Michael: Front Range athletics need more accountability

Justin Michael

Storming the field with your classmates after a victory over a rival, taking your children to see a game at the alma mater, communities rallying together through a tough times; the reasons we love college athletics are endless.

One of the biggest reasons we love sports though is that they possess the unique ability to bring people together, allowing us to escape the frustrations of our everyday lives through an electric atmosphere that can only be felt on a college gameday.

Unfortunately, far too often people forget that at the end of the day these are just games and when the final buzzer sounds, those real problems still exist. More importantly, we as a society must remember that being dominant on the field does not give anyone a pass for poor behavior on or off the field.

In 2017 alone the University of Colorado, Colorado State University and the University of Northern Colorado have all had negative headlines surrounding their athletic departments at some point, proving that it is not just the big-time programs like Baylor or Penn State that can cross the line.

According to a report released by Sports Illustrated on Feb. 3, CU officials knew of domestic abuse allegations regarding assistant coach Joe Tumpkin, yet still promoted the defensive assistant to defensive coordinator for the Alamo Bowl against Oklahoma State. Tumpkin has since resigned from his position.

A recent report from the Associated Press found that former UNC men’s basketball coach B.J. Hill completed coursework for players, had assistants complete coursework for student athletes and provided impermissible benefits to players from 2010-2014.

Finally, according to the Coloradoan, a 2013 investigation of the Colorado State men’s basketball program, completed by the University, led former athletic director Jack Graham to believe he had grounds to terminate men’s basketball coach Larry Eustachy for the way he treated players. Eustachy was instead placed in an anger management program and ultimately given a multi-year contract extension.

Even more disheartening than the fact that three public institutions would all make the news in less than a calendar month for these types of incidents, is the fact that some fans do not seem to grasp the seriousness of the situation and in some cases, have even tried to justify the behavior or attack the media source bringing the news to their attention in the first place.

Now this has not necessarily been how the majority of sports fans along the Front Range have reacted, but there certainly have been enough that have reacted this way to raise some red flags.

Looking at CSU specifically, there was significantly more outrage at the timing of the report than the content it possessed. Essentially Ram fans were more angered by the fact that a negative report came out regarding their first place basketball team than they were with the disturbing allegations regarding the program’s coach.

When the Tumpkin report originally surfaced, Buffs fans did not respond much better, widely referring the piece as a “hit job” against their recently revived football program.

Whether you believe the schools handled the situation properly or not, one thing that will always remain true is that the issues presented needed to be presented. Bringing attention to these issues and challenging academic institutions to be better is not something to be ridiculed, rather encouraged.

If you are more upset with the fact an issue was exposed than you are with the programs that did wrong in the first place, take a hard look in the mirror because you are part of the problem. If we ever expect the culture to change within collegiate athletics, accountability is the first step and the Front Range can use their fair share.

Collegian sports reporter Justin Michael can be reached by email at sports@collegian.com or Twitter @JustinTMichael.