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New book sheds light on issues in college sports

Lois Elfman | 8/10/2017, 9:32 a.m.
In his work, Dr. Emmett L. Gill Jr. often studies issues related to sports and society with a focus on ...

In his work, Dr. Emmett L. Gill Jr. often studies issues related to sports and society with a focus on college sports scandals. After receiving his doctorate, he spent three years at Rutgers University teaching in the School of Social Work as well as serving as a faculty mentor for the Scarlet Knights women’s basketball team.

Gill has turned his experiences at Rutgers and additional extensive research into the book “Bad Sports: The Rutgers Scarlet Knights Quest 4 Bigger-Time Collegiate Sports.” The book, which is being released today, shines a spotlight on a series of scandals that have unfolded in Rutgers athletics dating back to a 1994 sexual harassment suit against the soccer coach. The chapters include the Mike Rice basketball abuse, a 2015 crime spree by football players and Don Imus’ infamous negative comments about the women’s basketball team that made international news.

“We often talk about this, but we don’t get to the root of why [college sports scandals] unfold. If they’re happening time after time, how do we explain that pattern?” said Gill, now an assistant professor at University of Texas at San Antonio. “It’s to try and move from a snapshot to a broader portrait of a college sports scandal and a university that is sort of plagued by them.”

Rutgers leadership understands the power of sport and how sport can help a university reach its larger goals—attracting respected faculty and a vibrant student body, building an endowment and satisfying alumni. Gill said Rutgers has unquestionably accomplished some of these goals. In the final chapter, he explores the cost of success and prospects for the future.

Gill praises Rutgers for being intentional about Title IX and truly placing importance on women’s sports. Given the high profile of women’s basketball, when Imus made his derogatory comments, there were shock waves.

“It was an opportunity for the young ladies [on the team] to speak out and be put in the forefront,” said Gill. “As much as Coach C. Vivian Stringer deserves all of the attention and accolades that she receives, to a certain degree that was a time to hear from the team.”

Although the players were ultimately given a platform to speak, it was several days after the news broke. Rutgers has not returned to the national championship game since 2007, posted a dismal 6-24 record last season and is beset by transfers. Gill ponders whether the handling of the Imus scandal was ultimately the program’s undoing.

“The tendency of any coach in college sports in today’s climate is to close ranks,” said Gill. “In this case, trying so quickly to get back to the business of basketball, they should have dealt with some of the realities of life.

“I’m hoping one of the takeaways is we really have to do a better job of doing right by student-athletes,” he added. “At the end of the day, not just at Rutgers but elsewhere, a lot of student-athletes were left behind…these are kids in the formative years of their lives.”