A GRIP ON SPORTS
The Pac-12 released its investigation into the Washington State football program yesterday and, at its core, refuted any allegations of abuse of the players. But it did something else. It shed a light on what happens at football practice and some things might surprise you. Read on.
• In case you didn't know, football coaches yell a lot. And they cuss a lot. And they occasionally use their hands to make a point. If any of these things went on consistently in a great majority of workplaces in America, it would be considered abuse, no ifs, ands or buts about it. But the athletic field is a different sort of animal. Most of us know from personal experience that's the way it's been since the ancient Greeks (“Hey Hercules, you big wussy, you can bench-press two dozen bulls if you really try”). It's changed over the years, sure, but it still goes on. Does it have to? I've always felt if a coach is constantly at one level, constantly screaming at players, they just turn him or her off. It becomes like background noise and doesn't have the effect of helping the player improve. I've seen it happen often, most recently at WSU, where a former assistant used to cuss and spit and call one of the Cougar star players a wuss (well, another word) and soft (well, another word) and a sucker (well, another word) so often it became laughable. The player was anything but and the assistant's lack of perception – along with his inability to improve his position's players – led to a parting of ways. So the incidents uncovered in WSU's and the Pac-12's investigations didn't surprise me. Nothing sounded out of-the-ordinary or over-the-top. Except the items pertaining to a change in the training staff.
• Most people don't really understand an athletic trainer's job. It's not just to tape ankles and put ice on knees. At its core, the job is to be the player's advocate. Look, every player wants to play every minute. Every coach wants every player to play as much as possible. Those goals, while admirable, can sometimes lead to a player competing when he or she shouldn't. That's where the trainer comes in. He or she is on the front lines, is at practice every day and is there to represent the player's future. They evaluate the player's physical status and to determine whether the player is capable of competing without damaging their body in the short- and – this is most important – long-term. In the years I was in Pullman, there was always grumbling by the football coaching staff about head trainer Bill Drake's caution concerning injuries, most notably concussions. There was pushback to get players on the field as quickly as possible – and a corresponding desire by most players to also play. I don't believe this is any different anywhere in America (except maybe Harvard, where the players can read and evaluate their own CT scans). But the football coaches and players respected Drake and his staff's role and there were no knockdown, drag-out fights of which I was aware. It's an important balance that cannot by over-emphasized. The coaches and players want to play, but the trainers (and the doctors) have to have the last word on this, doing their job without fear or favor. They have to. Any degradation of this balance can only serve to be a detriment for the players in the long run.
• Washington State: Christian Caple reacted to the release of the Pac-12's investigation with a quick blog post, then followed up with this story for today's S-R. He also was at Ken Bone's press conference yesterday and filed this blog post, then followed up with this advance of tonight's game at Stanford. He also has his morning post. … John Blanchette has his thoughts on the Pac-12's investigation. … I liked Bud Withers' notebook today, so I'm passing it along. You would think when you accept money to supervise a conference's officiating system, it would also obligate you to be the front man and explain what the hell is going on. Guess that would take guts. … There is a report out there that former WSU big man Aron Baynes is signing with the San Antonio Spurs.
• Gonzaga: Chris Derrick's women's basketball notebook leads with Keani Albanez and the spark she gives the Bulldogs. He also has more in this blog post. … Rob Sacre made himself relevant to the Lakers last night. … Brandon Davies is having a bit of trouble staying on the court for BYU.
• EWU: Keith Osso, who is as well connected as anyone with the Eastern Washington players, tweeted last night Brandon Kaufman has made up his mind and will declare for the NFL draft.
• Idaho: There is a bug showdown in Logan, Utah, Friday between WAC-leader Utah State and San Jose State. But first, the Spartans had to get past New Orleans on Tuesday night.
• Whitworth: The two Eastern Washington rivals in the Northwest Conference met at Whitworth last night (pictured), with the game featuring 10 minutes of extra basketball. Steve Christilaw has the story of fifth-ranked Whitworth's double-overtime victory.
• Chiefs: A huge save late by Eric Williams along with Liam Stewart's third-period goal helped the Chiefs to a 4-3 win over Seattle on the road last night. The same teams meet tonight in Spokane. … Everett has made a coaching change. … Portland just keeps winning. Doesn't it get monotonous?
• Preps: As usual on a Tuesday night, there was plenty of basketball action in the area. Greg Lee was at Central Valley, where the Bears got off to a big early lead and handled Ferris with ease. The Ferris girls returned the favor in the nightcap, part of our GSL roundup. I was at Coeur d'Alene, where the Viking girls started hot and held off previously undefeated Post Falls. We also have girls and boys roundups from around the area.
• Seahawks: Isn't it nice to turn on ESPN and have them talking about a Seattle-area team with something more than a passing reference? That's what the Hawks' success has done, made Seattle's sports scene relevant again. Maybe it's because of their bad-boy image, or the fact they don't back down to anyone, but people are talking about the Seahawks. And their assistant coaches. … Like numbers? We have some concerning Sunday's game. … Due to injuries (thanks FedEx Field), the Hawks have signed a couple of fill-ins for Sunday.
• That's it for this fine Wednesday. If you follow us on Twitter, you will notice more Eastern Washington tweets on Thursday and Saturday nights, as I will be filling in for Jim Allen covering the Eagles. But before then, we'll be back here tomorrow morning. Until then …