Coach's Corner

I just got back from an extended skiing trip in Aspen and got to follow the daily saga of Colorado's football recruiting scandal. Wow, it makes our Dr. Feelgood and basketball pool scandal seem like small potatoes.

But, just like the two issues that continue to haunt the Huskies, CU's does not appear to be going away for a long time. Not at least until more heads roll and the courts finally get to become involved. Similarly, until justice is finally served, both will also continue to receive and suffer from extended media coverage and attention without any regard for the rights of the innocent.

Add their case to the Kobe Bryant one and it seems that the topic of sex cannot get off the front page of any of the Colorado newspapers or sports sections. It's spinning out of control in the media, and it made me feel sorry for those players and coaches of the Buffalo football team that had no part in any of it

Now, don't get me wrong. Rape is one of the most serious of crimes, and those who are found guilty should be tried, convicted, and severely punished for their individual crimes against fellow human beings. It is a heinous act that cannot be tolerated by society.

That being said, it is still a crime that should be settled through the court system and should not be classified as a Colorado Football problem. If these crimes are proven, you punish the individuals who are responsible for them.

Sometimes people will read a story and infer much more about it than what's there. The Colorado situation is not about all of the men and women in their football program, but rather about those individuals who violated the law. It is sad that the whole team and Coach Gary Barnett are implicated as criminals as well.

Consequently, Barnett got into trouble with some poorly chosen words all by himself.

But innocent team members and coaches have their rights violated by the media by implicating them as a group.

My feelings are similar in the rape case involving a current Husky player. How about letting the court decide the guilt and then punish the individual, rather than a group?

We all agree that rape is, under no circumstances, justifiable or tolerable. But let's look at the other thing the media focused on in Colorado, and that was the charge that sex and booze sells.

Duh!

Every campus in America contains those two temptations. Parties are, and always have been, a part of recruiting. It's a fact that kids that are on a recruiting trip expect to be entertained. And, what do college kids do for entertainment? You shouldn't be shocked to learn that many of them to go to parties where alcohol is consumed to fraternize with other young people. To think otherwise is being extremely naïve.

When I was the recruiting coordinator at Washington, I distinctly remember asking a kid who committed to UCLA what was the major difference between his visit there and his visit to Seattle. The kid told me it was the girl waiting for him in his room when he returned from partying in Westwood.

That doesn't make it right – I'm just illustrating what reality is.

I can also distinctly remember, on a yearly basis, warning our hosting players not to take the recruits to strip joints, even though it is legal to do so because it only requires that you be 18 years of age. I also warned them against taking them to bars (which was illegal) or keggars.

Still, I was never naïve enough to think that those things didn't happen. Why do you think football coaches (Gilby included) cringe when their phone rings on the weekends that recruits are visiting?

I will go out on a limb and say that there is not a coach in America stupid enough to actually arrange sex and booze for an underage recruit. But that doesn't mean it doesn't happen.

It's important for people to realize that the recruiting process is not based around sex and booze, as the media has portrayed Colorado's program. Recruiting trips are informational weekends designed to show a prospect and his parents the advantages of a school. Colorado football has become single out for these offenses, just as Washington was for having basketball pools.

I ran the "Husky Hostess" program when I was at Washington and we were always very adamant that it was not a dating system and that the women would keep the recruits at arms length. We continually stressed that but there were always recruits who would "hit" on the girls. In fact, the girls probably did a better job of keeping the recruits out of trouble than did the host players. Still, because they were mostly women, people assumed the very worst, that we were using "sex" to recruit.

Don't let the facts get in the way of a good story, though.

At Washington I know that Coach Gilbertson encourages recruits to bring their parents along. If they do, then you have an added insurance that the kid probably won't go out all night looking for trouble. It's not the coaches who dictate moral behavior. It starts in the home, but unfortunately the NCAA does not allow you to pay travel expenses for parents. Consequently, even though it is encouraged, most families cannot afford to tag along with their kid on five trips.

Getting back to when the line is crossed and a crime has been committed, sexual assault must be dealt with immediately. It must be reported immediately and victims must go to a hospital and/or contact a "hotline" for immediate help. Waiting five years to make an accusation almost guarantees that the assailant will be found innocent.

Such is the case at Colorado. There have been many accusations but still no real arrests. Nobody has even been charged yet but still the program has already been found guilty. Somehow this doesn't seem right. What about all the good kids on the team? I feel terrible for any of the accusing women who were actually raped. How can you not? But the entire football program is not guilty of rape, the individuals that committed the crime are.

Now Colorado is instituting its own restrictions and changes on recruiting. It is necessary to do as the university investigates allegations that the football program uses sex and alcohol as recruiting tools. The changes include:

- A reduction of what is normally a two-day official visit to one structured day - OK, this is almost impossible to do because there is too much to cover in one day.
- A near elimination of official on-campus visits during the season.
- The elimination of player hosts. Recruits will be supervised at all times by their parents or CU coaches - This looks good on the surface, but if you are considering joining a team, the players are the ones you want to evaluate. They are the ones that will be your peers for the next four-five years.
- An 11pm curfew, two hours earlier than CU's previous 1 AM curfew - Good luck enforcing this one. - An exit interview, to be conducted upon a recruit's departure from campus - This is a great idea, but who will conduct these interviews and how do you fit it in if you only get one day?
- Updates to the CU player handbook, which states that recruits are not to be provided with drugs or alcohol and are not to "attend private parties, enter bars or strip clubs, or engage in activities that violate team rules, campus policies or laws during visits - Fair enough, but players who break the law shouldn't be on the team in the first place. Drugs are illegal and putting it in a handbook doesn't mean anything if they don't read it.

Is this an over reaction? Probably. Will is stop rape? Probably not, but you have to hope it does. Are these steps sufficient to insure that the future problems won't occur again? Probably not. While I admire that they are trying to improve things, it looks more to me like they are "grandstanding for the media". I mean, if the players cannot be hosts then why is it going to be in their handbook? Is it only for football or are all the other sports going to be similarly restricted? If the recruit isn't staying more than one day, then why the need for a curfew? Games are very exciting and can give a recruit a great feel for the atmosphere of your program. Why the restriction of visiting during a game? If you're going to recruit JC's then you just about have to bring them in during your season.

When you look at it bearing in mind these questions I've raised, these steps look more like knee jerk reactions to quell the media storm, as opposed to well thought-out proposals for improvement. My belief is that the answer does not lie in restrictions, but rather better education.

Kids need to know that there is a right and a wrong, whether they are visiting a campus or just being part of society. Educate them and let them know that there are serious consequences to crossing the lines.

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