Football is an emotional concoction of adrenaline, testosterone and boiling blood, served under intense pressure. I can understand how a coach might snap at a player, especially a dumb player who doesn’t do what he’s told, or an insubordinate one who won’t do what he’s told.
But even in those extreme situations, a modern head coach has to keep his temper under wraps, just like he would expect one of his charges to do so rather than blasting an opponent after the whistle and drawing a personal foul penalty.
And in a situation such as the one Leach finds himself in, there is an even greater expectation on a coach to handle a matter with care and a cool head. Again, who knows what really happened? But when a concussion is involved, or any injury, a coach needs to dismiss any thoughts of punishment or scolding — no matter how annoyed he may be — and step away from the temptation to act like the caricature of the old school football coach he has witnessed over the years in movies.
Coaches who are inclined toward even mild abuse will have to change, not only because the times demand it, but because players do also. The recruit today is less likely to go to a school that employs a coach who is known as a quick-tempered taskmaster, because there are so many other options. Why would a player want to subject himself to an unpleasant four years or so of college football when he could get a more positive experience elsewhere?
And players know. They watch ESPN. They read the recruiting blogs and the college football message boards. They’re following other players on Twitter. Word gets around.
Word also reaches university brass. When a football coach is rumored to have been abusive, administrators immediately contact the school’s lawyers, who usually advise some sort of preemptive action — like the one taken by Texas Tech against Leach — in order to limit their complicity in a potential lawsuit. There is a zero tolerance policy among university officials when it comes to being sued by a player and his family.
Back when I was a teenager, the prevailing teaching philosophy among football coaches was only a notch or two above medieval. That isn’t the case anymore, and it would behoove coaches — many of whom experienced harsh treatment when they were high school players — to forget those lessons and learn some new ones.
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