The great thing about the Internet is that if you are not able to catch a TV show, there is a good chance that one will be able to find it somewhere on the Web. Most of us here at Coaches Hot Seat missed the Penn State arrests piece on ESPN’s Outside the Lines on Sunday morning, but over the past couple of days most of us have gotten the chance to watch it in its entirely at ESPN’s Outside the Lines website: (http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/otl/index). After watching the report on Penn State it is our unanimous opinion that the facts as they were presented in the show about the number of arrests and guilty pleas (“Since 2002 at least 46 Penn State players have been charged with a total of 146 crimes”) by Nittany Lion players is devastating to Joe Paterno and Penn State University. Some of the answers given by Coach Paterno to facts that were presented to him by ESPN were very troubling, and go to the heart of the problem with some student-athletes on college campuses today.
Now, we think the world of Coach Paterno here at Coaches Hot Seat and recognize his contribution both to the game of college football and Penn State University, but some of his answers to very straightforward questions defied belief. Below are some of the questions that ESPN asked of Coach Paterno, his answer to the question, and how Coaches Hot Seat would have answered those questions if we had been the one responsible for the Penn State football program:
ESPN Question: “Since 2002 at least 46 Penn State players have been charged with a total of 146 crimes. How do you feel when you hear those numbers?”
Joe Paterno Answer: “I don’t know anything about it. I take everybody individually. When you say 46…, whatever your numbers are, I think you have done an awful lot of probing, which bothers me that you might be on the witch hunt. To be fair to the kids, I don’t know what the charges are. I’ve got to take each kid individually and do the best job I can with them.”
Coaches Hot Seat Answer: “Those numbers are outrageous and they reflect directly on the type of players that I am recruiting to this school. If I recruit a player to this school and he comes into this community and university and commits crimes, it is my fault. I am the one who brought him here, and if he is out breaking laws, getting into fights, getting drunk, then I made a mistake in recruiting that player in the first place. To answer your question, those arrest numbers are outrageous, and unacceptable for myself, my football team, and this university.”
ESPN Question: “Does it seem in recent years that the incidents here have been piling up?”
Joe Paterno Answer: “No, I think people are a little more interested in them, and every time a kid steps out of line it gets publicity. I am not condoning any of these things, but we have to keep this in perspective. I have no problems with what we are doing. I’ve got to take every kid and sit him down and figure out why he stepped out of line, if he stepped out line. Why are you drinking? Do you have a drinking problem? I will call up your old Man, and I am going to tell him the next time you step out of line. I am going to kick your rear end, or I am going to drop you off the team. I am always thinking of ways how I can do a better job to combat whatever weaknesses a kid could have.”
Coaches Hot Seat Answer: “Yes, incidents have been piling up here at Penn State and these arrests are unacceptable and it is my responsibility because I am the leader of this football program. If something goes wrong in this football program, it is my fault and my fault alone, because I am the leader of this football program and buck stops with me. I brought these young men here and if they start causing problems then we made a mistake in recruiting them in the first place and/or we did not do a good enough of a job with them when the got to this campus. Bottom line, these incidents with our players are unacceptable and it will either change for the better or I will resign this job.
Joe Paterno Statement on recruiting players: “I just think people have got to understand that we are dealing with young kids, 18, 19, 20, that are not perfect, they are not angels, they are very aggressive kids, or they wouldn’t be guys that could be in front of 110,000 people.”
That last statement is really outrageous, because Joe Paterno is saying that because someone is aggressive or is a very physical football player that they cannot act in an appropriate way off of the football field. That is BULLSHIT with a capital B, and is nothing more than a cop out and an excuse for young men that clearly know the difference between right and wrong. If Coach Paterno thinks it would help, Coaches Hot Seat will be happy to fly to Happy Valley and beat the horseshit out of his “very aggressive kids,” but we will still open doors for people, say yes sir and no sir when it is appropriate, and act like we are members of the human race. Being a college football player does not give someone an excuse to act in an inappropriate manner, and in fact college football players that are representing a university should be held to a higher standard than the general student body. The other members of the student body are not going on national TV and wearing a university’s colors and uniforms, and it is absolutely outrageous for anyone to make an excuse for a young men that is living in this great country, who is on an athletic scholarship, and has advantages that many other young people would die for. The United States of America did not fight a War of Independence, a Civil War, Two World Wars, and Four Minor Wars so that college football players, who are on full-ride scholarships, could go out and get drunk, get into fights, and generally be bad citizens in this society. No, this country was not founded on the right to get drunk or get into fights, and head football coaches that allow such behavior and players to act in inappropriate ways only make our Republic worse, not better. This behavior is just unacceptable.
