When we get him in “Our Program”

Slocum halo
BobLee
August25/ 2015

I recently spent several hours with a former Power Five FB assistant coach (almost twenty years with two top twenty programs). It was a “catching-up” lunch that included a mutual friend.

WARNING: A rather long (incredibly insightful) diatribe that deals with yucky crap.   The individual in that title picture is not connected to any local FB program…. simply an example found by googling “Football Player Arrested”.  There were many to choose from.

Our conversation juxtaposed with four Quirky News stories from this past week. Those four Quirkies are (1) Maurice Clarett’s scared straight talks…. (2) Art Briles’ coach said / coach said mess…. (3) Atheists against team chaplains…. (4) Cris Carter’s Fall Guy fiasco. You might want to reread those after you finish this…..  My conversation with the veteran coach preceded those news stories. He is now an executive in sports administration.

I asked him one of my favorite questions.

In Big Time College Football, when recruiting a “blue-chipper”, can you usually tell when you’re dealing with a loose hand grenade a/k/a a hard-case?”

“Sure, it’s in his body language, the questions he asks / doesn’t ask, his appearance; all that, plus what you already know about his home situation and school records.”  If the kid has all the football athletic skills you are looking for….. you discount all the “loose hand grenade” signs with the cliché catch-all:

…. “He’ll be OK once when we get him in our program.”

Every Power Five football program (basketball too, but today is about football) thinks they have a system in place to rehabilitate “hard cases” and prevent them from “going BOOM”….. Especially “hard cases” that could be real on-field difference-makers for their program.

IF that were true, why were Cris Carter and Warren Sapp telling alums of those programs to “have a fall guy”??  LINK.

It is a long-standing cliché at Monday morning staff meetings after the assistants have been out on recruiting look-sees. Each assistant gives a thumbnail appraisal of his prospect including a comment about “character issues” along the lines of

“….. a bit of a chip on his shoulder, the usual issues with authority figures, a few run-ins with the local cops BUT no felonies…. nothing that we can’t control….. once we get him in our program.”

Within each staff, that caveat seems to be standard with certain coaches. The head coach hesitates moving along until he hears that magic phrase. It becomes the standing joke that the whole staff “gets”.

So, is he like X, Y, and Z who claimed all of their victims was consensual and they never knew how those 9mm and the baggies of grass kept showing up in their SUVs which no one ever knew how they afforded with their grandmother on welfare. ….. is this one like all those guys you signed?”.... who somehow managed to create PR nightmares for the Head Coach, the program and the institution.

“Hey, gimmee a break”, the embarrassed assistant coach retorts, “even Babe Ruth swung and missed on a few. This kid is different…..”. And so it goes behind the scenes in Big Time College Football.

Staffs DO keep records of assistants’ “track records” in evaluating recruits as their hard-cases matriculate. When a high profile celebrity coach is being grilled by media about the latest “crime spree” by one or more of his “student-athletes” he is remembering the assistant who assured him “I can keep this kid out of trouble once he gets on-campus.

At any one time, each assistant has a dozen or so players on their roster that are “his responsibility”. They might not be in his position category but he recruited them so they are “his”. Everyone on the staff knows it. When a program in “under siege” for a bad boy incident all his peers recall him saying ….. “he’ll be OK once we get him in our program.”

Football coaches at the major college / pro level want to “coach football”. They want to breakdown film…. devise schemes….. create situation personnel groups….. drill fundamentals….. blow whistles and yell a lot.  They do NOT want to play parish priests and parole officers.

They are not trained for nor interested in “rehabbing problem children”. Just as they leave injury treatment to the trainer / medical staff, they want to abdicate responsibility for “bad boyz” to someone else “within our program”.

They ALL realize “you can’t win at ‘this level’ with a roster of boy scouts”. Requoting Lane Kiffin – “Angels don’t play football…. so we don’t recruit angels.”

