The correct reaction to coaching misdeeds
Colorado Mesa University could have done what so many other institutions of higher education have done when confronted with the fact that a top coach in a winning sports program had committed crimes or violated ethical standards. It could have attempted to sweep the whole thing under the rug and hope no one would notice.
To their great credit, CMU officials chose not to take the Penn State approach. On Monday, the university fired Rick Crawford, considered one of the top cycling coaches in the country, after new allegations arose about Crawford having provided performance-enhancing drugs to a cyclist whom he used to coach.
Crawford was already operating under a program of institutional oversight after being reprimanded earlier this month by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency for his admission that he had provided performance-enhancing drugs to two cyclists over a period of three years, ending in 2001. That was before his tenure with CMU.
As a result of those incidents, Crawford was required to perform 500 hours of community service. He was allowed to continue coaching with the oversight of volunteer Scott Mercier, a former professional cyclist.
However, after news of those events became public, another cyclist whom Crawford had coached contacted Mercier to say Crawford had also helped him to dope to improve his performance.
The accuser wasn’t publicly identified. But, coming on the heels of the earlier revelations and the fact Crawford hadn’t revealed it to university officials, it was enough to lead to Crawford’s swift dismissal.
It should be stressed that Crawford has been a great coach, even without performance-enhancing drugs. He has this year’s CMU team positioned as No. 1 in the nation. He led the Fort Lewis College cycling team to 10 collegiate national wins. His team members loved him.
Furthermore, he was coaching a sport in which, for more than a decade and a half, doping was a barely concealed and frequently winked-at violation for far too many athletes and coaches, both professional and amateur. Witness the fall from grace earlier this year of Lance Armstrong, whom Crawford also coached at one time.
But none of that excuses a coach from knowingly violating the rules — and endangering the health of his athletes — to gain a competitive advantage.
And there is no excuse for a university that decides, “Well, he’s a great coach in one of our top programs, so we can overlook those things.” Many of the problems so familiar in collegiate sports today — from recruiting violations to serious crimes such as the sexual assaults that occurred at Penn State — stem from the willingess of university administrators to look the other way on coaching misdeeds.
Kudos to CMU officials for refusing to do so.