Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Riddle Me This

Tyler Summitt has resigned his position as head coach of the Louisiana Tech's women's basketball team. Summitt is the son of famous Tennessee coach Pat Summitt.  Ms. Summitt is legendary for her success and pioneering for women's basketball.

The son resigned a few days ago because of an inappropriate relationship he acknowledged he had. While he did not reveal what that relationship was, some reports have indicated that Mr. Summitt was having an intimate relationship with one of the players on his team.

In his resignation comments, Summitt, a married man, said that he was "profoundly disappointed in myself for engaging in a relationship that has negatively affected the people I love, respect, and care about the most."

There have been columns written about the son's fall from grace and authors have wondered how this could have happened.  Such a stand up man from a family of unimpeachable character.  There are predictions that he is unlikely to ever recover from this episode and may never coach again. It is 2016.

Let's go back to the summer of 1972, forty four years prior.

I am in the second year of a masters program.  There was a cohort of about thirty of us who were pursuing a degree in what was called College Student Personnel. The program was, I write at the risk of appearing self-congratulatory, very competitive.  Those in my cohort began our studies in the summer of 1971.  We were housed together on the campus of the State University of New York at Albany and the housing was completely free.    We were mentored by three faculty who worked with us very closely.  The program involved the academic summer, then a placement during the academic year 71-72 at one of the SUNY schools throughout the state. Then we would return in the summer of 72 for a final semester of study before earning our degrees.  All coursework, retreats, everything but books was free.  Something akin to scholarship student-athletes.

The faculty were there for us every step of the way.  They helped us locate the academic year placements, taught many of the classes, mentored us about other classes to take, visited us during the academic year at the schools where we were placed, and coordinated/led three retreats held during the course of 1971-72 in Syracuse, Star Lake, and Rochester New York.  During the evenings in the summers, the faculty often led discussion groups about what we had studied. In a way they were like coaches for an athletic team.  Before the program began we were invited to the home of one of the faculty members where we met each professor and their spouses.  These social evenings with faculty and their families were not at all uncommon.

So, the first summer came and went. I left in September for Binghamton New York and buddies left for Oneonta, New Paltz, Cortland, and all over the great state of New York to do their practicum.  We met as a cohort for the retreats in Syracuse in October, Star Lake in January, and Rochester in April. We became a rather close band of graduate students.

At our first meeting when we reconvened as a cohort in June of 1972, we had a re-orientation session for the second summer with the three faculty members. At the end of the session, one of the faculty members said he had an announcement to make.  He told us that during the year he had fallen in love with one of the students in the program.  He was leaving his wife and would be moving in with the student.  He told us he wanted to be upfront with us all.

While this seemed unconventional and there were some raised eyebrows, even for the peace-love hippie era, there were absolutely no calls for this guy's ouster. Nobody even suggested he leave the program.  During the summer of 72, this faculty member continued to work with us as he had before and, after the first day of some mild surprise, the cohort just went on with the program.

The faculty member did not make a speech about how he had hurt those he loved. Nobody thought his career was ruined.  Nobody even mused about him leaving the program.

This was 44 years ago.  Two score and four years later, Tyler Summitt is wearing the scarlet letter and all are shaking their heads wondering, how and why.

Here's my question.  Has our society progressed or regressed?

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