To Play or Not to Play?

post By Rebecca Maas and Alyson Buck, Peppercom

May 10  
read the details surrounding
Love’s death
is difficult. To understand is impossible. Countless articles,
news segments and blog posts have revealed the violent – and alarming –
behavior of her alleged killer and ex-boyfriend, George Huguely.

he sits in prison, Love’s University of Virginia family – friends, teammates,
coaches and faculty – are left to pick up the pieces. We sure don’t envy UVA
president John Casteen or Athletic Director Craig Littlepage – and the series
of decisions they face to properly honor Love, while also keeping the
reputation of the University community in mind.

decision to keep Virginia’s women’s (ranked no. 5) and men’s (ranked no. 1)
lacrosse teams in the NCAA tournament for the national championship had to be
tough. How do you balance the emotions and fragility of spirit of these players
with the legitimate shot each team has at winning this whole thing?

a look at both sides.

To play…

one hand, the college and surrounding community must move on from the tragedy.
The school cannot punish the entire student body and lacrosse clubs for the
actions of one. Politically, UVA must be fair and allow the teams to compete
and complete their seasons if they so choose. To play is a tribute to Love. Her
high school alma mater Notre Dame Prep
by writing Love’s number – 1 – in eye black on their arms and legs.
In a way, participating in the NCAA tournament is a similar gesture by the UVA
men’s and women’s teams – the teams will play in honor of Love, which will
rally the community and show solidarity against the crime that resulted in her

addition, university athletics, especially at the Division I level, are a huge
recruiting tool for the schools. Since UVA’s men’s and women’s teams are so
well positioned to vie for the title, the school essentially had an obligation
to participate in the tournament in order to stay competitive with other
schools with similar offerings and athletic programs. By participating in – and
potentially winning — the tournament, UVA will attract the attention of high
school students nationwide who may choose the University for its

not to play

what if the decision had gone the other way?  By withdrawing from the
tournament, the University could have avoided an extended stay in the spotlight
– a constant reminder of this tragedy. Even if either or both teams do well,
its presence at the tournament will continue to spark commentary and sympathy
linked back to Love and the night she died. And what about lacrosse as a sport?
It certainly has seen its share of scandal (no comment on the irony that
Huguely attended the same prep school as a number of players involved in the
incident at Duke University) and the overall image of the sport is shaky at
best. There are thousands of young kids who play lacrosse and – like Yeardley
when she was younger – dream of playing for a top-ranked school like UVA. No
doubt they will be glued to the contests, idolizing the collegiate players who
are older, stronger, and more talented. Won’t it reinforce
mindset that lacrosse players are invincible
and rules don’t apply?

Till, a research fello
with the American Strategy Program of the New America Foundation in Washington,
D.C., wrote in a
on Friday:

fact that Huguely was at times reckless and violent, particularly when drunk,
and was alarmingly
 obsessive about
Love, would have been recognized by fellow players, and perhaps coaches, too,
and certainly should have been addressed. The fact that this was not his first
 interaction with Love
is the strongest charge against the friends and teammates that failed to
recognize the severity of the situation.”

point the proverbial finger at the players and coaches is an easy out in our
opinion. Would playing say that the sport chose to turn a blind eye to the
situation – or worse, accept violence as acceptable behavior
? Unfortunately, this men’s lacrosse team at the
University of Virginia did not stand up to a team member who acted out of line,
nor support him during a time when he so desperately needed help. By not
playing in the tournament, this team can instead devote the time and energy to
take an honest look at its commitment to teamwork – while at the same time
setting an example to the lacrosse community at large.

the authors understand there is always more to the story and that we don’t have
the full picture of the individuals involved in this tragedy. This post on
research of media coverage only, not of personal accounts of individuals
involved in the situation.

8 thoughts on “To Play or Not to Play?

  1. Well…the law did little to nothing in handling the murders at the ’72 Olympics. But that isn’t the reason to cancel the games in this case.

  2. The show must go on. It is slightly different subject matter but the 1972 Olympics continued after the murder of 11 Israeli athletes. Let sport be sport and let the law handle the rest.

  3. It is a slippery slope. But not having any consequence for those that let George do his thing, time and time again, that ended in death of a young girl is a slippery slope as well. His parents will be held accountable in the court of public opinion and they will carry shame from now till death. So be it; I do find it deserved…hey, look what you raised! Great job! Oh, he had some mental problems that went unnoticed or were enabled because you wanted to keep your perfect son and family on track for success? Well, look how that worked out.
    As for his teammates, didn’t Brian Till’s post come from a proven fact set? Didn’t they know his behavior was terrible and abusive toward her in the past?
    Methinks that enablers – whether they help people buy drugs, tell athletes that they’re untouchable, are parents who turn a blind eye as they are likely worrying about their own status, etc (this could go on and on) are all guilty of something and should be sentenced justly.
    That’s how I feel about that. Now, what’s for lunch?

  4. Agree with Michael D.
    The games should go on. Two separate issues. Team members should not be punished for what this bad boy did.

  5. Fair point, Michael. However, the gray area lies in the crossover of sport and sportsmanship. Sure, no NCAA regulations were breached, per se, but I’d venture to guess that “sportsmanlike conduct” is in there somewhere. That applies on and off the field. Overall, I think the bad behavior in the lacrosse community has been accepted for far too long, and the UVA coaches – specifically on the men’s side – have (had) an opportunity to take the steps to correct it.

  6. I do think there is some shared accountability across fellow players, coaches, and university personnel for keeping a closer eye on destructive behavior among very young adults that could lead to tragedies like this. But, the homicide and the tournament are two separate incidents. No team breached regulations. One person commit a crime. The games should go on.

  7. But how can you punish all for the actions of one? If we go down that road, why don’t we hold responsible the entire student body for not putting a stop to his actions? Why don’t we hold responsible the police officer that arrested him once for disorderly conduct? Why don’t we hold his parents, grandparents, teachers, mentors, coaches, classmates responsible for not predicting he’d do this? Unless he had an accomplice or it can be proven that the lacrosse team knew he was going to break into Yeardley’s room that night, he and he alone should take the blame and not participate in the tournament. Otherwise, it’s a slippery slope, Lunch.

  8. The women’s team should play on and honor Yeardley’s contributions and memory.
    The boy’s team should not play on due to the fact that George’s teammates failed him, themselves and ultimately, poor Yeardley, by not putting a stop to his behavior. Boys can no longer be boys…they should grow up and start acting like men by this age.
    Nuff said.