How ISU AD Jamie Pollard and Edward Snowden Are Alike: Civil Disobedience and Whistleblowing the Whistleblowers

Iowa State AD Jamie Pollard, in state of obvious high dudgeon, today commandeered the post-game press conference podium, usually first given to the head coach, to deliver his judgment:

“Iowa State takes great pride in how we conduct our business.”

I had assumed that this was a sport. But, go on.

“Those of you who know me personally know that I work really hard to make sure my staff and I adhere to that.”

I’d seen Michigan’s AD Dave Brandon, during his post-concussion-gate media interview blitz two days ago, complain that the criticism he has received has been “hurtful to [my] family,” so my patience for AD’s with million-dollar annual salaries complaining or bragging about having to work hard, or about public criticism, was waning.

“We [Iowa State] have been on the short end of several controversial calls . . .  And  it’s hard to sit idle . . .   Coach Rhoads and I, a year and a half ago raised an issue . . . and since that time, we’ve been on the short end of the stick.”

My metabolic rate here ticked upward quickly, as I comprehended exactly what Pollard is claiming here. It’s not, apparently, just that Iowa State was “jobbed,” today, while losing to Oklahoma State 37-20, but that because of a vote 18 months ago, there has been, since that time, a concerted plan executed, by those in power at the Big 12, including but not limited to referees, to “job” Iowa State at every opportunity.  Pollard is claiming a conspiracy, and that its result has been continual, planned prejudice against Iowa State. Rather strong stuff.

AD Pollard understands that “the Big 12 does not allow comments upon officiating.”  He knows the rules.

But, like Edward Snowden, he has to stand up for pure principle, even if that puts him in direct conflict with the law of the Big 12. Not all laws can or should be obeyed, after all, and sometimes, well, the just and honorable person has to take a stand and disobey the rule he believes is unjust. This is AD Pollard, by his own principled stand, endorsing civil disobedience and whistleblowing.

But there’s a difference here, between the civilly-disobedient act taken by Iowa State AD Pollard here on October 6, and the civil disobedience registered by Edward Snowden, and it’s reflected in Pollard’s somewhat rambling statement, which explicitly states that the “jobbing” of Iowa State over the last 18 months, “ends careers for football coaches, athletic directors, and presidents.” That is Pollard’s primary concern. His job.  A job which pays him about a million dollars per year. Edward Snowden’s whistleblowing, in contrast, had nothing to do with protecting his own job.

But let’s here recognize what we will call the Pollard Rule at Iowa State, for application and use by all of Iowa State’s student-athletes: if there is some decision by a coach that you don’t like, call him out. Don’t go along with unfair rule making or application. If you believe the coach has, for example, for the past 18 months, been biased against you in not giving you playing time, go to the press. Do not go gentle into the good night of silly rules.  Speak out, do what you wish, there will be no consequences.

It’s a good thing that Iowa State players — and Iowa State’s AD Pollard — are not subject to  a dictatorial regime like Charlie Strong’s at Texas where, if you are not ‘with the program‘, you’re gone. No questions asked. If you buck the rules which apply to everyone, then you need to be dismissed.

But Pollard’s principled stand here today tells us that Strong’s strict rules would never apply to anyone at Iowa State —  so take heart, all Iowa State players. Speak out. Think for yourself.

And Pollard’s behavior, about 18 months ago, on an unrelated event, gives us insight into how dedicated Pollard is to ignoring customary norms of behavior, and blowing the whistle on the whistle-blowing referees because they so often “job” him. In February 2013, Pollard was thrown out of a high school basketball game after disagreeing with a referee’s call in a game where his son was playing as a high school sophomore.

Exactly what Edward Snowden, or Mahatma Ghandi, or Henry David Thoreau would’ve done. Civil disobedience, to protect a million-dollar per year job, or a son’s high school basketball team.





About brewonsouthu

lawyer, with interest in college sports and NCAA oversight and decisions, and sports generally.
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