Citadel AD on ‘white hoods’ photo: ‘We’ll address it head on’

Citadel AD Jim Senter

Citadel AD Jim Senter

Jeff Hartsell postandcourier.com
Jan 16 2016 6:37 pm

(Blog editor note: This interview was edited for length by the Post and Courier)

Citadel athletic director Jim Senter spoke to a group of football recruits and their parents who were visiting the military school’s campus on Saturday morning. Yes, the subject of the “white hoods” photos came up. “I addressed it head on,” Senter said Saturday. “And that’s what we have to do.”

Those photos — pictures of Citadel cadets wearing pillowcases over their heads while singing Christmas carols — garnered national publicity when they emerged on social media last month. Many believed the cadets resembled members of the Ku Klux Klan, and school president Lt. Gen. John Rosa suspended the cadets involved. A school investigation is ongoing.

The incident impacted the athletics department last week when basketball signee Mohammed Kabir asked to be released from his letter of intent with The Citadel. The native of Nigeria cited that incident as his reason. In an interview Saturday, Senter discussed the potential impact of the incident on his department. He said no other recruits in any sports have asked to be released, and that the school is reviewing Kabir’s request.

Q: How concerned are you about the impact this might be having on Citadel athletics?
A: “I’m not concerned about it. I think it gives us a chance to have a dialogue about issues that are dear to us, like honor, duty and respect. When something like this picture shows up, does it concern people? Absolutely. But we are going to address and take it head on.
“My concern is that it’s is easy to take anything out of context. Certainly it looks bad, but it’s not what we stand for.”

Q: What is your message to parents who are concerned about this incident and sending their children to The Citadel?
A: “I think that’s a fair question. I think I would try to help them understand that it was one tiny incident out of 365 days, by a handful of young people out of a large group of people. Certainly if you just take the image and the picture, it’s concerning. That is why the college took immediate action with those cadets. But that’s not who we are as a college, and it’s not what we stand for.”

Q: This happened right in the middle the buildup to signing day for football. How do you think it’s impacted recruiting?
A: “I don’t think it’s going to keep young men from looking at our program. Right now, our football program is hot when you look at the trajectory of our program. Two years ago, (coach) Mike Houston went out recruiting and had to tell people, ‘You can win at The Citadel, you’ve got to trust me, because I did it at another school.’ Now, he can go out and say, ‘We win here, we win championships, we’re going to compete for and win championships at The Citadel.’ That’s an attraction to young people. “I think the type of young people we recruit, the type of character and values they have, they won’t be scared off. They’ll see this place for what it is. “But it does give you one more thing you have to talk about, one more thing you have to overcome.”

Q: Would it help the athletic department to have the school’s report out as soon as possible?
A: “It would, but I know the college is trying to expedite this as quickly as possible. It’s obviously one of the bigger things that’s happened here lately, and it does carry some negative connotation. But until the college comes out and says, ‘Here’s what we found out,’ we won’t have it in its proper context.”
Interview edited for brevity.

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