EDITORIAL: Hobbs's misconduct warrants resignation
Athletics director failed to represent school with integrity
Jordan McNair, a 19-year-old football player attending fellow Big Ten Conference school the University of Maryland, collapsed to the ground.
It was a moderately hot, late spring day, with the air temperature measured at 81 degrees, according to CNN. Thirty-four minutes passed, and nobody provided the necessary treatment for the heatstroke-stricken young man.
Eventually, the head trainer responded once realizing the gravity of the situation. “One said the head trainer yelled for assistants to ‘get him the (expletive) up,' and another player reported he told them to drag his (expletive) across the field,” CNN stated.
McNair died two weeks later.
The Terrapins responded to the incident with extreme reform and sympathy, though that is not to their credit, but rather to be expected from a school whose safety practices and general culture robbed a young man of his life decades too soon.
The resulting backlash caused nationwide reflection of sports culture, and how to balance discipline and hard work with safety and mental health. After all, discipline is a necessary tenant of athletics, and one of the many values it purportedly instills in young men and women across the world.
The fact of the matter is, coaches must respond to the players. If they are a touch winded or out of breath, that is to be expected. Once players start showing even the slightest signs of aggressive physical aberrations, such as crying, collapsing or even blacking out, coaches must immediately cease their drills.
Rutgers softball coach Kristen Butler and her volunteer coach husband Marcus Smith did not get this memo. Players allegedly had to run excessive sprints in response to a scant transgression — going $6 over budget at a team dinner.
“A group of team members were told to run six, 100-yard wind sprints — one for every dollar over — and each in less than 17 seconds, until some of them were left crying, collapsed or doubled over in exhaustion,” according to NJ Advance Media.
Additionally, “During a September 2018 session, one player collapsed from exhaustion, according to the player, her father and teammates. Butler rushed over to berate the player, they said.”
It is almost unfathomable that Rutgers, a fellow Big Ten Conference school with a history of poor coaches — see Mike Rice, who pegged basketballs and homophobic slurs at players, and Petra Martin, who allegedly shamed players’ weights and prevented them from taking mental health medication — is still incompetent and unwise enough to continue hiring these power-tripping coaches.
It was not as if there were no signs, either. Smith had a reputation of small-minded terror.
“According to the records, the allegations against Smith included at least 14 claims of inappropriate behavior, including wondering aloud if a player was a lesbian, intimidating players, revealing medical information about players and telling them 'I do not need to respect you,'" NJ Advance Media stated.
One of the players’ lawyers echoed this sentiment, and stated: “You would think that after Mike Rice — who really opened the eyes of the world to abuse in college athletics — that this particular school would have better procedures and protections and would be watching this more closely than any school.”
Furthermore, the more archaically-minded may not see a problem with excessive conditioning as a punishment. The problem is that the conditioning was — or is — far from the only troubling behaviors shown.
Coaches would throw softballs at players as punishment, invade player’s privacy by going through their phones and make comments such as asserting the team’s bus smelled like “period blood.”
If that was not enough, coaches also allegedly chased players off the team and broke the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) rules by attempting to revoke a scholarship — because devastating a student’s finances is adequate retribution for perceived subpar performance, evidently.
Coaches, like teachers and parents, are meant to duel as both mentors, confidants and authority figures. And, like teachers and parents, abusing that trust-based power is of the worst tier.
Rutgers Athletics Director Pat Hobbs, likely stressed out by his football team’s coaching search and performances, did not take kindly to NJ Media Advance’s inquiry on the issue.
“You guys are f****** scum. Why should I help you people?” Hobbs said to them. He later added, “This narrative around RU being a place where abuse is tolerated is bull****. But it gets clicks.”
Hobbs was right on the money — there is a narrative that Rutgers is a place where abuse is tolerated. A nonfiction narrative, that is.
How could Hobbs be so oblivious to his own hypocrisy? His statement denounces the view of Rutgers being a home to abuse while simultaneously verbally abusing a reporter simply doing their job.
Hobbs also displayed exceptionally poor temperament during his outrage. He unleashed his profanity-laced tirade at a reporter, whose job it is to report information and disseminate it to the public. It does not take a scholar to realize how that might just backfire.
It also degrades Rutgers as a school, making this a problem for all alumni and students. The athletics director, particularly at a Big Ten Conference school, is an extremely prominent position. When he goes off and says stupid, thoughtless and unsubstantial things as he did, it reflects on the University as a whole.
It is not as if Hobbs has a lucrative record. The sports that matter most financially have been colossal failures, akin to Hobbs’s handling of this situation.
But, at the end of the day, even if Rutgers was incredibly successful under Hobbs, the failure to handle these allegations and his contradictory, weak response to the incident, which makes Rutgers look terrible by proxy, warrants only one conclusion: Hobbs must resign.
The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 151st editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.
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