You would think that after all the attention that the Texas Tech/ Mike Leach fiasco had over the last few weeks that coaches in all sports would have gotten the message: Keep your cool, stay in control, and hands off. Maybe since the guy is a basketball coach he missed all the ESPN coverage that Leach got (going over film and stuff), but Kansas State’s Frank Martin has joined the list of coaches that have struck their players.
By time the game ended, Martin must have seen the hailstorm of bad press that was most assuredly going to come down on him for the incident. He was smart in immediately apologizing for the incident and making sure that any and everyone knew that he meant no harm. Unlike the other incidents that have graced the news lately, the player in question came out in support of the coach.
It is a shame that things have come to this. Anyone that has seen the incident can plainly see that the contact was completely incidental. Yet, thanks to the media circus that surrounded the Leach/ James controversy in Texas Tech, South Florida’s Jim Levitt, and Kansas’s Mark Mangino it has become necessary.
Let me be clear. Coached should never do physical harm to the players; they have been entrusted with these kids and should not violate that trust by doing them harm. However, Martin’s reaction shows that even the misperception of inappropriate behavior can lead to fears of losing a job.
The way that some of the cases have been handled has a lot to do with that fear being cultivated. Mike Leach appeared t be tried in the court of public opinion with the network that the player’s dad happened to work for showing nearly constant coverage of the incident. In the end it is hard to tell exactly what did happen, yet if Texas Tech did not take action the backlash against the university could have been severe.
Perhaps incidents like these are partially the fault of society as a whole. We put an intense amount of emphasis on our sports often turning the best high school athletes into cult heroes before they go onto college and achieve a pseudo god-like, untouchable status. Coaches are paid an incredible amount of money to turn their school’s program into a champion. So much is put into both players and coaches that the successful ones often feel like they can do anything (because of their success) and will often do anything to stay ahead. Challenge them in anyway and rest assured that you will feel their wrath.
The ascension of the BCS system has only exacerbated the problem as more money was brought into the fold making the stakes even higher. If college football were to ever go to a playoff system the money involved would be unreal making the power that the players and coaches can wield unrivaled.
As a society, our priorities have gotten all screwed up. We are so intent on winning and crowning a definitive champion that we have lost sight of what these kids are suppose to be doing- getting an education. College athletics are extracurricular activities and should be treated as such. However, our thirst for victory and domination have made them more important than education which in turn has created the prima donnas like Adam James and monsters like Leach, Mangino, and Levitt (assuming they are actually guilty).
We don’t need to do anything to keep incidents like Leach’s from happening. There should not be anything wrong with incidents like Martin’s happening. We just need to remember that it is college that the kids are supposed to be there for, not sports. Treat them and the importance fo the game accordingly and the power wielded by a Leach or a James will be no more.