It’s been the worst year ever for scandal in college football. But I think it’s worse than it had to be.
Don’t get me wrong – rulebreakers and cheaters should be held accountable. What they did was wrong, and their actions have impacted the innocent as well as the guilty. But in most cases, the downfalls of those accused have just as much to do with how they fell from grace as what they did in the first place.
Remember Watergate? Richard Nixon told the nation every chance he got that he wasn’t a crook. Then the proof came, and he had nowhere to hide. Remember Alex Rodriguez, who at first flatly denied using steroids? The proof came, and he was exposed as well along with more than a hundred of other ballplayers. Tons of other examples exist of people who did misdeeds, denied them and took just as much heat if not more for the cover-up than their actual crime. In college football in 2011, Exhibit A has been Jim Tressel, who might still be coaching if he came clean at the beginning.
Now remember Andy Pettitte. When the story broke in 2007 that he had used HGH, he called a news conference, told the truth, admitted it, answered every question and appeared genuinely sorry. The news media covered it for a while, but the story went away and public sentiment toward Pettitte has been nothing like that toward ARod and others. People were less angry at him because he told the truth; Pettitte minimized the damage from his mistakes, and therefore won the PR battle.
Athletes, public figures and people everywhere would be well advised to remember this indisputable fact: the truth always wins. Truth makes the world go around, and it always seems to come out somehow. It has always been this way, and will always be. Better to tell the truth, and take the heat for what you did, than to deny or cover up your actions. These events – and countless others – clearly illustrate that the people and brands who win long-term are the ones who admit their mistakes and work to fix them right away. The cover-up is indeed worse than the crime.
With the season starting again, let’s hope the discussion will shift back to the action on the field instead of off of it. And let’s remember to celebrate the people, fans and institutions doing it the right way.
That’s all for now. I’m out like the NBA.