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It’s all about Rick: From Telander to
Is college football corrupt?
By: Richard Linde, Updated 9 October 2003, 3 February 2008
A gigantic seaplane with drawn-up purple wings--Photo by Mary Levin
“First time I met
Curtis Williams, I'd just started here. We are out in spring ball and I’m lookin’
down at the tailback line and I’m lookin’ at my defensive backs. I’m saying you
know that number 25 kid, I think he’d be a heck of player over here.
So, I called him over,
I said, 'Curtis, you ever play defense?'
“Will you come over
“‘Hey, coach, all I
want to do is play.’
“I said, 'then head on
over.' He sprinted over there. At the end of practice, Bob Hauck, who you will
hear from later, told me that he’d start the first game. It was that obvious.
“Well, as difficult as
it is to say goodbye to a young man at such a young age, I prefer to believe
that God tapped Curtis on the shoulder and said, “Do you mind playing over
“And all he said was,
‘All I want to do is play.’
We’re going to miss him.”
-- Rick Neuheisel, 14 May 2002.
College football, the game we love and cherish, has been
under attack for some time. For Husky fans it began with an assault on Don
James, culminating with the firing of Rick Neuheisel. Don James’ purple-and-gold
citadel, so carefully nurtured and developed, was recklessly destroyed--as was
Neuheisel’s quest to rebuild Husky football into the Florida State of the west.
Drawing its lifeblood from sensationalized stories, the
elitist media is on a self-serving vendetta to forever change the game of
football. Over a 14-year period, from a book titled The Hundred Yard Lie to
ESPN’s new TV episode Playmakers, the assault has raged.
Most people take these sensationalized stories at face
value, that they are done for entertainment purposes in an attempt to attract a
large audience. That’s partly true and a worthy goal in our capitalistic
society. But the media’s crusaders have other goals in mind. If done correctly,
positive imagery sells just as well; however, it is conspicuous by its absence
in the portrayals of college and professional football teams, its coaches and
This negativity plays in a stadium located at both the
local and national levels.
Playmakers, which is about a fictional professional
team (the Cougars), details the seamy side of football, ranging from sexual abuse to drug
abuse. Playmakers’ negative imagery is most unflattering to football: the
quarterback jeopardizes his health by taking anti-inflammatory drugs; a running
back shoots heroin, another abuses his wife; a preteen son tells a linebacker,
"You paralyzed my dad with a dirty hit." Playing to sensationalism, scenes
involving partial nudity, blood, gore, vomiting, and a “piss man,” all catch our
Every dysfunctional player in football is on the Cougars'
roster so it seems, with abnormality extending to the top brass. The coach
doesn't want to tell the doctor he's urinating blood, being afraid that the crook of an
owner will find out and fire him.
While visiting a young boy dying of cancer in a hospital, a
running back, hooked on drugs, steals the boy's pain killers. Later, figuring
out what happened, the disillusioned boy tells the running back he doesn't want
to see him again.
Unintentionally, the script for the ESPN series was written
14 years ago, in Rick Telander’s book, The Hundred Yard Lie, which covers the
same seamy side of football that the ESPN series so graphically details:
Playmakers is broadcast in high-definition television with a sharpness and
clarity that is more profound.
ESPN's "The Junction Boys," visually describes the
horrifying conditions that Texas A&M coach Paul "Bear" Bryant subjected his
players to in a training camp held in Junction, Texas. It paints Bryant and
college football in a dubious light, with its "win-at-all-costs" mentality.
Two-thirds of the players quit the team because of the harsh conditions.
At the local level, one internet website provides links to
over 100 articles that are inimical to the University of Washington football
program, all of the articles written by local sportswriters over the last two
years. By my count, many more stories are missing from the database. One local
sportswriter, Art Thiel—the Playmakers' scriptwriter incarnate—barks out marching orders
to fellow hit men who follow dutifully in lockstep.
Big-time college football and professional football wear
the same media stereotypes, all of them unflattering to the game.
Rick is what’s wrong with big-time college football
Former coach Rick Neuheisel never had a chance to display
his recruiting skills at the UW. Periodic sanctions restricted his recruiting
effort, and a hostile local media, smitten with the idea that big-time college
football is corrupt, chased prospects away from a program that was paying
Neuheisel a big-time-college football wage.
In a nine-month period (January-September 1999), Neuheisel,
as Washington’s new head coach, was vilified by a media that turned his minor
recruiting violations, big salary, youthfulness, guitar playing, and job-hopping
into first-degree crimes. No other coach in the history of college football
during a like period of time has ever been savaged as much as Neuheisel, and he
hadn’t even coached a game for the Huskies.
