Rogue's Gallery Of College Coaches

Phillip Marshall writes about college football and basketball in his opinion column.

It has not been the best of offseasons for some college coaches. Add Rich Neuheisel to the rogue's gallery that already includes former Alabama football coach Mike Price and former Iowa State basketball coach Larry Eustachy.

Price lost his job before he ever coached a game because of a wild night in Pensacola that included a visit to a sleazy strip club and some shenanigans back at his hotel room. Eustachy lost his job for partying with college kids and having his picture taken hugging up to coeds. And now Neuheisel has been shown the door at Washington.

I feel sorry for them all. I really do. Then again, I feel sorry for a lot of people who made bad decisions that caused pain in their lives and the lives of others. That doesn't mean they didn't get what they deserved. Neither Price, Eustachy nor Neuheisel should be coaching college athletes. Maybe that will change in the future if they can show they have learned from their actions. Maybe not.

What Neuheisel did sounds innocent enough. He participated in a couple of NCAA Tournament pools. Haven't we all done that? But on further examination, Neuheisel's pools were more than a little different. Neuheisel invested $6,400 and won $12,123. That's not harmless fun. That's gambling to try to get a big return. Not only is it gambling, it is gambling on college athletics. If you're the head coach at a prominent Division I institution, you have to know that is beyond unacceptable.

A lot of people have been to strip clubs and suffered no ramifications in their jobs. A lot of adults have gone to college parties and not had their pictures show up in the newspaper. A lot of people have bet large sums on college athletics, legally and illegally, and never been called to account. But we're not talking here about people who work eight-hour days and make $40,000 a year. We're talking about three coaches who made seven-figure salaries. A large part of their job descriptions were to be leaders and role models for the young men they were hired to coach. They failed. They failed miserably.

If you're the head football coach at Alabama and you can't see the problem in hanging out in strip clubs; if you're the head basketball coach at Iowa State and you think it's OK to go to a fraternity party on the campus where you just lost a game; if you're the head football coach at Washington and you don't know it's a big problem to make high-stakes wagers on NCAA basketball, you're not intelligent enough for the job.

Most coaches I've been around have been big on accountability. They arrive on campus talking about it. They talk about accountability in the classroom, on the field, in the community. Players who run afoul of the rules are disciplined accordingly. That's as it should be, and coaches are applauded when they take strong action. That's why it is more than a little disgusting to see teary-eyed coaches go before television cameras pleading for understanding and expressing astonishment that they aren't being given second chances. The three coaches who brought shame upon themselves weren't the only losers. They might not even have been the biggest losers. They're not going to be standing in line for handouts anytime soon. Their families suffered humiliation. And the players who believed in them were betrayed.

I hope all three of them confront the demons in their lives and learn the lessons that paying the price for bad decisions can teach. All of us have learned those lessons on some level. I hope they have full and happy lives. But I'm glad they weren't coaching my son.


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