The Head Coach knows that.   His staff of aspiring heads coach wanna-bees all know it.  The inner circle of Fat Cats know it.  The school admins are totally clueless.   Some fans know it, but most fans don’t care one way or the other…. all they want is “bragging rights” on Monday morning.

CARDINAL RULE: Our rivals’ hard-cases are all serial felonious thugs – Get A Rope! ….. “Ours” (who commit identical crimes) are “basically good kids” who just need a hug and 2nd, 3rd, 4th chances. ….. yawn; if you had a nickel every time a board monkey blurts THAT.

If an SEC school goes two years without a headline “thug-alete” incident, you can bet that program is LOSING. They don’t have the overly aggressive, 1,000-yard stare, hard-cases necessary to compete with the hard-cases across the line-of-scrimmage. The whole staff will be fired and a new one will come in that “understands what it takes to compete at this level”.

Which brings us to those gosh-darn controversial team chaplains.  Big Time Programs have stumbled onto one element that actually DOES some good with “hard cases”.   It is “the team chaplain”.   Men such as NC State’s Al Byrd and UNC’s Mitch Mason shown below.

The coaches that routinely recruit the hard-cases don’t want to be “chaplains”. The “chaplains” DO want to be “chaplains”. The good experienced chaplains are very good at identifying “hard cases”.

The team chaplain concept, under the FCA funding umbrella as explained in that Quirky article (LINK), is becoming very common across Power Five World. Even if it wasn’t effective (in most cases it IS effective), it appeals to a recruit’s family which in more cases than not is a single mother / relative who has worked multiple jobs to provide for the recruit and his siblings. Now “her boy” is going off to college and leaving her daily influence however effective that has been.

The recruit likes the fancy “jock dorm” and the jumbotron and the local club scene.
Whoever raised him likes “that nice man” she met on their campus visit who was introduced as “our team chaplain”.

These chaplains are realists. They realize the inherent dangers of dropping an “at-risk” kid from a survive-or-die street environment into a white middle-class campus abundant in “temptations”.  It is Russian Roulette for both predator and prey.

Yes, there is usually a low-key Christian component to the chaplain’s MO but the good ones know how to downplay that if it hinders him “being there” when a hard-case is about to fall into the Abyss. …. finding an abortion clinic when the linebacker’s girlfriend’s “stick turns blue” can create a bit of a theological dilemma.

Often the team chaplain is the only authority figure the hard-case “might” trust. Predominately white coaches are essentially “cops without guns” that the hard-cases have been hard-wired to distrust.

The vast majority of team chaplains are AfAm men with direct knowledge of the real world of semi-literate 18 y/os with ONE chance left

…. to barter their athletic ability into a legitimately marketable education – Their Only Way out of a dead-end life.

“Having a fall guy” is NOT the way out. A seven figure “signing bonus” can easily disappear before they are 25….. and left with no education and no team chaplain who cares. Maybe the only man he encountered that actually “gave a damn” beyond “what can he do for our program”.

Yes, I am cynical as hell about 97% of the hypocritical horse-crap that spews out of every pore of Big Time College Sports. The current “team chaplain” concept is a legitimate attempt to deal with a very real problem THAT IS ONLY GOING TO GET WORSE even with team chaplains.

If your school is in a Power Five conference, your coaches are NOT going to stop “rationalizing the recruiting” of hard-cases. The next dozen “he said / she saids…. the next dozen “DUI with a gun and drugs in his vehicle”….. are lined up like 747s over O’Hare at 5 PM.

Nothing is being done to stem the flow of “hard-cases” at the high school level. If anything….. the racial divide in America worsens by the day….. The Spectator / Gladiator Chasm.

Semi-literate 18 y/os grabbing ballcaps out of duffel bags while wearing t-shirts glorifying authority-hating rappers and sporting bad boy tatts are the present and foreseeable future of Big Time College Football.   Today’s Ferguson / Baltimore street rioters are tomorrow’s BMOCs…. ouch!

