Too Late Again: The Credibility Crisis in Sports

Only three days after University of Michigan football coach, Brady Hoke, left quarterback Shane Morris in the game after sustaining a vicious blow to the head, Michigan students marched to President Mark S. Schlissel's home to call for the dismissal of Athletic Director Dave Brandon. Although many students were already unhappy with Michigan's dismal play thus far this season, the protest around the Shane Morris incident had a clear moral message: Take responsibility for your athletic program before the media forces you to respond.

During the game, ESPN announcers criticized Hoke on the spot, noting that it was "appalling" that Hoke didn't get Morris out of the game. Even fans at the game booed when Shane Morris stayed in the game, and booed again when Hoke put him back in. According to Brandon, the coaches, trainers, and medical expert never saw the hit and attributed his stumbling to an earlier ankle injury. Inexplicably, no one ever communicated concern about a possible concussion to anyone on the field. To make matters worse, no Michigan administrator publicly addressed the failure on the field until after it became a media target on Sunday night. It's no wonder why public statements from the president and athletic director didn't satisfy skeptical students. An editorial in the student newspaper headlined "Too Little, Too Late," bluntly challenged the University leadership:

"In order to rectify the situation, the University administration and the Athletic Department must restructure their priorities to include the safety and well-being of student athletes..."

Having witnessed the NFL bungle its own concussion scandal, sports fans are losing patience with belated apologies and assurances that corrective actions are being be taken. What happened at Michigan is symptomatic of a more pervasive malaise throughout college and professional sports. This malaise has to do with misplaced priorities, not defective protocols and procedures. There is a credibility crisis in sports today because the welfare of athletes seems secondary to business of athletics. It is time for sports leaders to start being proactive rather than reactive when it comes to athletes' welfare.