My phone has been ringing off the hook this morning. It crossed my mind that perhaps, someone had died! Then again, the odds were against that and I had a lot of work to get done,so I ignored the calls. I did that for as long as humanly possible. The calls began coming in around 7:15 AM. By 10:00 AM, my caller ID was registering 21 new calls in less than three hours! At this point, my curiosity took over and I answered the first call at 10:05 AM. It is 11:00 AM and the uproar has become very clear.
What uproar, you ask? Apparently, Joe Person with The State has written an article about a topic that I covered in my ROOSTER REPORT on 18 June 2004. By gleening information from these phone calls, it appears I either did not make myself clear in that article OR Joe's article is implying that there is/was more to the original topic than there actually is. Of course there is always the third possibility that a few fans are reading more into it all of this than they should. Hey, it happens! At any rate, I'll try to explain the situation under a clearer light.
For those that have joined in during our on-line chats, you'll recognize most of this conversation. We have discussed it there. We've talked about this 'mini revolt', (for lack of better words), and we agreed that this is not a bad thing. Anyway, here we go with a clearer explanation.
There is a small group of players, self-starters ... self-motivators who believed they were being too-tightly governed by the coaches. The young men felt the rigid routine was denying them their childhood, so-to-speak. As I understand it, some of these players, including but not limited to Moe Thompson and Cory Boyd felt that life was passing them by. For them, college football had become a 365 day, 24/7 full-time job. They were very frustrated with the demands of an unrelenting pace. I and others have stated that we understand their frustrations. College football has become a year round sport for everyone involved and it is frustrating. No days off. No breaks. You are married to the sport if you are involved at any level above "fandom" these days. It never stops. Those of us who are grown men or women accept it as part of the job. And the coaches ... well, the fans are the first to remind the coaches of how much money they are paid and what is expected of them. Working 365 days of the year to bring the fans a winning program is not only expected ... it is demanded. So the proverbial messy stuff rolls downhill.
With today's demands on the coaches to win, the pressures are increased on players and parents of players. More time spent in the weight room means less free time for the individual. These are, after all, teenage boys. A fact many people are quick to forget. Anyone that has ever dealt with a teenage boy, or been a teenage boy would have to expect a revolt sooner or later, given the circumstances these very young men are faced with. The revolt is happening. It has been happening all over the country.
Here's the typical schedule our players have been encouraged to keep: up at 5:30 AM, in the weight room by 6:30 AM, running two miles by 8:30 AM, in the classroom for summer school by 10:30 AM, out of class by 2:00 PM,home to study by 3:00 PM, run again around 8:00 PM and then to bed by 9:30 PM to prepare themselves to start again the next morning at 5:30 AM. All of this on a voluntary basis!
It is critical that you understand that all of this is being asked of boys whose peers are sleeping late or chasing girls at the beach. And as I've said, this is happening all over the country.
What happened in the case of USC and a handful of the players, is that some of them decided they simply were not going to do it anymore. They have talked to friends at Georgia and Florida State and other schools. These guys know that these "mini revolts" are going on everywhere. The common message from all of these young athletes is ... We're tired. We need some rest. We need some time to ourselves and with our families. So in places all over the country there are players saying, "enough is enough".
Here is the reality of it all. The same people complaining about it right now, the same people saying this will not work and the same people threatening the coaches with their jobs if they fail because of these players not working out ... these are the same people that caused all of this in the first place. The fans. They demand more and more and more until finally there is no more to give. For those of us who are willing to admit it - you will never regain your teenage years once they are gone. Yet we demand that football players give us some of their most important years as human beings and we demand that they give us every single waking moment of their time, every ounce of their strength, and every beat of their heart.
We ask too much of them. We should have seen this revolt coming a long time ago.
So now it is time to make lemonade out of lemons as I stated the other night in the chat. Pay close attention friends because I am going to try to explain this from my perspective after weeks of following how this has all gone down.
Several players decided not to attend the early morning voluntary workouts and several missed some summer classes. Coach Lou Holtz, as it was explained to me, (and I paraphrase here) said, "Fine. If you are not going to take advantage of the weight room and if you are not going to take advantage of the paid summer school sessions ... then I am not going to pay for second session summer school. I am not wasting the company money."
Lou has every right to do that. It is no different than a parent who would do the same with a child.
What the players want, is to be able to work out on their own. They want to sleep late. They want to spend time with their families. They want to spend time with their girlfriends. They want to go to the beach or the mountains or to Disney World. They want to lay around and look at the sky and enjoy life for all of about four or five weeks before the grind starts again. They want to recharge their batteries both physically and mentally.
It is my humble impression through my own observations that this is already showing signs of having a very positive effect on these players. They are smiling more. They seem happy. The dark circles under their eyes are not as noticeable. They are more energetic. They are more upbeat. They are getting along with each other and joking around and .... well, they are simply enjoying life again.
I feel for these guys from the bottom of my heart. I mean it all hit the fan when the bogus report came out on another site claiming Cory Boyd had been suspended. Then came a report that five more had been suspended. All the while these poor guys were having to defend their actions and having to explain their every move ... and believe me, when dealing with sports fans it is tough. We have to deal with it all the time on the message boards. For some reason sports fans feel that they have the right to tell someone every move to make. At the very least, fans believe they are entitled to have every move explained to them. If not then they feel the right to criticize and question and second guess 'til the cows come home. Nothing is sacred. Every single effort placed under a microscope. I personally feel the coaches' pain and I cannot imagine what it must be like for these kids who are under the gun 24/7. But leave it to the kids ... they have said "enough is enough".
Take heart. This does not mean they are not working out. THEY ARE! They are going to private gyms in little groups like boys will do. They are pushing one another like I have never seen them do before. They are sleeping late yes ... but they are running at night in packs. They are encouraging one another, taking responsibility, doing it on their own. In other words - they are becoming men.
So, while it was my intention to do a July 1 ROOSTER REPORT on some other things that were happening around the program, I've done one on this instead. Basically a detailed rehash, but a necessary one considering the talk on the message boards and the phone calls and messages I have received this morning. I hope that helps to clear things up a bit. Things are fine. No one is suspended. A few players are out there doing it on their own with the help of their friends. Nothing wrong with that...nothing wrong with it at all.
Things to watch for? Will they report to summer camp in shape? What will team chemistry be like given the fact that some are working out on their own and some are following the old regiment. These are things we cannot control or predict. Our only option is to sit back and wait for the outcome. I can tell you that I feel good about it. I firmly believe everything is going to be fine. We'll see. In the meantime I have to go - the phone is ringing again. Wonder what it could be about?
PS: I will be shocked if an official statement is released with the words "suspended from the team" anywhere to be seen in the statement. Because to the best of my understanding this is not the case. They are in no way suspended from the team.
PSS: The players in question, to the best of my knowledge, have not had their scholarships revoked as so many people seem to be claiming. That is simply not correct. Not paying for second session summer school does not mean these players' scholarships have been revoked. My best analogy for this is one that I have experienced in my own family. If you refuse to pay for your kid's second session summer school ... $1100.00 per class at USC, because they are not attending class and they dropped a non-refundable class in the first session ... does that mean you are disowning your child? Of course not, and neither is Lou. He is not revoking their scholarships, he is simply saying that he is not willing to spend the money if they are not willing to attend the classes an complete them.