David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Disorder in the House*

November 8, 2013:  Disorder in the House*

One of the hardest things to do is helplessly watch something you once cared about fall apart.  Yet, this is what has happened over the course of the last few years.  A proud organization with which I grew up and passionately supported through high times and low times is falling apart.

It may come as a surprise to some of you that I am talking about a football team -- the Miami Dolphins.  And for those of you who think this blog may not be about higher education, think twice.

For those of you blissfully unaware, the Dolphins have been rocked by a scandal that centers around the alleged bullying of a young player by a more veteran player.  The issues, however, are much deeper than that.  Read this article if you want to know more of the painful details.

The Miami Dolphins could be any "mid-level" college or university in the United States, one team in a league/industry that has grown so much that the overall product (whether it be the quality of a football game or of a graduate) is greatly devalued.

In the greater competitive environment, the team has lost its identity, which is leading to a dropping market share (according to The Sun Sentinel, Dolphins' attendance is last in the league, meaning it is worse than in-state rival Jacksonville, which is the laughing stock of the league in terms of a non-fan base).  One can't easily make causal connections to the dropped enrollment, and certainly the product on the field is nowhere near the quality of the Griese-led teams that first made me a Dolphins' fan or the Marino-led teams that continually excited fans, won regular season games, but lost in the playoffs.  However, the identity factor looms largely.

At this website, you can see how the Dolphins' logo -- the image that attracted me at age seven to the team -- largely stayed unchanged for 46 years.  Then, last year the logo changes and instead of a football team, we think we are getting SeaWorld, or an underwear brand.  Only truly desperate enterprises change their brand.

As for the actual incidents concerning Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito, they too represent the issues undermining once-great universities, colleges, or even departments.  As veteran leaders left the locker room, somehow the team elevated Incognito to a leadership role, despite having already known of the man's boorish behavior:  he sexually harrassed a female VOLUNTEER at a Dolphins' charity golf event.  As Colin Cowherd put it well on ESPN, in the absence of leadership the loudest guy in the room emerges.  Didn't anyone stop to consider the resume of the loudest guy in the room?

Typically, when things start to tailspin fast (maybe that explains why the Dolphins made the curious move of changing the direction of the dolphin's tail in their logo), the detractors and critics crawl out of the woodwork.  Former Dolphins' quarterback (and history won't remember him as such), Sage Rosenfels trashed the Dolphins' General Manager (Jeff Ireland) on social media.  Are Rosenfels' comments fair?  Who knows?  Who cares?  Ireland already had a questionable history and track record, so the hit sticks a little more.  If there is no leadership at the highest level, how does one expect accountability at the lower levels?

So, I'd like to say I'm sick about the state of my once-favorite team.  The truth is that, long ago, my loyalties started to move to another team (the Green Bay Packers), an organization that gets it with stability and true leadership at the top and accountability throughout the organization.  This is what every organization has to learn:  eventually your customer gets over it and moves on to a competitor.  This is true even if your customer is sitting on the couch of pain.*

*If you don't know Warren Zevon's "Disorder in the House," change that!  Video link