So I just want to make sure I have this right.
The president of Boston University commissions a report to look at just how far the school’s hockey team has gone off the rails.
That report, in turn, concludes that hockey players lived in a “culture of sexual entitlement,” constantly given the star treatment, offered every reason to believe they are better than everyone else. In one telling episode, they filled the showers at the Agganis Arena with kegs after winning a championship, skated naked on the ice, and had sex in the penalty boxes.
At other times, two players were charged with sexual assault in a three-month span. That doesn’t include the player who shoved his hands down a woman’s pants even as she punched him to get away. They drank for free at a local bar, regularly skipped classes, and bullied a professor. There are some allusions that their grades were changed for the better.
The coach, the legendary Jack Parker, first denied he knew of the infamous post championship party, then admitted that he was aware of drinking in the locker room, even as players told a commission that he had reprimanded the team for its behavior. In other words, Jack Parker apparently lied.
“Jack Parker is the coach. If he didn’t know of the entitled culture in the classroom and with women, then he should have. If he didn’t know about the excessive drinking, he should have. If he didn’t know that too many of his players were acting like basic morons all across the campus, he should have.”
This is the stuff you expect to hear from the football factories of the Midwest. These are the types of stories that are told in faraway places where the blind pursuit of championships causes major universities to constantly stumble and fall. And now we find the same story is playing out on Commonwealth Avenue.
So how does the university react to this blockbuster report? What do the president and senior officials do to make things right?
They decide to review guidelines and define sanctions and – brace yourselves here – strip Parker of the entirely meaningless title of “executive athletic director.” His pay, coaching tenure, and status are every bit left alone.
And with that, BU has taken a deeply embarrassing situation and made it infinitely worse.
Let’s not put too fine a point on it all, but the unfortunate reality is that Jack Parker has to go. He may be the great guy that so many people believe him to be. His 40-year tenure may well be one for the record books. His ability to win championships can never be questioned. But he has painfully and obviously lost the capacity to coach his students about life, and that failure is costing his program and the larger university in the very worst of ways.
If you want to see how it’s done right, look just up the street at Jerry York and Boston College, where national hockey championships are won more often of late but without the criminal charges and controversies.
In regards to Parker, the report undertakes some impressive intellectual gymnastics. It basically says that it’s unclear what Parker knew and what he didn’t. It specifically says that the guidelines he and his staff were supposed to follow were “not sufficiently clear.”
You’ve got to be kidding.
Jack Parker is the coach. If he didn’t know of the entitled culture in the classroom and with women, then he should have. If he didn’t know about the excessive drinking, he should have. If he didn’t know that too many of his players were acting like basic morons all across the campus, he should have. It’s his job, not only to win championships, but to shape his players, and in that, he has obviously and miserably failed.
And if you need clear guidelines to act like an adult, hang it up, because you clearly no longer have what it takes.
Which gets to the president, Robert Brown. His university is filled with talented scholars – world-class scientists, deep-thinking philosophers, elite debaters, and celebrated writers. It’s also filled with students who are trying to learn a little bit about their subjects and a lot more about life.
And along comes the administration’s muted, foot-shuffling response in regards to Parker, a painful lesson that as far as BU has come, some cows will always remain sacred.
Parker failed his players. Worse, Brown is now failing his school, sacrificing dignity in pursuit of another championship.