Some people say that Neueheisel’s last year at Washington
was one for journalism’s yellowed pantheon of Pulitzers.
Here’s what Neuheisel’s defenders say about the media,
which some say behaved shabbily during the so-called gambling incident.
In January 2003, a Seattle Times editorial told Neuheisel to get out of
Dodge because its anonymous author thought he might be a candidate for Bob Toledo’s job at
UCLA; at the same time, the editorialist said that Mike Price ran a clean program
and had earned the right to leave WSU for a better job. With that editorial
philosophy firmly established, writers for the Times continued to question Neuheisel's
veracity, especially when a new job opening turned up at the college or
One sportswriter--new to the biz, so Neuheisel didn't
recognize him--eavesdropped on a private phone conversation Neuheisel had with
his mother. The reporter claims Neuheisel "plunked" himself down just six
feet away while the reporter was waiting for a flight to Seattle in the San Francisco Airport, and then overheard him
talking about the 49ers job. Overhearing the conversation is not hard to
believe, it’s the epiphany surrounding Neuheisel’s sudden appearance that
confounds people. Coincidentally, the reporter and Neuheisel shared the same
flight to Seattle;
A set-up: The same reporter set him
up for an impromptu “lie” about the 49ers interview, knowing the
true story all along, having eavesdropped on the phone conversation. In the
departure area, taking Neuheisel by surprise, he asked him point blank whether
he'd interviewed for the job, and Neuheisel said no. In all fairness, the same
reporter gave Neuheisel adequate
time to come clean before putting his story to bed;
One sportswriter skulked outside of a hotel where Neuheisel was having a
confidential meeting with NCAA officials concerning the gambling activity; how
did the skulker find out about the meeting people ask?
Collusion?: Neuheisel's lawsuit claims NCAA
officials asked an unidentified Seattle newspaper to delay a story about
Neuheisel's involvement in the pool "so that the NCAA could catch Mr. Neuheisel
unaware at the June 4, 2003, interview."
Seattle Times has identified itself as that paper [AP Report];
The media interviewed NCAA officials about Neuheisel’s sports pools activities
before the details of these activities were known to them, and they made the
NCAA officials’ inimical comments (relative to Neuheisel’s job) known to the
Without knowing the true monies bid in the sports pool, one sportswriter
created a big-money-cheating scenario involving Neuheisel’s alleged gambling
Misrepresenting the facts: Part of
the media deliberately misinterpreted and misstated the NCAA Bylaw (10.3) that
Neuheisel had allegedly broken; everyone has his own opinion as to
what 10.3 is saying about sports pool gambling. With but a few exceptions, the
Seattle media failed to mention the vagueness of the Bylaw as they
covered the gambling story.
How it works:
The scenario goes like this: the media put the pressure on the NCAA which puts
pressure on Washington which admits its culpability in order to avoid severe
sanctions by the NCAA and Pac-10 conference. Imagine the headline had the NCAA and the UW let Neuheisel off the hook: "NCAA
okays high-stakes gambling," it would have said.
With the media, it's either black or white, with no shades of gray permitted.
The Fruit basket scandal:
In roiling Neueheisl, the media’s actions are much like the dirt flung at
Washington’s program in what is now known as the “Fruit-basket” scandal, which
took place over a decade ago. [Linde1].
Those defending the media would say this.
- The other side of the story says Neuheisel should have known that any form of gambling is forbidden by the NCAA.
If he didn’t violate NCAA Bylaw 10.3 (the one on gambling) directly, he
certainly violated the spirit of the rule.
Even though an argument can be made for
his being sandbagged into telling impromptu lies, one about the 49ers
interview and another involving his initial lie to NCAA investigators
concerning his “gambling” activity, he still lied to a reporter and compounded
that lie during a news conference when he said he’d never interviewed with the
49ers--which was an embarrassment to the University of Washington.
Neuheisel may not have violated NCAA recruiting rules, but he played fast and footloose with
them, being too clever by half.
And he stiffed the American Football
College Association ethics committee with his lack of contriteness for an
assortment of “bumping” violations, equipment room irregularities and several
other minor violations accumulated during his tenure as head coach at
A more charitable argument can be made that Neuheisel was
forced into lying by a media that was after his veritable carcass his whole four
years at the UW, a carcass they wanted to hang out to dry like a retched coyote
found strolling waywardly in their backyard.
A more reasonable argument can be made that the media
turned Neuheisel’s minor sports pool incident into a major scandal in their
crusade to pillory college football. Neuheisel was an innocent victim, who never
would have bid on a team in a basketball pool if he’d known the realities of the
crusade. For a man with a law degree, Neuheisel was certainly naïve.
