Friday, August 26, 2005

Ethics in America (specifically, in Ohio)


It's getting embarrassing to be from Ohio again. Here in Cincinnati, we've had race riots; outlawed any sort of porn; banned Maplethorpe, and is (or rather was, because she's dead now) home to Marge Schott, one of the biggest bigots I've ever heard of.

Two weeks ago, our governor, Bob Taft, was charged with (and convicted of) ethics violations pertaining to undisclosed gifts worth more than $75.00 each. He did not deny the charges- as a matter of fact, he's the one who alerted the police to the omissions on his tax return. However, for someone who demands a high level of personal ethics standards from his staff, he's not exactly leading by example. He's fired people for lesser offenses, yet he refuses to step down as governor. The Democrats are busy trying to figure out if they have enough support to impeach him instead.

Then earlier this week, Nancy Zimpher, President of the University of Cincinnati, delivered an ultimatum to basketball coach Bob Huggins: Quit, or be fired. Her reason? Because Huggs hasn't been recruiting the level of quality students she wants in her university, and both Huggins and an assistant coach got DUI's last year. The fact that he's the winningest coach in UC history doesn't mean crap, apparently. His DUI and drafting practices (he often signs kids who have been in trouble and JuCo players) don't portray the right image Mrs. Zimpher wants UC to have. Since he was let go, UC's biggest advertiser has pulled their support and tossed it to the other big university in town, Xavier. Top recruits have now crossed UC off of their list. Coaches across the country who used to be held accountable for their team's scorecard are now afraid that they will befall the same fate as Huggins if their players cross the line too many times.

Ethics in Ohio... taking some VERY strange twists, indeed. On one hand, I understand why Huggins was fired. He's brash, doesn't play well with others, and only wants the best basketball players. His "forget their academic or police records- let's go win some b-ball games" attitude has propelled UC into the national spotlight on numerous occasions- for both good and bad reasons. But on the other hand... wasn't he doing the job he was hired to do? Win games. Promote the school. Attract big-dollar sponsors. The basketball program at UC is the ONLY profitable sports program they offer. His players- both ex and current- love the man, and continue to support him. It wasn't his abilities that cost him his job- it was his personal ethics.

And Governor Taft. Man, oh man... The charges against him are minor compared to some things other politicians across the country have been charged with and convicted of in the past. These were not big dollar payoffs, but rather a series of small golf outings and dinners over a period of several years. Was it wrong? Sure it was. But do I think he should resign? NO. After all, he turned in the evidence HIMSELF. The police didn't have to lift a finger to gather it. The prosecution didn't have to work at a conviction either, because he pleaded no contest and was fined right then and there. No trial- just one appearance before the judge. It's a shame that he didn't report the dinners and outings like he should have, but damn... he's being pretty darn up front and honest about it now and taking his swats like a man.

Hopefully, someday soon, Ohio will get its proverbial shit together and overcome these questions of honesty, morals, integrity and ethics. The past two weeks however, have been a wee bit over the top for me. I don't think Huggs should have been fired, nor do I think that Taft should step down. Are they perfect? Hell no. Who is? But neither of them did anything so incredibly wrong as to lose their jobs.


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