Hazing prevention in college athletics requires a collaborative approach among administrators, coaches and student-athletes from every team.
Written policy, ongoing education, and the practice of positive team building are essential elements to create a positive athletics environment that helps create strong bonds and build team cohesiveness, without the use of hazing rituals.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association and its members identify the following principles as the means to creating a safe environment for student-athletes:
It is the responsibility of each member institution to control its intercollegiate athletic program in compliance with the rules and regulations of the Association.
It is the responsibility of each member institution to protect the health of and provide a safe environment for each of its participating student-athletes.
In order to promote the character development of participants, to enhance the integrity of higher education and to promote civility in society, student-athletes, coaches and all others associated with these athletics programs and events should adhere to fundamental values as respect, fairness, civility, honesty and responsibility.
For more information on hazing prevention in college athletics, click here.
By Hank Nuwer
Ralph Houk, the manager of the New York Yankees who died at 90 this month, was a tough leader who never needed to exhibit his toughness. His service to the country on D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge was all his players needed to know about his character.
Perhaps the best-known quotation attributed to Houk appeared in his obituary. “I don’t think you can humiliate a player and expect him to perform,” he once said.
Houk’s career and life illustrate an important lesson. You can’t demand respect from subordinates – be they athletes, soldiers, fraternity members or everyday workers. That respect is given because it is merited.
And that holds true for senior members of a team, brigade, or Greek or occupational organization. They are entitled to respect by virtue of their accomplishments as athletes and team leaders.
There isn’t a sports-loving elementary school kid or grizzled old timer that doesn’t know the problems of sport. Steroids and illicit performance-enhancing drugs. Booster bribes and payoffs. Gambling, point-shaving, domestic abuse and sex scandals. Hazing.
Yes, I maintain that hazing belongs on that list. Hazing, the practice of senior players, coaches or managers demanding artificial respect of incoming players by humiliating them or using them for cheap entertainment, needs to end.
These days, there has been much hand-wringing over whether Dallas Cowboys rookie receiver Dez Bryant was right in refusing to carry shoulder pads around for the more veteran members of the squad during summer camp.
Hazing – some call it initiation – is one of those “we've always done it” practices that on the surface seem harmless enough, even humorous. Servitude – carrying pads or helmets or luggage. Pranks – sending rookies to collect mythical “free” holiday turkeys from merchants. Skits – having rookies sing collegiate fight songs.
Harmless enough, even humorous, until you think about such practices. And think is the operative word. Or, better yet, groupthink. To be sure, there is no thinking when hazing activities, as so often they do, spill over into reckless group behavior.
In our society of extreme behaviors, where so-called sexting, harassment, cyber-bullying and stalking are deadly headline grabbers, it seems incomprehensible that the commissioners of all the professional and top amateur sports have not joined the NCAA and National Federation of State High School Associations in demanding an end to hazing.
The very nature of men and women in groups is that collectively a skewed attitude occurs – unless stopped by education and enforcement – toward sexual misbehavior, performance-enhancing drugs, alcohol, initiations and so on. Call it arrogance. Call it entitlement. Call it what you will, but you must call players on it.
Should we just say “never mind” to the fact that at least one (and often many) hazing deaths per year have occurred on college campuses from 1970 to 2009? The concept of an alcohol initiation for rookies is so common that the NCAA and various fraternal organizations – all dedicated to wiping out hazing – hold their breaths collectively each time pledging and a new sports season begins.
The number of sportswriters who call hazing “a time-honored tradition” is staggering. In the last couple of days, writers and bloggers from ESPN, the San Antonio Express News, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and others have used that biased and inane expression. Moreover, there is really a double hazing, a double humiliation, that takes place when bloggers and sportswriters gleefully write columns extolling the creativity of participants in this or that hazing prank.
Now for the good news. Unlike 1998, the year coach Mike Ditka’s New Orleans Saints beat the living tar out of two rookies in a gang-like or military run through a gauntlet, in 2010 we are seeing and hearing the voice of reason from many coaches, managers and athletes who have condemned hazing as either a distraction or unnecessary “tradition.”
This includes the likes of coach Wade Phillips of Dallas who told reporters, “I don’t believe you have to initiate anybody.”
Make no mistake, it took a long time and many tragedies and scandals for the NCAA to take a strong stand on hazing, but once it did, there is no backing down.
Hazing is on its way out, and like it or not, the Dez Bryant refusal to carry pads is one of those “things will never be the same” moments.
Instead of initiations, we’re seeing more and more veterans believe in mentoring – in taking rookies into their care – both as a human gesture and because true camaraderie is at least or more conducive to a winning team attitude than is mindless initiation in the name of misguided tradition.
Major Ralph Houk was right. Big-time sport is humiliating enough thanks to blooper reels on ESPN, hostile crowds, and the pain of injuries and defeats. Humiliation has no place in the locker room of pro or amateur sport teams.
Lots of people get that. Perhaps rejecting the notion of hazing will one day be “a time-honored tradition.”
Hank Nuwer is a journalism professor at Franklin College and author of four books on hazing. Read his blog at http://www.hanknuwer.com/blog/.