Global Ethics Corner: Competition, Culture, and Cheating

Apr 10, 2009

Competition magnifies the importance of choices people make, as penalties for failure and rewards for cheating increase. What would you do if faced with a high pressure choice in an environment which tolerates cheating?

William Rhoden examines the ethics of recruiting elite college basketball players, a good analogy for choices in other parts of our lives.

First, regarding competition, ethical choices are easiest when there is little pressure, when few forces push in another direction. Admitted thieves seek opportunities to steal. Most people must be tempted.

Rhoden notes that "the NCAA's problem is that big-time intercollegiate athletics create a pressure cooker..." Competition magnifies the importance of choices people make, as penalties for failure and rewards for cheating increase.

Second, culture conditions choice. People pay their taxes under threat of prosecution, but primarily because they believe the system, the culture, is fair.

Rhoden notes, "If coaches at powerhouse programs are bending the rules, where does this leave new head coaches and coaches at midlevel programs…?" They are also charged to win, and some travel the world trafficking in players.

Coach Painter of Purdue, answers that "…we're going to recruit our state and we'll just stay right there."

What do you do, if you face a high pressure choice, and the environment tolerates some cheating?

By William Vocke citing William C. Rhoden’s column "Sports of the Times," The New York Times, "For Coaches, Recruiting Top Players Can Lead to a Dark Side," March 30, 2009, D4.

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