The Fifth Lap
The dream is over.
These words echoed across televisions and radios after the release of the Freeh report investigating former Pennsylvania State University defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky's continued sexual abuse of children.
The illusion is gone. The dream is over.
The idea that big-time athletics can even exist successfully in a university setting has to be over. If such scandal could occurr at Penn State, under Joe Pa- terno, the aging figurehead of that very dream, how could it not be over?
This was not just a recruiting viola- tion or faked SAT score. This was the cov- erup of a sex abuse scandal. This was our most vulnerable neglected, while those who preyed upon them were protected.
How could the dream not be over?
It was a mood accentuated less than a week later when the NCAA piled its pun- ishment on Penn State. Even the NCAA seemed to be saying that athletics were part of the problem as opposed to a part of the solution.
How could the dream not be over?
Except that giving up on the dream isn't a viable option. In fact, now is the time it needs more resolve than ever.
Athletics, just like any other student activity, has the responsibility to make a positive contribution to a university. Not just the capability, the responsibility.
If we say athletics do not have this capability, if somehow athletics are ex- cused from responsibility, only the worst elements will prosper.
Therefore, as another NCAA season gets underway, there has to be a renewed focus on proving that athletics really can contribute to higher education. And that's especially true for Rice, an institu- tion of high educational standards.
It means the focus in Tudor Fieldhouse has to not only be on making our athletes more successful, but on making the uni- versity more successful. It means that ath- letes have to be positive members of the Rice community off the field. And it means that the rest of campus, from the Allen Center to the residential colleges, has to allow athletics the opportunity to do so.
Athletics, like great literature, art or music, does more than just entertain. It inspires, teaches, unites and provides an escape. It forces the university to deal with both the sweetest victories and the harshest defeats. Rice's pursuit of athlet- ic excellence at the highest level not only makes it a better institution overall, but also helps create a better environment in which students can learn.
But in a year in which those who hold dear the ideals of sport find themselves feeling betrayed, collegiate athletics has to help showcase why it still belongs on campus.
Like the realities of life it reflects, athlet- ics will never be perfect. In their jadedness, people can give up on collegiate athletics, or they can keep pursuing all that collegiate athletics was promised to be.
There are flaws to be found in college athletics, but there are also strengths, and values for those willing to look.
The dream is never dead.
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