How hard is it for a head football coach to take full responsibility for what goes on within his football program? Whether taking over a football program, or if a coach has been in a place for awhile, the football players on that team are the responsibility of the head coach. If a player goes out and gets arrested, drives drunk, is doing or selling drugs, then that player is in affect saying to the head coach that he does not respect him or the football team he plays for. At the bottom of this problem is that there are a small group of players at many schools that do not respect their coaches, their team, their university, and place themselves and their inappropriate behavior above their teammates. That is an unacceptable view of the world, and players that believe that they are above the coach and the football program need to have the privilege to play the game of college football taken away from them.
Here is how Coaches Hot Seat would solve the discipline problems at a troubled school that we took over. The problems at Penn State, Iowa, Alabama, or any other school that is having problems with their players could be solved in 72 hours with the following actions:
The first thing we would do is deliver a speech like this, only in football terms (Gregory Peck in 12 O’Clock High):
The second thing we would do is get a list of every player that has had a run-in or been arrested by the police and have all of those players meet us at an empty football stadium. Unbeknownst to the players, the new head coach would have called the closest US Marines military base and talked to the commanding officer, and had them send over a platoon of Marines. The new head coach would tell the commanding officer of the Marines that if they came over to our university, they would get some practice in hand-to-hand combat without weapons. At the football field the players that have been causing trouble will find 40 or so Marines standing in a large square formation. The troubled players will then be instructed to walk to the inside of the large square, and then the new head coach would get a bullhorn and say:
“Gentlemen. By your past inappropriate behavior you have demonstrated that you do not respect this football team and this university, and that you would rather fight, get drunk, act like an idiot, and do other things that reflect badly on yourselves and thus this football team and school. Since you want to get into trouble and fight, we are going to give you a chance to fight. The men standing around you are US Marines and they are trained to defend this country and our Constitution, things that you don’t seem to give two rips about. So all of you that want to fight, to act in inappropriate ways, to get drunk, to disrespect women and your professors, and to generally act like fools, here is your chance. The Marines that surround you are going to give you a chance to fight, and the only way you are going to get off this football field is to get through these Marines. Good Luck.”
The new head coach then leaves the football stadium. (Of course, the above scenario with the Marines would never happen, but it would be rich to see these college football players that seem to get a thrill beating up on the general student body getting their asses whipped by some Marines. My oh my, that would be rich!).
After the fighting and stupid behavior has been “gotten out” or removed from the football team, the next thing to do is to find a nearby Veterans Hospital, and then the new coach would take the entire team to that hospital so that the football players can see real men and women that have paid a huge price for the freedom that some football players have taken for granted. Playing football, on an athletic scholarship, at an American university is a fantasyland compared to going to war, and seeing men and women that have gone to war for our country should remind the players of just how easy they have it. It is time that college football players start to appreciate what they have, and the opportunities that are open to them if they take advantage of what their school is offering them. Can it get any simpler than that?
If a stern talking to, a whipping of the bad apples by US Marines (wouldn’t happen, but nice to ponder), and a visit to a VA hospital to see wounded veterans does not do the trick, then the players that are still not buying in would be sent packing.
We were happy to see that Penn State removed two of the troubled players from their football team today. Let’s hope that the rest of the Penn State players get the message and start acting in an appropriate way, and start respecting their head coach. If not, then Coach Paterno should continue to throw players off the team, even if he has to throw everyone off and field students off the intramural football team at Penn State. There has got to be 22 student-athletes at Penn State that want to play football, go to class, and act in an appropriate way.
Head football coaches cannot tolerate the inappropriate behavior of their players. If head coaches just make it very clear that football players will be tossed from the team and their scholarship will be pulled if they act in an inappropriate manner, then this bad behavior will end. It doesn’t get any simpler than that. The current behavior is only a reaction to how lenient head football coaches have gotten over the past 20 years, where even drug use by football players is tolerated, and to some degree accepted. That is unacceptable and outrageous, and every time a football player gets into trouble, you can draw a straight line back to the head football coach for not imparting in a very clear and concise way that bad behavior will have serious consequences.
It is time to clean this mess up, and if the arrests continue the head football coaches will only have themselves to blame. We really don’t want to start keeping a Coaches Disciplinary Problems Rankings list, but we will if the arrests and bad behavior continue. The last thing a head football coach would want to see is his name at the top of a list that had “Disciplinary Problems Ranking” in it, because that would be a list that would get a lot of attention in the offices of college presidents and trustees.
It’s time to end this madness, so let’s end it.