You have to wonder what else can one college do to farther sully its reputation. Rutgers made a giant mistake when its administration allowed basketball coach Mike Rice to treat his players like punching bags. But the school, headed for the big money of the Big Ten Conference, thought it had put an end to the controversy when it hired a Rutgers alum after firing Rice.
Eddie Jordan, 58, a former NBA player, was picked to bring calm and respect back to a beleaguered program. Jordan might have done just that had he not returned to campus with baggage heavier than Rice’s.
For Eddie Jordan is a liar. The man dolled up his academic credentials to make them seem as if he had a college degree from Rutgers. On the redo – and you get a redo when you tell a lie as unforgiveable as this one – the university has since reported that Jordan was a few hours short of a degree. It was an “error,” it said, to have reported that he did have a bachelor’s degree.
No, it was an error that the university, coming off the sorry decision to overlook Rice’s abusive, homophobic pedigree, didn’t vet Jordan properly. Yet at Rutgers, that seems to be standard practice, because the university was in this situation of needing a coach for its men’s basketball team because it hadn’t properly vetted Rice, whose reputation of abusing athletes was hardly a Pentagon secret.
For his part, Jordan is telling everybody who takes a second to listen that all of this is an honest mistake. He’s claiming he didn’t get credit for the last classes he completed. The reason: “I wasn’t registered right.”
Now, I’m no Phi Beta Kappa scholar, but it seems to me that if you’ve graduated, the university has sent you a degree to prove it. I know, because I have two of ‘em: a bachelor’s and a master’s. Both are cool-looking documents that tell people, Yeah, I’m a college graduate.
Did Jordan not know he didn’t get his? Or did he not care?
Regardless of the reason, he should resign or Rutgers should fire the man. In my mind, it’s clear Jordan doesn’t value education for college athletes. How could he and then be so cavalier about his own academic credentials?
After the discrepancy was reported last Friday, a university mouthpiece called Jordan “part of the Rutgers family.” The university’s family must be the Simpsons – Homer’s clan, not O.J.’s? That would make some sense, because the men and women who lord over the clan are either a comedy troupe or circus clowns. They proved that the hiring of the renegade Rice was more than a mere mistake; his hiring exposed the dysfunction that exists in the school’s athletic department.
To me, it’s always curious when a school, a politician and an athlete have to backtrack. We sit back, watch and laugh as they scoop up the lies and try to bury them under a mountain of apologies and I-didn’t-mean-no harms. But their excuses are unacceptable, not in today’s world where we must insist on more integrity from the people who coach, mentor and counsel our athletes.
At Rutgers, the administrators do not know the word “integrity.” They also do not know how to hire. One mistake retarded the basketball program’s growth; a second mistake threatens to doom it to years of mediocrity in a conference that has shown basketball is becoming its signature sport.
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