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February 11, 1999 - Image 9

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The Michigan Daily, 1999-02-11

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The Michigan Daily - Thursday, February 11, 1999 - 9A
*Tyson, Auburn stretch limnfts ofsocan acceptabiZity in sports

MARK
SNYDER

Mark My Words

The scene remains prominent in the minds of sports fans and society watch-
ers everywhere. Mike Tyson, obviously lacking in moral character, societal
decency and generally any apparent redeeming qualities outside of the box-
ing ring, shook his handcuffs for the clamoring television audiences as he entered
jail eight years ago on a rape conviction.
There was Tyson, flaunting his imprisonment, apppeasing the crowds who
nted to see him hung for his sexual assault of a beauty pageant contestant.
He served his time in jail - not the entire sentence, he was released for good
behavior. He served that temporary sentence because the societal rules forced
him to comply.
Even the baddest man on the planet had to submit to the punishments of
America's courts.
Unfortunately for a nation of college football fans, the University of Auburn is
bound by no such restrictions.
But as an institute of higher learning - presumably with the aim to mold
misguided youngsters into ideal adults - the University of Auburn continues its
,palling clinic of how not to run an athletic department.
U..
The incident began when Terry Bowden was the football coach at Auburn and
contracted a game with his father's Florida State team for the fall of 1999.
ESPN loved the idea and planned to make it their game of the week for a
national television audience. As the first father-son coaching matchup in the his-
tory of major college football, the game would draw mass appeal and generate
millions of viewers and dollars.
Terry's amazing success at Auburn labeled him as one of the nation's top
young coaches while his father remained one of the nation's top old coaches.
1 But when Terry Bowden's Tigers began the 1998 season in a bit of a tailspin,
the power(s) that be at Auburn showed him the door.
The forced resignation led to shame and embarrassment on Bowden's part, yet
he refused to slam those who sent him packing for just one subpar season.
Months later, he reached a settlement that precludes him from speaking his mind
about the circumstances that led to his dismissal but he's content with that.
Quieted by some combination of hush money and exterior pressure, Bowden
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relented and had his silence bought.
He may see this as a step forward or a chance to put the past behind him.
I say it's ridiculous.
Why should a supoposedly upstanding university - which already fired
Bowden's predecessor this decade, the successful Pat Dye, when he committed
rules violations - have to keep Bowden under wraps? Do they have something
to hide, or are the stuffed shirts on the Board of Trustees just impatient seeking
instant gratification?
How quickly they forget.
After Dye left, Auburn was mired in the aftermath of the probation nightmare
and Bowden still took them to an undefeated season - in his first attempt. He
began to restore the shine to the program until the carpet disappeared from
beneath this feet,
Of course, the story can't end there. That would just leave the leaders of
Auburn as people who did one man wrong.
Actually, their inferiority complex grew.
With the Bowden family upset, the blood ran strong and speculation about the
Sept. 2 matchup didn't appear positive for Auburn. Suggestions that Florida
State would want to embarrass the Tigers as retribution elicited fear and
loathing.
So Auburn quit.
They just canceled the game, broke a valid game contract and demonstrated to
their students that it was acceptable to go back on your word on an unsubstanti-
ated whim.
Sure, there was a buyout clause in the contract, but pulling out this late has
left Florida State without an oppponent, as all of the major conferences have full
schedules. So let's keep track of who's being slammed here.
Terry Bowden was forced to leave a high-profile job he loved.
Florda State will have to play a cupcake team on national television.
The Atlantic Coast Conference will have to eat $850,000 for losing the big-
time game.
Auburn students have been shown that morals mean nothing and the universi-
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ty's word is worth less than the official contract it's signed on.
Oh yeah, did I forget to mention that the ACC- of which Florida State is a
member - is suggesting a boycott of all sporting events with Auburn, effective-
ly throwing multiple schedules into a tizzy.
ME.
Last week, Tyson was sent back to prison for assaulting two motorists follow-
ing an August traffic accident. Though a definite surprise, Tyson has expressed
remorse and attributed his actions to the absence of his medicine at the time.
But with Tyson in prison again paying for his actions, the Auburn higher-ups
roam free to further extend this sordid mess. Schedules, players and coaches will
be affected by Terry Bowden's unjustified dismissal for years to come.
Maybe at the new NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis they've taken this into
account and are ready to lock up the real criminals - the crusty old men ruin-
ing college sports.
If Tyson is imprisoned further in the Hoosier State for violating his Indiana
probation, maybe these felons - one legal, the others moral - can swap sto-
ries.
That's finally something that could floor the baddest man on the planet.
- Mark Snyder can be reached via e-mail at msnyder@umich.edu.

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