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Archive for Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Principled stand

Dismissing a Kansas University football player for disciplinary reasons was the right thing to do.

March 16, 2005

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Congratulations to Kansas University football coach Mark Mangino for dismissing one of his star players from the team for disciplinary reasons. It is refreshing to see a coach stand firm for principles rather than manufacturing some excuse to justify behavior that runs counter to good citizenship or to well-known team rules.

It is unfortunate for John Randle that he has been dismissed from the team, and it is unfortunate for Coach Mangino. Randle had a real opportunity to become one of the Big 12's best running backs, which would have meant a lot to the 20-year-old junior, as well as to the team. It is unfortunate for Mangino and his team not to have Randle's services in the upcoming football season.

However, Randle, who has had previous scrapes with the law, was involved early Sunday in a fight outside a local bar, resulting in him being arrested and later charged with misdemeanor battery.

Randle's dismissal from the football team is a tough punishment, and, at this time, no one has any idea how it will affect the young man's future. Mangino said the university will honor its scholarship agreement with Randle so he can complete his schooling at KU if he chooses, but it's unknown whether he will stay at KU or try to transfer to another school in hopes of playing football again.

Regardless, at a time when money is the dominant factor in Division I intercollegiate football and basketball, when the personal behavior of too many players and some coaches is highly questionable, when the academic side of major sports is suspicious and when winning is what's most important (this is why money enters the picture), it is refreshing to see Mangino, who wants to win as badly as anyone, take the disciplinary action even though it is sure to hurt his team.

At some time, in some way, something has to be done to hammer home to a vast number of college football and basketball stars that their personal behavior is part of earning their college scholarships and having the privilege of pursuing a college degree.

Far too many high school "stars" have failed or merely slipped by in the classroom. When they got into trouble, someone was willing to offer excuses or bail them out. They have been given the benefit of the doubt far too many times. When they are begged and courted to attend one school over another, it is easy for them to think they are so special that they deserve special attention in the classroom, on the campus and on the playing field or basketball court.

They have been spoiled and think they can get away with bad behavior without having to pay the price.

Mangino has made it clear he will not tolerate such actions. At times, it seems the only way to keep players out of trouble is to impose strict curfews, but how many coaches have the courage to resort to such tactics? And how many players would agree to curfews?

At some time, the public is likely to get fed up with the excesses of too many in the collegiate sports scene. Growing numbers of alumni and friends of colleges, as well as faculty, are becoming concerned by the obsession many athletic department officials and college administrators have on the almighty dollar and what they are willing to tolerate in order to win.

John Randle learned a painful lesson. He may have been goaded into a fight, and often it is the person who throws the last punch who is caught and disciplined. Nevertheless, he had been in trouble before and had been warned he was walking a fine line relative to his personal behavior. He should have walked away from any situation that could have erupted into a fight.

All of this is second-guessing, but, again, Mangino did the right thing. Hopefully, this painful action will send a message to all KU athletes.

The dollar and winning may be the most important thing to some, but for the majority of people, proper personal conduct, honesty and adherence to the rules still is the top priority.

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