Can't blame UW's Turner for following the rules
It seemed a perfect opportunity for Todd Turner to show a softer side. To improve what is becoming for the Washington athletic director...
Special to The Seattle Times
It seemed a perfect opportunity for Todd Turner to show a softer side. To improve what is becoming for the Washington athletic director an increasingly ruthless image.
An opportunity to deflect attention from his firing of women's basketball coach June Daugherty, not to mention women's crew coach Eleanor McElvaine.
Why not free Spokane prep basketball star Katelan Redmon from her letter of intent with the Huskies — free her to join Daugherty at Washington State?
Why penalize Redmond for a situation Turner, in firing Daugherty, created?
I mean, who wants an unhappy athlete, anyway?
How easy it is to take the easy way out.
Turner, in the aftermath of scandal and sloppy administration, was hired in 2004 to follow the rules.
Now we criticize him for doing just that?
The Redmon situation is an interesting one. She apparently signed a letter of intent with Washington largely because of Daugherty. After Daugherty was fired, Redmon's father was quoted as saying there was no way she would go to Washington.
Turner refused to release Redmon from her letter, so the family appealed to the National Letter of Intent organization, which operates outside the NCAA and a lot of emotion.
The appeal was denied. The letter of intent says specifically that the contract is between the athlete and the school, and that the comings and goings of coaches are not considered reasons to void the letter. Things like death and illness in a family are.
The athlete is committed to one year of attending school at the institution with which it signs, and the school is committed to one year of financial aid. Recruiting stops, college begins.
For the athlete, the penalty of opting out of the letter for another school means not only sitting out of competition for a year, but losing a year of eligibility.
Unless, of course, the athlete is released, which Turner wouldn't do.
Turner talked about precedent and protection.
"Strong fences," he said, "make for good neighbors."
He didn't want a recruiting free-for-all. He didn't want collegiate free trade. He didn't want kids reneging on schools, or schools reneging on kids. He wanted the letter to mean something.
His legal stand is understandable. But what about his ethical position, particularly in light of the fact that it was his firing of Daugherty that ignited the spark of Redmon's discontent in the first place?
As Turner sees it, Redmon wanted out before she started. She wasn't unhappy with the new coach, Tia Jackson. She hardly knew Jackson.
Redmon's case, he said, was different from that of Carl Bonnell, the quarterback who before transferring to Washington went to school at Washington State. Bonnell never practiced with the Cougars or received any financial aid there.
It has come to pass that Redmon has gotten to know Jackson and will attend Washington rather than absorb the penalties of going somewhere else.
Instead of losing the year of eligibility, she can play for the Huskies and transfer later if she wants to, which, according to Turner, is the way things ought to be resolved.
He assumes, as Jackson does, that Redmon will learn to be happy with her choice of schools.
I think we've got to give Turner some slack in these areas. He was hired to clean up a mess, not win a popularity contest. There is nothing wrong with forcing young people to honor commitments, especially if you honor them yourselves.
Schools need the order that the letter of intent demands. Athletes need the protection it provides. Without the letter, a new coach could drop an athlete just as the athlete could drop a new coach.
And what about the athlete who didn't get the scholarship to the UW that was committed instead to Redmon?
Turner irritated Huskies right off the bat when he raised ticket prices for football in the midst of its worst seasons in 30 years. The down-and-out football program wasn't his responsibility, although the fiscal fallout certainly was.
He fired Keith Gilbertson and hired Tyrone Willingham. He fired Daugherty and then McElvaine.
"We've got challenges to overcome," he said.
And, for a change, rules to live by.
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Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
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