College football – It´s the system

Jim Tressel

Image via Wikipedia

Martin Sheen´s character in Apocalypse Now famously said “charging someone with murder over here (speaking about Vietnam) is like handing out speeding tickets at the Indy 500.” On a related note, college presidents are now vowing to get tough on rule violators and offenders in college football. Check out the story here.

For those of you who are unfamiliar, universities, television, and pro football all take advantage of a source of very cheap labor that happens to earn everyone else a very good living. The players, in this lucrative endeavor, in theory, get paid nothing. Pro football teams especially love this system since they don´t have to take the risk, spend the money, and otherwise put forth any effort whatsoever toward the development of the sport that is making them ridiculous quantities of money.

The purpose of this post, however, is not to go through what is wrong with college football…plenty of others have done so and put forth good arguments regarding how it can be fixed. I want to focus on the lesson from the goings on at Ohio State.

Let´s summarize what happened there (for a real summary, Google it). A bunch of players that were getting paid nothing decided to take advantage of some of the generosity extended them by various shady characters. Jim Tressel was geting paid 20-something million for a few years of coaching. He chose to ignore the obvious – that his players were getting illicit extras. His success, and substantial income, was based on the following:

  1. Convincing the best high school football players to go to his school
  2. His ability to speak intelligently enough about football to convince people that he was winning in part by his ability to make these players co
  3. His ability to keep up the charade that he is a moral mentor for these young, impressionable adults.There is lots of money floating around, and the rewards for attracting the best players are great. You think others are cheating who have not yet been caught?People love to blame people when things go wrong. Jim Tressel has been labeled everything from a hypocrite to a liar, and that is only what is said in the media. Is Jim Tressel an especially bad person or has the system encouraged this behavior?No one thinks he is the only one, and most are not surprised (those that are honest with themselves anyway). So why should it be different in business?

    To continue the sporting analogy, we laugh when Maradona becomes the manager of a football power, but often believe in the Demi-god approach in our companies.

    We challenge others or ourselves to pull off a magic trick when things aren’t going well. But it’s not magic. It’s the system.

    To move beyond the pecking order that makes us closer to chickens than to enlightened beings, the culture of blame and “it’s my idea so it must be good” needs to change. Focus on the system and taking advantage of individual talents that people bring. The organizations that accomplish this will win.

    More on how to do this to follow. All three of you that have made it this far are getting bored.


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