THE BLOG
04/04/2013 03:22 pm ET Updated Jun 04, 2013

Where Did Things Go So Wrong?

This Saturday, I will be hosting a dinner for the baseball teams of Oglethorpe University and Centre College after they complete a twin bill on our campus. They will have one final game to play Sunday afternoon before the team from Centre heads back from Atlanta to their beautiful campus in Danville, Kentucky.

Less than a year ago, Centre and Oglethorpe, along with six other highly respected liberal arts colleges in the Southeast, came together and formed a new athletic conference -- the Southern Athletic Association (SAA). Sewanee, Rhodes, Berry, Hendrix, Millsaps, and Birmingham Southern are the other six. The eight presidents who govern these schools began our first meeting, held even before the SAA became a reality, with a lengthy conversation about the principles by which we would be governed.

We are part of NCAA Division III and by that common affiliation, some of those principles are already established. Among the most significant of those is the rule that no athletic scholarships can be awarded to any of our students. In Division III, anyway, we continue to subscribe to the idea of the student-athlete, where the student part of that equation really does come first. But we all agreed that simply adhering to the covenants of our division wasn't sufficient for what we intended. It was our collective desire that we build a conference of like-minded schools that from start to finish, from recruitment to graduation, insisting upon the ideal that our student-athletes were to be no different and treated no differently than our student-actors or our student-musicians or our student-researchers.

One of the ideas that we began to experiment with is to bring our teams together during a weekend of competition for food, fellowship, and education. This Saturday evening will be our first formal attempt at this at Oglethorpe. I am hoping we will split the double-header to keep things balanced, but heck, if we win two, I am good with that as well. I have designated myself as the inaugural keynote speaker. As a former collegiate athlete, I have a keen appreciation for just how long these players will want to hear me talk after playing all day. That would be about 45 seconds, but I plan to try to keep their attention for a bit longer than that. I have chosen as my subject matter the letter "P". "P" as in Paterno, Petrino, Pitino. Pearl (that would be Bruce), and now Pernetti (as in the Rutgers Athletic Director). Admittedly, all of the bad behavior of these men happened in big-time Division I athletics, but there are lessons to be learned for us, even from the big boys.

There are lots of platitudes thrown around about participating in athletics: it builds character, teamwork, a healthy sense of competition. And, indeed, being an athlete can do all that. But today, intercollegiate athletics has been horribly corrupted and one is as likely to be exposed to bad characters and unethical behavior as you are to be taught all the good lessons of life. It's up to our coaches and our athletes to be the standard bearers for all those good things. That will be my message Saturday night.