Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Whistle Blowing (a little late)

I forgot all about a story that I heard a couple of weeks ago during March Madness. It was about the mens basketball coach at Tennessee, Bruce Pearl. He was a rising star of an assistant coach at the University of Iowa. When in 1989 he blew the whistle on Illinois and their recuiting violations similar to the ones that Kelvin Sampson and IU had. Pearl did all the right things first going to the head coach then the athletic director and finally bringing the accusations to the NCAA.

However, instead of being praised for calling out the school on their violations he was "black-balled" from Division I basketball. He got fired from Iowa and even though he was a worthy assistant coach, he was unable to find a job. No one wanted him. He finally got a job for the University of Southern Indiana a far stretch from Big Ten and Division I basketball. He won the Division II championship in his second year at USI but still only 1 team in division I even bothered to interview him. It was 9 years until he got a serious offer from a school. And now he has coached Tennesses into a national power but was hardly given the chance because he decided to blow the whistle on Illinois and their recuiting tactics.



Blogger songbird said...

This story is a perfect illustration of how the legal system, in reference to whistle blowing, is extremely flawed. It seems to me that more often than not, people are punished for telling the truth. My initial reaction to this specific story, and many other whistle blowing stories, is to ask, " are organizations, companies, teams, etc. so involved in illegal activity that they are afraid to hire an honest employee for fear they might be caught?" Stories of retaliation and rejection lead me to be believe that this is indeed true. Furthermore, it is shocking to me that situations like coach Sampson's, where he was in the wrong, yet had no trouble of finding a new job at the same or higher level exist. It is as though our society at large has trouble with deciding upon appropriate values and making judgements of character. Commonly we punish those who are honest and reward those who are not.

This notion corresponds with one of my recent posts about the "Innocence Project." This post pointed out that people who were wrongly accused of a crime could not participate in society regularly because of the stigma that they were convicts, even after their innocence was revealed. Similarly, whistle blowers have to work their way up from the bottom to regain respect and trust, just as this story illustrates.

What does this suggest about our legal system? It suggests that the law is not doing its job to protect the innocent and honest. We have established a legal system to encourage good behavior and conduct, and in these cases it is failing. I recognize that protecting whistle blowers is difficult because the legal system doesn't want to encourage "tattling" so that one can get ahead of another. However, the system just seems completely counter-productive when such stories appear.

Brainstorming ways to modify the system so that those who are honest are not punished, but rewarded, I am stumped. However, what would it look like if when a whistle blower blew the whistle, they were compensated or promoted? For example, in the case of this coach, what if the head coach had been fired and the whistle blower was promoted to head coach? On its face, this seems like a logical and fair solution, but I wonder if the players, the management, etc. would support such a system. I would hope so, but I fear it would not be supported.

I don't have the answer of how to protect the innocent and honest, but I see the need. I'm sure this frustration is what law makers go through all the time, and so I understand why the system is set up as it is. I am not blaming the law, but questioning if it is doing all that it can for the people. What do you think, could the legal system step it up?

12:49 PM  

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