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SPORTS: Recruiting: ruin or responsibility?

MULKEYTOWN, Ill. (BP)–The University of Colorado is bearing the brunt of a storm over allegations of sexual assault and the use of sex as a recruiting tool for high school football players.

Thus far, seven women have accused Colorado football players of raping them, and head coach Gary Barnett was suspended as the school investigates whether football players took recruits to strip clubs and hired escort services, among other offenses.

Although Colorado is the main school we’ve heard about over the past few weeks related to these offenses, it’s not the only university where activities like this take place. The use of sex as a recruiting tool has been commonplace on college campuses for years.

Fortunately, the siren’s song confronting many of these young players doesn’t ensnare all high school recruits.

For Lynell Hamilton, the offer of sex was the deciding factor in his decision where to attend college and play football. But it had the opposite effect of what his hosts hoped it would.

A highly regarded running back in high school from Stockton, Calif., Hamilton wanted to play football for the University of Oregon. A trip to the school, however, changed his mind.

According to a story that ran in the Stockton Record, Hamilton’s parents said their son was offered sex, drugs and alcohol at a party.

“I didn’t do it because that’s not who I am,” Hamilton told the paper. “I am a Christian. God was with me on those trips.”

Hamilton decided to attend San Diego State University instead of Oregon, and he played for the Aztecs this past season as a freshman. His experience at Oregon soured him on the university, and he had the courage to stick to his principles.

Others like Hamilton can probably tell similar stories, and I’m sure there are many principled athletes who manage to resist the temptations they face on recruiting trips.

But these young men shouldn’t be deliberately placed in situations where they have to make these choices. And universities shouldn’t exploit women and use them merely as a means of enticing players to their football program.

Coaches like Barnett may claim not to know what goes on, but they are responsible for the actions of their players when they’re hosting potential recruits. Coaches who either deliberately permit this type of irresponsible behavior — or turn a blind eye to it — should be relieved of their positions permanently. Barnett just happens to be the face on the story right now, but there are certainly other coaches who are just as guilty, if not more so.

The NCAA has assigned a task force to examine recruiting rules to see if changes are in order. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that something needs to be done, but even more teeth in the NCAA regulations won’t necessarily do a lot of good. The ultimate responsibility lies with the coaches, and they need to start taking that responsibility seriously.
Tim Ellsworth is a regular columnist for BPSports, online at www.bpsports.net.

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  • Tim Ellsworth

    Tim Ellsworth is associate vice president for university communications at Union University in Jackson, Tenn. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists’ concerns nationally and globally.

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