There was a time when college coaches were able to devote nearly 100 percent of their time to coaching and, of course, doing some recruiting. Now they must try to be a father and counselor to some players. They also have become acquainted with police investigations, reports and the judicial system. Then there is the drug culture that has invaded most rings of our society, including sports.
Some of their star players come from environments that include, first of all, broken families. Often basic educational skills are missing. Somehow they are admitted to colleges and universities. Tutors are hired and paid for by the athletic departments. Strong efforts are made to “turn some of these student-athletes around” — that is, show them the way to a new life with a future. They even attempt to teach citizenship and community values to athletes, many of whom lack maturity and do dumb things.
The coaches and their staffs can count many successes. There also are failures. The University of Missouri is dealing with failures. It has not been a pleasant scene. The university’s reputation has been tarnished. The actions of two student-athletes recently tested the mettle of two head coaches — Frank Haith, basketball, and Gary Pinkel, football. Each kicked promising and somewhat proven stellar athletes off their teams for infractions in their private lives which included violent behavior.
They did the right thing and did much to validate the integrity of the athletic program. Yes, some questions may still linger about a swimmer who said she was raped by two student-athletes and later committed suicide, and as to how it was handled by the university.
The two athletes, Zach Price in basketball, and Dorial Green-Beckham in football, proved their stupidity by getting in trouble with the law, displaying violent streaks. They not only embarrassed themselves, but their coaches, their teammates and, of course, the university. Even though their coaches will try to do what they can to help them as the two players transition to wherever they end up, they can only help them if the players cooperate.
Having served on the university’s Alumni Athlete Committee and on the Intercollegiate Athletic Committee, we know firsthand of what the university does and demands of its student-athletes. MU attempts to mold them into an all-around wholesome person who will be a credit to society. The athletic department keeps a close eye on them as to their classroom work and tries to develop the student-athletes into positive role models. The university, as mentioned, has had many successes — more successes than failures.
The University of Missouri isn’t the only major Division I school that has had to deal with problem student-athletes. The situation is widespread. It tells us something about our society today. Athletics have been a savior for many young people, both in the amateur and professional worlds. There are worlds of opportunity for the talented and those with a work ethic and who know how to use a moral compass.
The participants also must follow the rules of our society. Exceptions must not be made for them!