I’m talking about the hypocrisy of a coach saying one thing and doing another. Mike Riley sits in the living room of a recruit one night, talking about why Oregon State is such a special place to the recruit and his parents. Riley talks about integrity, truthfulness and doing things “the right way.” A few hours later it comes out that he's accepted the job at Nebraska.
It’s not like Riley is the only one – far, far from it. The only surprise, really, was that we all found out Riley was exactly like so many of the others we've frowned at: a coach will say just about anything … until it no longer suits his purposes.
It used to be, not long ago, a new coach would take great pains to say he wasn’t going to go raid his old school’s commit list. Now, they barely even pretend to say otherwise, mumbling something about how they have they kid’s best interests at heart.
Yet you continually hear Riley and other coaches wax poetic about how they believe it’s most important that a recruit commits to the school rather than the coach. And of course, then then they try a hard as they can to get the guy to flip to them at their new gig. Well, why not? They never get called on it, why wouldn’t they just keep spooning up that slop to media and alumni?
And the media is complicit much of the time here. Jim McElwain left Colorado State for Florida a few weeks ago. On Saturday during the Las Vegas Bowl featuring CSU vs. Utah, ESPN/ABC conducted a gushing phone interview with McElwain during the second quarter.
Rather than anything of substance, or making it all about CSU, the primary purpose behind the 7-minute infomercial seems to be be about why big-time recruits should pick Florida and McElwain.
"This is a long-term commitment. I'm not looking to bounce," McElwain said when he was introduced as the new CSU coach in 2012.
Later on Saturday night on SportsCenter, ESPN dedicated a segment to Alabama’s Nick Saban taking the media to task over how, he said, they blasted him and a couple of his players unfairly for off-field incidents: one on his current Alabama team, one back during his Michigan State days. ESPN, NBS Sports, an Alabama newspaper and others all subsequently peed down their leg to gush about how awesome Nick Saban was.
Forget about the usual critical argument here, the one that says Saban only gave these two players a second chance (one was initially charged with two felonies including the beating of a UA student, the other went on to play 15 years in the NFL) because Saban needed them to win. Put that aside for the moment.
Instead, consider that Saban five years ago trashed four Alabama players on their way out the door, saying the quartet had been booted because they had "violated some type of team rule." As the Wall Street Journal reported, that wasn't true.
"If Mr. Saban had said the players decided to transfer because they didn't believe they would have a chance to play at Alabama, the players said, it would have provided ammunition for rival coaches competing for the same recruits. But if the players were seen as disciplinary cases, they said, Mr. Saban's recruiting methods wouldn't be viewed as the problem. Mr. Saban, Mr. Preyear said, 'was just making himself look good for the media, and making us look bad,'" reads the WSJ article.
It would be easier to stomach the hypocrisy if coaches like Saban weren’t constantly in our faces about how they are molding young men into leaders and winners in the game of life, if they weren't constantly holding themselves up as a paragon of wisdom and virtue.
It's also instructive to note Saban reinstated only one of the four players in the 2013 incident he referred to on Saturday night, once again giving more meat to the argument he reinstated only the player Alabama most needed to win. The second-chance thing? Well that's just a bonus that plays well in the media.
New Beaver coach Gary Andersen seems to be one of the good guys. I firmly believe OSU upgraded in the head coaching department. But even he got caught in one of these traps, leaving Wisconsin after two years and undoubtedly after he spent this recruiting cycle talking to recruits about his long-term plans Madison.
To be fair: Andersen seemed to have a far more palatable reason than someone like McElwain – Andersen didn’t leave for a higher-profile job. Andersen has also gone to great lengths to take the high road, declining to offer much of a satisfactory explanation at all on why he really wanted to swap OSU for Wisky. What I believe? AD Barry Alvarez, it has been said, has a strong personality. That’s about the kindest way to say it. Brett Bielema eventually couldn’t take it anymore. Andersen reached his limit after two seasons. That seems to be what's been left unsaid.
All of this hypocrisy will continue in college football, and it will probably only increase. The salaries have taken such a monstrous leap over the past 15 years, and again in the last five, that there is so much money out there now that even good men will be tempted to say most anything to try and hold onto these jobs. And the amount of media money to be made elsewhere, as evidenced by the incredible TV packages and deals of recent years, seems to have ensured the media (overall) will continue to be more partner than journalistic watchdog.
But that we don't even seem to notice the hypocrisy anymore, or that we just don’t care ... that may be saddest of all.
Do we even notice the hypocrisy anymore?
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