Editorial: Athletics apology late to the game

SIU Director of Athletics Tommy Bell poses for a portrait in his office Oct. 6, 2015. (DailyEgyptian.com file photo)

It’s been more than one month since students hit social media to decry a photo of Saluki swimmers in Mexican-themed Halloween costumes. 

Yet Saluki Athletics has just now gotten around to admitting the offensive nature of the picture and talk about how to prevent similiar photos. 

We’re glad the athletic department and its director Tommy Bell apologized for the insensitive photo, but it’s far too late.


Our story went online Feb. 18, and athletics took more than a month to craft an uninspiring 240-word response. With the damage control units athletic departments are known to have, a 240-word “we’re sorry” is a cakewalk that should have easily been released in a couple hours. But here we are.

The situation was seemingly swept under the rug, probably what athletics wanted, so why issue the statement now? Many people probably forgot about the photo, so why even bring it up at this point?

Yes, it was a stupid mistake and the parties involved likely meant no ill will. We are roughly the same age as the athletes in the photo, so we know how students are. But members of the Latino communities at SIU were offended and this release comes too little, too late.

Especially considering that athletics seem to let the incident take a backseat to what was happening in the pool — SIU swimming and diving won its first conference championship since 2007. Not to mention, the apology comes just two days after the final Saluki basketball game following one of the most successful seasons in recent program history. Clearly the department had more important things to worry about. 

While this type of “ignore-the-off-field-problems” attitude is the norm in sports, we hoped a new athletic director could change that. We’re not so sure at this point. 

Prior to his hiring, Bell released a 10-point plan to restore the glory in SIU sports.

The last sentence of the first point reads: “Athletics will set and maintain high standards for performance, academic achievement and personal responsibility.”


So it appears timeliness is not a huge factor in personal responsibility. Members of athletics claimed the photo was not newsworthy and seemed to downplay its insensitivity. 

Point No. 2 of his plan is to establish excellence and transparency on campus: “We will create a culture of ownership and responsibility. It will start at the Athletic Director’s chair and accountability will flow from top to bottom.”

If the accountability flows from the top of the athletics ladder, maybe it will reach the bottom near Thanksgiving.

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