Pa and I had our best discussions during football season. He was a devoted fan, loved Crimson, and loathed orange. Pa, though, was very much an old school football fan. He would happily engage in debate over strategy and statistics, but he respected coaching principles.
There are many down here who believe true fandom can be nothing short of full on worship. Super-fans argue one forfeits allegiance by daring to question coaching, staff level decisions, recruiting tactics, and player accountability. Southern blasphemy!
I tend to believe like my Pa believed: College football is a sport. Sports can make or break a life. Sports can only make a life if the player learns to live a life. The greatest (read: winning) minds of college football have always been principled coaches.
Look around college football today- if you can find a truly principled coach, he’s probably regarded as a loser.
I don’t think Pa would see college football the same today, because it isn’t the same. Change may be inevitable, but change does not necessarily mean progress.
Pa’s brand of football went like this: Players should work twice as hard off the field as they would ever work on the field. A player who was late to practice didn’t play. A player who dared break curfew was not permitted on the field or the bench. A player who disrespected an official was tossed out on his pompous rear. A player who intentionally hurt another was banned from the league. A player who got himself arrested- stayed arrested.
There was no talking to the press. Players were players, not celebrities. There was a strict dress code before and after games, both home and away. Coaches had discretion, but Athletic Directors had the last word. Coaches won games; they stayed another year. Coaches lost games. But nobody remembers them.
“Recruiting Ethic” is now, sadly, an oxymoron, and that’s where the demise of respectable college football programs begins. With championships come boosters; with boosters come money; with money comes the illusion of power.
College football players are scouted at least a decade before they can even be legally approached. Good players get attention. And if all a program cares about is putting up stats and wins, they will overlook anything to make it happen (academic misconduct, domestic violence, child endangerment, petty theft, grand theft, possession, DUI, and even rape).
The current numbers break down like this:
- $13,500,000 for a glorified scoreboard
- $680,000 for a coach whose name makes college fans cringe- and not because he ever actually succeeded
- $1,300,000 and $940,000 spent for the recruiting class of 2013- recruiting criminals
- $165,000 per year, per athlete, as an average across athletics, in 2010- where here in Alabama we all know where the money is thrown (hint: it ain’t volleyball).
- And throw in another $12,000,000 for two head coaches.
Welcome to Alabama. We have a budget crisis.
Pa and I propose the following, given that erosion is a process:
- Hiring coaches for their ‘recruiting skills’ while overlooking their complete lack of principles is asking for trouble. Stop doing that.
- Recruiting players kicked off other teams is not charitable- it’s foolish. Stop doing that.
- Encouraging individualistic ego in players is not equipping them for life; it is disabling their future. Stop doing that.
- Grade changing is social promotion. Stop doing that.
- Draft eligibility should not occur until the player has earned a legitimate degree.
*For these purposes we define legitimate as ‘If you can’t understand a word coming out of his mouth- there is no way he has aced ‘Speech’. (Read: Those bingo cards you’re using to call plays is a dead giveaway. Taco Bell/Spiderman/Decepticon/Banana?? Uh- yeah, okay! Show blitz, drop back, fake injury, cry! Got it!)
- Knowhamean? Yeah. We know what you mean- we just can’t understand it. Stop doing that.
College football was my first love. Maybe it’s time we break up. Of course, that might strip me of my lifetime adoring fan status.