When LSU running back Jeremy Hill was suspended on April 28 as a result of a misdemeanor battery charge, football fans pondered how much responsibility head coach Les Miles bore for the offseason antics of his player.
The answer is none.
So who is responsible? The parents, the coaches, the school? No, no and no.
If Hill is found guilty, fans need to stop pointing fingers at someone other than the individual who committed the crime.
What happened to personal responsibility in this country?
More and more Americans are excusing a football star's bad behavior by blaming society for his legal woes. It's not his fault. He had a tough childhood. He didn't know any better. He made a bad decision. He had no role models growing up.
Blah, blah, blah.
We constantly excuse athletes who get into trouble with the law and we fail to remember that these athletes know right from wrong. Whatever the excuses, short of mental illness, they don't excuse a criminal act..
Schools are not responsible for bad behavior. They are responsible for teaching curriculum in a safe environment. Teachers are responsible for specific curriculum. And coaches are teachers.
While many coaches form paternal bonds with their players, that bonding is simply a bonus for a player who grew up without an involved parent(s). It's an enhancement to a player's collegiate experience, not a prerequisite. And despite being a paternal role model for some football players, the coach doesn't automatically assume a parental role.
Coaches are not responsible for their players' upbringing—their parents are. And once a player reaches 18 years old, he alone is ultimately responsible for his actions.
This isn't limited to just criminal behavior. We're talking about a student-athlete's general adherence to a code of conduct.
The NCAA has a set of bylaws that specifically addresses what is and is not allowed for its student-athletes. Coaches hold meetings to go over what the NCAA defines as a violation. The NCAA's punishment for a bylaw violation can range from a warning to permanent exclusion from NCAA-sanctioned sports.
Yet the violations continue, even though the student-athlete understood what was and wasn't permissible, even though high-profile NCAA investigations and subsequent sanctions are regularly publicized.
Yes, student-athletes get stipends, but that may not cover all their wants or needs. Resorting to ill-gotten gains (impermissible benefits) solves their cash crunch. Bank robbers rob banks because they need money. Bullies resort to bullying because they may lack self-esteem and/or social skills. There may be a reason for a behavior, but that doesn't excuse the behavior.
Maybe rewarding our children for milestones that shouldn't be rewarded is messing up today's youth. Kindergartners now get diplomas at graduation ceremonies. We're rewarding our kids for finger painting? We're celebrating a six-year-old quietly napping?
If this is the standard of success we are setting for kids, then we are setting them up for failure as adults. What used to be a normal expectation is now cause for a reward. The fallout is inevitable.
Young adult job seekers get a rude awakening when they expect a raise for just showing up for work. And some student-athletes who have been praised during their formative years for their athletic prowess and aggressive tendencies may conclude those characteristics are beyond reproach when they reach adulthood. And when they break the law.
They know better.
Schools, coaches and administrators can't be responsible for a student-athlete's bad behavior, but they can attempt to correct it via reprimands, suspensions and dismissals. They aren't babysitters.
Perhaps the misguided notion that coaches are responsible for a student-athlete's bad behavior is more pervasive because more and more parents are relying on other adults to raise their children.
In a perfect world, every child would grow up in a household with at least one involved parent. But this isn't a perfect world and, unfortunately, society itself may have to do the disciplining of its young adults.
We don't expect perfection. We all make mistakes.
But we do need to demand more personal responsibility from the student-athlete who thinks the rules don't apply to him.