“I think the NCAA has put on a lot of pressure
because of some of the statements they made. I think that the day after I was
questioned by the NCAA, Myles Brand said I should be fired. There was no way
they could know all the facts. The university felt pressure to make a decision.
I think it was simple as that.” Rick Neuheisel.
Bashing the Washington Sports Program
It is de rigueur in the city of Seattle for local
columnists to bash the University of Washington's sports programs -- not
many of them writing positively about the program, administrators or coaches
during the last 12 years. At times, local columnists will compare Washington's
athletic programs with those at Oregon and Washington State, both of which, in their
minds, run "clean" programs.
Their critique is mostly likely driven by the editorial
philosophy that is expressed on the main editorial page of the two Seattle
newspapers: the Seattle Times and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Considering
Seattle's political uniqueness -- well, there is the People's Republic of Santa
Monica -- it should not be surprising that such a philosophy has
slopped over onto the sports pages of its papers. Sportswriters and
editorialists seemingly are like-minded.
One internet website (Mothers against Dumb, Drunk Dawgs)
supplies links to articles (of which I counted 112 stories) written by the local
media that are all unflattering to the UW sports program. Most of the articles
were written over the last two years. [MADDD].
In these articles, suspicion mixed with fact, along with
supposition disguised as humor, are added to a Molotov cocktail aimed at the UW,
no pun intended. This hypercritical bombast is overplayed, repeated too many
times and is void of that certain fairness when, in saner times, a subject broaching
human frailty was swept under the rug.
As an example, here are some excerpts from a Seattle Times
editorial ("Coach Rick Hamlet") (December 14, 2002) appearing on its main
editorial page that made an assumption that Neuheisel would seek the UCLA head
coaching job vacated by Bob Toledo's firing. As far as we know, Neuheisel never
interviewed for the UCLA job; there was no supporting evidence to buttress the
Times' supposition. A year earlier, it was rumored that Neuheisel had
turned down the head-coaching position at Notre Dame. Reportedly, Notre Dame had
received permission from Washington to discuss the vacancy with Neuheisel and he
was their prime candidate.
Who is to say that a successful coach cannot interview for
a better job?
"The suspense is killing us.
Is this the year Husky football coach Rick Neuheisel backs a U-Haul trailer up
to his house and flees in the middle of the night to a new coaching job?
"Cougar coach Mike Price is a different matter. His solid reputation
and patient success naturally attracts attention. He has made Washington State
University proud, and he has earned the right to seek new challenges and other
"But Price is the coach we want to stay put. His teams play hard for
him and he runs a clean program." Excerpts from Seattle Times main
editorial page, "Coach Rick Hamlet."
(As irony would have it five months later, with license to roam, Price shot
himself in the foot at a nightclub in Pensacola, Florida (May 2003). One month
later, after a snitch had reported Neuheisel's gambling activities to the NCAA,
representatives from the governing body interviewed Neuheisel. Were Price's and
Neuheisel's dalliances in disparate cities seemingly as interconnected as the
subatomic particles of non-locality?)
With this double standard firmly in place and public suspicion aroused, it is
no wonder that Neuheisel lied about his interview with San Francisco 49ers in
February of 2003, two months after that editorial was written. Neuheisel said he
lied about the interview because of a confidentially agreement he had with the
Was 2003 just a bad year for the UW and Rick Neuheisel?
During a recent interview, a reporter asked former UW coach Don James whom he blamed for what
happened with respect to the "Fruit basket" scandal, the specifics of which were
exposed in 1992.
“Well for starters, I think it’s the Seattle Times,” said James. “I live in this
community and I watch them beat up everybody, not just the football program.
I’ve watched them beat up on Boeing and Nordstrom and all the great industries
and businesses in this community. They all get beat up by the local press. Maybe
that happens everywhere. But I have lived in a lot of places and I haven’t seen
The City of Seattle has a high unemployment rate -- and, perchance, an
affinity for a bare bodkin that for quietus makes.
The Seattle Times and the 2001 Husky Rose Bowl champions. A "personal
(This section of the article was added in February 2008 because of its
relevance to our theme)
A controversial four-part series, entitled "Victory and Ruins,"
has recently found the front page of the Seattle Times. Published eight years
after the fact (January 2008), it describes what the Times now perceives as a
winning-at-all-costs mentality associated with the 2000 Husky team that won the
Rose Bowl in 2001. The Times alleges that Neuheisel and AD Barbara Hedges accepted most of what was a "disturbing level of
criminal conduct and hooliganism by the players on that team." Hedges and
Neuheisel demanded a modicum of accountability from their athletes, the authors
(Ken Armstrong and Nick Perry) assert.
