News of Harvard canceling the remaining matches of the season for their men’s soccer team spread like wildfire. At issue were spreadsheets, prepared over previous years, that rated and commented on the appearance of women’s team members, often in a sexually explicit manner.
It seemed at the time like such a harsh punishment, especially while the issue of “locker room talk” was being debated and dismissed on a national stage. An entire team stripped of its remaining games, with more than likely some innocent players punished for a few lewd remarks?
So when the issue arose once more, again, at Harvard, again, involving a spreadsheet, and again, with male players of one team commenting on their female counterparts, the obvious question would be whether the men’s cross country team would face the same fate. Yet this time, the issue was brought to light by the men’s team captain.
“The problem with the Men’s Soccer team was they tried to hide their stuff,” wrote men’s cross country team captain Brandon Price in an email to him team members. Although the spreadsheet is reportedly not nearly as grotesque, there lies our primary differentiating factor. While there should be harsh discipline for sexual harassment and misconduct, the only excuse to punish a team is if there is a team effort to avoid punishment.
This is an issue faced by the NCAA on an almost weekly basis. How do you justify punishing an entire team or program, depriving dozens of innocent student athletes of their limited opportunities, all over the sins of just a few? The issue is especially compounded when the few at fault are no longer under NCAA jurisdiction. The only possible outcome as far as the affected student-athletes are concerned is resentment.
In the case of the men’s soccer team, Harvard was correct in taking harsh, team-wide action. It was not the original act that doomed them, but the unwillingness to face the consequences. The men’s cross country team, on the other hand, should be mostly spared. As we should do with any punishment, this needs to become a learning opportunity. They understand what they did was wrong, which is why they turned themselves in. Now it’s time to help them understand why it was wrong. Only then, will justice be served.
Matthew Monte is Managing Editor of College AD and formerly Co-Managing Editor of Underdog Dynasty. He is a graduate of The B.I. Moody III College of Business Administration at UL Lafayette, mostly because it didn't require a foreign language. Matt is also a recovering stand up comedian who occasionally relapses.