College football about money, not abuse

Coaching has come a long way, particularly in college and professional sports ranks.

Professional and major college coaches could be likened to CEOs. They have big staffs, massive budgets and delegate a lot of responsibility.

It’s all about money. The pros leave no doubt. And, no matter what the colleges say, the football College Bowl System is about little else.

Recently, however, much has been penned about two major college football coaches who lost their jobs, seemingly because of “mistreatment of players.”

Mark Mangino of the University of Kansas resigned under pressure because he was accused of making “insensitive and humiliating remarks” to players during games or practice.

Mangino was 50-48 in his Kansas years and went 12-1 in 2007 in which the Jayhawks won the Orange Bowl and he was national coach of the year.

Last season he opened with a five-game win streak followed by seven losses. He got a $3 million settlement upon resigning.

Closer to home, Texas Tech’s Mike Leach was fired Dec. 30 as his team prepared to play in the Alamo Bowl.

Leach’s job loss centered around allegations he mistreated a player who couldn’t practice because he’d suffered a concussion.

Leach took Tech to a bowl game in all of his 10 years there, compiling an 84-43 record.

In 2008, his best year, the Red Raiders were 11-2, rising as high as second nationally.

He went 8-4 in 2009 with one of the losses being to the Texas Aggies. Tech officials are saying Leach isn’t entitled to a contract clause calling for a $1.6 million settlement for the remaining four years on his contract nor a provision for an $800,000 bonus if he’d been the coach on Dec. 31, 2009.

Leach’s firing could be as much about the Aggie loss, the 8-4 mark and the $800,000 as it is about the mishandled player.

Mangino’s is just as likely about seven straight losses and no bowl game as it was verbal assaults. And, that is not to make light of the abuse claims in either case.

In the history of college and professional sports, particularly football, stories abound of tough coaches who inflicted plenty of emotional abuse and some physical punishment.

Paul “Bear” Bryant, a college legend, cemented his tough reputation in his first year at Texas A&M with the famous Junction training camp.

Two buses hauled players to the camp, which was so tough it took just one bus to bring back the 30 players who didn’t quit and go home.

In high school football in the early and mid 1950s, it was about being physically and mentally tough. Our coach, who weighed 250, had a particularly stressful physical test.

In full football regalia, we lay on our backs, raised our feet six inches off the ground, then spread our legs and held the position.

As we did this, the coach came and stood, clad in cleated shoes, on our stomachs and jostled slightly.

I witnessed one incident with Bryant. As a high school senior, I was invited to walk the sidelines of the 1954 A&M-Baylor football game. That was the year of the famous “Little Aggies” who survived Junction. None weighed over 200 pounds.

A collision between two huge Baylor linemen (240 pounds or so each) and a little Aggie (about 190 pounds) occurred on the sideline by the A&M bench.

All three players lay motionless. Finally, the Aggie rolled over on one elbow, obviously woozy, and Bryant leaned over the chalk line and muttered, “!@#$%&*, get up and get back out there or you’ll walk back to College Station!”

The Aggie got up but the two Baylor players had to have assistance.

And, I decided writing about sports was somewhat safer than playing in college.

Admittedly, such tactics as the “abuse” of decades ago isn’t probable, but, let’s not kid ourselves. College football today is physically and emotionally rough.

And, no matter what the athletic directors and coaches say, it’s really about the money and not losing, particularly to bitter rivals.

Willis Webb is a retired community editor publisher of more than 50 years. Email him at

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2010-03-11 digital edition

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