The first chapter in the series concerns former tight end
Jerramy Stevens, who "convicted of assault and accused of rape...received a
raft of second chances." The second chapter of the series pillories LB Jeremiah Pharms,
saying that this "key UW linebacker played the entire season
after his bloody print was tied to (a) shooting." The third
chapter of the series savages the memory of fallen Husky hero,
Curtis Williams, who according to the Times played against Idaho
with a warrant out for his arrest. The Times describes episodes
of spousal abuse and shaky
academic performance. The fourth chapter describes LB Anthony
Kelley's dilemma at UW, one of discovering the joy of learning
while having "to buck a football program that emphasized eligibility, not
The surreal photo below, taken in May 2002, questions the
pillorying of fallen Husky hero Curtis Williams.
This series should be taken as a critique of big-time college
football, with the Huskies' football team of 2000 serving as a model.
Uncertainty at Washington, as illustrated by coach Tyrone Willingham's
perpetual hot seat and now Neuheisel's return to college football, provided the timing for the series -- eight years down the
pike. Not surprisingly,
liberal columnist Art Thiel of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer
immediately followed the series with an article entitled,
"Big-time college sports' misdeeds have many enablers."
Unfortunately, in perpetuity, a defenseless Curtis Williams
carries the Times' dirty water. His marital problems, previously
not widely known before, provided the sensationalism needed for
the series. If he had been alive today, a quadriplegic on a ventilator
part time, would the Times have tarnished his
memory? Of course not, the ensuing public outrage would have
reverberated throughout the Times' building for years..
If Curtis were with us today, would the Times have written his side
of the story? The effects of such an interview likely would have
severely jeopardized his physical and mental health. Outrage would have driven its authors into Union Bay. My guess
is that the whole series would have crumbled without C-Dub's unknown
story, and not seen the light of day.
The Times says, "We struggled mightily with that matter.
Williams died a tragic death that affected the entire community,
and we hesitated to cause additional pain. But the story about
how his coaches and community institutions handled his criminal
problems was one we felt needed to be told."
Coach Dick Baird, who recruited
Williams, says the Times didn't note the progress that Curtis
had made towards changing his behavior.
Of the twenty-four "hooligans" and "outlaws" described by the
Times, only eleven players come to mind to those of us who
follow the Huskies closely. Ten of them are African Americans. A
few of them found trouble in other seasons, and not the 2000
season. The series either needs to provide answers to questions
dealing with implicit racism -- and its potential for racial
profiling -- or else remove these two sentences
from its lead article.
"At least a dozen members of the Rose Bowl team were arrested
that year or charged with a crime that carried possible jail
time. At least a dozen others on that team got in trouble with
the law in other seasons," the Times asserts.
The Times' series praises Willingham, hired by UW in December 2004,
for his players' relatively spotless record on the police
blotter. It should be noted that his mostly clean record rests
on a foundation of players recruited by Neuheisel and Keith
Gilbertson. Willingham inherited members of Neuheisel's 2001,
2002, and 2003 classes and members of Gilbertson's 2004 class.
Gilby's recruits contributed partially to Willingham's
2005 class -- the other part, Willingham recruited
Neuheisel's reaction to the series is described by Matt Hayes
in his article entitled, "Neuheisel's take
on Seattle Times' series on Huskies."
Neuheisel told Hayes, "There are some things I could have
done differently. In Jeremy's case, I should've been harder on
him after the reckless driving incident. I should have sent a
message," and on the rape accusation, he said, "we simply had to
follow the proper code of conduct." Neuheisel told Hayes that
most of the other stuff happened before he got there.
Hayes also quotes Neuheisel as saying that "he refused
comment to the Times on the investigation because he still feels
the newspaper has a personal vendetta against him. He told me
(Hayes) the same thing four years ago when I went to Seattle to
write about his lawsuit against the NCAA and Washington."
Does the Seattle Times still have a personal agenda against
Rick, who is the head coach at UCLA now? The Times editor
thought the series would affect UCLA's recruiting more than
Washington's. Hayes says that exposes the core of the
The Times concludes its lead in story to the four part series
with a shot at Neuheisel and UCLA, saying that in AD Dan
Guerrero's mind, Neuheisel's collegiate record (66-30) trumped
his history of NCAA violations, which were in the past.
Those violations, which were all secondary in nature,
involved bumping violations at Colorado; failing to get
permission for phone calls made to former players at Colorado;
a basketball shoot around with a PSA at UW; an untimely photo appearing in the Oregonian
while at Colorado; taking
quiet-period visits while at UW; taking the same booster jet
rides without proper documentation that former coach Bill McCartney apparently took at
Colorado; improperly monitoring warm-weather gear handed out to PSAs at Colorado; and undercharging for boat rides made to Neuheisel's house on Lake Washington, on a boat piloted by a
The NCAA did not punish Neuheisel for his neighborhood
auction participation because of two memos circulated from the UW
compliance director okaying such activity if done outside the
athletics department under certain conditions.
