Instead of full cost of attendance scholarships, why not allow that same set of athletes to earn rewards for behavior that benefits the university, coaches, fans, teammates, and, most of all, themselves. Keep away from the police - bonus. Avoid social media - bonus. Take challenging courses - bonus. Good grades - bonus. Graduate - bonus. Seems like a better way to spend the proposed increase in money.
In reality, they’re in the business of making millions of dollars to win football games. If some troubled youths are aided along the way, all the better, but that’s most certainly not why coaches are hired to lead programs.
Someone alert me when you hear an athletic director say, “Well, we know Joe has a record of 10-60, but we like the way he rehabilitates kids with bad backgrounds.”
The “helping kids” mantra is pure spin. It’s said whenever a coach gives a player a second, third or fourth chance. Sure, coaches enjoy seeing guys turn their lives around. But that doesn’t explain why starters, star quarterbacks, leading rushers and tacklers get more chances at redemption than backups and walk-ons. I think we can all do that math on that front.
So perhaps it’s time for coaches — and the schools that employ them — to be made to take responsibility for the illegal actions their repeat offenders take.
Yesterday, LSU’s leading returning rusher, Jeremy Hill, was pretty much given a pass by a Louisiana judge. This despite the fact that he’d pled guilty to a violent crime while on probation for a previous crime. In high school, Hill reportedly intimidated a 14-year-old girl into having sexual relations with him. He pled guilty to misdemeanor carnal knowledge of a juvenile for that act. This April, he sucker-punched a young man outside a Baton Rouge bar. The blow to the back of the head dropped the victim. Hill and a pal celebrated over him. It was caught on cell phone video.
(One must wonder if Les Miles will have the LSU video department edit that clip into next year’s recruiting tape. It could be part of a section dedicated to how the Tigers’ coach tries to help young men become better citizens. Former quarterback Jordan Jefferson could be featured. He was suspended by the school, not the coach, when he was involved in a bar fight in 2011. There’s video of that one, too. For the trifecta, perhaps Tyrann Mathieu could discuss how many drug tests he failed — and how many chances Miles gave him — before he was finally tossed from the school last year.)
Miles said after the court’s decision yesterday that further punishment of Hill — who’s now been reinstated to the team — will be internal. The coach stated: “The reality is we all see him around here as a pretty good person.”
I wonder if the girl from Hill’s high school or the man Hill suckerpunched view him as “a pretty good person.”
This isn’t just to pick on Miles (though he deserves whatever is thrown his way on this topic). He’s hardly the first coach to give multiple chances to kids guilty of violent crimes. And LSU’s is not the only administration to give its coach the right to hand out dozens of “get out of jail free” cards.
Imagine, then, if there was some type of rule in place that would financially bind the actions of a once-guilty player to his coach and to his school.
Let’s use the Hill case as an example. Hill was on probation for an act he committed in high school. For our purposes, let’s pretend that landing on probation for any reason would be enough to tie a player to his coach and school. So when Miles and LSU decided to sign him — with the high school stuff hanging over him — and keep him — when he pled guilty to that charge — they would have immediately taken some sort of financial responsibility for his actions from that point forward.
Once Hill got caught on tape slugging a guy from behind and pled guilty to the resulting battery charge, Miles and LSU would have been on the hook for some cash. Let’s say a quarter-million from each paid out to a charity. And if they kept Hill on their team — as they have now decided to do — the price would double if there’s another episode with Hill.
Obviously that’s not going to happen. There is no way for any organization to impose such a penalty on a coach or a school. Can’t happen. Won’t happen.
But if there were some way to make it happen, do you think Hill would still be on the LSU team today? Here’s guessing no.
Some will say that this idea is too cruel. It wouldn’t allow for second chances, rehabilitation or grace.
Personally, I’m all for those things… in real life. Football is not real life. Football is a privilege, not a right. Violent crimes should result in a loss of that privilege. Especially when the violent crime is committed by someone who already owns a criminal record.
While our theory is just a hypothetical and completely unrealistic, it is possible that some victim of a player’s violent crime might someday sue a school or a coach for keeping a repeat offender on his team and, thus, on campus. For example, the young man battered by Hill could try to sue the player, Miles and LSU in civil court. He could argue that if Hill had been dismissed from the Tiger team after his first guilty plea, he likely would have transferred to another school to play football and most likely would not have been at a Baton Rouge bar to sucker-punch him this past April. Clearly that would be a very long shot of a case.
But if Miles and a number of LSU officials actually had to go to court to defend themselves in such a case, it might make them think twice before they gave yet another chance to yet another repeat-offender.
Here’s hoping Hill straightens his life out and does become a productive, law-abiding citizen. How he’ll make that turnaround without anyone ever teaching him that there are consequences — greater than a curfew — for illegal acts is anyone’s guess.