Sunday, June 22, 2008

So That Happened...

Well, what can you say? The Times story has broken, and it's not pretty. Top-fold, front-page Seattle Times story about the struggles of your football program isn't a good Sunday. Granted we're at a point in time today that newspapers are in big trouble, and bad news sells papers (if it bleeds, it leads, etc). And I don't care what anyone says, this story is to help placate some cranky UW'ers when their program was dragged through the mud for the scathing '00 Rose Bowl champions run afoul of the law.

But I have to admit it.....I thought this would be worse. Yes, like all of you, I'm disappointed by what appears to be a program with kids making far too many mistakes in the Bill Doba era. Yes, Doba himself admits that they really blew it after the Holiday Bowl, getting "too big for our britches" or something along those lines. And Bill Doba looked the other way, ran too loose of a ship, etc. But was much of any of this stuff actually new "news"?

Now, obviously DUI's are no laughing matter. Drive hammered, get nailed. DUI's are big mistakes that kill a lot of people every year, and the penalties for such things should be severe, no matter the individual or the circumstances. And I was surprised about Mattingly drilling another kid with a frying pan (WTF?). That was a little weird. Then again, one of his friends had his teeth knocked out. Not to totally defend the action, but Mattingly was doing what a lot of kids that age do, which was to seek retribution for his friend. Stupid? Yes. Does it happen? All the time.

But all that said, was there anything that blew you away? Maybe all the bad news this offseason has made us numb to everything? No cover-ups by Whitman county prosecutors. No grades being changed by crooked administrators or coaches. No murder, rape, or weapons possessions. No plasma TV's, $50,000 loans, illegal gifts to players, illegal recruiting practices or anything else that happens at a lot of other schools.

That said, the article is, overall, an embarrassment. It's something that the coaches are going to have to address on the recruiting trail when Mom and Pops ask what was that all about. Wulff has said it since day one, that there is a real culture change needed on a variety of levels. He wasn't kidding was he??

The thing I didn't like most of all was what Courtney Williams had to say:
"WSU is a hard school to go to, man," Williams says. "You ain't got nothin' to do but get drunk and smoke weed, and not go to class because you're too tired from doing what you're doing."

And Leon Burtnett basically laid it out that we are the little brother in-state, never once in his time at WSU getting a player over UW. We have the built-in disadvantages, we have the small market, small stadium, blah blah blah. But again, nothing that we haven't heard before, right?

But yet, you have to consider the individual as well. Aren't people, even young men, at least accountable for their actions? Do angels come to WSU and suddenly transform into drunken, weed-smoking thugs looking to fight? Of course not. Is there something to the idea that there can be some slow times in Pullman, especially if you are from an inner-city situation and used to the bright lights? Absolutely. As the old saying goes, "idle hands do the devil's work". In other words, boys with little supervision and extra time on their hands can be a less-than-ideal situation! But the individual needs to figure that out and do the right thing, and the majority of them have figured out how to do just that.

But on that theme, Hooty weighed in on what was coming, and it is a perspective of reality:

'Thankfully Andy Roof "only" broke that guy's face. We can still fall back on the "at least our football players haven't killed anyone" argument.

Rubbing alcohol mixed into contact solution? Is that really much worse than peeing in someone's half-filled pitcher under the table at the Coug? We're probably ALL guilty of that, right? Are you with me? Guys? Jen?

Fights on Greek Row are certainly no cause for alarm. I'd probably worry if there WEREN'T a scrape or two every now and then. I myself was once sucker-punched by Calvin Griggs. It's part of life on a college campus.

Here's the thing...

Every position in football (with a couple obvious exceptions) REQUIRES that in addition to physical skill, players have the ability to turn to a source of rage to get them through the battles of the game. Chris Spielman used to line up and look across the line, imagining the guys on the other side raping his wife and hurting his family. He said at times he'd have tears in his eyes when the ball was snapped. Is that healthy? No, but it's what allowed him to play with rage.

One could make the argument without making too much of a stretch, that it's unreasonable to expect an individual to completely harness that rage and limit it to the football field. It's not a far cry from training a soldier to kill; send him off to war to do what he was trained to do; and then have him come home and immediately blend right back into life as we know it. It doesn't make sense.

Before anyone throws a college-aged football player under the bus and passes judgment on him, they should first try and understand what it takes to actually play the game of football at this level; and then think back to when they were in college and all the stupid shit they did and got away with, because they weren't subject to the scrutiny of the media.