In an interview with Brian Billick, whose Ravens
were in Seattle to play the Seakawks, with
Neuheisel working as the Ravens' offensive
coordinator, Danny O'Neil of The Seattle Times,
writes "Billick peppered the rest of his answer
with a pair of curses to emphasize he felt the
investigation into Neuheisel's violation of NCAA
rules on gambling was overblown."
"I mean it
was a ... basketball pool," Billick was quoted
as saying, "Are you kidding me?"
Over-blowing the seriousness of the
neighborhood auction, failing to put the governing NCAA
bylaw in its proper prospective, saying he was
fired for lying when it was obvious that fear of
incurring the wrath of the NCAA was UW's motive,
inflating the money won in the neighborhood auction
in its initial story and apparently colluding
with the NCAA to stall the same story for
blindsiding purposes all sound like a vendetta
to me. Also, reference the double standard
pertaining to job interviews set in place for
Neuheisel by the Times in 2002. Going back eight
years in time to criticize Neuheisel's handling
of miscreants, the ones recruited by Jim
Lambright, and admitting that its revelations
will affect UCLA recruiting adds to the
suspicion of a vendetta. Praising Willingham for
the good behavior exhibited by Neuheisel's
recruits was a small mugging. Rick changed the
culture of UW recruiting from bad to good by
emphasizing good grades, graduation rates and
Thirty-five of his players helped Willingham
to a 5-7 season in 2006, the best season he has
had a at UW.
See the response to Haye's article by
Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times, in his blog, entitled "My
response to the Sporting News."
reference Seattle P-I columnist Ted Miller's
Sports Rant, in particular the rant entitled, "My
response to the Seattle Times."
Rick saw something in Juan Garcia (2003 class), who will
anchor UW's offensive line next season, that others didn't see.
That's a credit to Rick the Times won't acknowledge. Neither
will the Times credit Neuheisel with the recruiting of Nate
Robinson, who temporarily changed the face of Washington
the immediate photo, Neuheisel presents C-Dub's folded up jersey
to his parents at the graveside service held in Clovis,
California. The subjects
of chapter one (left, Jerramy Stevens) and chapter four (middle,
Anthony Kelley) stand eerily in the background. Seemingly,
Stevens is fading from view. "Why not have left that day as it
Curtis's now tarnished memory.
Reference: "Motivation for Times' stories:
an attack on college football," and "A
sad day for Seattle: a newspaper sells its soul."
Why do all this
Why do the the Seattle media pick on Washington?
Inherently, the elitist media dislike and distrust anything
humongous, like a big company, a large industry or a large sports program, and
especially a young coach like Neuheisel (38 at the time he was hired by the UW)
who sported a $1 million salary—which was one of college football’s first
big-time wage. To them, money buys corruption, hypocrisy, and rules breaking,
and the big-money atmosphere turns players into criminals or miscreants. Many of
the Seattle columnists were nurtured during the Vietnam War era,
during a period when apple pie and motherhood were reviled. Telander graduated
from the same class; his nickname is Rick, not Dick. I doubt many of them
shop at Wall-Mart.
Washington, a big-time college football program, has
painted a purple-and-gold dollar sign on itself, one that takes a steady stream
of flak from the fourth estate.
So how do the media deal with
the alleged corruption inherent in college football? They create unrealistic
standards for those teams and people that participate in the sport, standards of
perfection impossible to meet, unless they are aware of the rules of the game.
It then all plays out in the Black and White Theater, where the good guys of the
media, in this case, are pitted against the bad guys belonging to big-time
college sports. There are no shades of gray for anyone on stage.
Wearing gray, Neuheisel never
really understood the meaning of the script.
The Meaning of the Script
The sports media bombard us with
stories about booster abuses, archaic NCAA regulations, gambling imbroglios,
student-athletes running afoul of the law, a coach’s womanizing, gang rape, and
other salacious facts they can uncover. Everyone in the country knows about
Maurice Clarett’s problems with the NCAA and the law, about Mike Price’s alleged
drunken behavior, about the party coach Larry Eustachy attended, about
George O’Leary’s embellished résumé and about Rick
Neuheisel’s sports pool participation.
Dan Barreiro writes, “It is that the major sports --
football and basketball -- have had a 20-month run of scandal, controversy and
hypocrisy that borders on the breathtaking.”
He details some of the scandals, to wit.
