EDITORIAL: Stop glorifying the basketball teams; they’re just student-athletes

Marquette Madness. Photo by Aaron Ledesma/aaron.ledesma@marquette.edu

Vice President and Director of Athletics Larry Williams begins his first semester on the job this week, and we at the Tribune would like to welcome him to the job.

The premise of Williams’ hiring process and appointment was in part to change the culture of our athletics, most notably scarred by the sexual assault case reported last spring involving student athletes.

The time has come to see just how dedicated he and our athletes are to changing athletics’ culture, and we believe the best place to start would be with our most prominent athletics programs: men and women’s basketball.

It’s no secret the basketball players on campus are treated more like quasi-celebrity-athletes than students, especially the men’s team. The basketball teams are separated from the rest of the student body, and it’s time to change that for the better.

Unlike other sports teams on campus, both the men and women’s basketball teams have specialized, isolated housing arrangements. They have their own study space at the Eagle’s Nest in the Al McGuire Center and even their own area to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner.

We feel these discrepencies insulate basketball players from th rest of campus, as does the students’ willingness to put them on a pedestal.

This is not to suggest the basketball teams are undeserving of respect. Members of both teams pull off feat that few can. They are full-time athletes and full-time students. They have strict schedules that usually involve early-morning practices, specific study tables and planned meal times. It’s hard to be that dedicated to a college sport and still attend classes and get work done, and this is something for which any athlete should be commended.

But it’s perhaps because players are put on this glorified pedestal that situations such as this year’s “Crosstown Shootout” between Xavier University and the University of Cincinnati happen on Dec. 10, 2011. The basketball teams were involved in a bench-clearing brawl 9.4 secords before the game ended. This abrupt ending to the rival’s game occured after words were exchanged between players on Twitter before the game and on the court.

Though this was not solely because of Xavier’s players, the fact that these athletes represent an institution supposedly grounded in Jesuit ideals — and remained largely unapologetic in the post-game press conference — is amazing, and not in a good way.

“That’s what you’re going to see from Xavier/Cincinnati. We got disrespected a little bit before the game – guys calling us out. We’re a tougher team,” senior guard Tu Holloway said: “We’re grown men over here. We got a whole bunch of gangsters in the locker room; not thugs, but tough guys on the court. And we went out and zipped them up after the game. That’s our motto – “zip them up”– and that’s what we just did to them.”

While there are of course many factors in play in this particular instance, we feel the sense of entitlement cultivated by college basketball programs –– especially programs structured in the way both Xavier’s and Marquette’s are, where basketball is the university’s top athletic priority –– encourages behavior that is far outside the norm for regular students, or even regular student-athletes.

And while this example does not mean that Marquette players are exactly the same as Xavier players, we feel the conditions existing could potentially cultivate such problems somewhere down the line.

The solution, then, is to eliminate these conditions. This requires two things: that the student body take them off their imaginary pedestal and that the athletic department encourage the players to take that step down and work to become a more integrated part of the student body.

Integrating the basketball team into the rest of the student body must be an all-campus effort. To change the culture, we as a campus have to be willing to forge that connection with the team as real people, not glorified celebrities or stereotyped athletes.

It is not sufficient to promise a change of athletic culture with Williams’ hiring and let the matter continue as is. We must make an effort to fit the basketball players into the university as a whole. It’s time to make them student-athletes again, not just athletes who are students.

  • soulman

    Definition of “editorial” – An article written for the op-ed section of the newspaper in which an editor expresses an OPINION (emphasis added) about an important issue facing the city, state or nation.

    To begin, this commenter is a HUGE fan of college basketball — as well as the positives the sport can bring to the athletes lucky enough to participate as well as to the entire university. However, I encourage all previous respondents to remove the blue and gold sunglasses and read this editorial one more time. Take some time to process and think about what is simply an opinion, expressed in a newspaper.

    The writer(s) is/are not stating Marquette basketball players are bad people, poor students, or the kind of young men who would start a brawl. The writer(s) is/are simply stating glorifying such students and placing them on a pedestal creates a less than positive culture at a school that COULD lead to these such things. The writer(s) draws a comparison to another high-profile university who unfortunately has suffered the negative consequences of such a culture. Here, I’ve even included the sentence here for you to review:

    “And while this example does not mean that Marquette players are exactly the same as Xavier players, we feel the conditions existing could potentially cultivate such problems somewhere down the line.”

