Coaches Discuss How ‘Win At All Costs’ Mentality Can Compromise Integrity

Men’s basketball coaches from Division I private universities Belmont, Vanderbilt and Butler, along with ESPN college basketball analyst Jimmy Dykes, shared their perspectives on being truthful in athletics as the Edward C. Kennedy Center for Business Ethics and Belmont University Athletics hosted their first Integrity in Sports panel discussion Wednesday in the Maddox Grand Atrium.

NewsChannel 5 sports anchor Steve Layman moderated the discussion among the men he dubbed “caretakers of the game.” The panel debated the changing landscape of intercollegiate athletics and maintaining integrity and honor amidst growing pressures to win. Participants also discussed how integrity spans recruiting, practice, scheduling, road travel, balance with academics, NCAA compliance, coaches’ personal conduct and student behavioral issues.

“Things aren’t going to change until the coaching heroes talk about doing things honestly and decently,” said Belmont University men’s basketball head coach Rick Byrd. “College athletics is supposed to be a part of the college educational experience, and coaches should be held just as accountable as the mathematics professor.”

Byrd added a university’s athletic integrity starts with its hiring of coaches.

Butler University men’s basketball head coach Brad Stevens said instead of simply sitting in the rows behind athletic teams in arenas, university presidents and athletic directors  should not “waver in accountability in day to day” and be the “tone setters” to trickle down the way they want student athletes to be treated and to behave.

The coaches also discussed a “win at all costs mentality” that pushes some coaches into compromising to keep their positions and how social media and bloggers amplify wins and losses taking them beyond the court.

“SEC basketball is about sell out games and filling arenas. We’re not just coaches but also in public relations, university fundraising and there to sell tickets,” said Vanderbilt University men’s basketball head coach Kevin Stallings. “It’s not just whether you win but how you win and that creates an additional pressure and has a trickle down effect.”

The men also discussed recent integrity-questioning events in athletics including the NCAA investigation of the University of Miami for a booster’s personal and financial relationships with recruits as well as the firing of Rutgers men’s basketball coach Mike Rice, who was captured on video verbally and physically assaulting his players. The panel concluded coaches should hire a trusted staff as well as make decisions before stepping onto the court to not use profanity or physical touch to motivate players. Instead, Stallings kicks basketballs as high as he can in Memorial Gym.

“The only way to eliminate and reduce the amount of wrongdoings in college athletics is to enact stiffer penalties,” Stallings said.

The men’s basketball programs at Belmont, Butler and Vanderbilt each posted perfect 1000 scores in the most recent Academic Progress Rate (APR) report. Belmont hosted the discussion because the University is viewed as a model program in college athletics, said Director of the Edward C. Kennedy Center for Business Ethics Harold Fogelberg, who is considering a additional Integrity in Sports forum focused on football, ethical issues for collegiate athletic directors and conference commissioners and the role of the NCAA.

“In the sports world, problems and unethical behavior involving athletic departments, coaches, student athletes and fans have been constantly in the news.  Yet, it seems like there have been very little honest and open discussions about this subject,” Fogelberg said. “At the same time the Board of Advisors of the Edward C. Kennedy Center for Business Ethics recognizes that college and professional sports is a big business impacting the lives of many men and women.”


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