What did the Times accomplish with their series on UW? Nothing. Water under the bridge as far as I'm concerned. It all happened at a different time, under different leadership. As far as the program was concerned, they had moved on. The only thing shocking about that story was the preferrential treatment some of those guys received from the judicial system. THAT'S your real story.

Just like UW, we too have moved on, so take your best shot while you have the chance. "

Finally, it's not all bad. It only seems that way from the article. It was very lightly touched on, but for example, the team currently has a GPA of 2.72, highest in 30 years. Alex Brink was a model student and claims that the support systems are in place, but in the end the individual needs to be accountable for their own actions. They already cut ties to a kid that was looking like a potential problem in Calvin Schmidtke. And coach Wulff has already created a new approach, implementing something called the "Unity Council", consisting of 16 players that will sit in judgment against players who make mistakes. They will recommend punishment from missing classes and meetings to more serious criminal charges.

More than anything else, Wulff has a personal stake in all this. Not only is he the head coach at a place he's always wanted to be, but as a former player and student, this is HIS school, HIS team. I think Jim Sterk said it best in his e-mail:

"Although the attitude and behavior of our football student-athletes is not in a crisis situation, there is room for improvement," WSU athletic director Jim Sterk said in an e-mail last week to boosters to brace them for today's story. "While there are no quick fixes, the program is heading in the right direction."
We should certainly acknowledge the mistakes, and not downplay them. They happened. But the focus should be on what happens today and tomorrow. At least now the stuff is out in the open and the coaches and administrators can talk about the things that are going right. But this is hardly a program that is out of control. And for that matter, don't fully dwell on what went wrong yesterday. Today is all you can control anyway.


Conquest Chronicles said...

Excellent take!

All this living in the past is nothing but a cleansing of the soul (and a way to sell papers).

We obviously have our own issues but surprisingly the local press in L.A. really doesn't want to address it until after the horse has left the barn.

Great writing! We keep an eye out for your stuff.

Good luck!

Woody said...

I too am in agreement. The story today was embarrassing, but not as bad as I had feared.
When I read the UW peice It literally made me digusted and sick to my stomach. The article today just made me embarassed.

I am a little concerned about Mattingly, Graise and Hicks. I would hope that they are on a short leash. I think and beleive that Roof should be gone. Criminal charges not withstanding. The young man got a second shot at school and football and chose to put himself into a situation not only to get in a fight, but a relpase for his drinking problem. He took his second shot for granted. I will be disappointed if he wears the Crimson and Gray again (just my opinion).

I am sure Cougs are going to take a few lumps from our UW brethren this week. If they were smart they would not even bring it up. I am not going to get into the differences between evils. College fights vs. wife beating. Shooting a drug dealer vs. DUI, etc.

Two points that I took from the article.
1. The shocking number of arrests (25) in the last year or so. That number and stat has to somewhat be taken with a grain of salt, and here is why.
WSU has always had that reputation as a party school and students out of control for one main reason, location. Is it because they drink more in Pullman? No. It is simply because when a 19-21 year old gets pulled over, arrested, questioned by the polce in Pullman, 99% of the time they are a student and are instantly id'd by the Police as a student and subsequently reported to Student Affairs at WSU. (I worked at Student Affairs when at WSU. I saw the reports come in every morning) So, they become a stat for/against the school if you will. (WSU student gets in trouble)

However, if a 19-21 year old gets arrested or in trouble in Wallingford, Green Lake, Lake City they are not instantly assumed to be a UW student. Their crime is lost in the big city and as a stat against the school. So, the number and percentage of alcohol and police related stats at a shool like WSU will always be higher because it is simply easier to calculate it.

2. Last point before I bounce. The second thing I noticed in that article is the unintended consequence of the new Academic Calculation system. A team is more likely to carry a few of thier "bad apples" because they get dinged with schollie loss if they let them go. If you are a coach and have a questionable character that you would rather see in the rear view mirror what is your incentive to do the right thing and kick them off? Scholarship loss for the program? What a crock. Leave it to the NCAA to create a rule that would actually encourage coaches to try and carry kids with bad behavior.

as always, GO COUGS!


Sedihawk said...

Conquest, thanks. It truly could have been worse and I admit I was bracing for something much more scandal-laden. I've seen your stuff at SB Nation and it's great. Thanks again.

