February 20, 2004

Bad Buffaloes No Big Surprise

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For the past several months, Los Angeles Lakers star guard Kobe Bryant has been the top sexual villain in the state of Colorado.

“How dare the big bad athlete come into our quiet state and rape (allegedly, of course) one of our girls?” the locals asked.

Well, Kobe can rest a little easier these days. The University of Colorado’s football program has dethroned him as public enemy number one.

What started as an investigation into recruiting improprieties has exploded into a sex scandal of monumental proportions. As of yesterday, seven women, including a former placekicker on the team, had come forward with allegations that current and former C.U. players had committed rape. Amidst the firestorm, the President of the University suspended head football coach Gary Barnett pending an investigation.

Over the past two weeks, print journalists and those working in electronic media have used words such as ‘shocking’ and ‘unbelievable’ to describe the recent events at Boulder. But when it comes to college athletes in big-time sports at a big-time program, is it really that shocking or unbelievable?

Is it that hard to believe that recruits would be illegally served alcohol? And is it really actually far-fetched that women could be enticed to sleep with these young men?

It might not be the case here at Cornell, but jocks are treated differently. Athletes can shake their heads all they want, but it’s just a cold, hard fact. All across the country, athletic programs and boosters are giving these kids loads of money (see Michigan and Chris Webber), among other items. AndON V those not accepting these ‘extra’ gifts, they’re still paid to play a sport (yes, a scholarship is pay … my parents and I could sure use that $140,000 or so that we have given to Cornell over the last three-plus years). More importantly, they’re treated as celebrities around campus. And with all the prestige that athletes bring to Universities, that’s not necessarily bad. It’s just reality.

While interning at an investment bank a few years ago, I met a student-athlete at Cal-Berkeley who was coincidentally childhood friends with former Miami Hurricanes star quarterback Ken Dorsey. Dorsey, who had grown up in the Bay Area, chose to attend school across the country at Miami instead of local Cal. Was Miami a better school academically? Nope. A better football team? At the time, no. Then why would Dorsey traverse across the continent? The parties, of course.

When schools are trying to lure a prized recruit to play for them, they try to sell the social aspects of the University. “Little Bobby, you should play for us because we’ve got a good team. More importantly, you’ll have more fun here than you will at any other school.” That would be code for “our parties are slammin’.”

Ninety-nine percent of males are hard-wired to care about only three things: money, sex, and food. I know I am … a few extra bills, the SI Swimsuit Issue, a sub from Shortstop Deli, and you’ve got a happy Ip. And to be honest, money’s only on that list because you can use it to buy the last two. So what happens when you tell young men, who have had privileges and goodies handed to them all their lives, to go out and have a good time? The University of Colorado is finding out the hard way.

Archived article by Alex Ip