The gold helmet can be a bulls eye

Once again the Seattle media collectively came down on a Husky player that got into a little trouble. Duh. Like college football players never get into fistfights …especially African American players on Greek Row.

Seems like old news to me. But then, having played college football myself and having been involved in many Greek Row fisticuffs, it doesn't surprise me that Rich finds himself in the middle of this fiasco.

It's just that there are probably 20 such incidents every weekend somewhere in the greater Seattle area, but none ever get into the news. The night in question, at the frat in question, there were at least two other fights. The "security guard" involved was not wearing a uniform or any other marking (say, like the word "SECURITY" across his chest). I have little doubt that Rich regrets being involved in this mishap. Blame is not an issue.

Obviously, there are two sides to every story and I'm interested in what Rich will say on his end.

Unfortunately, by media standards, when you're a sports celebrity and under investigation, there is no difference between being arrested or being convicted of a crime or misdemeanor.

Everyone wants the ball players to be just like every other college student. Go to class, get your credits, get your degree and graduate. Be a regular kid on campus and not some testosterone-charged aggressive animal "jock".

Easier said than done.

The fact is, once you become a Husky football player, you no longer get to be a regular college kid. You are held to a higher standard and anything you can do or say is held against you. Particularly if you get into trouble.

My son in law was a member of the fraternity where Rich was involved in the altercation, and I know it is a good house with a good reputation. I also know there were a lot of people involved, that drinking was involved, and that there were other fights. It does not excuse Rich from not walking away from trouble when he was not allowed entrance. Reggie Williams did walk away from the trouble, but the media neglected to point that out in its thorough coverage. He was there, but only his name was used and not any of the other hundred people. Why? Because he's Reggie.

For many years I served as warden for a lot of our Husky players. I had the opportunity to deal with many of the problems that surface on any team in America. Our coaches then (and I'm certain the coaches today) are continually stressing the importance of staying out of trouble.

Once you put on that gold helmet you become a marked man. Right or wrong, that's the way it is.

Not so much for the police, because if they are involved, then you already know you're in big doo-doo. We always stressed that cops are merely doing their jobs, and whenever possible to address them with either "yes sir" or "no sir". Show respect. If the officer becomes aggressive, you become passive. Be polite and cooperative with anyone you come in contact with because you never know the impression you will be making. You are a representative of the "team" and as such you need to know when to walk away.

Confrontations happen to all of us but especially young men in their late teens and early twenties. It's not unusual for men of that age to lose it periodically, and I'm sure Rich snapped the night in question.

The difference is that he is not just Rich Alexis, the UW college kid. He's Rich Alexis, number 24, and starting tailback for the Washington Huskies. He can't hide from the notoriety. It's there and you just have to accept the fact that right or wrong you will be held to a higher standard.

Some would call you a target.

I'm not defending or assuming Rich is without blame for his actions, but I do know that he was wrong simply because of where he was. It's nothing new to Washington's Greek Row. Take it from a former UW coach.

I would estimate that the majority of the problems (off the field) that we encountered with our team happened on the weekends on Greek Row, and throughout the years, usually involved beer. I don't care what anyone says about other drugs, beer and or booze were the biggest problems we faced, and still are the biggest problems on every campus in America. The mix of beer and hormones is a volatile combination.

One other sidebar before I get off of my soapbox. It wasn't until after the civil rights movement of the sixties that the fraternities officially changed their constitutions to eliminate racial clauses for membership. I learned a lot about this first-hand by going through rush at Washington State (yes, I am a Cougar alum) with an African American man in 1964. We attended every function together and went through the whole process simply by chance. His name was Bain, and mine being Baird, so that made us alphabetical roommates. He was also a football player and state hurdle champion. When rush ended, we both decided to pledge the same house but when we opened our envelopes to receive our invitations to pledge, I had six offers and he had none.


It was my first experience of institutional racism and it had a profound impact on me. The civil rights movement, to this day, is the only real cause to which I have ever embraced in terms of change.

Unfortunately, it hasn't changed enough, although race doesn't appear to be a factor in Rich's incident.

I have no doubt that the security guard in question was probably just doing his job as he saw it. It just happened to take place in Seattle and the media here has a keen interest in covering the Dawgs. The worse the news, the better the coverage. Ask Rick Neuheisel, it comes with the territory. It's just the way things work. Fair or not, the players need to always be aware of "Who" they are.

Is a fight on any college campus news? Not unless you are a sports star or unless someone gets badly injured or killed. I coached the linebackers at Washington, and those guys tend to be on the feisty side. I always tried to warn them that it's really stupid not to walk away. Particularly in today's world where even if you win the fight, somebody is liable to pull a gun and not ask questions.

Just recently, Willie Hurst and Omare Lowe were involved in the exact same situation. Their names were dragged through the press and even though both are fine young men, they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Years before that we had a number of kids involved in a frat row brawl, and believe it or not it was an African-American female basketball player who was kicking everyone's ass. But it was the football players involved that got all of the media attention.

Rich understands this now, but learned the hard way. Hopefully, next time he walks away. columnist and KJR 950 Sports Radio personality, Dick Baird.
Dick Baird was an Assistant Coach (Linebackers) and Recruiting Coordinator at the UW from 1985-1998. He has joined the staff as a featured columnist for both the web site and Sports Washington magazine. In addition to his regular editorial columns, Coach Baird will try to provide some of his unique perspective by answering a few of your selected questions online. If you would like to send in your questions, please CLICK HERE.

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