By DEXTER IRVIN
UH-Hilo athletic director
Three Chicken Wings.
Weird topic isn’t it.
Given the situation with our economy and those that have taken advantage of the “rules of business,” I thought I would relate a story about the compromise of integrity and ask the question, “Where is the magical mystical line in the sand when it comes to athletics and following the rules?”
Several years ago, I was working at another institution and after our homecoming football victory on a Saturday afternoon I went to the training room to check with our assistant athletic director and head trainer about several issues. I found that one of our great corporate sponsors, Domino’s Pizza, had left some pizza and chicken wings that were not sold during the game.
Several of the team members were asking about the food and I told them they couldn’t have it. (NCAA rules about extra benefits) About the same time one of our training room personnel proceeded to give one of the players some chicken wings and declare, “what are we going to do turn ourselves in to the NCAA for three chicken wings” and splutter off apparently feeling triumphant about declaring where his “line” was in keeping NCAA rules.
Many of us have a “line” that we believe we can use to modify or adjust, to make a rule or a law fit our individual circumstances.
For me, it is usually in driving the posted speed limit. I believe that if I keep my speed at less than 60 on the highway, even though the speed limit is 55, I am pretty safe from getting a ticket. (Boy am I asking for it now.)
So when it comes to speeding I guess my line is five miles per hour over the limit. I have somehow justified in my mind that breaking the traffic law just a little, as long as I don’t get caught, is OK for me. I guess when it comes to driving my “three chicken wings” are five miles an hour.
The problem with the “three chicken wing syndrome” has nothing to do with the wings, or the students eating them; it is with the attitude that individually we can determine what rules to keep and what rules not to keep. That independently we can modify rules or policies we believe to be frivolous or non-applicable to us or the people around us. Following NCAA rules are not simple. Our compliance staff led by our Assistant AD Pam Knox is doing a good job with the education of our coaches and our students. As with most challenges, the battle lines and our ability to cope and change are determined by our attitudes. However tempting breaking small inconspicuous rules, which someone may believe are frivolous, is never in our best interest and probably more destructive than we know.
Having so many part time and volunteer coaches at the University of Hawaii at Hilo makes compliance and rules education extremely difficult. From an outsiders perspective many of the NCAA rules seem to be arbitrary and random. Most of the time the rules are not, and the rules actually come into existence because of the extremism or selfishness of a coach or institution. When the rules do become bizarre we all work hard, within the NCAA, to adjust or eliminate them not find a way around them.
Our athletic department has taken some criticism from both within, and from our community, for being so “strict” about our compliance with NCAA rules and regulations. Many who think they know the rules, and worse yet those who have been around so long they believe they are above the rules, can cause significant issues. While we have committed some minor NCAA violations that have been a result of miscommunication, lack of knowledge, or poor judgment, I have seen none that were a result of the “chicken wing phenomenon.” To begin now to display an attitude of “rule adjustment” reeks of individualism that has recently brought down large companies and well known educational institutions in our country.
Our student athletes and athletic staff know that we will do our utmost to follow all NCAA Rules and policies to the best of our ability. If we begin to arbitrarily choose what rules we will follow, then as educators we have short changed our students and contributed to the infamous “chicken wing syndrome.”