Coach's Corner

The use of sex and drugs (booze) in recruiting at Colorado has drawn national media attention and probably will result in Coach Gary Barnett eventually losing his job. It becomes another of many media-hyped scandals that embarrass many and ultimately harm the innocent along the way.

I stated months ago that before we condemn the Colorado football team, their coaches, and the school itself, we should wait to find out if any of the charges are substantiated. But that is the price of belonging to a group that is immediately and permanently paid by all of the innocent members of the football team at Colorado that didn't do a thing wrong.

Unfortunately, that is usually an outcome that is never considered. When Boulder County Prosecutor Mary Keenan charged that sex and booze were used by the Colorado program in recruiting, she basically indicted every member of the team.

We found out today that there will be no charges filed and no arrests made, and so now we just forget it about it all and move on with all our committees and investigations, and, and... Wait a minute! I thought we had a totally out of control program here that promoted the use of strippers, booze and free sex to entice prospective recruits? Now we find that the prosecutors have decided not to charge anyone and that Coach Barnett and his staff did not really set up some recruiting evenings so that some Colorado women could get sexually harassed and possibly raped.

You mean all this publicity that embarrassed all the members of that team really is just a mistake? Go figure. So was the point that football players in general are out of control? Or were the publicity and news stories on ESPN meant to point out that recruiting is really a sleazy process?

Thank God our legal system works differently than the media. Each person actually does have rights, and for the most part you are innocent till proven guilty.

When I was at Washington, for every kid who got into legal trouble, there were always various individual sets of stories. It was often my role to help the kids and interpret the reality of what happened. That was one of the most important roles that I felt I had while working for both Don James and Jim Lambright. I know I helped them both as a trouble shooter simply because I had shot a lot of trouble myself. Each incident involved young people. Sometimes they were guilty and sometimes they were innocent. But each always involved individuals and it was understood by the whole team that when you screwed up, it was a reflection on the team and that the media and public would perceive it as a team problem. Somehow the group always gets implicated.

I believe in the legal system and usually accept the results (O.J. Simpson is one that I can't really swallow). However, even if you end up being vindicated, your rights of reputation are never restored. Nobody ever gets their reputation back once you're been associated with a "famous scandal".

Look at the latest scandals at Washington. You know the school. The one where gambling in basketball pools exists (surely the only gambling school in America, right?). Or what about the prescription drug scandal? If you read the reports, then it seems as though these problems are unique only to these schools and it is right and good that the news outlets exercise their "rights" to "public" knowledge by demanding and receiving any information on anyone's computer or in anyone's desk or anyone's phone calls because if you work for the "state" then you have to oblige with the "public information rights".

Of course, if you're a private school like USC, Stanford or Notre Dame then you can tell the media to go top Hell and what's private is private.

My point is, we should protect the rights of the innocent while concentrating on the wrongs of the guilty. Those two things don't have to be mutually exclusive, do they? That did not happen at Colorado and isn't happening at Washington. The entire Washington softball team is not on pain killers. Their coaches don't promote the use of drugs. Football coaches don't encourage the use of sex in recruiting.

But it is not the sensational way. It is just too juicy of a topic, and therefore the media tends to jump the gun by finding the accused guilty without letting the legal process take place. Kobe Bryant, it seems, has already gone to trial and yet he just recently got to enter his not-guilty plea.

Let's face it, drugs, sex, gambling, and vice in general, are the stuff that sells. Turn on the TV, read a newspaper or listen to the radio. There are lots of "judges" working out there who have no regard for the truth or the rights thru the process of law.

I felt terrible for all of the good kids on the Colorado football team. They know that recruits are going to take a stand off approach to their team and school. Even though there have been no charges filed and no arrests made, they as a group are already going to feel the results of the innuendoes. I guess scandals do that to all of us. It doesn't make any difference if you are guilty or innocent. Especially if you are being judged by the NCAA or an over aggressive media. Even when you are honest and have done the right things, you are guilty by association.

I know because I experienced it first hand in our scandal of the early 90's. Nobody wanted to believe that we were not cheating. Nobody wanted to assume we were innocent until proven guilty. Everybody had a negative story, we took hits from all directions. Our integrity was in question, our reputations tainted, and our families distraught. Then we are put under a "gag" order by our own administration and we were never given a chance to defend ourselves. Instead our school president hired two attorneys to kill us, not defend us. Most of that story and the truth surrounding it will be told in Sports Washington later this year. Watch for it, I think you'll find it VERY INTERESTING. But I'm digressing again.

The court of public opinion has already condemned the Colorado football team. I remember very distinctly Bill Walsh, the coach at Stanford, holding court with the media for the purpose of condemning the Husky Football program. He got great coverage (national coverage) and he passed judgment on a lot of innocent men both players and coaches. He said we just a football school that hired mercenaries and we didn't care about academics.

I partially agreed. I knew we were a football school. Sure there were things that were found but nothing as severe as the violations he himself was committing at the time he was condemning us. Genius, indeed.

I know these stories are newsworthy and should be covered, but I just draw the line at passing judgment. The news outlets cover the trials and report the results of individuals, but I just don't like them always implicating entire teams. It doesn't seem right, but then, I realize I'm not usually right in the first place.

That's why I live out in the woods. Top Stories