Unnecessary trend of coaches berating players needs to stop
Mike Riley is, without question, the nicest guy in coaching.
In Oregon State’s pregame hype video, he can’t help but smile while Beavers players look like they’re about to be locked in the Octagon with Cain Velasquez or Anderson Silva.
Writers from the student newspaper, the Daily Barometer, told me Riley couldn’t contain the niceness after Oregon State’s baffling loss to Washington State when most would have been either apoplectic.
So when Riley was called for a personal foul against USC, it was absolutely shocking.
Then again, Bo Pelini of Nebraska surprised me when he didn’t murder the Big 12 crew that called 16 penalties for 145 yards in a 9-6 loss at Texas A&M. Pelini’s rage knew no bounds, yelling at quarterback Taylor Martinez among others on the sideline and prompting a day of rumors that the redshirt freshman phenom had left the Huskers.
The epidemic of boorish behavior has become so commonplace it hardly raises an eyebrow on any given Saturday. Vindictive Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh would have tried to hang 70 on Big Game rival Cal if not for an injury that forced quarterback Andrew Luck back into the lineup for the fourth quarter. Urban Meyer infamously called one reporter a “bad guy” for accurately quoting a Florida player. Coaches like Mike Stoops of Arizona are berating officials every time a penalty is called – though in Stoops’ defense, he is dealing with Pac-10 officials on an everyday basis.
That’s fine, dealing with grown men who can penalize coaches who cross the line and have the protection of conferences that can issue a formal reprimand or suspension. But who stands up for the players?
The answer seems to be nobody. As salaries and profits escalate, it seems to be all right to treat 18-22 year olds on scholarship like professionals.
Actually that’s not true, with agents and owners who can intercede on their behalf as demonstrated over the last few days by Vince Young.
If there’s one person who epitomizes the trend, it’s got to be UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel, who berates his quarterbacks like no one else.
Neuheisel’s act is so egregious and longstanding, the Bruins’ flagship radio station has taken to calling it “the Kevin Craft treatment” for the way the former junior college quarterback was dressed down by his coach following the 20 interceptions he threw as the starter for UCLA back in 2008.
And Slick Rick was at it again Thursday night in front of a national television audience, going after all three unfortunate Bruin signal callers in a 24-7 loss to an equally inept Washington.
At one point, concussed Richard Brehaut seemed to be giving Darius Bell, another junior college transfer who was third string until starter Kevin Prince went down with a knee injury, a look that seemed to say “just tune it all out, kid” after one of Neuheisel’s screaming fits.
Even UCLA fans seem to have had enough of this part of their coach’s act, going on message boards to voice their displeasure and wondering if recruits would pass on Westwood to pass on Neuheisel’s sideline behavior.
And that’s what it will take for a Pelini or Neuheisel to chill out, a big-time player going somewhere else because of these over the top antics. Clearly, the athletic directors and boosters aren’t willing to step in so long as their highly paid coach has them on the right track.
Look, I can recognize this is part of a larger, unfortunate trend in our society. Look at Capitol Hill and you’ll find juvenile conduct on both sides of the aisle.
The problem, like in politics, is that is seems only the jerks get ahead. For the most part, you’ve got to be ruthless to advance up the ladder; exploiting players in the most public manner possible becomes just another avenue for advancement.
But college football is still a game, big money or not. Is it really too much to ask for the coaches to act like adults and let the kids be kids a little longer?