Friday, December 2, 2016

(Old) school's out

"Philosophical differences." Now there's a euphemism for you.

"Philosophical differences" are what Indiana athletic director Fred Glass threw out there as the defining reason for IU football coach Kevin Wilson's forced resignation yesterday, five days after Wilson's Hoosiers beat Purdue for the fourth straight time (something that hadn't happened since the 1940s) and qualified to play in the bowl game for the second straight year.

In other words, the Hoosiers were tracking upward under Wilson, or at least as upward as IU football reasonably can be expected to track. And then, suddenly, he was gone, in a bizarre news conference in which defensive coordinator Tom Allen was immediately elevated to head coach and Wilson was unceremoniously shown the door for reasons Glass wouldn't fully articulate.

The unspoken but apparent reason, however, was that Wilson's treatment of his players had gotten crosswise with Glass's expectations, and not for the first time. Indiana attorneys and athletic officials met with at least six IU players over the last two weeks when allegations of abusive treatment surfaced, and at least one player's father is on record as saying Wilson failed to follow concussion protocols with his son, leading to a worsening of his condition.

"It came to my attention that some things I thought we'd put behind us had bubbled up again," is how Glass characterized all that.

If so, then good for Glass, and good for IU. It's one thing to demand certain standards at your university; it's another to demand them even when doing so costs you a coach who's done what he was hired to do on the field. And Wilson demonstrably was doing that -- as was another former coach at IU, whose three national championships in 29 years led athletic directors of weaker character than Glass's to look the other way when he abused his players.

But this is now, not then. Lawyers tend to get involved in these deals now, and so what was once acceptable for coaches to do to their players, or was at least  tolerated, simply is not going to fly. It never should have, frankly, and the smarter coaches acknowledge that. Even Bear Bryant eventually got around to apologizing to the Texas A&M players he brutalized in the searing heat one summer in Junction, Texas.

That happened in 1954, when Bryant was still a young coach. Twenty-five years later, when the players who stuck it out through that summer invited him back to a reunion, Bryant publicly damned himself for a fool and said he'd felt bad about what he'd done since.

The players, of course, forgave him. Players always do. It's why abusive treatment of players has perpetuated itself over the years, to the extent that old-schoolers weirdly romanticize it. Yeah, I remember when Coach ripped off my helmet and punched me in the throat, then made me run gassers until I puked and passed out. It was 95 degrees that day, if I recall. And we didn't get no water back then, not like these pantywaists now. Those were the days, boy.

Those were the days. But as Indiana demonstrated yesterday, those days are done -- or at least a lot more done than they used to be.

Thank God for it.

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