Thursday, April 20, 2006

Coach should have been “packing boxes, not holding a press conference”

ESPN columnist Graham Hays calls for Penn State to fire Rene Portland.

Hays writes:

Because for the school to find enough evidence to fine the coach $10,000, there had to be something more than the word of one disgruntled former player. And even if those extra words were little more than whispers, Portland should have been packing boxes, not holding a press conference.

By wimping out on Portland's punishment, the school has effectively said it's willing to enter next season with a bigot coaching its women's basketball team.

The columnist for the Altoona Mirror is a little more charitable, sort of.

While Portland has survived perhaps long enough to end her career on her own terms, probably sooner than later, the overall health of the Penn State women’s program is questionable. Can Portland continue to recruit effectively after her own university cited her for discrimination in a sport known for its diversity?

Penn State said further such cases involving Portland will be grounds for dismissal. It did not, however, address how it might react if another former player comes forward with another round of allegations.

Based on Portland’s track record, that’s probably only a matter of time.

Larry Hicks from the York Dispatch writes about how Penn State’s response is “too little, too late.”

All that matters is what's going on in Portland's head. Because clearly, if she's making coaching decisions based on a player's ethnic origin, that would be wrong. If she's making such decisions based on race, religion or sexual orientation that would be wrong, too.

Hicks argues that a player should only be judged on her performance on the court.

I don't care if she's purple, had one eye and was missing a foot. If (former Penn State player Jennifer) Harris could do her job, she deserved to play at Penn State without being hassled. If she worshipped trees, she deserved to play at Penn State. And if she was a lesbian, she deserved to play at Penn State.

Hey, this is America and Portland is entitled to think anything she likes about human sexuality or anything else. If she wants to harbor ill will against lesbians, that's her business, I guess. But she also has an obligation, as a coach and as a member of the Penn State family, to adhere to the university's anti-discrimination policy.

So she had a choice. She either should have put her personal bias aside for the good of the team and the athletes on the team, or quit her job as coach. She can not have it both ways.

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