Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Scumbag Alert!

What is wrong with U.S. college coaches these days? The latest to fall into disgrace is Gary Barnett, football guy at the University of Colorado, which has been suffering under a glut of rape cases related to its football program. "So?" you say. "There are a lot of testosterone-fueled young men on your average college football team, and not all of them are going to be saints. So why the dig at the coach?" Well, apparently you've been living under a rock on Mars for the past month, because if you hadn't been, you'd have known that the coach's response to this scandal has been nothing sort of disgraceful. The worst bit of the whole thing has revolved around Barnett's comments about Katie Hnida, one of the alleged rape victims. She, of course, was a backup placekicker on on the U. of Colorado football team for a year or so, and, astonishingly, Barnett used this to justify (justify!) her getting sexually assaulted by one of her team-mates. His entire horrific quote was as follows:

"It's a guy's sport. (Players) felt like Katie was forced on them. It was obvious Katie was not very good. She was awful. You know what guys do? They respect your ability. I mean, you could be 90 years old, but if you could go out and play, they would respect you. Well Katie was a girl, and not only was she a girl, she was terrible."

One website I read described Barnett as a "reprehensible scumbag", and I can't put it any better than that. But the scary thing is Barnett is not alone in then pantheon of complete and utter coaching assholes. Take Dave Bliss, who urged his players to smear a dead team-mate's reputation to investigators. Or Rick Neuheisel, who seemed to share with Pete Rose an attitude towards gambling. Or any one of about half-a-dozen others who have been found in compromising positions with students, strippers, player agents, etc. etc. And don't even get my started on the waste of space that is Bobby Knight... And it all begs the question: What the Hell is wrong with these people?

Well, in large part I blame the rise of the "cult of the coach" in the college ranks. I remember thinking, just before he joined the Washington Redskins, that I knew who Steve Spurrier was, but couldn't quite remember which University he coached at. Shouldn't it be the other way around? I mean, if you watch a college football game, you'll see that about 90% of the time the cameras switch directly to one of the coaches the moment the game is over. There he'll be, stalking across the field to greet his opposite number, surrounded by a veritable posse of state troopers, like Caesar after a battle. Coaches are paid amazing sums of money and are given virtual free reign by press, students, boosters, alumni, etc. to behave as they like (witness the outrage at Indiana after Knight was fired for being a violent, tempermental, thug). It's really reached the point of insanity, and it has, inevitable, spawned aberations of nature like Gary Barnett and his ilk. And in closing, I must say thank god for coaches like Joe Paterno (and shame on the people who want to see him resign) and a few others, who at least reassure me that there is hope for the breed.

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