Archive for Saturday, August 2, 2003

College coaches have to keep close eye on charges

August 2, 2003


Basketball coach Bill Self of Kansas University and football coach Jim Tressel of Ohio State up to now have had divergent approaches to keeping in touch with their athletes. But in view of the alleged Baylor basketball murder and recent events involving O-State running back Maurice Clarett, I'd guess Tressel soon will move a lot closer to the Self policy.

At KU, Self has his charges check in daily throughout the school year, in-season and out. He isn't micromanaging, just wants to know what's going on, how they're doing, having any problems, social, academic or what. Just makes sense considering the way even "good kids" can wander anymore.

With 105 gridders as opposed to about 15 kids for Self, Tressel faces a much tougher job keeping regular contact.

"I don't like to go overboard with that," Tressel said recently during a flap about whether Clarett got illegal help to stay eligible for last year's Fiesta Bowl. "Sometimes it helps, the guys know we're checking on them. I think there's a fine line there. The coaches and the academic sector need to be a little bit separate by design. I don't call the faculty members. I don't make suggestions to them."

But in view of the academic mish-mash for the celebrated Clarett, Tressel says he may have to stress the importance of academics more firmly and more often. ... "Maybe I need to do a better job of making sure we keep pounding the importance of academics."

It seemed the Fiesta Bowl thing had begun to fade when this week it came out that the NCAA has investigated a police report filed by Clarett about cash and thousands of dollars of stereo equipment stolen from a car he was driving. The value of the stolen items got the NCAA to sniffing, like $5,000 in stereo gear, $800 in cash, $300 in clothing and 300 compact discs.

Where does a sophomore-to-be amass that kind of loot, and what about the car from which it was taken? Any extra-special benefits?

Clarett and senior wide receiver Chris Vance of Ohio State were in an introductory African-American studies class last fall. Clarett reportedly walked out of his midterm, but was given two oral exams so he could play in the Fiesta Bowl, where OSU won the national title.

Vance had 11 unexcused absences, failed the course and still played in the Jan. 3 Fiesta title game. Of Vance's 11 absences, coach Tressel said: "No one sent me a memo or an e-mail from a faculty member saying, 'This student-athlete has missed 11 of my classes.' Was I aware he had missed 11 classes? No, I wasn't."

But, then, football's awfully important at OSU.

If any of Bill Self's players or Mark Mangino's footballers at Kansas are not showing up, coaches will be on their backs like ticks on a hairless dog, pronto. Basketball boss Roy Williams always knew even when a kid left a class early; he knocked guys off road trips for cuts.

With the terrible circumstances at Baylor, where one basketeer allegedly killed another, and after the Clarett case, all sorts of new surveillances will be inaugurated by coaches and their staffs. I'll bet Tressel at Ohio State is already stepping up the roll calls and bed checks.

The Baylor tragedy will force coaches to do even more tutelage about what's proper and what's not. And, as Self has decreed at Kansas, there will be a no-gun rule, no matter how much the National Rifle Assn. pickets. Even if the athlete contends he has to bag creatures to put food on the table. Not even for hunting, guys.

As is often the case, the colorful Billy Tubbs, who left TCU and is now cage coach and athletic director at alma mater Lamar, came up with one of the bed-rock jewels. He agrees he "shouldn't need a rule that you're not supposed to shoot each other." But he agrees is must be discussed. How'd you like to listen in on that salty lecture to the team?

As for Baylor, there's even talk of putting coach Dave Bliss and the court program on the shelf for a year to get things sorted out. There are some hazy things about Bliss's operation, too, that are due for a full airing. The early evidence is not flattering.

Junior-college recruitment is also under fire, although Kansas fared doggone well with Jeff Graves.

Writes Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News: "Some transfers are good students looking only for a better environment. Too many transfers are walking trouble. Look at the biggest problems in college basketball in the last year, and a transfer will be found in the middle. Troubles at Georgia and St. Bonaventure started with a dubious transfer player. Missouri recently dismissed troubled talent Ricky Clemons, a junior college player. ... Transfers, particularly those laundered at two-year schools, appeal to slickster coaches looking for the quick-fix way to win. Those coaches forget that no matter their talent, players of questionable character can ruin a program. That has happened to Dave Bliss. Baylor's charge is to make sure it does not happen again."

l Quick flashback to a John Hadl verbal gem. As a sophomore halfback at Kansas, John led the nation in punting in 1959 with a 45.8 average. As a San Diego quarterback, he was used as a kicker for a while and did well.

OK, consider this tie-in. There's strong evidence that the Minnesota Twins speeded up the air-conditioner fans in their indoor stadium when their guys were batting, and some say it helped win some games. Air-conditioning assistance?

Back to Hadl, during one game in the old Houston Astrodome, John averaged more punting yardage in the second half than in the first. How come; it was indoors?

Answered an impish John: "Well, I had the air-conditioning blowing against me the first half, and with me the second."

Twins foes say it could have been.

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