I’ve had some people ask me if I’d be weighing in on the recent spat between Patrick Henry Hughes and the U of L athletic department. Hughes touched off some controversy when he posted a lengthy blog entry accusing U of L of excluding him from the basketball pep band.
In short, my answer is no.
Particularly not in print. But not even in full here. And here’s why. This looks to me like an internal argument. And while Patrick is immensely popular and I like him, in the end it’s about a student who doesn’t like the rules a university administrative body has laid out.
The best I can gather, U of L’s athletic department, when it took over the pep band (which plays primarily at basketball and volleyball games), told its members that they had to abide by certain rules, and one of those is that they had to clear all public dealings, speaking engagements, publicity, etc., through the athletic media relations department.
Now, Hughes isn’t just another student. He just released a book. He speaks to organizations all over the region. He sells albums. He’s involved in many public pursuits. He claims the rules exclude him from participating in the pep band.
And maybe they do. And maybe I don’t agree with the rules. In fact, the notion sounds kind of silly to me. But the spirit of college sports is clear, even if you don’t agree with it. A basketball player can’t use his status as a player to make money — can’t write and sell books about being a player, can’t take money for speaking engagements, in essence, can’t capitalize on being a famous amateur athlete.
I don’t necessarily agree with that either.
But here’s the bottom line. The rule is what it is. Whether I think it’s a good one or not, to me, isn’t a big deal in this case. There are rules at my workplace that I wish I didn’t have to deal with. There were rules when I was a college student that I didn’t like.
Hughes is exercising his right of protest.
But I’m not going to tell U of L how to run its pep band any more than I’m going to tell Rick Pitino what time his players’ curfew should be. (Note, Hughes remains a member of the football marching band, which is run under U of L’s school of music.)
The university is risking bad publicity in this. Hughes is well-liked, and deservedly so. It shouldn’t be this complicated a matter to resolve. But it also shouldn’t be fanned into more than it really is.