The fallout from the Rutgers basketball scandal continues, and it won't surprise if there are more "resignations" in store. Clearly, the original decision to extend the contract of disgraced coach Mike Rice was a communal one. However, each guy involved now trashes the next, right up to the top. There should be more than one or two scapegoats, though only a couple have taken much bigger hits than the others, albeit with golden parachutes. What each fails to realize, or at least own up to, is that going along with the crowd in making such a poor decision (even if professing a dissenting opinion) is as bad as making the decision independently. There are times when standing up for one's convictions is not only the right choice, it is the only choice. Doing the right thing rarely has the adverse long-term consequences that come with hedging bets. Essentially ignoring a crisis has never been an effective form of crisis management. It never will be.
Anyone in a power position who viewed the damning Rutgers tape -- or who knew about it but chose not to screen it or act -- is at fault here. Was the motivation to dole out little more than a symbolic wrist-slap suspension a fear of negative publicity and loss of face or funds, especially as the university was decamping to the Big Ten Conference? Was it a fear of losing recruits and alienating donors? Whatever. What we know for sure here is that the best interests of the student athletes were not the priority. That is a travesty.
Where was the Rutgers administration during the unfolding of Penn State's Sandusky scandal? Certainly a far worse tragedy, but the lessons were there, once again, to be learned.
The handling of the Rutgers story is a variation on scenarios that cascade from the headlines, particularly in the worlds of sports, politics and big business. Doesn't anyone ever get it? Why must we only grow from our own mistakes? Can't we simply avoid some of them entirely by opening our eyes to the quicksand we've watched sink others?
The next question is: What motivates some people, even brilliant people, to sabotage their success or imperil their future by acting against their better judgment? Do they start believing their own hype to the extent that they feel impervious? Do they feed their ravenous ids without thought to how their reckless behavior affects those they care for or who care for them? Do they consider it but simply not care? ...Recalculating...
Tiger Woods, Elliot Spitzer, Anthony Weiner, Mark Sanford and countless others -- too many to mention -- careened off track. Their disregard or lies, until totally refuted by the evidence, fed the headlines and inflated their stories. We fall from even higher heights after building up a pedestal of facades, denials and fabrications that protect no one. We are delusional to ever presume that dishonesty is the way to go. And, in the end, the climb back up is even more challenging, the trust harder to earn and our judgement more often questioned.
Our world is one in which everyone walks around with a camera and video recorder and has access to a lightning fast network of social media. Coupled with the online anonymity some hide behind, and the quest many have for their 15 minutes, discretion and valor are not words of great usefulness these days. The more public the figure, the more intrigue. Schadenfreude with a twist.
If we do screw up, there is only one clear way to navigate away from the resulting crisis and that is to own it. Come clean. Take charge. Actually be remorseful (not simply act it). Apologize. Accept responsibility. Take action to remedy a situation rather than conceal it. And get out front to control the story so the details seem less explosive. Then, take the time to focus on who and what is important. Heal. Change.