What is this world coming to?
Once upon a time, a legendary football coach (Ohio State’s Woody Hayes) punched an opposing player. A national championship basketball coach threw a chair across a court and choked one of his players (Indiana’s Bob Knight). More recently, an assistant coach (Jerry Sandusky) at Penn State, under then recognized coaching legend Joe Paterno, sexually assaulted football players.
This week, Rutgers basketball coach Mike Rice, Jr. was found on videotape to shove, kick, and hurl basketballs at close range at his players, along with using gay references towards them in practice. When anger or rage takes over the competitive drive to win, the road of coaching is not easy. With each level, from grade school to college, balancing team needs with individual talent becomes increasingly difficult. Drive or greed, pick your poison. It grabs some coaches like a disease.
At press time, I am grateful I follow schools without program crushing scandals. Although North Carolina is mired in a football quagmire, from a basketball standpoint, where my Tar Heel loyalty truly lies, no major discrepancies are in the discussion. Furthermore, down in Corvallis, the Beavers are driving the straight and narrow. Sure, once in a while, a student athlete or two shows up in the wrong section of the newspaper. Nobody is perfect. But generally speaking, all the programs run clean.
There have been times when I questioned Mike Riley and Craig Robinson. As game situations evolve, it will continue. That being said, to this day I appreciate the values each one has. In the past and throughout the future, it would appear incredibly unlikely the events surrounding Mike Rice, Jr. would take place at OSU. Furthermore, given recent events of incidents involving physical altercations between players and coaches becomes so magnified in the public eye, tension at any college practice takes on increased scrutiny. These practices will naturally lead to additional or available public knowledge. After the Rutgers fiasco, logically every coach will take a step back and look at their practice proceedings or handling of personnel.
Even the slightest of hand comes in to question. NCAA regulations and sanctions come in to play on every issue these days. Which has me wondering what is going with Oregon’s not too distant scouting problems and more thankful Riley never comes close to questionable conduct.
No extra motivation is needed for the in state rivalry with the Oregon Ducks and Oregon State. However, when the Evil Empire dabbled in illegal football recruiting with shady scout Willie Lyles, it provided another reason for Beaver nation to possess risen annoyance with the Ducks. Once this story arose in the sports world, Riley’s down home image became more appreciative. Without sounding overly bias, Oregon appears to be going in the direction of big time programs. Not necessarily by way of the Dukes and Carolinas of college sports. Rather sketchy ones such as Rutgers, Ohio State and Auburn (also in the news this week for achieving success on the road of dishonesty).
In previous columns I have mentioned recruiting. How OSU goes about its recruiting business is of their own concern. If honesty counts for anything, the Beavers would be wise to use such a card. I certainly do not wish to play out the misfortunes of others, such as the Rutgers melee, but if spun in the right direction promoting proper techniques and standards could be advantageous. Getting players to be in your program is about comfort, feel, fit and atmosphere. Showing recruits how despicable coaching behavior is not allowed may turn the corner for prospective athletes.
On one hand I wish the events surrounding Mike Rice, Jr. had not happened. As a coach you are supposed to teach and lead. Overnight, Rice became the poster boy for what not to be as a coach. On the other hand, as mentioned before, he has shown Beaver nation what it has in Riley, Robinson and Pat Casey. Men, as well as coaches, fans and players can look up to who take on their roles with extreme integrity.
For every Tiger Woods there is a Lance Armstrong. For every Mark McGwire there is a Barry Bonds. Someone always hits further, runs faster, throws it harder. Someone will always follow another. Yet, it never seems so simple. These days the ink barely runs dry before another feel good story goes bad. They are all disappointments, but you pick up the pieces and move on. As fans we endure and hope with each passing failure the degree of fall from grace is minimal.
It won’t be long. For every Mike Rice, Jr. there is…