And Woody, as usual, outstanding. You offer a great perspective on the idea of 19-21 year olds in Pullman and what that is usually all about. In other words, 99% of the time in that age bracket they are students. And man, you hit the nail on the head. Maybe the biggest reason the book is still open on kids like Hicks and Roof is because of the potential hit the program will take if, by chance, they get booted for discipline? Wulff has already paid a price for "crimes he didn't commit", and more will come. But to almost be forced to give the bad apples more chances in fear of losing a scholie is sad and certainly not what the NCAA had in mind with the whole APR?

Anyway, I hope that the past transgressions plus the new regime makes these kids think twice about the consequences before they act, know what I mean? Just the threat of losing everything will hopefully get 'em to straighten up and fly right. If after all this, including the new level of accountability that is now in place, the kids still screw up? Then they should be booted, and rightly so.

longball said...

Sounds to me like the program is getting a much needed flushing of the colon. Arkelon Hall and Courtney Williams, two words for you guys - Good Riddence! That quote from CW just sums it all up beautifully. I think these articles are very important and I wish they were occuring accross the country because we could all use a huge reality check on the true nature of these programs. The fact is as a fan of college sports i cannot defend the presence of most athletes (in the revenue sports) on a college campus. After growing up in a college town and knowing many people on or associated with college football I can say without hesitation that if i ever sent a daughter to college and she told me she made some friends on the football team, she would be transferring imediately. Without serious scrutiny, and these articles are a start, this culture is never going to change. Some of my highest hopes for Paul Wulf arent about W's and L's, but about putting together teams we can be proud of on and off the field. HE's off to a promising start and I think the attention brought by this article will only serve to keep the staff focused on the task at hand.

And Mattingly and Mooney, good grief boys, when your friend gets punched in the face I understand the need to have his back, but at the end of the day he's a big boy and he's probably going to be ok. Kicking in people's doors and assaulting them with frying pans is the kinda shit that should be reserved for someone who sucker punched your mom or shot your dog.

longball said...

Woody - another reason many of the UW ofenses seem to get lost in the ether of Seattle is that the police and DA office seemed to be complicit atthe least in asusring they never saw the light of day. The pullman police and WSU student athletes have never seemed to have that kind of relationship.

Mox said...

A big hulla-ballo about nada if you ask this old vet. If they only knew what used to go on back in the day it would take weeks of front page stories. This is tame fellas.

But I blame Doba. How much bull-s*it happened under St. Mike? There were scrapes with the law here and there but overall that was a tight ship. And that speaks to the integrity of Price as well as the no doubt about it approach of who is in charge. It all stopped at Mike's desk. Under Doba? Doba was sleeping UNDER the desk, hoping everything would somehow work out. But what does he care. He has his million+ in severance and can enjoy his retirement back in the midwest while quipping to the media that gosh durn it, we'all were too big for our britches. Doba - The gift that keeps giving.

Michelle said...

For me, I blame Doba as well...but mostly because he didn't quit coaching after his wife passed away, I think he just stopped giving his all after that part of his life went away...just a thought.

Sedihawk said...

That's a great point Michelle. There's a lot of disappointment/anger towards him right now, but on the flip side he did endure just about the worst thing you can go through. At his age and given the situation, it would have been understandable if he would have hung it up then. No question he lost a big part of who he was when he lost her. Combine that with everything else and it was too much to overcome.

I think in the end Doba was simply the right choice immediately following the Price departure, and 2003 is a great example of that. But every year since then, it became more and more apparent that he just wasn't a long-term solution. People were up in arms about what was going on in the win/loss column, but now that all this dirty laundry has aired, you can see why parting ways was such a slam-dunk. This program needs a coach who has the energy and desire to be the top cat, a coach on the way up. I believe we have that now, don't you?

Woody said...

Things are seeming to become more clear in the last 24 hours.

For example, why only one coach was carried over from the old staff?
Sunday's article I think answers that question.

Also, while most found the Calvin Schmitdke scholarship yank as a reasonable reaction given all of the infractions etc.

Coach Wulff and AD Sterk obviously knew this story was coming down the pipe. I am sure it made that decision a little easier to make. They I am sure knew that they really wouldn't have the Public Affairs capital to take on anymore reclamation projects.

