Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Comparisons of Baylor and SMU Scandals and Comments from Copeland

As the NCAA's sanctions imposed on the Baylor basketball team were announced, the comparisons and anologies between SMU and Baylor were instantly made. Mostly, I think the comparisons are the product of lazy reporting so I choose not to post any of it. However, there is a Chip Brown story in the DMN that has been picked up by the AP that has gotten my attention because Brown spoke with SMU AD Copeland.

The public relations aspect of enduring a third basketball scandal in 20 years is reminiscent of problems that faced SMU's football program. SMU, found by the NCAA to be a repeat offender of major violations, got the death penalty in 1987 after a massive pay-for-play scheme was uncovered.

The biggest challenge at Baylor, however, could have nothing to do with how the basketball team performs. It could be how the campus heals internally, according to SMU athletic director Jim Copeland.

Copeland, SMU's athletic director since 1995, was forced to address the effects of the death penalty when he took over - nearly a decade after the scandal hit.

His first task: rebuild his department's credibility within the SMU community. At informal lunches, Copeland heard faculty members angrily explain how the death penalty had hurt the entire university and not just athletics.

"They needed to understand we were going to graduate kids," he said. "That the primary mission for the university was academic, not athletics, and that we were going to run the program right, ethically."

Will someone please let me know when the task of rebuilding the athletic department's credibility is complete? I am sure the faculty is happy with the football team's graduation rate. They should be, IT IS BETTER THAN THE UNIVERSITY AS A WHOLE. But from where I stand in Section 204, SMU has a long way to go.

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