The 2020 college football season continues to wobble. The Mountain West Conference shut itself down yesterday; the Big-10 and the PAC-12 will supposedly vote later today regarding the status of their 2020 football activities. Rather than rehash the issues in question there, let me spend today dealing with an even seamier side of college sports than the craven chasing of money.
Last week, I mentioned in passing that there was controversy at Colorado State where some members of the football team alleged that they were told not to report symptoms that might be COVID-19 related and that the team was not following the stated COVID-19 protocols. Other players on the team refuted those allegations and the team halted its activities pending some fact-finding. After that news broke, there were other allegations made charging some staff members with verbal abuse and racism. In the social environment of 2020, that certainly upped the ante…
The Athletic Director and the President at Colorado State lost no time staking out the moral high ground there. Here is part of a statement from the AD:
“While we have been working hard towards playing football this fall, the holistic well-being of our student-athletes is our unequivocal top priority. We must and will address these allegations before we focus on playing football.”
[Aside: “Holistic well-being” might become the next Holy Grail for college athletic programs to seek. “Holistic well-being” would also be a great name for a fantasy baseball team.]
As with the allegations of failure to follow COVID-19 protocols, there is a group of players on the football team that have explicitly stated that these charges are baseless. The school has hired an outside firm to investigate and report to the school administration about these matters. At the very least, I think it is fair to say two things even before any facts are revealed by the investigators:
- “Unity” is not prevalent among the members of the Colorado State football team when it comes to various aspects of the behaviors of the coaches and the staff there.
- Steve Addazio is a first-year coach at Colorado State tasked with changing the on-field performance of the team. These circumstances do not make that task any the easier.
If you think there is turmoil and trouble at Colorado State, let me tell you what has gone down at Texas Tech regarding the women’s basketball program there. The school has fired head coach Marlene Stollings after players alleged verbal, mental and physical abuse from Ms. Stollings and the staff. Here is just one of multiple allegations of abuse:
- Players were required to wear heart-rate monitors for every game, practice and workout. These data were recorded and tabulated.
- Players whose heart rate dropped below “90% of capacity” [whatever that means and however that might be determined] were subject to extra conditioning drills and harder practices.
Another potential problem area might have been the lead assistant coach who was previously the head women’s basketball coach at New Mexico State. The potential problem with that is that this assistant coach was terminated there after an investigation into:
“allegations of mental and physical abuse, and other conduct that has jeopardized the health, safety, welfare and education of student-athletes under [her] charge.”
There must have been something “unpleasant” going on inside the program because Stollings had been on the job for two seasons and in that time 12 players left the team including 7 players who had just been recruited by Stollings. I would think that data alone would have raised an eyebrow or two in the Athletic Department; evidently, it did not. The fact that a team trainer left the program several months ago under a cloud of sexual harassment and “improper touching” allegations also had to contribute to what was characterized as a “toxic culture” there.
The Athletic Director ordered an investigation when the allegations surfaced; that is good news. The findings from that investigation were reportedly given to him verbally; there was no written record; that is a bad thing.
Here is the link to an in-depth article from USA Today that lays out the full scope of the charges made by players and the initial responses from the athletic department and Coach Stollings. There is some chilling stuff in that report; it is worth the time it takes to read it. A couple days after that report, Texas Tech and Marlene Stollings “went in different directions.”
I wonder what the next coach at Texas Tech will face as (s)he takes over the program. Clearly, there was some talent on the 2019/2020 team which had a record of 18-11 when things shut down in the Spring. Just as clearly, there are some of those team members who will be happy to see a new regime come in. Nevertheless, the new coach will enter a situation filled with chaos – not made any simpler by the overlay of COVID-19 concerns and protocols – and an environment where familiarization between coaches and players might be uncomfortable in light of recent events. After all, the same Athletic Department that recently hired Stollings will be the ones to hire the next coach…
The next women’s basketball coach at Texas Tech will experience some interesting times – – and in Lubbock, TX to boot.
Finally, let me close today with an entry from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:
“Embalming: The chemical treatment of a corpse to forestall its decay. Used regularly on Larry King.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………