During the 2010-2011 basketball season, a basketball team that had fielded a lot of good teams over the years had a great team! Led by a young man who was the nation’s leading scorer and who smashed school records that had stood for thirty years, this team moved into the top 5 in national rankings. As the NCAA tournament approached, fans and pundits alike saw the team as a strong contender for making it to the Elite Eight, the Final Four, and maybe even beyond. Then, not even two weeks before the NCAA tournament was set to begin, perhaps the second-best player on the team was suddenly suspended. Why? Well, the details are his business, but it was clear he had violated his school’s honor code—a set of values every student had agreed to live by, athlete or not. The violation was such that he was allowed to remain in school, but he was not allowed to play.
Not surprisingly, the team lost its next game. It regrouped and won the final game of the season, and then lost the final game of the conference tournament. Where it had only lost two games all season, in a week’s time it had lost four! And when the NCAA invites came out, this team slipped from a lock on a number-one seed to a number-three seed.
Of course, there was a lot of talk about this young man’s suspension. Some wondered why the school felt a need to stick to its values when so much was on the line. Each time the team played without this young man, it was evident that, while it was still good, the team had lost its chance at greatness. And, indeed, it lost in the Sweet Sixteen.
What it didn’t lose was its commitment to its values. The school had a clearly stated policy on which behaviors were acceptable and which ones weren’t, and it stuck by them in an age when expediency often takes the place of integrity. Some people felt the school had made a tough call. And while it likely was a painful decision for administrators to make, it really wasn’t a tough call—it was an outgrowth of values that, for years, had been clearly delineated and adhered to.
As a footnote, this young man held his head high, he didn’t complain, he even continued to sit with his team in shirt and tie and cheer them on. And when he climbed up the ladder to help cut down the net after the final home game (just four days after his suspension), he was greeted with a standing ovation from a crowd of 21,000 fans. And while I can’t predict the future, most feel he will serve out his suspension and return to the team for the 2011-2012 season.