Harris: Cowardly coaches all too common
By John Harris
Published: Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2011,
Do as I say, not as I do.
Run until you puke, then run some more. Sacrifice your body and time for the team and the old alma mater.
Then watch in open-mouth amazement when your coach hightails it out of town for more money and prestige at another school without so much as a thank you, much less an explanation.
Yes, you, Todd Graham. And you, Randy Edsall. Not to mention Bobby Petrino, Nick Saban and Butch Davis — two-faced coaches, all of them.
Graham bolting Pitt the way he did last week for Arizona State was cowardly and despicable. Unfortunately, it's commonplace in a profession that demands loyalty from players — while doing the complete opposite when it pertains to them.
A year ago, Edsall gathered Connecticut's players in the locker room following their Fiesta Bowl loss to Oklahoma. After asking his captains to speak to the team, according to the Hartford Courant, Edsall ordered running back Jordan Todman to inform his teammates he was leaving early for the NFL because it was the manly thing to do. Of course, Edsall did the cowardly thing when he later took the Maryland job without informing his players — then tried to arrange a conference call to tell them after the fact.
Petrino didn't tell the Atlanta Falcons he was leaving to coach at Arkansas -- he just packed up his things and left.
Saban didn't tell the Miami Dolphins he was leaving to coach at Alabama -- this after berating reporters for questioning that he would even consider leaving the NFL for a college job.
Davis was much worse. He ditched the University of Miami in favor of the Cleveland Browns a day after promising a recruit he was staying put.
College coaches commonly offer the same hypocritical explanation when they leave unannounced for a new job — that they're doing it for their family. Well, what about the family they leave behind — the student-athletes who buy into their coach's rhetoric about family and sacrifice for the good of the program?
What about Pitt running back Ray Graham, who trained like never before in the offseason under orders from Todd Graham, but now finds his football career in jeopardy after wrecking his knee against Connecticut while facing the prospect of impressing a new coach who may not have the patience to wait while he rehabilitates his injury?
What about defensive back Ray Vinopal, who transferred to Pitt after playing one season at Michigan• Vinopal sat out this season after following assistant coach Tony Gibson to Pitt. What becomes of Vinopal with Graham leaving for Arizona State last week and Gibson accepting a job with Rich Rodriguez at Arizona two weeks earlier• Does Vinopal, who grew up in Youngstown, Ohio, stick it out at Pitt — and will the new coach want him• Or does he attempt to follow Gibson across the country to Arizona?
"Football players should be able to transfer one time without penalty," said Ramogi Huma, president of the National College Players Association, which advocates rule changes for college athletes.
Huma said football and basketball players deserve the same courtesy extended to athletes in nonrevenue producing sports such as soccer, volleyball, softball, swimming and gymnastics, and be permitted to transfer once without having to sit out a year.
Brian Walsh signed with Xavier following a standout basketball career at Moon. When Coach Sean Miller left Xavier for Arizona, Walsh tried to stick it out before transferring to Akron.
"When I signed with Xavier, Coach Miller signed a (long-term) extension. He came to the house and he said, 'I'll be here for all four of Brian's years,' " said Walsh, a sophomore. "He got offered a great opportunity at Arizona, which bettered his family, so I can't be too upset about that. What I learned is, college basketball is more than a game, it's a business. If I could do it all over again, I might change where I went."
Overlooked in selecting a college is not only the athlete's choice of schools, but his relationship and comfort level with his coach. Walsh said he didn't have the same relationship with Xavier's new coach, Chris Mack, that he did with Miller, or that he now has with Akron coach Keith Dambrot.
"It was a weird feeling when Coach Miller left," Walsh said. "He took all the recruiters with him. Coach Mack stayed, but he wasn't really my recruiter, so I didn't have that good of a relationship.
"I'm just happy that I'm at Akron. I love Coach (Dambrot), and we have a really good relationship. That's what was missing when I left Xavier. It's humbled me a lot. It's also driven me. It makes me want to work harder, because I felt like I got snubbed by my old school."
Pitt's football players can certainly relate.
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