Coaches in charge of disciplining their own Bad Boyz ??? …. Gee, what could possibly go wrong with THAT policy.
This quandary, like pretty much every dubious aspect of Big Time College Sports, has the usual two perspectives….. (1) The coach and Bad Boyz in question are at our most hated rival and/or at traditional Top Ten powerhouse that we HATE because “we” are not a traditional Top Ten powerhouse …. or (2) The coach and Bad Boyz in question are at our hallowed paragon of athletic/academic institutional symbiosis.
There is a very simple reality to keep in mind – Coaches are paid to WIN GAMES. They have a much better chance to do that if their best athletes are available to play.
Every coach would prefer a locker room of boy scouts…. but not at the expense of lessening the odds of winning. To Quote (supposedly) Lane Kiffin…. “Angels don’t play football…. so we don’t recruit angels.”
In any calendar year, between Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, and LSU there will be over 50 arrests of “student-athlete” Football players. Those programs all recruit from the same Top 100 high school players. That number of arrests increases each year. If anything is being done to curb rampant bad boyz behavior, it is not working.
Coaches invariably argue that “taking away their (Bad Boyz) opportunity to play football will only increase the odds of their being a threat to society….” …. and significantly decrease the coaches’ odds of winning future games.
LSU AND LES MILES REMIND US: COACHES SHOULD NOT HAND OUT DISCIPLINE
Posted by Matt Zemek on Aug 8, 2015 14:05
There’s a lot of ugliness in college sports, and the really dirty reality — the one which cuts through every fan base and is the hardest one to face in a mirror — is that no program is immune to appalling behavior or poor decision-making… because all of us as human beings are flawed. (Basically good, but flawed and always vulnerable.)
We all try to make the right decisions, to balance the priorities of conscience with the necessities of work, life stability, and looking out for our families. Life isn’t fair, it isn’t neat and tidy, and we all do have to make compromises in a very harsh and demanding world. (Josh Smith of the Los Angeles Clippers saying it will be hard to live on $6.9 million? Well, that’s a bit much. Some people are full of horsefeathers when they claim to have problems, but for the vast majority of human beings — very much including the one who is writing this piece — it’s legitimately difficult to be fully ethical all the time.)
Les Miles, head football coach at Louisiana State University, is not the first man to err on the side of ensuring that his players get a chance to play under less-than-appropriate circumstances. He won’t be the last. Moreover, a figure no less esteemed than Doctor Tom Osborne — so widely respected in his time — also gave one of his Nebraska teams input into allowing players back onto the roster. Les Miles enabling his LSU team to vote to reinstate Jeremy Hill? That was hardly unprecedented in college football history.
Jimbo Fisher at Florida State. Nick Saban at Alabama. Urban Meyer at Florida and now Ohio State. These and other coaches face wrenching decisions in which they have to weigh so many factors and tension points. Moreover — and this is a vastly underappreciated point in many player-discipline situations — bad conduct and criminal conduct are not one and the same thing. The two often overlap, but they are often exclusive from each other, as one might find in a Venn diagram. Innocence in the realm of criminality can coexist with innocence in the realm of bad behavior, but you’ll often find a coexistence of criminal innocence and what can still be seen as poor judgment and substandard personal conduct. It’s fair for a coach to determine that criminal innocence should be the standard which enables players to continue playing, but if a player:
A) continues to exhibit bad behavior;
B) is being investigated for criminal acts and exists in an as-yet unresolved situation…
… playing a player becomes a lot harder to justify.
This leads us to the present moment, and this story from Baton Rouge:
These kinds of discussions — when a player can and should be allowed to play college sports (something which is a privilege, not a right) — are messy enough to begin with on their own terms, solely confined to the facts of cases and how schools should handle them. For instance, in the linked story above on Nebraska in the 1990s, Tom Osborne did not make bad decisions at every turn. He got some right, some wrong. This is generally the case with coaches; it’s just easy to focus on the deficient decisions, especially since Osborne’s best teams in Lincoln just happened to be the ones that behaved the worst and got into the most trouble.
That last point — namely, that Nebraska’s most successful teams were also the teams who made the headlines for all of the wrong reasons at various points along the way — is what makes these discussions exponentially more difficult.
With Jevonte Domond, it is easy to make each of the following claims:
1) Miles is doing this because LSU has been (comparatively) struggling in recent seasons. If this was 2012 — coming off the excellent 2011 season for the program — would Miles have done the same thing?
2) Miles is not getting nearly as much critical scrutiny for his actions as Urban Meyer has, all because Meyer is a far better and more successful coach.
Keep in mind: It is EASY to make those claims. It is not necessarily ACCURATE to make those claims. (Yet, in a Venn diagram — theme warning — there will be considerable overlap between those two words for many observers outside the LSU program, especially in Tallahassee and in the Big Ten, particularly Columbus.)
It could be that Miles is making a very specific judgment and simply isn’t considering the state of his program. He might think what so many other coaches have thought through the years: Football — athletics — is what a young man needs in order to gain stability and a healthier sense of self. This doesn’t make Miles unique; it actually makes him normal among his brother football coaches. What is happening at LSU is not unique in the larger realm of big-ticket college football, either. Too many programs have gotten into trouble, and too many coaches’ legacies have been soiled in recent years (Joe Paterno the primary and most dramatic example) for us to pretend that these dynamics exist only in certain places, to the exclusion of others.
This is not about Les Miles and his decisions, though they HAVE received a lot less collective pressure and scrutiny compared to Urban Meyer. This is about the larger — and better — response to instances of players getting into trouble and being investigated for possibly committing criminal acts, particularly violent ones.
Very simply: It never has been a good idea to allow coaches — with too much of a conflict of interest — to make the final decisions on players in such cases. Having standards in place, and putting administrators in position to apply those standards with a certain institutional consistency, would not automatically solve this fundamental problem. However, the act of taking decisions out of the hands of coaches (and players) would reduce the tension between the football program here and the university as a major public (or community) institution over there.
A coach does have to establish and maintain a relationship with fans to a certain degree, but he is ultimately responsible for what goes on in his program under the watch of his athletic director.
A school directly represents the public as an institution of higher education. The football program is part of a school, but the school chooses to operate a football program and use it as one of its most public expressions before the wider nation and world.
Coaches are supposed to win games. It is true that Les Miles is making (and has made) decisions that are dubious at the very least, and so it’s easy to bash him (much as it was easy to bash Urban Meyer at Florida — he’s been a lot better at Ohio State). Yet, that kind of bashing is easy, and it’s gone on for quite a long time in column spaces such as this one.
If we’re going to move forward and generate better responses in these kinds of situations, it’s better for schools to formulate decision-making models, firmly-applied standards, and consultative structures that can give athletes — when they enter a university’s gates — a precise idea of what they can’t do if they want to maintain the privilege of playing big-time college sports.
These decisions are too important to be left to one person. When that one person’s job description is to bury the opposition on Saturday afternoons between the painted white lines, let’s not pretend to think that proper decisions are going to be made close to 100 percent of the time… not just at LSU, but anywhere else on the map.