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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Thursday, February 29, 2024
Rex Sheild

Column: Coaches’ verbal and physical abuse need to come to an end

The player-coach relationship is an interesting one if you take a look at the longevity of it in the realm of college athletics. You have coaches like UCLA’s John Wooden, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, North Carolina’s Dean Smith and Alabama’s Nick Saban who stand at the pinnacle of this relationship and reflect the qualities of character, equality and hard work, and the list goes on and on.

These are coaches who bring out the best in their players while still treating the players like the young men they are.

On the other hand, you have worthless pieces of garbage, also known as coaches, like Washington State’s Mike Leach, Rutgers’ Mike Rice and now recently University of Wisconsin-Green Bay’s Brian Wardle. These individuals are at the bottom of the food chain in my opinion as they attempt to call themselves “coaches,” even though there have been allegations surrounding each of them in relation to physical and verbal abuse toward their players.

Let’s start with Mr. Leach. I always enjoyed watching Leach roam the Texas Tech sidelines in his standard black Red Raiders polo and mentoring, or “coaching” players like Michael Crabtree and Graham Harrell, both of whom have made their way to playing in the National Football League.

And then trouble started brewing in Lubbock after rumors began to surface about Leach’s mistreatment toward Adam James, a walk-on sophomore wide receiver at the time.

After a whole bunch of legal stuff and a slew of independent investigations, Leach’s contract was effectively terminated and he was eventually hired by Washington State. Good for him, though, that the Cougars saw past these obvious red flags.

While Leach’s alleged altercation with James was a bit murky, Rice’s situation at Rutgers was much more clear-cut.

If you haven’t been sitting in your room twiddling your thumbs the past three weeks, you’ve probably seen the multitude of videos of Rice blatantly throwing basketballs at his players from point-blank range and reaming them out by calling a whole host of derogative names.

By my count, it took way too damn long for Rutgers to fire him, but he was eventually shown the door for his coaching style. I honestly wonder what the conversation was between Rice and Rutgers’ athletic director during the initial interview process. “Mike, how would you describe your coaching style?” “Well, I use a lot of aggressive motivation to get the best out of my players.” “And by that, you mean what exactly?” “You’ll see, sir.” “Welcome aboard, we’re excited to have you.”

Last but not least is “coach” Wardle. He was recently in the news, as the Green Bay Press-Gazette reported Wardle had allegedly mishandled Ryan Bross, a freshman walk-on who has since transferred, throughout the duration of last season.

The allegations include Wardle using horrific name-calling toward Bross, not to mention, during a pre-season workout, Wardle made an ill Bross continue a workout until he couldn’t control his bowels and then ridiculed him for it.

To make matters worse, Wardle received “a standing ovation from a group of boosters at the annual Phoenix-Packers Steak Fry fundraiser,” according to the Press-Gazette.

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Looks like UW-GB has some real good boosters... pause... not. If you don’t understand the joke, watch Borat and thank me later.  

This needs to stop and it needs to stop right now. I’m fine—well, sort of—with coaches using the name of a female cat in the context of “Come on, Billy Bob, you need to toughen up and stop being a p----.” But I have absolutely no tolerance for coaches calling their players homophobic slurs or calling them a p---- in no particular context at all with the utmost amount of seriousness.

Coaches at any level are meant to teach, educate, motivate and push athletes to reach their utmost potential. They aren’t meant to punish their players with abuse nor are they meant to ridicule them with no shame in it at all.

Of course, in a situation of this magnitude, there are two sides to every story, and the situation does not get any better when players like Bross run straight to the media, which instantly puts a black-eye on the program before any concrete conclusion comes about.

If a player does go through unfortunate circumstances like Bross did, why go to the media? So you can indirectly give your coach the bird? To handle the situation effectively and in a mature manner, the best possible way to do it would simply be to go to the athletic administration with the coach present, possibly parents of the player, and address the issue head on. If the player’s end goal in mind does not go the way he or she hoped, then let it be because what if an internal investigation reveals the allegations were exaggerated, either slightly or entirely? Simple enough, the player looks like a complete idiot and will then find themselves backtracking immensely, causing even more drama.

Nonetheless, the culture of college sports needs to be an environment where coaches groom boys into young men rather than an environment filled with abuse and derailment.

Until next year, ladies and gentlemen, make sure to get tanked at the Terrace over the summer while still incorporating some sports jargon here and there. I’ll be there, so feel free to put your pitcher on my tab—it’s my thank you.

Do you think college coaches have overstepped their boundaries with players? Or do you feel their actions are justified? Either way, give Rex a piece of your mind by shooting him an email at sports@dailycardinal.com.

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