TIME OUT with Alex Mitchell: 10/21/11

Hello everyone and welcome to another edition of Time Out. I hope the students and faculty enjoyed their Fall Break even though Tech lost a heartbreaker to Virginia. After struggling to write a positive story about the game in Charlottesville, I was saved by another pressing issue. This weekend’s games further highlighted the issue of the disintegration in integrity of coaches in all levels of competition.

This issue is, of course, nothing new, as coaches have been acting immorally from the beginning of athletics. Woody Hayes hit an opposing player in the seventies and Bob Knight struck his own player a few years ago. However, in today’s age it now seems that Hayes and Knight are no longer anomalies.

The issue of coaches behaving badly caught my eye in late Sept. when a video surfaced of opposing peewee coaches getting into a brawl. It is a disturbing video of grown men throwing haymakers and fans screaming. Meanwhile, the pre-teens stare and watch the drama first-hand, powerless to stop the mayhem.

This game is just one bad example of two small teams in Texas. Coaches trading blows could never happen in big-time games, right? Wrong. Well… sort of.

Things got heated this past weekend in Nashville when Georgia defeated Vanderbilt. During the post game handshakes, Vanderbilt Head Coach James Franklin apparently called one Georgia player “dirty” (only one?).

Georgia Defensive Coordinator Todd Grantham heard Franklin’s remarks and proceeded to shout his thoughts on the matter, and a bit of a verbal altercation ensued. Luckily, Grantham realized that he could never get a shot in on Franklin with all of those players and media member around, so he retreated to the locker room.

This was not the case in Detroit on Sunday.

Following his team’s big win over then-undefeated Detroit Lions, 49ers Head Coach Jim Harbaugh pranced around like a school girl who had just won a cheerleading competition. He screamed a passionate shout, ripped his shirt up a la Brandi Chastain, and skipped to the middle of the field to give a handshake to Lions’ Head Coach Jim Schwartz.

Schwartz, already peeved that his team had lost the game and just having watched Harbaugh behave as though his team had won the Super Bowl in Week Six, was then given a hard slap on the back from Harbaugh. Needless to say, this altercation did not end pretty.

Words were exchanged and had it not been for a 49ers PR person, the two coaches would have certainly gotten into a fight on the field. The players for both teams encircled the coaches who were still shouting at each other near the entrance to the locker rooms, and they started yelling. If a few cool heads had not prevailed, everyone would be talking about a second all-out slobber knocker in Detroit only seven years since the last. For the record, I would take Ndamukong Suh in full pads in a fight over Ron Artest’s fists any day.

The violence that happened in that Texas peewee brawl does not compare to these other situations, but the psychological effects on players are exactly the same.

“I can’t believe the coaches did that in front of us, because it sets a bad example,” said an eleven-year-old player from one of those peewee teams courtesy of khou.com.

However, it could just as well be a quote from Georgia defensive back Bacarri Rambo or 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis.

Coaches are in a position of leadership on a team and their players are supposed to look to them for guidance on and off the field. Coaches do not always have to be levelheaded, but they should always set a good example for the players that they coach.

Neither Grantham nor Harbaugh have set good examples throughout their careers. Grantham is now more known because of his insane meltdowns than anything he has done as a coach. Harbaugh ran up the score on USC when he was coaching for Stanford, which showed his disrespect for USC and the entire game of football.

With their abhorrent track records, how can these coaches get upset at their players when the players receive a personal foul penalty for taunting or a late hit? The players are just acting like their leader. Maybe this explains why Georgia is one of the most penalized teams every year.

The most egregious thing to me is that none of the coaches mentioned by name got penalized for their actions.

The NCAA who limits the types of spreads that players can put on their bagel did not have a problem with coaches getting into a shouting match? The NFL who fines players for hitting too hard could not dish out a fine to two coaches who almost threw a few  punches with the world watching closely?

The media played a huge part in escalating these stories, but it makes you wonder what would actually garner a fine from these governing bodies. As coaches expect better effort from their players, is there anyone else out there who expects better effort from our coaches?


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