The Ethics of College Basketball

The Barometer sees the charts in the newspapers. Charts to be filled out for March Madness, Sweet Sixteen, Elite Eight, and Final Four. The alliterations are clearly clever. Then there is the language of sportscasters: “Sky-walking with a big-time push.” Until the Barometer got the translation the assumption was that the TV had been switched to the space walk and a drive to finish the repairs.

As devoted as the fans are and as colorful as the shoes seem, there is that ethical cloud that hangs over this college sport. Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal provided the proverbial straw on the camel’s back. The players and staff are swiping the rugs from their locker rooms. Bless the NCAA’s heart, they were trying to make things “homey” for the players with area rugs here and there in the locker rooms. The NCAA has no idea with whom they are dealing.

Apart from the banished coaches, the X-rated recruiting scandals, and the bribery, there is the underlying erosion of the original noble goal of college sports scholarships: to provide the financial means to talented athletes to obtain an education. Today, colleges and universities provide future NBA players with a place to park it for a year before they turn pro. They are not in school long enough to even have to worry about grades for eligibility the following season. The academic world is now the farm club for the NBA. The problems with bribery, corruption, and hedonistic behaviors spring from the loss of the original soul and virtue of college sports programs. The NCAA is no longer running the show when it comes to ethics. Their little investigations and sanctions could not handle the level of misconduct. The Justice Department has stepped in with prison time as the punishment because the loss of post-season play or scholarships just was not doing the trick. The schools have adopted the CEO defense when fraud gallops through their organizations: “I knew nothing.” Okay, maybe an assistant coach here and there, but not the rest of us.

When it comes to playoffs and championships, we dutifully fill out the brackets and pretend for 4-5 weeks that none of the terminations, the shootings, the suspensions, and payments to parents matter. There may be corruption, but, man, can those guys play basketball. At least for a year.

About mmjdiary

Professor Marianne Jennings is an emeritus professor of legal and ethical studies from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, retiring in 2011 after 35 years of teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in ethics and the legal environment of business. During her tenure at ASU, she served as director of the Joan and David Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics from 1995-1999. In 2006, she was appointed faculty director for the W.P. Carey Executive MBA Program. She has done consulting work for businesses and professional groups including AICPA, Boeing, Dial Corporation, Edward Jones, Mattel, Motorola, CFA Institute, Southern California Edison, the Institute of Internal Auditors, AIMR, DuPont, AES, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Motorola, Hy-Vee Foods, IBM, Bell Helicopter, Amgen, Raytheon, and VIAD. The sixth edition of her textbook, Case Studies in Business Ethics, was published in February 2011. The ninth edition of her textbook, Business: lts Legal, Ethical and Global Environment was published in January 2011. The 23rd edition of her book, Business Law: Principles and Cases, will be published in January 2013. The tenth edition of her book, Real Estate Law, will also be published in January 2013. Her book, A Business Tale: A Story of Ethics, Choices, Success, and a Very Large Rabbit, a fable about business ethics, was chosen by Library Journal in 2004 as its business book of the year. A Business Tale was also a finalist for two other literary awards for 2004. In 2000 her book on corporate governance was published by the New York Times MBA Pocket Series. Her book on long-term success, Building a Business Through Good Times and Bad: Lessons from Fifteen Companies, Each With a Century of Dividends, was published in October 2002 and has been used by Booz, Allen, Hamilton for its work on business longevity. Her latest book, The Seven Signs of Ethical Collapse was published by St. Martin’s Press in July 2006 and has been a finalist for two book awards. Her weekly columns are syndicated around the country, and her work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, Washington Post, and the Reader's Digest. A collection of her essays, Nobody Fixes Real Carrot Sticks Anymore, first published in 1994 is still being published. She has been a commentator on business issues on All Things Considered for National Public Radio. She has served on four boards of directors, including Arizona Public Service (1987-2000), Zealous Capital Corporation, and the Center for Children with Chronic Illness and Disability at the University of Minnesota. She was appointed to the board of advisors for the Institute of Nuclear Power Operators in 2004 and served on the board of trustees for Think Arizona, a public policy think tank. She has appeared on CNBC, CBS This Morning, the Today Show, and CBS Evening News. In 2010 she was named one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Business Ethics by Trust Across America. Her books have been translated into four different languages. She received the British Emerald award for authoring one of their top 50 articles in management publications, chosen from over 15,000 articles. Personal: Married since 1976 to Terry H. Jennings, Maricopa County Attorney’s Office Deputy County Attorney; five children: Sarah, Sam, and John, and the late Claire and Hannah Jennings.
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