Sunday, January 02, 2011

College Coaches: More About "Me" Than Molding Players

Pittsburgh Panthers coach Mike Hayward was just given his walking papers after an arrest on a domestic violence charge. He only had been in the job for two and a half weeks. College Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg says in response, "Head coaches are among the university's most visible representatives and are expected to maintain high standards of personal conduct and to avoid situations that might reflect negatively on the university."

Well, isn't that special? And what a crock.

Tell that to Declan Sullivan.

The 20-year-old Notre Dame student fell to his death filming a practice that coach Brian Kelly conducted in tropical storm winds. No changes were made to the routine, despite the 60 mile per hour winds that Sullivan faced while standing on a hydraulic lift 50 feet from the ground.

Kelly was never held accountable and neither was the athletic director or school president. It was chalked up as an "unfortunate incident." In reality, the Irish could have postponed the practice or moved it indoors. This was negligence at its best. But, the Irish carried on business as usual. They played the next day and the NCAA never batted an eyelash.

December 29, 2009, Texas Tech finally came to a right decision and punted head coach Mike Leach, who had a series of questionable conduct, but his ultimate undoing was locking player Adam James in a shed during a practice.

Then there is Lane Kiffin. He was reprimanded by the SEC for calling out Gators' coach Urban Meyer for recruitment tactics -- this when he was with University of Tennessee. Then after one year with the Volunteers, he jumps ship to go to University of Southern California to replace Pete Carroll. The grass seemed greener, I guess. His likeness still hangs in effigy in Tennessee.

Speaking of breaking contracts, Nick Saban, who after verbally dispelling rumors, insisted he was not leaving the Miami Dolphins (with time left on his contract) and lo and behold, he's coaching University of Alabama.

But with death and physical abuse aside, the poster coach for lack of integrity has to be none other than Bobby Petrino.

With three games still left in the season, less than 24 hours after a blowout loss, Petrino left a note in the player stalls of the Atlanta Falcons' locker room to say he quit. Hours later, the Falcon players watched their ex-head coach calling out "pig suey" at a press conference announcing him as the head coach of University of Arkansas. The move was so distasteful and scorned that even today, broadcasters can barely mention his name without hurling.

So let's not revere these coaches too fast.

A Sports Illustrated story this season exposed the real truth behind the bowl games and who wins financially. Not the colleges -- in many cases, it costs them thousands of dollars out of pocket to send teams to the events. The winners are the sponsors, the host cities, and college coaches. Yes, coaches. Why? Their salary goes up with every bowl game appearance. Most football fans would welcome the end of the bowl system in lieu of a playoff, but the colleges, whether they benefit financially or not, will fight to the death to support it -- for its coaches.

Also note that the NCAA is an institution that penalizes its players for selling personal items or accepts any financial help, while it makes a killing off the backs of the same players. See Reggie Bush giving back his Heisman trophy, although Cam Newton seems to have gotten off scott-free.

Joe Paterno

Urban Meyer
Bobby Bowden

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