Sunday, June 17, 2012

Coach K Defends Campus Due Process

In many ways the lacrosse case that hit the Duke campus was a perfect storm. A media that (thanks to the botched Samiha Khanna interview in the N&O and then the Times’ initial biased coverage) portrayed the affair as a brutal example of racism. A corrupt local prosecutor who positioned himself as a latter-day Atticus Finch. A diversity-obsessed faculty whose “activist” members were more than willing to play the race card against anyone who opposed them, even as they violated Duke rules and procedures to get their way. And a president who was at best intimidated by his own faculty and at worst a willing accomplice of the faculty mob.

In this environment, perhaps no one could have provided the voice of reason. Yet the voice of arguably the most powerful person on the Duke campus, men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski, was conspicuously silent in the initial weeks of the case. The co-author of several books on leadership, Krzyzewski refrained from all public comment on the case until late June 2006, eleven weeks after President Brodhead had fired coach Mike Pressler and issued a guilt-presuming public statement, and nine weeks after Brodhead had traveled to the Durham Chamber of Commerce to say of the accused lacrosse players, “If our students did what is alleged, it is appalling to the worst degree. If they didn’t do it, whatever they did is bad enough.”

In his June 2006 remarks, Krzyzewski said, “If you're going to be in here for the long run, you're going to have trying times. That's just what happens, whether it's a business, a family or a university if you're in it for the long haul." Of the accused players, the coach said, “What I've tried to do behind the scenes is say, 'We're with you. We'll see what happens, and whatever happened if you did it, you should be punished.’” (From everything I learned in the case, whatever behind-the-scenes support Krzyzewski provided to the falsely accused players was very, very quiet indeed.) The sports blog Deadspin mockingly characterized the remarks in the following way: “Blue Devils basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski has spoken out in full solidarity, um, in utter opposition, ah, in lukewarm, half-hearted support of the Duke players in this high-profile controversy.”

Such rhetoric, the coach concluded, was consistent with a university’s values: “Giving support does not mean you're choosing sides. Giving support is what a university should do ... because we're in the kid business.” Of course, the leadership that was needed on the Duke campus in spring 2006 was not giving support (if the players were guilty, why would they have deserved the support of the men’s basketball coach, whether or not he was in the “kid business”?), but speaking out on behalf of fairness—ensuring that Duke faculty treated all students fairly, and ensuring that Durham authorities treated all Duke students fairly.

Krzyzewski made no such statements while the case was ongoing. He gave somewhat contradictory reasons for this approach. In an interview with the AP, he said that he decided to privately lend whatever guidance or insights I might have into the situation,” including to President Brodheead, because I am the basketball coach. I'm not the president, I'm not the athletic director and I'm not on the Board of Trustees and don't want to be.” (If, in fact, Krzyzewski did privately advise Brodhead, he either saw his advice completely rejected or gave very bad advice.) In an August 2006 interview with Time, however, the coach implied that he had remained silent to help the players, since in [the Durham] area, I am like a lightning rod for some things, because there are a lot of Carolina fans or whatever.” And by March 2007, in an interview with Bob Costas, the coach enhanced his recollection again: “I met with my college president. I told Dick Brodhead, 'If you need me ... you tell me, and then put me in a position where I'm not the basketball coach. But I am that special assistant to you.’ Dick Brodhead did not bring me in.

Krzyzewski eventually did criticize the Group of 88, though not until the spring of 2007, and only once he realized that the Group’s statement targeted not only the lacrosse players but also indicated “a latent hostility or whatever you want to say towards sports on campus. I thought it was inappropriate, to be quite frank." And he issued by far the most gracious statement of anyDuke administrator once the case imploded, when he commented after Nifong’s disbarment, “The Lacrosse Community, the Pressler Family, the Danowskis, there's some real heroes, but the main heroes are those kids and their families.

Yet at no point in the lacrosse case did Krzyzewski issue a public statement on behalf of due process—urging Duke administrators to ensure that all Duke students were treated according to the rules by Durham authorities and by Duke professors, or that Duke administrators avoid precipitous action until the facts were clearer.

