The specter of the NCAA looms large over Texas Tech and Mike Leach, the latest high profile Division I head football coach to be called into question for unethical treatment of student-athletes.
After Kansas snapped into action to lop off Mark Mangino, we can expect the pattern to continue with Mike Leach all but an internal review away from taking his severance and hitting the trail out of town.
That’s how things go when something as serious as hazing and name calling occurs between coach and student. That’s right, a football player is actually a student which is why the the NCAA is even relevant to the discussion.
The key point here is that the University has no choice but to react swiftly or the NCAA steps in themselves.
And let’s be clear, the NCAA is all about very tight oversight of its bylaws and codes of conduct. Colleges have learned the hard way how they need to keep rigid control over their athletic programs and have a plan in place to respond without delay to incidents. Otherwise, the NCAA can make things get very ugly.
Like athletic program death sentence ugly.
Craig James is no stranger to this phenomena. As an SMU Mustang during the days when boosters were running the show, Craig James understands the power the NCAA wields. It has taken just about to the present day for SMU to respectably recover from its death sentence long ago.
The very last thing anyone wants is an NCAA investigation which is why Mike Leach will be held accountable and dismissed.
That’s why Craig James and his son Adam are showing great courage in stepping forward with troubling allegations of hazing against Mike Leach. They didn’t want to cause Texas Tech any unnecessary issues but when it comes to player safety, it gives us all reasons for pause.
What Mike Leach did was uncalled for. He ostracized a player, embarrassed and punished him for not being macho enough to play with an injury. In this case, a “mild concussion” which the medical staff cleared Adam for but he did not feel ready to play.
In response, Leach made all the wrong choices but to think this is an isolated incident would be an even bigger mistake.
Football is a macho sport. You have to be macho with your teammates, your coaches, everything is all about being tough and your ability to handle the pain.
Hazing athletes in some form, either by coaches who think they are toughening up their players or motivating them through shame has been going on for as long as the game has been around.
In fact, there is no room for showing the slightest of weakness in the sport.
Does anyone ever think of the devastation of concussions? Your body can only take so much abuse and it so happens, concussions are big news these days as people are finally paying attention. Concussions are bad. You don’t want to rush coming back from a concussion too soon.
Though teams have to win and that is the priority. That overrides everything else. That is the bottom line and there’s no use denying it. The proof is in the pudding as the saying goes.
So the shame of it all is that head coaches like Mike Leach lose sight of the big picture. Instead of coaching with a clear focus, they coach with a narrow ambition of winning games with little to no regard for welfare of the player. Most football coaches at the division I level could care less about anything else other than winning.
As for Mike Leach, good luck but you are history at Texas Tech. What comes around goes around.