    No one is questioning the religious background of the coaching staff, nor their motivation, nor their ability to develop young men into positive role models, nor even the fact that a successful athletics program (entire program, not just one team) does contribute a significant amount of revenue (and donations which help pay for MU scholarships) to a university.

    The writer(s) is/are simply stating the university should consider eliminating certain conditions that could lead to this culture. Most high-profile athletic programs house their student-athletes in residence halls, amongst the general student body (for at least one year, sometimes more). While I confess I do not know what Marquette’s “isolated” housing denotes, I am sure it creates a competitive recruiting advantage over other institutions.

    Ultimately (and this is an outsider’s point of view), it is alleged that bad/wrong/immoral (whatever you want to call it) behavior occurred at Marquette in the past (that I gleaned from a simple internet search). Creating a culture where student athletes are lionized can lead to such instances being glossed over or swept under the rug. The writer appears to be stating “let’s try and do what we can to change the culture so that doesn’t happen here.”

    Thanks for reading. (No, I don’t work for the Tribune, nor am I an alum of MU.)

  • BillDerleth

    Don’t give up on the Tribune just because this anonymous joke of a writer doesn’t get it….. Go to painttouches.com and see how a basketball writer tells the world why they should receive special treatment….. Well done Mark Strotman….speak up in a staff meeting and teach your editorial board something.

  • MLennon66

    ^^Agree with you but my biggest problem is the writer of this chose to publish while hiding behind the cloak of an “editorial” thereby giving the portrayal that all the Tribune writers 1) share this opinion and 2) are this idiotic. Really embarrassing stuff but at least “man up” and publish this as an individual so you don’t tie down other members of the student body.

  • goldenzebra

    I used to read the tribune a lot. Now I am never going to read it because of this nonsense. The writers of this article are plain stupid. There is no way around that fact. Comparing our basketball program to Xavier? Come on. Our players would never start a brawl on the court, Coach Williams is not the type to recruit players who would be capable of such actions. Its hard to integrate a portion of the student body that is in study hall, traveling, practicing at every hour to bring millions upon millions of revenue to this school. A bunch of whiny tribune writers dont bring anything worthwhile to this university, this article has made that clear. I see the basketball players go to class, does that not make them students? What a stupid and pointless article. Remove this immediately, I hope there are repercussions for publishing this nonsense. This is like every other successful athletic institution. In order to bring success to the program, there need to facilities in place to help the student athletes deal with the challenges of coursework and athletic demands. Non-student athletes would not understand that. This article would have had more credibility if it had some student athletes write it, instead of some whiny tribuners.

  • StayClassy

    Another than the obvious that this article is awful, put your name on it. Then again, why would you want to put your name on this crap.

  • We are DePaul

    Awesome article

  • bmanmismo

    Wow, this was horrible. The only thing this article would be good for is to wipe my butt. It makes zero sense.

  • MLennon66

    Quite possibly one of the dumbest articles I’ve read in a while. For five irrelevant paragraphs, you rambled an illogical comparison between the Marquette basketball team and the intra-Cinci brawl from earlier this year. These are in now way related and in fact, I have no idea what point you were actually trying to make. Either way, hopefully this was not written by a journalism major because a tough future lies ahead if so.

    That said, I also got news for you. You’re goddamn right Marquette basketball players are on a pedestal. They are the most popular winter-sport athletes in the city, they churn a surplus of money into the school, and they’re damn good basketball players. Luckily, our Christian institution’s men’s basketball team is headed by a Christian mentor who understands the significance of such a pedestal. Next time you rip Buzz’s team, as Jim Calhoun so eloquently stated, “check your facts.”

  • hotman

    We need to stop isolating journalism majors. Their classes need to be in every building on campus, not just in the communications building. Same thing for business. No more Straz!

  • StopWhining

    This couldn’t have sounded any whinier. Not to mention the horrible logic linking the brawl at Xavier to anything that goes on at MU. The whole thing comes off as petty and jealous. Stop glorifying yourselves, you’re just student-writers.