Why revisit Krzyzewski’s silence on lacrosse case due process? Because CNN reports that in an interview to appear tomorrow, the coach will criticize Penn State’s board of trustees for acting too hastily in firing longtime coach Joe Paterno. Penn State, said Krzyzewski, made a “real mistake” in how it handled affairs; “it was really not well done.” He continued, “You had somebody who’d given six decades of service to the university and done such an incredible job. Somehow, you have to let—something has to play out and respect the fact that you’ve gone through all these experiences for six decades. And it doesn’t just go out the window, right at the end.”

Penn State’s trustees faced an extraordinarily difficult decision regarding Paterno’s fate when the indictments of the school’s AD, security chief, and former football defensive coordinator came down. Viewing the facts the Trustees had through the lens most favorable to Paterno, the coach (a) had received a report of a horrific crime by his former chief assistant, waited a day before phoning his AD about it, and then never followed up on the report even as his former chief assistant continued to frequent the football facilities; (b) had, despite his prominence in State College, no knowledge of the 1998 police investigation into another child sex abuse claim against Jerry Sandusky; and (c) did not notice Sandusky bringing along one of his sexual-abuse alleged victims to a 1998 bowl game. Finally, and again assuming facts in the most favorable light toward Paterno, the trustees would have needed to believe that Sandusky's abrupt resignation as defensive coordinator in 1999 was not motivated by hopes of distancing the football program from Sandusky following the 1998 investigation.

With these (and especially item a) as the facts viewed most favorably to Paterno, it seems to me Penn State’s trustees acted properly, though I can see how people of good faith could disagree. It would seem odd, however, for someone who didn’t criticize his own university’s trustees and administrators for not upholding due process to then criticize another school’s under the circumstances that Penn State faced in November.

Moreover, even if someone believed in November that the trustees mistreated Paterno, virtually every piece of information that’s emerged since then has placed Paterno in a less flattering light. In the late coach’s only interview aboutthe affair, he suggested that when he first heard of the allegations against Sandusky, he couldn’t even conceive of them, since “I never heard of, of, rape and a man.” To accept that statement required believing that Paterno—a high-profile Catholic who made large donations to Catholic causes—had never heard of the sex abuse scandal that rocked the Catholic church in the United States.

Then, an Esquire article offered tantalizing, if circumstantial, evidence that Paterno might in fact have known of the 1998 investigation into Sandusky.

And finally, reports in recent days have suggested that in 2001, Paterno’s nominal superiors (whom he had faced down in 2004 when they urged him to retire) extensively discussed the charges against Sandusky, and made a conscious—and probably illegal—decision not to report the allegations.

Given all that, it seems remarkable that Krzyzewski still believes that the Penn State trustees should have kept Paterno as their coach for the rest of the 2011 season—all the more so given his disinclination to publicly support due process or criticize his own school’s administrators during the lacrosse case.


Anonymous said...

Is Krzyzewski a Communist?

Anonymous said...

Would love to hear your opinion on a related matter. The PA Attorneys General seemed to go out of their way not to criticize Paterno when the Sandusky case surfaced. They described Paterno as "cooperative" and said he fulfilled his duties in the case (cannot find links at the moment but assume you can find the articles on Lexis-Nexis). They even publicly pointed out how it seemed strange that he had been fired while the accused administrators remained on staff. Keeping in mind that they had access to his full GJ testimony, not just the summary like the rest of us, why do you think they did not criticize him? I can only think of 3 reasons: 1) it was politically unpopular to do so (hard to imagine given the firestorm of criticism Paterno received), 2) they needed him as a cooperative witness (hard to believe given the ease with which you questioned his credibility in the post above), or 3) they actually believed him.
In addition, I found it surprising that attorneys representing some of Sandusky's alleged victims made a public statement critical of Paterno's firing.
Why do you think these two groups that have intimate knowledge of the Sandusky case are not as critical of Paterno as many of us are?

No Justic, No Peace said...

Thank you K.C., this is one aspect of the many egregious elements of the events that I found especially galling.

Krzyzewski, may be many things, but he is no leader. All he had to do was to go public and ask that the brakes be tapped - he chose not to. That's not a bad decision, it is sorriness of the highest order, especially since he puts himself forward as a leader.

"All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for a few good men to do nothing".

Anonymous said...

Since there has been no transparency from Duke, let me give free reign to speculation and gossip.

Coach K's players hired strippers a couple of weeks before the lax players. Was he threatened with similar treatment for his team if he sided with Pressler or the lacrosse team?

