Shouldn't the CWPA Be Like Caesar's Wife - Above Suspicion

Joan Gould
Water Polo Planet

A 7-year-old boy returns from his first water polo practice with his dad. Walking to the TV room together, the little boy proudly hops up on the couch to share some bonding time with his Dad.  Side-by-side, they watch "Sports Nation”.

The first story is about Roger Clemens. So the little boy asks his Dad about lying, steroids and why Roger Clemens is a cheater. Dad answers, explains and moves on.

The next story is an update on Tim Donaghy. The boy has more questions…he wants to know about gambling, game fixing, officiating and what the man on television means by "integrity."

The third story is a segment on the Packman, followed by Plaxico Burress’ gun possession charge, followed by the job outlook for Michael Vick after his jail term.

Some 30 minutes after his sports lesson began, the little boy is spent.  He has yet to learn about Michael Phelps Olympic medal record, the amazing Giants Super Bowl win or The USA Mens and Womens Water Polo teams taking silver medals. … But he knows all about illegal drug use, gambling, federal indictments, dog fights, cheating and unethical referees.

He climbs down off the couch, shakes his head and heads upstairs. He pauses on the stairs and looks back and simply asks;

“Why are they cheaters, Dad?

“You’re a CHEATER!”

This invective stirs a world of emotions in all Americans- a negative charge which begins indoctrinating children into the concept of “fairness” at a very early age.

The concept of gaining an unfair advantage against an opponent is an intrinsic societal taboo, resulting in both formal punishment and perhaps more degrading than that, ostracism from the ones group. It influences the way we evaluate business, the economy, politics, the entertainment industry and overall social interaction.

The topic of cheating is indeed prevalent in today’s news, from the banking crisis to the North Korean nuclear program to politicians, but regrettably, most often with our own athletes taking center stage.

Read the Olympic Charter and the NCAA Mission Statement- . Nowhere do you come across "cheating," "cutting corners" or "winning at all costs." Instead, the manifestos are littered with words such as “fair” “equitable,” “character”, and the “integrity of the student athlete”.  There are phrases like “ethical principles” and “the joy of effort.” These are the pillars upon which competitive sports, particularly at the amateur and NCAA levels are supposed to stand.

“Our purpose is to govern competition in a fair, safe, equitable and sportsmanlike manner…”- NCAA Core Purpose

The 2,000 + page  NCAA rulebook legislates “fairness” and punishes “cheating” and is the Bible against which collegiate sports measure the concept of Fair Play.  The NCAA mission and Core Purpose was developed by people just like us-- whose initiation to the American value of “fairness” began with the negative connotations forged within us by the childhood invective “You’re a CHEATER!” 

These principles are echoed by the mission statements of our universities who strive to develop fairness, personal ethics, moral standards and excellence in their students;

“to pursue excellence in a spirit of productive cooperation; and to assume responsibility for the consequences of personal actions.”-Harvard University

“To develop Midshipmen morally, mentally and physically and to imbue them with the highest ideals of duty, honor and loyalty” – US Naval Academy

“students whose choices, in life and work, will enable them to realize the human and spiritual values embedded in everyday realities and to exercise leadership in service toward a just world.”-Mercyhurst College

College mission statements and the NCAA state unequivocally that they exist for the benefit of the “Student” and “Student athlete” and their rules developed and enforced for the benefit of their customer-the Student Athlete.

BUT…what happens when there is a disconnect?  What happens when those who should benefit from the 2,000 page rulebook are victimized by the rule makers and administrators charged with their application?  We are right back to the childhood invective that 2,000+ pages have painstakingly sought to avoid; “You’re a CHEATER!”   

Every college student in Marketing 101 learns the lack of difference between perception and reality: “The perception of the customer will define your brand and your company. “  The Collegiate Water Polo Association has recognized this important concept in the CWPA Officials Code of Conduct;

“Officials shall be free from any obligation other than the fair and impartial judging of the water polo contest. Anything which may lead to a conflict of interest, either real or apparent, must be avoided.”- CWPA Code of Conduct

Thus, the Collegiate Water Polo Association identifies and accepts the fact that ANYTHING which might result in a student athletes contest being perceived as less than 100% guided by integrity, fair play and ethics MUST be avoided.  Perceived or apparent cheating involving our sons and daughters is against the very core value of the conference, its member schools and its commissioner.

Once again, in a conference flooded by charges of impropriety and questionable practices, charges of cheating have marred the Eastern Championship, resulting in athletes and coaches questioning the results and integrity of an NCAA Varsity contest.