Coaches’ livelihoods depend on Ws on Saturdays. Not on playing Father Flannigan to hard-cases in helmets.Father Flannigan

If the God-hating atheists are successful in wiping out the “team chaplain” programs (LINK) that will be one less finger in the dike to slow down this flood of unadulterated cultural chaos.

Do you really think “paying each player” $3,000/year is going to make a difference? The local video game retailers really like that infusion of $$$$ by the way.

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Wow…. that was a stressful column. I need to go trek the App Trail and see if I run into Bo Derek or Joey Heatherton. If I do, you’ll be the first to know.

 

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John
John
4 years ago

Value judgements typically take a while to put forth. I don’t have the time
Briefly, from my perspective (both observationally and judgementally), neither chaplains nor ASPA level “support” should be necessary to the athletic programs.
Carry on your good work, please.

58WolfKennel
58WolfKennel
4 years ago

“BL, in a world of unintended consequences, my earlier comments were picked up from here and posted on the Pack Pride non-subscription board. Some people love having fun, including some of your new and old responders herein. If you made any significant money off this blog, I should get a 1% cut :>)) By the way, why wouldn’t I believe every word which I’ve written here? Is there a blogster’s code I’m not aware of. Also you should value your friends fully, even those who might invite you to a non-booth, afternoon blow-out of the Troys of life. At least… Read more »

John
John
4 years ago

Using religion to keep things “in line” in a system where mostly white guys get rich from the toil of mostly black guys is nothing new.

John
John
4 years ago
Reply to  BobLee

An observation, not a value judgement.

John
John
4 years ago
Reply to  BobLee

It’s spot on.

SeaIsland Gambler
SeaIsland Gambler
4 years ago

I fear it will get worse until somebody gets killed… knifed… shot… whatever… in front of 80,000 fans and a national TV audience a minute or two before halftime….

Cabcash
Cabcash
4 years ago

“The Butcher could “pass a poly” on his innocence….”

Sure he could…..

Jon Sasser ‏@JonSasser Aug 21

For years, UNC claimed Butch Davis sullied its reputation. In fact, the opposite was true. http://NYTimes.com http://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/07/24/upshot/the-fundamental-way-that-universities-are-an-illusion.html?

Jon Sasser ‏@JonSasser Aug 24

@york1313 @MikeAndMike Butch Davis was cleared by the NCAA, The Wainstein Report, Governor Martin, and everyone else who investigated UNC.

Jon Sasser ‏@JonSasser Aug 24

@york1313 @MikeAndMike Exactly. Butch Davis, the new guy who ain’t from around here, was the fall guy for decades of UNC academic fraud.

Yada yada yada…

https://twitter.com/JonSasser/with_replies

TracieG
TracieG
4 years ago

No more calls… we have a winner!…. 58WK as “America’s Forgotten Founding Father” is as perfect as any nickname you’ve ever come up with. BL. I don’t know this man except thru his “interesting comments” history here. I don’t believe you “make him up” BobLee; but I think whoever he is “makes himself up”. Nobody could be that much of a self-righteous squirrel.

58WolfKennel
58WolfKennel
4 years ago

” BL, glad to see BOG Guy’s comment and knowledge of the FCA Chaplain program. I was with Al Byrd this past weekend in giving a tour of the new Indoor Practice facility to chaplain program donors. Responding to your several comments to my responses, you sometime try to put me in unfair extreme loyalty and political stances. . As far as NC State is concerned, I do know enough of the “innards” over a 60 year experience to judge the culture. We obviously have had our hiccups, but what I have been thankful for is the way we have… Read more »

BOG Guy
BOG Guy
4 years ago

Great column! I know Al Byrd and contribute to fellowship of Christian Athletes to help finance his involvement with the team. Our friend Johnny Evans used to fill this role on a part-time basis, but he thought they needed a full-time person. Johnny’s the one who first asked me to contribute. (DISCLAIMER: Before any True-Bluer takes me to task, as a BOG member, for helping the program at State and not CH, I will reiterate that we do not “do” athletics! I’m sure Carolina’s chaplin program is well-funded, but I would be happy to support similar programs at smaller schools… Read more »

