We have failed you.
We’ve chosen access over accountability. Relationship has trumped responsibility. We stayed silent when young women were raped and abused. When young men were assaulted, we looked the other way. We, the college football media, have failed you, the game, and society as a whole. We haven’t done our jobs and for that I am very sorry.
College football has a rape culture. It isn’t the prevailing culture but it in the wake of recent cases at Florida State, Baylor, and Tennessee, it’s impossible to argue the culture’s existence.
We, the media, didn’t create it but we stood idly by while it grew into an epidemic. We didn’t hold the parties responsible accountable for their actions. Now the culture has gone from merely existing to thriving.
The rape culture in college football couldn’t exist in any other sport. Even if executives and administrators didn’t have the integrity to punish such actions on their own, the media in professional sports would be unrelenting in their criticism. We in the college football media, on the other hand, were satisfied when Art Briles categorized multiple rapes committed by his football players as “a societal problem”. This was specifically in response to one of his former players reportedly raping five women in a three-year period while on his team.
That’s the college football media, though. We welcome Rick Neuheisel into our ranks with open arms despite his reportedly working with Seattle prosecutors to cover up as many as four rapes during his time as head coach at Washington.
We rushed to Les Miles’ defense at the end of this season, never mind that in 2011 Miles allowed Jordan Jefferson to return to his team after kicking one of our military service members in the face. That service member was trying to save a man who had been drug from his car and beaten by a mob for simply honking his horn.
Too often the college football media has become a bastion for jock-sniffers, sycophants, and yes men. We can be gutless. A school can impede a sexual assault investigation and never have to answer for it with either the local or the national media.
While it may not be our responsibility to police schools that sweep rape or assault allegations under the rug, it is absolutely our responsibility to expose them publicly when they do.
How do we do that? We don’t let it go. We value human life more than we value worthless, coach-speak interviews that we record after practice. We value the physical and emotional well being of young women over a thirty minute film-room exclusive on our networks. We act like responsible human beings. We treat each case of sexual assault on a college campus the way we would want it treated if it happened to our daughters. We treat each case of assault as if it were our son.
This isn’t to say all college football players commit brutal acts of violence and not all college programs cover up crimes for athletes when they do. Most college athletes are fine upstanding citizens. Too often, though, we say nothing when we learn that’s not the case.
Not every member of the college football media is willing to look the other way, either. Locally, Jimmy Hyams and John Adams have been the personification of integrity. They don’t duck tough topics regardless of the relationships that can become strained. Nationally Bruce Feldman, Travis Haney, and Gary Parrish do fantastic work. For every Hyams, Adams, or Feldman though there are four fan-boys waiting to sell whatever bogus story the local coach is feeding them.
In truth, I am as guilty of this as anyone. There have been times I’ve believed employees at athletics departments when they told me allegations were not true. Years ago there were times I was more concerned with the security of my fledgling career than with being a decent man. For that I am sorry. You deserve better. I will be better.
Hopefully I am not alone in making that pledge.