpah to address the NCAA on these issues, delegate me! I'd be happy to go to Indy, and I promise not to say, well, you know....

And to the person who called me out after my address and accused me of cheap sensationalism by using the “c-word,” try having a bit of empathy, dude, otherwise you come off as a shrill prude from Laputa.

Finally, Ms. Hninda states in her book that her dream is to one day kick in the NFL. She's been kicking on some semi-pro teams like the Colorado Cougars, the Fort Wayne FireHawks, and the KC Mustangs, but wouldn't it be cool if the Lions or the Broncos let her kick for them, even if only for one game? I mentioned that to U of M Athletic Director David Brandon and he scoffed at the idea. You need to read Still Kicking, dude, and work on your empathy skills, too. Shall I share your email to me with the world?

Related Stories: U of M vs. The NCAA: The Second Battle of Toledo?; U of M: From Fierce Wolverine to Gentle Woodland Creature

 

 

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