Most people strive to achieve ethical behavior in the way they choose to live life. Arguably the definition of exactly what this means is not always black and white. Some might say that ethics are easier to define when confined to the world of university athletics. After all, in most cases of competition, there is a clear winner and loser. Those who achieve excellence on the field of play triumph over those who don’t, and there is a concrete point total to illustrate that. There are also rules of engagement in sports that govern exactly how an athlete must act to achieve an ethical win. What most don’t consider, however, is that ethical behavior on the field really begins before anyone even dons a uniform.
The purpose of UT Athletics is clearly spelled out: To prepare students to succeed with integrity — in academics, in athletics and in life. Executive Senior Associate Athletics Director and Chief of Staff Chris Plonsky’s definition of ethical behavior is a simple one: “Ethics means you do the right thing even when no one’s watching, and you don’t need to be coached to do it. It’s just — do the right thing — period. The essence of athletics is about competition, and competition in its own right can’t be enjoyed from a competitor’s perspective or a spectator’s perspective unless it’s fair.”
Early last spring, athletics suffered a major blow when an admissions scandal involving a tennis coach rocked the university. “It was devastating for us,” recalls Plonsky. “It was totally out of line with what Texas is known for. We’re better than that. The thorough review led by our president and legal affairs team ensures that this isolated incident will never happen again. From crisis often comes your best work, and this is part of why Honor Texas is so important to us.”
Plonsky says the five tenets of the campaign (Integrity, Honesty, Trust, Respect, Fairness) aligned perfectly with everything that athletics at UT embodies. “We embrace them here in athletics because of the 530 ‘other people’s children’ that we’ve been charged with taking care of. Sport is like the ultimate test of your ability and your will in a fair environment in terms of who wins. Harder work can win, but a lesser team can prevail if their chemistry is right. That chemistry starts with ethics.”