Coaches set varying policies for their athletes regarding alcohol and partying

For Whitworth students, the Big Three define the rules and regulations that are expected of them. However, students who compete in Whitworth’s athletics face a different set of rules when it comes to alcohol and off-campus partying.

Additionally, the policies for athletes vary depending on the sport they play. The women’s soccer team has strict policies blatantly prohibiting any form of drinking during the season; however, other teams such as the football team have policies less specific concerning rules and regulations.

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The football team abides by the Big Three as laid out in Whitworth’s Student Handbook. However, the team has an additional set of values that is expected to be upheld by the athletes. The team’s “Be a Man” philosophy encourages athletes to take responsibility for their actions, avoid passivity, lead courageously and embrace God’s reward of a significant life. However, there is not much specific material concerning alcohol and partying.

“The more rules you have, the worse it is,” Head Coach Rod Sandberg said. “In our program we talk a lot about, not rules, but who do we want to be? Where’s our heart?”

Other than a couple of incidents, Sandberg has not experienced a large problem with athletes drinking and has not had to take serious action against any students.

“I couldn’t have a rule for everything they can’t do,” Sandberg said. “I want to talk about being a man and taking responsibility. You want to go a party and drink? You better accept responsibility for that.”

The athletes themselves see the “Be a Man” philosophy as a reasonable expectation for the football team. “They ask us to adhere to school rules, but also to consider the greater implications, even if you are of age, of what it means to be part of that culture,” sophomore Brad Benton said. “How does that reflect you not only as a football player, but as a person?”

Junior Noah Schultz-Rathbun sees the expectations as reflective. Even though the football team has 96 players, Schultz-Rathbun has seen no issue with drinking among his close friends on the team.

“Everything we do reflects on ourselves and on the team,” Schultz-Rathbun said. “I think about how everything I’m going to do is going to reflect on Coach Sandberg.”

While an ambiguous policy focused on responsibility and character has proven effective for the football team, not every Whitworth team has crafted identical policies.

The women’s soccer team signs a contract at the beginning of their season requiring them to commit to a dry season. The women are forbidden from drinking any alcohol during the season with the first offense resulting in a loss of 10 percent of an athlete’s season. A second offense results in removal from the team for the year and/or for the rest of their time at Whitworth.

During her last year of coaching the women’s soccer team before resigning, former Head Coach Jael Hagerott implemented the rule for the 2015 season to make the rules clear and eliminate any room for confusion. While the policy contrasts other teams, athletes have found it to be a reasonable and effective set of rules.

“Alcohol during season doesn’t help your performance,” junior Jenna Morris said. “There haven’t been any issues or oppositions to that.”

However, with different policies for each team, questions arise concerning different standards. With most athletes only playing one college sport, students like Morris see their policy as the best option.

“For our team, definitely [a] clean cut [policy] has worked really well,” Morris said. “Whereas, if it was vague, I think that could be more dangerous.”

However, Hagerott sees the freedom coaches have used as a tool to make their policies. While the specific policies are not identical, each coach has the ability to craft rules that will be effective for their athletes.

“What has happened in the past is that we have been given that freedom to come up with our own policy,” Hagerott said. “I feel like every coach has set a high standard. We just want to make sure, on the women’s soccer team, that we represent ourselves well at Whitworth and in the community.”

While different policies have been set for different teams, coaches seem to rely on the respect the athletes have for their sport to guide their actions. Whether that respect results in strict policies or ambiguous guidelines, is up to the coach.


Peter Houston-Hencken

Sports Editor

Contact Peter Houston-Hencken at

Sex, drugs and rock and roll not allowed: The language of The Big Three

No Cohabitation

“There is to be no cohabitation on campus...[T]he practical application of the policy requires that it be used... to address persons who spend extended hours of a night together, who sleep together, and/or who engage in genital contact even if it falls short of actual intercourse.”

- The Whitworth Student Handbook

That last phrase of the rule leaves room for interpretation. What counts as extended hours?

Resident directors were given two situations comparing a long-term relationship to a one-night stand.

If people are having one-night stands, advisers would most likely help focus on how those actions could impact the two students later, McMillan RD Matthew Baker said.

“There is room for a little interpretation in the gray area and that’s because Student Life philosophy is that we want students to become decision makers, not rule followers,” Baker said.

The gray areas also allow for different ways for individual situations to be addressed. While wanting to be consistent in disciplining for policy violations, Student Life also wants to be fair to residents, Baker said.

In long-term relationships, the discipline would be similar, but leaders would focus on this being an intellectual experience in which they build a stronger relationship, Baker said.

“[The gray area] allows for healthy relationships, and allows for students to take ownership,” Arend RD Michael Ames said. “Students get to set limits on things.”

Usually, initial contact with the resident is made by the resident assistants, such as Resident Assistant Ben Olson.

“For the well-being of the person and the relationship, I might address them differently,” Olson said. “This job is less about getting people in trouble, and more about helping people towards growth and self-betterment.”

Residents should not take this as an invitation to break the rules, but to make decisions in order to grow closer to their community, Baker said.

No Drugs or Alcohol

“There is to be no on-campus possession, consumption, or distribution of alcohol, illegal drugs/ mood-altering substances or controlled medication without a prescription.”

- The Whitworth Student Handbook

When someone has been accused of violating a Big Three, one question that arises during conversation, is the topic of trust. Baker prefers to trust his residents, because he is unhappy with the idea of a community that do not trust one another, he said.

“However, it can be difficult when what someone says doesn’t line up with the evidence, what other people say or even what they had said earlier,” Baker said.

At that point, consistency in documentation can help when they pass on the case to Dean of Student Life Timothy Caldwell.

Honesty between residents and Student Life is really a matter of integrity on the part of the student and a matter of creating a positive community for student life, Ames said.

“If we have these things, students will feel like they can approach us with the truth, or with their own concerns and issues,” Ames said.

“We have to document any events that might look like a policy violation,” RA Cass Busch said. “However, addressing the situation should begin with conversation.”

By speaking with residents about a Big Three violation, she is able to shed some light on the situation when talking to the RD and share her observations, she said.

No Disturbing the Peace

“There is to be no violent or destructive behavior or other conduct that threatens or endangers the safety or emotional well-being of any person on campus. This prohibition includes, but is not limited to, such behaviors as fighting, vandalism, and any behavior that results in destruction or loss of property (including theft), or disruption of community life. This prohibition also includes, but is not limited to, physical abuse, verbal abuse, threats, and/or intimidation, as well as behaviors including assault, sexual assault, harassment and other forms of sexual misconduct.”

- The Whitworth Student Handbook

One question of Student Life is how approachable they are for students who want to confess to a Big Three violation or to report one they have seen.

“People can be a little turned off by reporting someone else, or by getting in trouble themselves, it just depends on the relationship we have,” Olson said.

Having a conversation does not mean you are guaranteed a Big Three punishment on your record. Often it is just that, a conversation, said Busch.

“We talk it out and handle it in a positive way,” Busch said. “People should talk more often because we are friends as well as advisers.”


Parker Postlewait

Staff Writer

Contact Parker Postlewait at