". . . It's really hard for me to call a kid on the carpet for cheating, especially when I had devised the most elaborate system of cheating known to man. I could have cracked the German code in World War II in a matter of hours. If we had spent as much time studying as we had devising methods of cheating, I would have never had to cheat." -- Rick Majerus, "My Life on a Napkin."
Rick Majerus is a famous funny man. He gets laughs for his one-liners about his weight, his teams, his eating habits, Utah's culture, Mormons and anything else he targets with his wit. But cheating? The laughter finally stopped.Majerus cheated as a college student. Who says so? He does. He admitted it in his new book, My Life on a Napkin. Page 13.
"I had more head fakes than Michael Jordan. I could look left, then right two papers over. It was like that Woody Allen movie where someone asked how he managed to cheat on a metaphysics exam, and he says, 'I looked into the soul of the person sitting next to me.' "
Ha, ha . . . wait a second. There are some indiscretions you can put in a book -- and there are some you don't. For instance:
You drive 70 miles per hour on the freeway -- yes.
You go out of your way to run over cats with your pickup truck -- probably not.
You toilet-papered your neighbor's yard -- yes.
You robbed a convenience store in the last seven years -- no.
You cheated your way through college -- no.
Especially if you're a college basketball coach. Especially if you're a college basketball coach who talks incessantly about the importance of academics.
"So now when I call a kid in and get on him about cheating, it's a little bit difficult sometimes. I feel a little bit like a hypocrite."
A little bit?! Finding out that Majerus cheated is like hearing that Ken Starr had an affair or that Billy Graham once conned old ladies out of their life's savings. Majerus preaches academics ad nauseum. All conversation leads back to GPAs, graduation rates, grad school, study hall.
Reporter: "What did you think of Alex Jensen's rebounding performance?"
Majerus: "Could've been better. I'm more concerned about how he did in class today. I'll quit my job the day somebody says I don't care about academics. Say what you want about my players, but don't say I don't take academics seriously . . . "
But not so seriously that he wants them to cheat, right?
"It wasn't really about studying; it was a game for us. It was a code. On multiple-choice tests, we had a whole system in place that would have put a Navy semaphore officer to shame. Touch the right ear, meant A. Touch the left ear, meant B. Touch the chin, meant C. Touch the chest, meant D. We looked like third-base coaches."
Majerus can make you laugh despite yourself, even if he is a 300-pound contradiction ("My life has had its share of contradictions" -- Page 245). No one who knows Majerus can believe for a second that he isn't serious about academics or that he wants his players to cheat. It just would have been nice if he had said so in the book. Maybe a paragraph about regret would have been helpful, assuming he is regretful. Maybe a another paragraph about how it's important to do things the right way would have been instructive. If Majerus hadn't recounted his cheating as humorous and cute, he might have saved himself some trouble.
How does he tell a player to study and do well in school without also implying that the end justifies the means, that getting good grades is essential, one way or another? For that matter, how does he tell a player not to steal athletic equipment from the school?
"And it's tough, too, when a kid takes some extra equipment. Hey, I was the king of smuggling equipment out when I played. Even then, I really wanted to share Marquette equipment with my friends. And I'd always try to squirrel some away."
Oh, Rick, please, save yourself from yourself. No more confessionals. Save them for Sundays. Maybe Majerus is so accustomed to approval and eliciting laughs and being surrounded by backslappers that he's hasn't learned when to shut up. He thinks he can say anything, and then there is trouble. Ask Karl Malone.
This time Majerus got carried away and somebody noticed. For once, a school that courted Majerus for its coaching position said no to Majerus and not the other way around. Notre Dame officials reportedly didn't think Page 13 was funny and dropped him from further consideration for its coaching job (at least as near as we can tell, since both sides seem to be saying they rejected the other one first).
According to one news report, a Notre Dame official said there were "questions about his character and a perception he was not fit for the Notre Dame spirit."
That perception may or may not be right, but it's the one Majerus gave them on Page 13.