Competition, Not Conflict

February 18th, 2011

I was shocked to hear the news from Auburn yesterday about the Alabama fan who allegedly poisoned the trees in Toomer’s Corner, a place that is sacred to Auburn fans. It is hard to fathom such a horrendous and senseless act.

I met Auburn President Jay Gogue last month in the context of outstanding competition and respect on the field of play. And it was in that spirit that I sent him sincere condolences on behalf of the University of Oregon.

It is too easy to dismiss a destructive act as the insane act of one individual and to remove fault from the rest of us. We must each take a look at the words, symbols, and actions we use as fans and question when our rhetoric goes too far and fuels the type of act that occurred in Auburn.

The University of Oregon’s “Competition Not Conflict” program in the School of Law makes an important distinction between acts designed to enhance the performance of our programs and athletes, and those behaviors that are meant solely to do harm and hurt.

CNC promotes positive competition and works with athletes, coaches, and community members to understand, prevent, and resolve conflict. As it says on the CNC website, the program “combines big-time athletics with world-class academics to change conflict's footprint in sports.”

The news from Auburn is an uncomfortable reminder of the value of CNC’s work. We must not allow our competitive interests to manifest in this way.

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