Sunday, May 29, 2016

Choices....Don't Bet The Farm....

Last week I introduced the M.O.R.R. idea when it comes to making decisions (Motivation, Options, Risk/Reward and Recovery). Now we start looking at real life scenarios and what went wrong.

And I cannot think of a more timely real life event than what’s been going on at Baylor University. Unless you’ve been in a coma or hiding under a rock, you know that Baylor just fired their head football coach, demoted the president and the athletic director has been sanctioned and placed on probation. The story has been developing for over a year. On more than one occasion, Baylor football players have been accused of sexual assault or domestic/dating violence. Two players have actually been charged and found guilty. Several other young women have come forward and told how they were assaulted by Baylor football players. But when they reported the attacks, Baylor leadership tried to cover it up. The Baylor Board of Regents hired an outside law firm to investigate. Their report confirmed the young women’s allegations and went even deeper. All of the details have not yet been made public, but those which have been published are damning enough. Coaches personally investigating the attacks and attempting to intimidate the victims into silence. Complete disregard of legal statutes and doing just about everything wrong in order to “protect the program”. It’s bad, real bad and there will be more to come.

So what were they thinking? Putting morality aside for the moment and just looking at this pragmatically, what went wrong? First off, the Motivation, protecting the program, is not wrong. Most often, people are motivated by worthwhile goals and objectives. I can’t fault Baylor for wanting to “protect the program”. Since Art Briles became Head Coach in 2008 he has turned the program from a perennial doormat to a conference champion. “The Program” has enjoyed unprecedented success under Briles. It’s put Baylor on the map and brought in a lot of money. Nothing wrong with wanting to protect it.

But, then we come to Options. From a moral standpoint, just do the right thing. But again, even putting morality aside, just follow the law. It’s the smart call. Following the law usually tracks pretty close to the right thing or at least starts pointing you in the right direction. On the other hand, you can choose not to follow the law. Do what Baylor did and try to handle it “in house”. In other words, cover it up.

Then there is that whole Risk/Reward thing. The Reward part of following the law is pretty darn good in the long-run. However, in the short run, you may take a hit. The program might get a black eye. So there’s the risk. Go with the cover-up and if you get away with it, the reward is pretty sweet. The program stays clean and the march toward a national title someday continues. However, there is a big risk associated with this option. If you get caught, all hell is going to break loose. Guess what? You got caught and it did.

Lastly, Recovery. And this is a biggie. Are you choosing an option that comes with a potentially unrecoverable outcome attached. Had Baylor chose to follow the law and do the right thing, perhaps the program gets some bad press and might have to be more selective in the types of players they recruit. Maybe you don’t win quite as many games for awhile, but you’re still pretty good and will recover over time. Maybe you never win a national title because you’re Baylor and you’re in Waco. But, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where Baylor could not have recovered had they handled this the right way from the beginning. But, they chose the high reward (no bad press, keep recruiting bad guys who can play good football and someday, just maybe win it all) and high risk option (if we get caught it sinks the ship.)

So we ask ourselves, why would someone choose an option that essentially comes with a deadly downside risk when there is a better, more pragmatic and certainly morally upright alternative? I think it’s because they think they are bulletproof. At some level, the Baylor head coach believed that even if the cover up was found out, he would survive because of the success he had brought to the university. In addition, I think he and others involved in this cover-up, actually thought their way of handling this was better and for the greater good. The mind has a way of rationalizing bad choices by making them seem like good choices. We tend to not like making bad choices intentionally knowing they are bad. So we convince ourselves that what we’re doing is for the right reasons and, therefore, even if we get caught, it will somehow be OK. And then it’s not.

The lesson here? Don’t bet the farm. Be honest with yourself. If things go wrong, what are the consequences? Is it worth it in the long-run?

“We can’t allow our hearts to be louder than our reason.” – Sons of Anarchy

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