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It’s all about Rick: From Telander to Neuheisel
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?'

"'Uh-Huh.' 

“Will you come over and play?

“‘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 here?”

“And all he said was, ‘All I want to do is play.’

We’re going to miss him.”

-- Rick Neuheisel, 14 May 2002.

Introduction

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 players.

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 attention.

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.

  • Double Standard: 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 professional levels.


  • Tabloid journalism: 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;


  • Skulking: 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." The Seattle Times has identified itself as that paper [AP Report];

  • Selective interviews: 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 public.


  • False analogies: Without knowing the true monies bid in the sports pool, one sportswriter created a big-money-cheating scenario involving Neuheisel’s alleged gambling activity.


  • 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 Colorado. [Linde2].

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 coaching opportunities.

"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 49ers. 

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 it elsewhere."

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 vendetta"

(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 education."

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 himself.

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 investigation.

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 booster.

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 community service.

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."

Also, 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 basketball.

In 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 ended?" asks 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 university’s president.


  • “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 cause.” [Barreiro].

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 life. [Linde3].

"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 important."

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." [Byers].

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 non-dehumanizing.

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 pots.” [Jenkins].

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 annually. (Zimbalist)

Are the Universities better off because of their football programs?

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 underneath."

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 Williams.

College football’s image, once an honorary brick on the media’s walk of fame, has been defaced as well.

-------------------------

Afterward:

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. 

References:

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.

[MADDD] http://www.maddd.org/Bad-Dawg.htm

[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 malamute@4malamute.com

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