We know how Brodhead treated Alleva for saying a few good words on their behalf. Would they have tolerated anything said on behalf of the lacrosse team, from anyone--even K--while Duke's entire PR position was based on separating itself entirely from the team?

Some testimony from him on the subject might be enlightening--and helpful to Duke's "healing" process.

KC Johnson said...

To the 8.37:

Interesting questions.

(1) On the latter (the alleged victims' attorneys): my sense is they feared a backlash--that their clients would be blamed for Paterno's firing (as, to an extent, appears to have occurred, and also appears to be why Sandusky's attorney pushed hard for the trial to occur in Centre County).

(2) On the former: regarding PSU officials, the only case the AG's office was investigating was the failure to report in 2001. In that case, Paterno was a cooperative witness, who fulfilled his obligation under PA law by informing his (nominal) superiors. (We could certainly quibble about the minimal requirements that this law created.) If Paterno had been anyone else, and didn't have the popular support he did, I'm not sure the AG's office ever would have issued such a statement--but it also would have been highly improper for the AG's office to have publicly criticized someone who cooperated with an inquiry & didn't violate any laws.

Anonymous said...

You grossly over estimate the influence Coach K has now and had then. He lives in the domain of sports writers who pander to their local fan constituencies in the worst possible ways. Any comments he might have made at the time would have simply fed another round of hate filled articles against Duke athletes. In general, he is respected for his basketball accomplishments but the fiercely competitive fans at other schools would have loved to have taken pot shots at him. Instead of calming the situation he would have stirred things up some more.

My remarks are not intended to defend him. They are to make the point that believing he could have assumed a savior role is a simple minded fantasy. He is a basketball coach and 90% of the people who follow sports hate him because he wins and wins and wins.

Anonymous said...

There ia absolutely no issue of due process in the firing of Joe Paterno. Pennsylvania law presumes emplyment at will. There seems to be no dispute that Paterno received a credible allegation of wrong doing. Whether that allegation was true or not, the most that Patterno did after being informed of it was the absolute minimum required by law. That minimal response absolved him from prosecution; it give him no legal or moral right to keep a job that involved being responsible for protecting both students and his employer. He failed at that job and was quite properly removed.

Coaches get fired for a losing season of some game. His negligence (if that is all it was) involved consequences much much more serious than a game. Sympathy for Joe Patterno is utterly misplaced.


Anonymous said...

Coach K is a (maybe a high) profile Catholic as well. He has donated big money to Immaculata in Durham. I am glad he has done this.

Anonymous said...

It is easy to point fingers at something over the horizon. MOO! Gregory

Anonymous said...

Krzyzewski, having graduated from Weber high school a " Catholic " boys school in Chicago, matriculated at The United States Military Academy at West Point on the Hudson River in the State of New York, also in 1965 a boys school. From his affiliation with the Military Academy, having not only graduated from there in 1969, but also coached there and the fact that Michael Pressler (the coach at Duke during the "incident") also coached at West Point, made the two families close friends. That friendship lasted until the "incident", as Coach Pressler assured some of the lacrosse families that Krzyzewski was going to say something publically, while those same families were waiting for any type of positive reinforcement from the administration at Duke from the 25th of March until the 17th of April. The families were made aware of the " incident " as the boys proceeded to the Durham Police Station on the 23rd of March under the advice of the Duke administration( Dean Sue )" cooperate with the police, don"t use an attorney, and don't tell your parents". This commentary was the only advice our boys received from the Duke administration, nothing from that NON-Leader, Krzyzewski, until the morning after the Hearing in December 2006. If you can imagine, everyday, starting the 25th of March until and after the indictments on the 17th of April, the main stream media hounded all the families through calls, registered mail and knocking on house doors. And the Duke administration, including Krzyzewski, could only offer the above horrible advice. For 9 months, this great coach, family man, friend of the Pressler's, Krzyzewski said absolutely nothing, including kind words for his friend of more than 20 years, Mike Pressler. The Almighty "$Buck", was all that was important to Krzyzewski, and protect the "Duke Brand", at all costs, was the mission of Robert K Steel and the Duke Trustees. Roy Bostock,( Duke Football'62,Chmn of Yahoo, Board Member Morgan Stanley)has been the Advisor to Robert K Steel since 13 March, "the incident", and morality, do the right, have never come in play. Krzyzewski, could have shown leadership, he could have exhibited compassion to his family friends the Presslers, and he could have been a role model to every up and coming scholar athlete, and he elected to do none of the above.