The years Mens Eastern Championships were tarnished by charges of referees bias and/or incompetence resulting in  the need of armed MPS to quell riots in the spectator areas, disillusioned, frustrated players and coaches, a varsity team with a year long suspension and the banning of one of the Northeasts most popular coaches.  This mess was eventually blamed on the players and coaches of St Francis College but even the CWPA cannot blame St Francis for the latest allegations of league cheating arising from this seasons womens CWPA playoffs;

In last week’s divisional playoffs, the CWPA Commissioner flew 2 CWPA Technical committee members from California in to assign and evaluate referees in Northern and Western Divisionals.  Southern Divisionals referee evaluator was TWPC chairman Ed Reed, father of the head coach of George Washington who was competing in the playoff.  After 2 unexpected upsets in that tournament, allegations fly “You’re a CHEATER!”, another group of young athletes are cheated of the promise of fair play and more parents who will never recommend the CWPA schools as a destination for friends and family.

In this weekends Eastern Championships, a referee assigner from another area was on the pool deck in deep and lengthy conversation with the game referee (from the assigners area) who was about to officiate the referee assigners daughter. Other Easterns referees stood publicly cheering for the assigners daughter whenever she scored a goal in the game. 

The team playing against the referee assigners’ daughter stood watching this… thinking once again…“You’re a CHEATER!”  and realized that the promise of fair play in the CWPA is  another in a long, long  line of empty promises from this beleaguered conference…

At this weekends Eastern Championship, the referee whose performance at Southern Divisionals resulted in 2 unexpected upsets (and attendant charges of cheating) was rewarded by being appointed to the Championship game.  This is the same referee who was involved in the Navy-St Francis debacle at Mens Easterns earlier this year…  AGAIN,  students and coaches observing this referees appointment perceive it to be a “payoff” to the referee who orchestrated the upsets at Southern Divisionals in favor of the TWPC Chairmans son… and again, feel cheated of the promise of fair play. 

To add veracity to these charges of cheating, these same 2 referees were appointed by the CWPA to referee at NCAA’s  ahead of MANY more experienced and neutral officials in the US.  This action had made the clear statement that not only is cheating and nepotism allowed in the CWPA,  it is encouraged…and as a result, the regionalized mess has now moved into the NCAA Championship. .

The athletes, their schools and their families deserve better than this. They deserve both the reality of and the appearance of contests that are governed by the principles of fairness, integrity and sportsmanship. They deserve a conference and conference contractors who are above reproach. They deserve the return of a conference which promotes and upholds ethical principles, fairness and ethics which allow the students to revel in the joy of effort.

Today, there are far too many disillusioned players and coaches in the CWPA who, like the 7 year old little boy, are asking the simple question;

“Why are they cheating?”

Under the directives of the NCAA mission and core purpose, the CWPA conference should be and indeed MUST BE above reproach. As parents, spectators, fans and coaches, we must insist on a change of CWPA Conference leadership to return the values of ethics and fairness to the students who the 2,000+ page rulebook promises to protect. As parents, spectators, fans and coaches we MUST demand that the NCAA step in and remove the conference commissioner and put an end to his threats that without him the CWPA will lose thier automatic bid to NCAA's. It is time that we stand up and say" ENOUGH".

Whether actual cheating exists or it is simply a case of many, many poor decisions creating the appearance of cheating, the CWPA Code of Conduct itself demands that the NCAA step in to make the changes that the CWPA Commissioner has continually refused to make. Changes that are self evident in any reputable conference charged with the ethical conduct of a student athlete contest. These rules need not be articulated in the WWPA, MPSF and Big West because issues such as these WOULD NEVER ARISE in those conferences.

  1. Members of the TWPC and/or Board of Directors must have no familial ties to any team within the conference.

  2. Referees must not officiate within a conference during any season where his or her relative is competing as a coach or player.

  3. The CWPA Code of Conduct must be applied to any conference referee or coach who is a spectator at any Conference event involving a family member in the same way that the Code of Conduct was applied to Doc when he was banned from the CWPA.

  4. Referees who receive assignments from the parent of a current conference player must not be assigned to officiate any games involving the assigners relatives.

  5. The current CWPA administration must resign from the administration of Varsity contests. Their history of poor decision making has resulted in questions about the validity of every contest in the conference.


How many more sincere, dedicated and much needed professionals will we allow to leave, be banned or suspended from the CWPA? How many more varsity programs are we going to lose without any attempt to save them by the leadership we put into place to nurture our programs and grow our sport? How many more Boards of Review will be circumvented to allow frontier justice and self interest to prevail and how many more experienced, competent referees marginalized before we demonstrate to our children that we CAN and we WILL stand up for honesty, integrity and fairness?

As parents, spectators, fans and coaches, we must accept the fact that if we allow this administration to continue to trample the path away from the promises made to our children, we have only ourselves to blame when our own children watch a CWPA contest, turn to us and say;

"Why are they cheating, Dad?"