Madison County Opinion...

MARCH 12, 2003


Column
By Frank Gillespie
The Madison County Journal
March 12, 2003

Frankly Speaking
UGA muddied
by scandal
You can’t play in the mud without getting dirt on your hands. This fact has been clearly demonstrated by the University of Georgia basketball program.
Georgia hired a new basketball coach a few years ago who guaranteed that he could turn the program around. After all, he had taken three other teams to the national tournament.
He did what he promised. Georgia suddenly became a national basketball power. Now, we know how and why.
It is an unfortunate truth that some of the best young basketball players are people of questionable character. They demonstrate early that they have no interest in academics. Often they demonstrate a lack of morality. Their only ability is to put a basketball in an elevated net.
Coaches Harrick, father and son, decided to bring these players to Georgia, and do whatever was necessary to keep them on the team. Those necessary activities apparently include illegal payments, academic cheating and protection from criminal consequences.
Now that the truth is out, the entire basketball team is being punished for the misbehavior of the coaches and a few team members.
Georgia is not alone in this misadventure. At least two other schools are facing similar problems: St. Bonaventure and Fresno State. St Bonaventure’s president was fired and its senior athletic officials suspended earlier this year.
Recent news articles clearly demonstrate the problem. Four major college coaches have just been fired because they lost too many games. Coaching is a dangerous job. You get fired if you cheat. You get fired if you lose. And the only way to win is to cheat.
Nor is it likely that the problem will be solved in the near future. Rather, it is spreading to the high school level. Recent news stories revealed that numerous student athletes from smaller schools are transferring to high-profile schools in order to attract the attention of college and pro scouts.
The legality of the transfers is questionable.
I have had my doubts about our state’s education program for some time. In my opinion, our schools and colleges have fallen victim to teachers, coaches and administrators who are more concerned about political agendas or win-at-all-cost sports programs than academics. At UGA, coaches have been accused of taking correspondence courses for athletes, or giving them passing marks even though they did not attend class.
This is not a new problem. UGA paid out a large amount of money to settle a lawsuit from a disgruntled professor who objected to student athletes receiving special treatment some 20 years ago. A college in another state has just apologized to President Bush because one of its professors gave extra credit to students who wrote letters critical of the President’s war policy. A mathematics professor at Vanderbilt resigned his seat following a vicious attack on Southern culture.
What should we do? We need a new Board of Regents, one that will insist that our colleges devote themselves to legitimate academics. We need college sports rules that require student athletes to be students first. We need to stop our college athletic programs from serving as farm clubs for professional leagues. We need players and coaches to be held to high moral standards, after all, they are the most visible representatives of our schools and our state.
We need to get our schools and colleges back into the business of education. Until we do that, we are all losers.
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His web page can be accessed at www.mcga.net. His e-mail address is frankg@mcga.net.

Column
By Zach Mitcham
The Madison County Journal
March 12, 2003

From the Editor's Desk
SPLOST is
crucial to county health
It’s not a “sexy” story, as my old journalism professor would have said.
SPLOST draws more yawns than shouts.
But the two SPLOST referendums Tuesday — one for the county government and one for county schools — are probably the most significant issues — at least in a county-wide sense — that we have written about in five years.
These votes will impact the county for years to come.
If voters renew both sales taxes, roads will be paved, a new emergency station will be built in the Hull area, classrooms will be built, a sports complex will be established, and more.
Without SPLOST, such improvements will fall on the backburner as both county commissioners and school board members continue to work with tight budgets, placing perhaps an even greater burden on property owners.
Madison County residents have generally seen the light when it comes to SPLOST. Both sales tax referendums passed easily five years ago.
Voters should again hit the polls Tuesday to say “yes” to these measures.
Consider that Madison County residents will not see an increase in any taxes. They’ll simply be voting to renew the taxes and keep things as they are.
But if Madison County residents choose not to renew the taxes, they will continue to pay sales taxes in surrounding counties. This means that Madison County residents will help foot the bill for improvements elsewhere, while outsiders will be able to purchase items in Madison County without directly contributing to the county’s greater welfare.
Of course, most proponents of a sales tax start with the obvious plus — it applies equally to everyone.
Likewise, there is greater accountability with the sales tax than with other forms of taxation.
Like many, income taxes leave me wondering where all that money went. I feel slighted at times, because my portion has gone into this enormous pool of money that can be misused and mishandled without my knowledge.
Property taxes leave people feeling like they are paying rent to the government for the land they own.
With these taxes, government officials can promise to use tax money for one thing, then spend it on another.
But with the special purpose sales tax, the way the money will be spent is specifically spelled out and cannot be used for other purposes.
Of course, “tax” is an ugly word to those who earn a living.
Many complain that taxes in any form are a waste.
But I’m not one of those. I think certain dues are necessary to maintain and improve our community’s health.
And a sales tax is smart way to go about that.
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.

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