Terps fined $10k, NCAA fails again
The University of Maryland was fined $10,000 by the Big Ten Conference for their captains’ refusal to shake hands with the captains of Penn State before Saturday’s football game. Head coach Randy Edsall was specifically reprimanded and wide receiver Stefon Diggs received a one game suspension for improper behavior which included striking a referee in the face.
This is the statement released by the Big Ten Conference, taken from ESPN.com “The decision by Maryland team captains to not shake hands with Penn State team captains during the pregame coin toss ceremony was exceptionally regrettable. For many, many decades the intercollegiate pregame handshake has been in place to reflect a spirit of good will and utmost appreciation for your opponent, the game and the institutions that sponsor your sport. Selection as a team captain is an honor that carries with it a greater responsibility to act in a manner consistent with those principles.”
While I have no objection to the suspension of Diggs, even incidental contact with an official deserves a suspension, I do have a problem with the way Maryland is being attacked for this supposed lack of sportsmanship.
In general, I do not believe a mandated pregame handshake has anything to do with sportsmanship. Therefore, Maryland’s refusal to participate in one does not by itself represent poor sportsmanship. Pregame, teams are supposed to preparing to compete against each other, to do battle against each other. How many times have NBA players endured scrutiny for prolonged handshakes and gestures of affection pregame?
Postgame is a different story. Postgame, teams show class by shaking hands and putting the contest behind them. The contest is over and any issues with the opposition are supposed to be forgotten. That is actually part of what it means to “leave it all out on the field.” The effort, the anger, the aggression, all of it gets left on the field after the final whistle. That is why it is considered incredibly classless to not shake hands after the game.
But, that is the general reason why I do not have a problem with Maryland not shaking hands at the coin toss ceremony.
The specific reason is that this is Penn State. It is not because their head coach James Franklin has a bad history with the University of Maryland or because he has lobbed some jabs at Maryland in the past. It has to do with the line in the Big Ten’s statement that references the “institutions that sponsor your sport.” Penn State Football. The program that thought so highly of itself that they covered up some of the most horrific and tragic atrocities that were inflicted upon young children at their facility because they were worried more about their money and reputation than the lives of the children.
Forgive me if I decide not to weep because they now feel slighted over a handshake.
The NCAA has been consistently reducing the sanctions that were placed upon the program almost from the instant they went into effect and now the Big Ten wants to jump to the defense of a program that, in all honesty, should feel lucky that any school would even associate with them. How quickly they want people to forget and move on as if nothing had ever happened.
But we should not forget nor move on quickly. And yes, I am aware that the current students had nothing to do with the crimes that were committed but this is not about them. It is about the school, the reputation of the school, and the lesson that was supposed to have been learned.
It was the arrogance and greed brought on by the pride of the football program that lead those in charge to cover up the crimes of Jerry Sandusky and I for one do not think we should be so quick to build back up to that same place. We are supposed to learn from our mistakes and grow from them, not pretend they never happened.
Maybe it is just because this story was about Penn State, or maybe it I am just making a mountain out of a mole hill but I find it so bothersome that a conference or the NCAA would look to come down swiftly with a fine and a reprimand over something as truly petty as a handshake when they still consistently turn a blind eye or are slow to act on real offenses.
The number of alleged sexual assaults across NCAA football programs seems to be growing by the day. Arrest after arrest. Drug suspension after drug suspension. All of these actual real crimes are happening at an alarming rate across the colleges and universities and the NCAA hides it’s head in the sand. Yet, a college student gets paid to sign a jersey or they ignore a handshake and the justice must be swift.
It seems that they learned nothing from the scandal of Jerry Sandusky at Penn State. The last line in the Big Ten’s statement says, “selection as a team captain is an honor that carries with it a greater responsibility to act in a manner consistent with those principles.”
What about the “principles” of being a decent human being or the “responsibility” of looking after the student body?
A $10,000 fine really does not amount to much to the University of Maryland. And a verbal reprimand is not going to bother Coach Edsall. But this story bothers me because it reminds me that the NCAA refuses to learn from its mistakes.
It is far past time that the NCAA starts to behave appropriately and with accountability.