Friday, August 28, 2015

College Shenanigans: News From Illinois, USC, Rutgers

Illinois made a move today that was seriously necessary and just. A week before kicking off against Kent State to open the 2015 season, the Illini fired Tim Beckman for the results of an investigation of several cases of various abuses against players. The only mistake the Illini administration made was not firing him sooner, like after getting put on blast by Louisiana Tech in the Heart of Dallas Bowl to conclude last season. Beckman was as good as fired during the middle of the season, and saved his job with a late run.
In all honesty, Beckman's issues with players was already buzzing when Illinois hit the bowl game with several people knowing about allegations springing up. Most boosters and donors at Illinois wanted Beckman gone anyway, so it made virtually no sense to let this situation play out until the Illini were in a position such as they are in, being a week out, with OC Bill Cubit being made into the lame duck until the Illini find a replacement. At this point, the three candidates that make the most sense for the job are Northern Illinois coach Rod Carey, Western Michigan's PJ Fleck, and Illinois State's Brock Spath.
One thing to note on Beckman is that he had allegations of allowing hazing at Toledo while he was the coach there. With that in mind, one has to wonder who is performing due diligence before making these hires. If Beckman had such an outstanding charge against him floating about, why would Illinois have ever touched him is beyond me.
Beckman is hardly the only coach showing signs of bad judgment lately. Reports out of Los Angeles are stating that several high level donors at USC basically want the head of coach Steve Sarkisian on a pike outside of the Galen Center right now after his drunken disaster at the donor event in which he drunkenly made a complete buffoon of himself before having to be yanked off stage by AD Pat Haden. Sarkisian, who is in the midst of what will likely be a contentious divorce situation stated that he had mixed a little alcohol (translated to a boatload of booze) with a few meds (translated to a boatload of pills). What's unbelievable is that Sarkisian expects anyone to believe this load of crap in the modern era where secrets like these are hardly able to be kept. Sarkisian has allegedly had four other such situations where his drinking got out of control at Washington. This has been widely talked about at this point, and shows more lack of leadership that has become such a huge problem in the coaching business.
Boosters at USC are done with this kind of public embarrassment to the university, especially after high profile scandals involving former coach Lane Kiffin's hiring and consequential firing, Pete Carroll's not caring about the most basic of college athletic rules or tenets, and Mike Garrett's nasty attitude towards boosters and media at the school. I shouldn't even have to bring up the desolation that Carroll's transgressions brought upon the school. Some power brokers want Sarkisian gone today, as in yesterday, or some approximation of right about now will do.
Pat Haden's contract as USC AD runs out after this academic year, and at 62, he has not committed to anything past that, and has not talked extension whatsoever publically. Rumors around town state that Haden, who has recently been highly criticized for falling short in his overall duties, will be out after this year, and that Sarkisian goes with him, if he doesn't go well before. Whomever takes over the athletic department will likely want their own guy, and a guy who is scandal free and can win immediately. Either way, it's hard to see Sark being the head man at USC past this season, which is best case scenario for him even making it that far.
We now move on to Piscataway, New Jersey, where embattled Rutgers coach Kyle Flood is likely facing a major suspension or outright firing according to an report. Flood has apparently reached out to a faculty member through a private email account to pressure a professor into changing grades for starting CB Nadir Barnwell. Obviously, Flood's alleged actions are extreme violations of university policy, and are just plain unethical. Flood is another embattled coach who is likely coaching for his job this season, as was Beckman. That leads to the final point of this piece.
These coaches are certainly to blame for their own actions, there is no arguing that. These coaches are a product of their own nightmares. With each passing year, the money paid to coaches in this country skyrockets ever higher, and with this salary soaring activity, the pressure to win rises with it. These individuals are people who simply cannot shoulder that kind of pressure. If universities did their due diligence before hiring these coaches, they would have known that. These coaches have resigned themselves to doing things a normal person does not, because if they don't the losses would pile up, and they'd be fired anyway. This is not an excuse for their actions, but it is a side effect of rising expectations and salaries.
Coaches today are fired even if they win nine games or more per year over seven season careers just because they don't kiss ass of a fickle fan base, or just because they can't beat schools like Auburn or Florida over a three year span, despite successes almost everywhere else (see Bo Pelini at Nebraska, Jim Donnan at Georgia). Nobody is twisting the arms of these coaches to accept jobs at high pressure locales, and they take them greedily. Even losing coaches (Beckman) get paid over $2 million per season to do virtually nothing but lose to rivals and fail to meet expectations. Why does this happen? Why do universities continually heap extensions on coaches who have not produced? It's simple. University administrators fail to do their jobs, fail to research past behaviors, and fail to gauge personalities of individuals against the culture of their location. This is epidemic at this point, as we are hearing all too many stories of issues (Bo Graham at Arizona State, Bobby Petrino at Louisville, etc.) where coaches engage in behaviors that are not only unethical, but quite frankly borderline on the bizarre and seedy.
It is up to school administrators to perform their duties, or be held just as responsible for the actions of the coaches they hire to coach and lead young people at our colleges and universities. It shouldn't be something that is a matter of turning a blind eye for the sake of athletic success. It should be a matter of keeping people in line with life success, safety, and ethics. Of course, placing the word "ethics" around sports these days may simply be a pipe dream, as evidenced by these three coaches and their behaviors.

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