- At least one player at Georgia received
an “A” in a course he never attended. Basketball coach Jim Harrick resigned,
although the course was taught by his son Jim Harrick Jr., who was an
assistant basketball coach.
St. Bonaventure recruited a basketball
player out of Coastal Georgia Community College who had a degree in welding.
The Bonnies’ compliance director was told to look the other way by the
“One moment, Virginia Tech was outraged
at other Big East teams trying to secede to the Atlantic Coast Conference. The
next moment, its president was delighted to turn tail and accept an offer to
join the ACC.” [Barreiro].
“And there is the story, out of Waco,
Texas, that trumps all the rest for corruption and even cowardice: Baylor
coach Dave Bliss, eager to cover up his own pattern of cheating and deception,
was willing to use his players -- living and, yes, even dead -- to further the
Football’s detractors argue that the system corrupts the
players, forcing them into acts of hypocrisy, rules breaking and drug abuse.
UW players who have run afoul of the law makes for big
headlines in the local papers, especially during Neuheisel’s tenure. Recently,
Kevin Ware, Rich Alexis, and Zach Tuiasosopo have had their
names bandied about. According to what I’ve read, all of them were under the
influence of alcohol when they committed their alleged misdemeanors, and have
since received some sort of counseling.
One sportswriter in Seattle, repeatedly mentions the name
of the lawyer who represents UW players that run afoul of the law, the
implication being that the UW has more of its share of student/athlete legal
problems than other schools do.
Underneath Jim Moore's folksy humor, certainly must lie
a sardonic nature. (rrl)
I really doubt that playing college football makes for more
drinking and partying than takes place on any other part of a college campus.
But is big-time college football
really corrupt; are its coaches, players and athletic personnel any different
than any other group in our society?
The criticizers of college
football say yes.
For example, some sportswriters suggest that an emphasis on
masculinity translates into the sexual abuse of women.
Rick Telander feels certain the
“macho attitudes promoted by coaches contribute (perhaps unwittingly) to
athletes’ problems in relating to women.” [Telander]. He quotes former Syracuse
University and St. Louis Cardinal linebacker Dave Meggysey, who in his book,
Out of Their League, describes the sexual uncertainties of players that are
exploited by coaches.
“(My Coach) got on me and began
to chew me out at halftime. He said I was ‘afraid to stick my nose in there,’ as
he always put it, adding that I looked ‘almost feminine’ in making the tackle.
This sort of attack on a player’s manhood is a coach’s doomsday weapon. And it
almost always works, for the players have wrapped their identify in their
manhood, which is eternally precarious for it not only depends on not exhibiting
fear of any kind on the playing field, but is also something that can be given by a
coach at his pleasure.”
If they are to succeed in
society, players must forget about what their coaches told them once they leave
football, Telander says.
Obviously, Telander has never
seen John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success—which applies to all walks of life. Or
better yet, talked to Don McKeta about the positive effect Jim Owens had on his
"He (Owens) changed
a little old coal-mining boy from Pennsylvania and gave him the opportunity to
fulfill a dream," McKeta says. "He had a tremendous impact." McKeta now works
in business development for BarclayDean, the construction company that will
create a statue in memory of the Washington patriarch.
“It really started out with using a lot of very fundamental
drills and discipline," Owens says. "Team spirit coupled with a very strong
establishment of conditioning and a willingness of the players to work harder in
the fourth quarter than the opponent, which we were able to accomplish."
But does instilling a masculine
feeling in a player create a proneness to sexual abuse that is more prevalent
than would be the case for a non-sports person in the general population?
That would be terribly hard to
prove without a thorough study. None of football’s critics offer such studies,
along with supporting data.
Is there any hope for us sports fans caught in the swirling
current of media negativity?
Ted Miller of The Seattle Post Intelligencer
represents a new breed of sportswriter who maintain a positive outlook on the
world of sports in spite of its noted shortcomings.
In a recent article, Miller quotes some statistics from a poll taken by the
American Football Coaches, which polled Division I-A football players about a
variety of topics, and 5,474 young men from 66 teams responded.
"Only 19 percent said they played football in anticipation
of an NFL career. Fifty-seven percent said they played for 'the enjoyment of the
game and/or camaraderie,' while 12 percent saw football as a means to an
education." Eighty-three percent said they would have attended college even
if they couldn't play football, and 95 percent rated earning a degree as "very
Sixty-nine percent said their interest in
academics increased once they entered college, and the most popular major was
business (33 percent). [Miller].
