Friday, April 11, 2014

Some more burnt ends

Some things you just can't make up. You might try to put an ironic twist on something but it never comes together in a coherent way. Or else the premise is just so far out there that no one's buying it.

But then there are times that irony and premise intersect.

And that's what happened when three security guards at the Harris County Criminal (In)justice Center were arrested. It's bad enough that folks accused of committing a crime are forced to stand in ridiculously long lines because the architect of the building had his head up his ass and because the judges don't seem to understand that forcing defendants to come back to court for meaningless settings every three to four weeks feeds the problem. Now it turns out that contract security guards were stealing from them.

One security guard made off with an iPad while another pocketed a flat iron (of all the things one could steal she chose that?). These items either belonged to defendants or to their family members or friends. What could be lower than that?

A third security guard was charged with tampering with a government document when she altered a log that is filled out whenever someone places money in the security scanners. Of course the question of why someone would carry $1,000 into a criminal courthouse is a valid inquiry.

Now the three of them will enjoy the experience of trying to get into the criminal courthouse in time to answer the docket.

Over at the University of Houston there is a new man in charge of the basketball team. Former OU and Indiana coach Kelvin Sampson was hired to replace (retread) James Dickey earlier this month. This is, of course, the same Kelvin Sampson that left both the OU and Indiana programs in turmoil when he left thanks to his attempts to skirt NCAA recruiting rules. I'm sure nothing like that could ever happen again.

But that's not the story.

You see, coaches are free to walk away from jobs and walk into new jobs without penalty. Both coaches and schools routinely ignore those pesky little contacts everyone signed when they were hired whenever it suits their interests. When a coach sees a better opportunity it's easy for him to pack his bags, turn his back on the players he recruited and head for greener pastures. When a school is fed up with losing there is nothing to prevent them from cutting the coach loose for the next flavor-of-the-month. A little money exchanges hands according to the buy-out provisions and everyone is happy.

But the players aren't so lucky. When they signed their commitment letters they were handed a one-year scholarship that could be renewed year-to-year by the school. It's the NCAA's way of making certain that college athletes "know their place" in the universe.

Danual House and TaShawn Thomas wanted to transfer away from UH after the school hired Mr. Sampson as its new basketball coach. But the school wouldn't allow them to do so. Without providing any reason, the University denied both transfer requests. Now Mr. House and Mr. Thomas must appeal the decision if they want to go elsewhere to play and go to school. And, even if they win their appeal, UH can still block them from transferring to certain schools.

The decision by UH is but the latest example of how life on the plantation is for college athletes. Neither of these players is paid by the school. In exchange for playing basketball they both received the promise of a free education. But, while the university can cut them loose at any time for any reason, the players don't have the right to leave the university and transfer elsewhere when they decide that the school is no longer such a great fit.

There is no excuse for the actions of the UH athletic department. The decision to deny the transfers was made just to show the players whose in charge on Cullen Boulevard. Everyone who had a hand in that decision should be ashamed of themselves.

For those who were outraged by the NLRB decision that student-athletes at Northwestern were university employees, this is an example of why such protections are needed.

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