I also want to say that I am not particularly mad at the Times for publishing the story. Afterall, they did not commit any of the infractions; knucklehead college kids did. The slant and agenda of the story was obvious to be negative and cast a dark cloud over the WSU Football program, but we do not have much legging to stand on to bitch about it.
They could have spent a little more time on the positive changes. As I remember about 25% of the UW story was about change and positive coverage. It would have been nice to see 25% of yesterday's story the same.
I am amused however by the state of Journalism today that pressure from readership so blatantly dictates news coverage, or let's just call it what it was, editorial.
This story wreaked and was so transparently a "make up" call story to appease 2/3 of the Times Sports readers who were pissed when the UW Football story was published.
I am not saying that the story should not have been published, but it reminds you that there is always an agenda when you pick up the paper.

Go Cougs!


ptowncoug said...

Again, the events go to show that Doba really had no interest in being the main guy and wasn't HC material. Remember me recalling the issues with the Auburn game benching of the hot hand and burying your starter because his WRs couldn't hold on to the ball in the Colorado game in Seattle.
The thing I don't understand is why I continue to be amazed by things that Doba failed at. Maybe because he was so likable.
A last item. He was going to take a pot shot at Longball having a daughter, but I will just tell to him in person.

Hooty McBoob said...

The bottom line on this article is that there was no "news" in it. I can't imagine that this has done or will do one bit of harm to the program as it sits today.

While we obviously have had a few guys running afoul of the the law, most of the misgivings can be simply chalked up to boys being boys.

We're all confident in the fact that Wulff is getting the situation under control by holding his players to much higher standards of behavior than was done in the past few years.

Frankly, I'm of the belief that this entire issue should be put to bed. It really doesn't warrant any more attention than it's already been given.

Sedihawk said...

It is a story and this stuff happened. It is boys being boys, but you don't see a lot of other schools with 25 arrests in 18 months. The APR loss of scholarships was bad enough, now this?

What this is clearly becoming is a poor reflection on the prior staff. The real story now is what is next.

KJR has Jason Puckett, a Coug, on the radio for the next two hours talking about the whole thing. He relayed a conversation he had with Wulff shortly after Wulff got the job. He asked him what he thought of the state of the program. Wulff's response? "STUNNED at how things have been run here." He wouldn't totally throw Dobes and company under the bus. But he said flat-out, I am STUNNED at the prior staff. What does that tell you?

Puckett also pointed out an important thing and that is the recruiting. Everything changed after the '03 holiday bowl and Doba and staff decided to try and hit home runs, completely overlooking what Price used to do which was take the overlooked kids and create players with a chip on their shoulder. Instead, Doba swung at fastballs out of the strike zone, obviously struck out, and then fell back on kids that they had no idea what they were in for.

Just imagine the reaction today if Doba would have talked his way into another year, which is what he asked for! Even knowing all this, Doba still had the gall to ask to keep going because he wanted to get paid. Ugh.

I hope everyone understands what we could be in for over the next several seasons. As excited as we all are about having Wulff in place, this could be a long, slow climb that seems more and more daunting by the day. Look at the damage Neuheisel and Gilbertson did to the UW, and look at how much work it has been for them to dig out of that mess. All their resources, all their history, all their tradition, and Ty Willingham is 11-25 at UW. I hope you all know this won't be easy.

Sedihawk said...

Wulff will be on KJR with Ian Furness at 3:35. It should be interesting. If you are out of the area and you can stream it.

mox said...

I still do not know how to feel. I am an alumnus in the Portland area and I am disgusted by what was happening with my cougars. Sure you would see a blip here and there about a DUI or arrest and so on. But my knees buckled when I read how many of this happened in just the last seasons. It is a total lack of control by Doba and it is pathetic in every way. Is he an idiot? Did he play Don James and put on blinders to the world crumbling around him? did he know coaches were looking for new jobs when they weren't squabbling with each other or heading out to the lake or golfing instead of recruiting? It is amazing Doba went 500. And pathetic that the admins spun it as a mutual parting. Sterk and the prez should be embarrassed that they said so many good things about the job Bill did. Did they really think all this would't eventually come out?

Al Powell said...

I'm really disappointed in Doba. the extent of the mess tht he left is just becoming apparent, and it's clear that it was really a major mess. Y'know, at most universities, Wulff would be doomed because he'd only get two or three years to fix it...not long enough in this situation...but given that Wazzu is patient with even moderate success and the fact that he's a Coug, I think the school will wait him out long enough to give him a really fair shot. We'll all have to be patient and look for small good things in 2008. I'm HOPING for a bowl trip in 2009, but it will take luck and fast development by some recruits.