Anonymous said...

Anyone can write a book about leadership. It is quite another thing to be a leader. Coach K is an example of the first. The Duke women's lacrosse team and their coach were certainly the latter.

Neither Coach K nor Joe Pa will ever be cited as profiles of courage.


Anonymous said...

". . . a perfect storm."

A list to which should be included: Those faculty who knew that the players were being treated unjustly, but who were too cowardly to speak up.

Duke Prof

skwilli said...

My criticisms of the Trustees is not because they fired him, but that they fired him by calling him on the phone. Coach Paterno, who signed my athletic letter in his only season as Athletic Director, deserved a face-to-face meeting from someone. There are proper ways to do most things; this wasn't one of them.

Anonymous said...

One of the reasons K has survived so long at Duke is that he knows when to be a "Lizard" (translated" disappear into the background) and when to take a stand. His comments in 2006 and 2007 were, to say the least the clear impression that he was drinking the corporate koolaide and covering his own lifetime contract backside. He could have said so much.....he said so little. But just like Brodhead and the other suits at Duke, he waited until it was SAFE to come out swinging.....kinda like rattling your sword in battle after the dead and wounded are being pecked by vultures.
A leader, K is not. Yes, a fine coach, but a brave man who should have listened to his own advice about "Winning with Integrity"...instead took the low road and "Squeaked with Banality"

Anonymous said...

There is less courage and integrity at most universities than anywhere else in America. Coach K is a great example.

And say what you want about the Barry Switzers and Jerry Tarkanians---people like those guys are far more likely to do the right thing in these situations.

Anonymous said...

I would agree with skwilli that the Penn State Board acted less than honorably when they fired Paterno by phone. I suppose, to be charitable, that they felt they were treating him with some kindness as he would not be surrounded by reporters shouting out questions to him as he left a meeting with them (the chances of reporters alerted to something about to happen being 100%). However, it seems that they took the cowards way out....but then, doesn't that seem to be the Penn State modus vivendi?

Anonymous said...

I agree with neither skwilli nor cks. Paterno was lucky not to be indicted. After hearing serious allegations of illegal and immoral behavior, Paterno did, AT BEST, the absolute minimum required by law. His performance was morally despicable, and he got precisely what he deserved from Penn State's board, namely a contemptuous dismissal.

The Penn State fans who have rallied to his defense apparently believe that being a good (and very well paid) coach excuses ignoring the rape of children. I would have sympathy with the argument that the board should have fired Paterno to his face if he had bothered to tell the board about the allegations in the first place. Of course, in that case, there would have been no need to fire him at all.


Chris Halkides said...

If I were in a charitable frame of mind, I could interpret Coach K's June statement to mean, "If a student committed a criminal act, he should be punished, but not excessively." That would be a minimal level of support, but no more. The trouble with his statement is that he never balanced the "if you did it" part by saying anything about possible innocence, or the need for due process in all situations. If giving "support" does not include trying to see that a judicial process occurs fairly, then it is hollow.

With respect to another case involving a college student, I am unaware of any faculty or staff member at the University of Washington who supported Amanda Knox's right to a fair trial in Perugia, Italy. Given the lack of forensic discovery and considerable misogyny from the prosecution and its allies in the concurrent civil case, support would have been a welcome thing. One has to wonder whether or not faculty and staff at colleges and universities are up to this sort of task.

Anonymous said...

cks, this was very profound and, I think, put everything into proper perspective for me:

"The Duke women's lacrosse team and their Coach were certainly the latter (leaders)."

I agree 100%. Well said. MOO! Gregory

Anonymous said...

KC, do you see the similarity now: Brodhead and the Duke Trustees turned a blind eye while innocent young men were being smeared, savaged and molested by an opportunistic, selfish man, by a craven and self-serving legal and political machine, by a rainbow of people raised and poisoned by an industry of other-blaming race-class-gender-baiters, by a nation duped by a left-leaning and scandal-mongering media into unfounded bias and hatred based upon a series of false narratives, and by a world confused as to why Americans are still caught up in the legacy of slavery (when their countries have had a greater history of abuse and conquest).