Think college football is rife with illegal recruiting
practices and drug use, Miller asks? Ninety-seven percent of the anonymous
respondents said they received no "illegal inducements during the recruiting
process. "Ninety percent said they hadn't used drugs in college. Of the 10
percent who did, 91 percent used marijuana, which now is only slightly against
the law in Seattle. Alcohol? Seventy-nine percent of those who admitted drinking
(one third didn't drink) said they didn't do so regularly." [Miller].
"I have decided I can no longer coach in a conference
that treats its players and coaches so unfairly. We have suffered for nearly 10
months from media character assassination. By looking at the penalties, it
appears we are all guilty, based in large part upon statements of questionable
witnesses." Don James.
Pay for work performed
Some in the media say that players are being exploited by
college football and should be paid for work performed, much like anyone else
who works for an employer, in this case, a big-time college football program.
Through their devoted effort, student-athletes rake in millions of dollars for
college football programs throughout the country. So why isn’t the
student-athlete given a share of the pot, they ask?
Walter Byers, who served as NCAA executive director from
1951 to 1987, "believes that modern-day college sports are no longer a student
activity: they are a high-dollar commercial enterprise, and college athletes
should have the same access to the free market as their coaches and colleges."
A counterargument says no one is forcing a student-athlete to play
college football. Our free society permits a person to do as he chooses,
providing he or she has the wherewithal to make the best of his potential. Most
athletes are given free tuition and board. If an athlete doesn’t like his meager
rations, he is free to quit the program and get a job that funds his schooling
in another way. Somebody else will gladly gobble up his scholarship and take his
place on the football field. There are plenty of walk-on athletes, without
scholarships, willing to play because of their love of the game.
Although Rick Telanders’s book, The Hundred Yard Lie,
was originally published in 1989 and again in 1996, some say its message is
applicable today, that message being that college football is a corrupt system
that exploits players in a money-making endeavor that has no relationship to the
educational process. That corruption extends to professional football coaching.
Telander writes that “Vince Lombardi has done more to
corrupt the profession of football coaching than any other man before or since.
Because he won games, and because he bullied his players in a way that quite
literally dehumanized them, he opened the door for all kinds of abuses in the
name of winning. I (Telander) have had several Lombardi-type coaches in my own
sporting career, and not just in football, and I strongly believe they did more
damage to me and my teammates than they had any right to.”
From my observations of the practices at the University of
Washington, I can say that the boot-camp mentality which once was a part of
college football is disappearing. There are more and more players coaches in the
game, of which former coach Rick Neuheisel and his staff were good examples. And
with the new coach, Keith Gilbertson, although there is a lot of yelling going
on at practices, the ones I witnessed were certainly humane and
However, the bear crawls at the end of practice,
meted out as punishment for non-performing players, seemed out of place in this
demilitarized environment. I would like to see them ended. (rrl)
Although Coach Gary Pinkel of Missouri is known to be a
tough disciplinarian, on the subject of switching players to other positions, he
says “Never make a player go play, where he doesn’t want to play.”
There is no “I” in the word team, but there are two of them
in the word spirit.
Pinkel has proven you can be tough on the gridiron and
still be charitable towards the players.
The BCS and Title IX
Many sportswriters feel the Bowl Championship Series (BCS)
is a corrupt part of college football.
Writing about a collision between Big and Little Football,
Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post, says, "The real cause is the Bowl
Championship Series alliance, a rule-the-world cartel so ruinous and corrupt
that it ought to be promptly dismantled by the NCAA. [Jenkins].
“Since its inception in 1998, the BCS has effectively
concentrated all of the money and power in college athletics in the hands of
just 63 schools in six major conferences (the ACC, Pacific-10, Big Ten,
Southeastern, Big 12 and Big East). It's effectively locked out the other five
conferences and 53 schools that play Division I-A football from any chance of
getting into the major postseason bowl games, with their massive financial
None of the sportswriters so critical of big-time college
football’s “greed” mention Title IX—and that includes Jenkins and Telander.
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 requires that
money spent on sports in colleges be proportional to the enrollment of men and
women. That is, if a school has an enrollment of 60% women and 40% men, then the
sports teams must have the same gender ratio, 60:40. There are no exceptions.
A recent NCAA revenue and expenses study found that of 114
Division I-A schools reporting data, the average athletic department deficit was
$600,000 in 2001. On the collegiate level, since Title IX went into effect over
170 wrestling programs, 80 men's tennis teams, 70 men's gymnastics teams, and 45
men's track teams have all been shut down.
Along with increased tuition fees and expenses for room and
board, Title IX, in effect, has forced the BCS upon the so-called elite NCAA
schools, in their effort to survive financially in the sports world.
The average college football team awards eighty-five
football scholarships plus fields thirty-two walk-ons. The average NFL team has
forty-five players on the team plus seven reserve players. If a college
eliminated twenty-five football scholarships, it would save on average $750,0000
Are the Universities better off because of their
Telander asks this question. Are the universities better
off because of their college football programs?
