Maintaining Mark McGwire’s Image

Ari Fleischer had a difficult time as George W. Bush’s press secretary in terms of trying to maintain a positive image for his principal. After doing his job well for about 3 years, he moved on to other challenges and opportunities in the world of communications and image polishing/maintenance. He now has a new client whose image maintenance will be as challenging as was the image maintenance of the President. Ari Fleischer now represents Mark McGwire – - the new hitting instructor for the St. Louis Cardinals – - who is heading to Florida for Spring Training with the team and his new wards. I cannot imagine that Mr. Fleischer will be spending a lot of time with the team in Florida, so I wonder how he is going to protect his client from the many questions about steroid use that will have to arise. This could be fun to watch or it could be a train wreck. Time will tell…

Here is a comment from Scott Ostler of the SF Chronicle regarding Ari Fleischer’s newest client:

“McGwire credits all those homers to what he received from ‘the man upstairs.’ Apparently McGwire’s steroid dealer was living in an attic above the gym.”

When Dr. Myles Brand took over as the head man at the NCAA, he made it clear that as a former university president, he was going to see to it that university presidents reined in all of the rogue athletic departments and made sure that athletics were completely in step with the core mission of the university – - education. Oh, that sounded so good; too bad it was nonsense on at least a half-dozen levels. The most obvious problem was that university presidents were involved as active participants in academic scandals at St. Bonaventure and at the University of Georgia. Meanwhile, university presidents at other institutions preferred to deal with other issues rather than risk rocking the boat with alums who liked the athletic programs at various schools.

Dr. Myles Brand is no longer with us. Therefore, he will have to view from the other dimension the situation that is unfolding at Binghamton University (formerly SUNY-Binghamton). The university president there really wanted to have a big-time basketball team/program; she pushed through the building of an arena; she relaxed admission standards for athletes and dressed all that up in the verbiage of achieving greater diversity on campus. Then the house of cards collapsed…

Now, there is a 99-page investigative report circulating regarding the sordid mess. According to a story in the New York Times, here are just some of the things that went on at Binghamton:

    One recruit transferred to Binghamton and received credit for courses taken at another institution in Bowling I and Theory of Softball.

    A player on the Binghamton team – - a team that made the NCAA Tournament last March – - was arrested for “possession and sale of crack cocaine”.

    Six other players were dismissed from the team for incidents including drug possession and/or use of a stolen debit card to purchase stuff.

    A player has alleged that an assistant coach wrote a term paper for him.

    The report says that students who transferred to Binghamton from other “schools” did so with courses on their records that had “limited if any academic content”.

The NCAA likes to threaten schools with a finding of “lack of institutional control”. In this case, Binghamton can assert pretty clearly that there was plenty of institutional control since the university president – - she is retiring this summer – - was involved in many of the decisions that led to the current situation. Everything was indeed “under control”; the problem is that the person at the controls had no real interest in protecting the academic integrity and reputation of the school if it meant that there would be a problem for the basketball program.

I wish we could find a medium who might channel Dr. Myles Brand for us regarding this matter. I would like to hear what hi might have to say about yet another university president who seems to be complicit in this kind of academic scandal. I would like to know how any of this might have been aimed at putting the athletic department at Binghamton in step with the core mission of the university…

Here is an item from Brad Rock in yesterday’s Deseret Morning News:

“The NBA is looking into an incident in Dallas whereby two women recently walked into the Portland Blazers’ huddle during a timeout. One of the women reportedly wrapped her arms around Rudy Fernandez.

“Which is really sad, when you consider the Nets needed a hug so much more.”

The New Jersey Nets are 5-48 so far this season; they won last night to make that record look better than it did over the weekend. They have declared themselves as significant threats to break the NBA futility record for a single season set by the 76ers in 1972/73 at 9-73. I have looked at their remaining schedule and I doubt that the Nets will be Las Vegas favorites more than a couple of times – - they do still play the Wizards twice. Nonetheless, as opponents give up any hope of reaching the playoffs, those opponents could be vulnerable to a Nets team that might just be hustling to dodge the ignominy of breaking that longstanding record for futility.

Meanwhile the Charlotte Bobcats should go into hiding for a while. The Nets beat the Bobcats last night, which is embarrassing. What is humiliating is that on Dec 4, 2009, the Charlotte Bobcats also lost to the Nets – in the Nets’ first victory of the season making their record at that point 1-18. The Nets and the Bobcats have one more game this year – - on April 12, it is the next to last game for the Nets. Could they actually go 3-1 against another team while being epically bad at the same time?

Finally, here is an item from David Whitley of AOL

“A California man pleads guilty to transporting 14 tons of marijuana in the back of a semi truck. He refused to divulge his destination but authorities found ‘NBA All-Star Weekend’ on a crumpled work order in the glove box.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports…

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  • Chris M  On February 17, 2010 at 6:38 pm

    Admission standards, subsequent grades, extracurricular behavior…what do they matter in the face of the money the marquee universities bring in from their athletic events (and then keep within said department). My closeup experience with some student-athletes at UT Knoxville is that they can barely speak proper English – let alone refrain from criminal activity when the opportunity arises. Whether this is due to intended diversity or just the carefree academic concerns of the typical athlete is irrelevant; the end result is that calling them students at an institution of supposed higher education is a joke.

  • The Sports Curmudgeon  On February 17, 2010 at 8:55 pm

    Chris M: You are 100% correct. Remember the Super Bowl ad where the dog put the “no-barking collar” on his master? Someone should put a collar on everyone at the NCAA that will shock the Hell out of them everytime they utter the words “student-athlete”.

  • Rich  On February 18, 2010 at 10:44 am

    Mark McGwire: The Man Downstairs. Sorry, that was devilish of me….

  • The Sports Curmudgeon  On February 18, 2010 at 12:35 pm


    Very good…

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