THIS REGION's best-known basketball coach, Ronald L. "Fang" Mitchell, put his money where his mouth is recently. He demonstrated his devotion to Coppin State College by sending in a check to help clear Coppin President Calvin W. Burnett of impropriety for doling out $33,500 in consulting fees to former state Sen. Larry Young.
It was a gesture from the heart, but it missed the point of this fuss over Mr. Young.
Elected lawmakers aren't supposed to be squeezing money out of state colleges under the pretext of acting as "consultants" for work that is a normal part of their jobs. College presidents are supposed to follow the state's procurement laws on no-bid contracts such as the one Dr. Burnett entered into with Mr. Young.
As Dr. Burnett noted, Coach Mitchell's generosity (which university officials rejected) won't make this problem go away. Questions still must be answered by the University of Maryland's board of regents about Dr. Burnett's actions. Were they proper? Did he break university regulations or state law? Should disciplinary action be taken?
There is also the matter of criminal inquiries by the state prosecutor and the U.S. attorney's office. These probes won't go away, either.
Still, Fang Mitchell's offer to invest a substantial part of his paycheck to aid Coppin's president demonstrates commendable commitment to the school. It is the same kind of loyalty that prompted state Sen. Dolores G. Kelley to angrily denounce Mr. Young for taking large fees from a poor inner-city college that needs every dime it can collect for basic educational necessities.
Coppin could use more supporters like Coach Mitchell and Senator Kelley. The West Baltimore school on North Avenue has an ambitious fund-raising target as part of the University of Maryland System's $700 million drive. Raising that $3 million will be a major challenge for a school with few affluent alumni. But Coppin does have one edge: the highest alumni participation rate (65 percent) in fund raising of any University of Maryland campus.
Collecting this money would help Coppin enlarge its meager endowment (only $2.8 million, the second-lowest in the system) and bolster academic offerings. We urge Coach Mitchell to redirect his donation to this fund-raising campaign, and for other Coppin boosters to take out their checkbooks, too. The flap over the Larry Young payments will eventually recede; the need to help Coppin won't.
Pub Date: 2/05/98