College football funds Title IX sports involving women, it
funds minor sports such as tennis, golf and crew; and, although Telander argues
against this, I suspect it draws donations which are put to good use by the
academia for new buildings and equipment. Division I football is a big business
that runs smoothly for the most part, like 300 sails on a crystalline lake. The
occasional storm clouds on college football’s horizon are magnified by the
weather forecasters who view college football as a big-money enterprise that
threatens and corrupts the players in the system. For the witch hunters, each
and every storm plays out on a stage set in a Black and White theater; the
weather is either good or bad. There are no partly cloudy days, nor shades of
gray on the horizon belonging to the sets in the theater.
I really haven’t answered Telander’s question. Are the
universities better off because of their college football teams? I say football
builds character, producing men who contribute to our society. Telander argues
against this proposition, saying that the players need to cast off their coach’s
brainwashing tactics before becoming integral members of our society. We are at
odds, and I think college football has changed or is changing for the better
since he played the game.
College football is good for the economy, both nationally
and locally. It generates tax revenues, some of the monies of which go back to
tax-supported universities. College football players provide role models for
children. For some of them, Picture Day at the UW is their first contact with a
university, and it won’t be their last. College football is an omnipresent
advertisement for a university, which keeps the university visible to the
populace. Eventually, some of populace contributes money to the university,
either to the sports program or to its academia.
Most of all college football provides an education for kids
who otherwise never would have had a higher education. Even if an athlete
doesn’t make it to the professional ranks, about a 50 to 1 shot, his background
in athletics along with his education prepare him for much better job than he
otherwise would have had. Thanks to Neuheisel's past efforts, Washington is
graduating 70% of its football players at this time.
Without his background in sports, Telander would never have
written for Sports Illustrated nor would have had a book published. He should
think about that.
The other Rick (Neuheisel) says the media has "created an
image of me that I can't recognize…I wouldn't wish what is going on in my life
to happen to anybody. It hit like a tidal wave that you can't get out from
The honorary brick (for donors to the university) on the
sidewalk in front of Edmundson Pavilion bearing Nueheisel's name has
been defaced. On learning that, Neuheisel says he wants it replaced with one honoring Curtis
College football’s image, once an honorary brick on the
media’s walk of fame, has been defaced as well.
Putting college football on the hot seat has been
fashionable for some time, as fashionable as bashing apple pie and motherhood in
the 60's. In 1939, in his book Farewell to Sport, Paul Galico wrote,
"College football is one of the last great strongholds of genuine old-fashioned
American hypocrisy...If there is anything good about college football it is the
fact it seems to bring entertainment, distraction, and pleasure to many millions
of people. But the price, the sacrifice to decency, I maintain, is too high."
From Galico to Telander to Playmakers to Victory and
Ruins, to what knows
next, amidst all of the bashers of the grand old game, somehow, I think, college football will
survive, continuing to produce decent young men who, once leaving the gridiron,
will have a positive influence on America and our enviable way of life.
Tellander’s book, by the way, is well worth reading. It’s a
page turner, like Playmakers is to TIVO, if you’re into that scene.
[Telander]. Telander, Rick, The Hundred Yard Lie, Illini
Books Edition, 1996.
[Kelley]. Kelley, Steve, “Heat on UW might get even more
sticky,” The Seattle Times, 13 June 2003.
[Jenkins]. Jenkins, Sally, “Big Football’s Bully Tactics,”
The Washington Post, July 5, 2003.
[Thiel]. Thiel, Art, “Clarett has NFL running for cover,”
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer,” September 16, 2003.
[Linde1]. Linde, Richard, “Tabloid Times,” 4malamute.com,
see history section.
[Linde2]. Linde, Richard, “The Neuheisel Chronicles,”
4malamute.com, see history section.
[Linde3]. Linde, Richard, “The Montlake Boys,”
4malamute.com; see history section.
[Miller]. Miller, Ted, "College Football beat: Thugs? Nah,
there just kids," The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 26 September 2003.
[Byers]. Byers, Walter, "Unsportsmanlike Conduct:
Exploiting College Athletes," The University of Michigan Press, 1995.
[Barreiro]. Barreiro, Dan, “College sports' purity
lacking,” Star Tribune, August 31, 2003.
[Zimbalist]. Zimbalist, Andrew, "Unpaid Professionals,"
Princeton University Press, 1999, 2001.
[AP Report]. Associated Press,
"Fired coach sues Washington and NCAA." 22 August 2003.
Richard Linde (a.k.a., Malamute) can be reached at