NCSU68Grad
NCSU68Grad
4 years ago

Interesting column, BL. I SORT of expected (maybe I missed it) a link or referral to Dalvin Cook. Is that the FSU lad with the Dread’s? I think that JW (of TB fame) has a modified (close cut) Afro. I DO apologize for not being able to recognize the FSU ALL STARS out of uniform….it is MUCH easier to identify them from their mug shots. I also do admit that Chuck (CTC) was able to bring in some FL Thug-A-Letes….but the Marine sort of took care of them. Doeren has had a few issues, but seems to be surviving….but the… Read more »

NCSU68Grad
NCSU68Grad
4 years ago
Reply to  BobLee

WHO is the FSU Lad in the picture?

inkstainedscribe
inkstainedscribe
4 years ago

If you want additional inspiration to hit the App Trail, just visit the ESPN Radio site and look up yesterday’s clip of The Butcher on Mike & Mike explaining how every coaching staff has guys whose jobs are to make sure those hard cases never get on campus. I nearly spewed an entire pot of coffee listening to BD’s wisdom.

58WolfKennel
58WolfKennel
4 years ago

“Well, just had another well-thought response disappear without having copied it ahead of time. In summary, your write-up is again well done as were the previous four “quirk” articles, but I believe somewhat jaundiced in view. In all honesty, I don’t doubt such situations exist at many universities but respectfully don’t feel this about NC State as a representative ACC school. I plan to send your article to AD Debbie Yow and to Chaplain Al Byrd not to cause a problem but maybe get some additional insight. I have been around enough amongst culture, staff, coaches, chaplain, and players to… Read more »

Doug
Doug
4 years ago
Reply to  BobLee

Your rebuttal to Mr Kennel is on point. One problem with the today’s society is the systemic culture crisis which is hard wired into certain segments of the population and it is not limited athletes only. I hesitate using the term thug but can’t find a better one to make my point. It is on every campus by default either with athletes, students or outsiders that hang around and ply their trade of illicit, in demand, activities, or “stuff.” No school, no community, no mall, movie theater, nowhere is immune. It IS wherever young people congregate. Many people born before… Read more »

Doug
Doug
4 years ago
Reply to  BobLee

He should re-read the CARDINAL RULE. A hanging curve was the only one I could hit unless it was from a southpaw. Lefty hitters of dubious talent should never face a southpaw.

Doug
Doug
4 years ago
Reply to  BobLee

I’m sure DD, Ms. Yow, and Mr Byrd will confirm re: any questionable signee, “He’ll be OK once when we get him in our program.”

Old MacDonald
Old MacDonald
4 years ago

Which assistant was “responsible” for Marvin? I’d like to buy him a beer!

Old MacDonald
Old MacDonald
4 years ago
Reply to  BobLee

I was not sure if Blake stayed at the “macro” level and did not get in the trenches as far as day to day things on campus with the guys he recruited. No wonder the whole thing blew up. Blake had way too many hand grenades to look after, even if he wanted to.

Doug
Doug
4 years ago

Forget the App Trail. A good Brunswick Stew can cure what ails you. It might even moderate a hard head’s behavior temporarily. Perhaps. Maybe. It’s called comfort food for a reason.
I know this guy from Scotland Neck and plan to invite myself sometime this fall for a fix. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5BHGdot980A

fayettewuf
fayettewuf
4 years ago

There is no such thing as a bad boy…if he can bench press 300 lbs. and runs a real fast 40. I don’t know if it was Valvano who said about a risky recruit, if I don’t recruit him, someone else beats me with him. I like your chances of meeting Bo Derek on the Appalachian Trail better than a change in the recruiting of thugs. I think in the long run you do better with smarter non-thugs but I don’t run a big time program.

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