May 012011
Authors: Joel Hafnor

The world of sports is in a state of ethical decay.

It seems no matter the sport, there are shady figures and questionable decisions being made that go against the nature of the game. With each year that passes, the sports industry has increasingly become a moneymaking juggernaut. And as the fiscal stakes have risen over the years, so too have the pressures to win.

Those who have claimed powerful positions in the sports world (coaches, players, referees, commissioners, etc.) are usually intent on retaining that power for as long as possible and by any means necessary. This need to remain relevant and prosperous in the sports kingdom has seemingly made it acceptable to bend the rules when necessary.

Think for a moment, what sport hasn’t been involved in some sort of serious scandal over the past twenty years?

Take the MLB, a poster child for professionally rotten decision-making. A league that has been fighting to clean up its image for more than a decade in the wake of a league-wide steroid scandal that wiped out the reputation of some of the game’s brightest stars. Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Rafael Palmeiro, Andy Pettite, Roger Clemens, Manny Ramirez and Jason Giambi are a few of the notable players who have been linked to steroid use, and the list goes on and on and on.

Just a few years ago, NBA referee Tim Donaghy set off a forest fire of debate about whether games had been fixed from outside sources. Donaghy resigned just before allegations arose from the Federal Bureau of Investigation that Donaghy had bet on games he officiated. The league has done a masterful job at helping people forget about this scandal, as it threatened to turn viewers against the product altogether.

College basketball is a notoriously slimy business, as programs are forced to fight one another for the best recruits in the country. This often leads to recruiting visit scandals and sometimes even financial incentives for the players. It isn’t uncommon for players to have their schoolwork done for them or to cut classes for weeks at a time only to have the university turn a blind eye. Anything is justified in the college basketball world if it produces wins.

University of Kentucky head coach John Calipari is the perfect example of this. Calipari took both the Universities of Massachusetts and Memphis to the Final Four before ultimately leaving each school just a season before being hit with major NCAA violations. Both Massachusetts and Memphis were forced to remove their Final Four banners, and yet Calipari has continued his ascension through the college basketball coaching ranks with his “win at any cost” mentality.

College football has all the recruiting violations and financial issues as basketball, with a much bigger problem in the form of the Bowl Championship Series. The BCS, which is a separate entity from the NCAA, has controlled the fate of college football for more than a decade. And despite constant pleas from the masses for a playoff, the BCS has refused in order to maintain a power that feeds the majority of revenue to the six BCS conferences.

Why would the BCS go to a playoff system that could potentially help the downtrodden when they can keep 90 percent of the money flowing through its own veins?

It would seem that we are in a sports era more desperate for good journalists than at any point in history. My hope moving forward in my career is to find a way to keep the powerful accountable and to give voice to those with a story to tell.

I want to thank all of my good friends at the Collegian for giving me the opportunity to make a statement over the past two years. I need to single out a few individuals, including former sports editor Matt Stephens, the hardest working sports journalist I know and the man who hired me in fall 2010. And Cris Tiller, who will take over for me next semester, I can say with certainty that I’m leaving you in the hands of a damn good journalist. Also, a sincere thanks must go out to all my writers who helped me out all semester.

I’ll sign off by giving thanks to my friends and family, to my two brothers who are my best friends, my mother who has always supported me and to my dad for inspiring me to write.

Sports Editor Joel Hafnor can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @sportsstatement.

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