Monday, October 26, 2009

of coaching, officiating and class

By now, you've heard everything you need to know about Lane Kiffin and his postgame commentary; he complained about the penalties assessed against his team, the ones that weren't assessed against his opponent and even his headsets (which went out for whatever bizarre reason at kickoff and came back after the first season).
Most of the commentary has honed in on his failure to understand the rulebook, which isn't a huge surprise as RBR notes in its explanation of the rule he failed to grasp: Kiffin generally carries himself like an entitled teenager. "Oops ... sorry ... didn't know I couldn't do that."

But there's a larger issue here, and it's one I haven't seen addressed on any blog hither or yon. Once upon a time, coaches didn't discuss officiating after the game, and it wasn't because they were afraid of being fined/reprimanded/suspended by the SEC.
Coaches didn't criticize the officials after games because they were better than that. And they wanted their kids to be better than that, also.

It's one thing for fans to complain about officials — we do it all the time (hell, I do it in this blog on an almost weekly basis). It's another thing for journalists & bloggers to complain about it; it wouldn't be an objective analysis of the game without noting key calls that might have had an effect on a game.
But coaches are supposed to be leaders, first and foremost. They're supposed to be the people who set the example for their programs (and, to a certain extent, their fan bases). Most of the people in coaching got into it primarily because they wanted to help affect the lives of kids, teach them football, yes, but mostly teach them about life, how to bounce back from adversity, deal with loss, that kind of thing.
Here's what we learned about loss from Lane Kiffin: if you lose, it must be somebody else's fault.

I don't mean to just indict Kiffin — he and Dan Mullen are only the most recent coaches to pipe up. And yes, Mullen had a case, just as Bobby Petrino did last week. It's beside the point. Everybody has a gripe with the officials every week. It's part of life. Once upon a time, coaches understood this.
In 1995, Alabama fought its guts out on the road against Auburn in a hotly contested football game. The Tide had the ball and a chance to win on the final possession, when Freddie Kitchens threw one of the best passes of his entire life, and Curtis Brown caught the football running through the back of the end zone for what appeared to be the game-winning touchdown.
No dice. The back judge ruled Brown out of bounds, an incompletion. Kitchens missed Chad Key on fourth down. Auburn won the game.
No, there wasn't instant replay at the time. Yes, a great number of 'Bama fans still walk around feeling like they got shafted by the refs that day.
But you know who never said a word? Gene Stallings. He never let out a peep after that game about officiating, about that call or any other. Instead, Stallings said Auburn had played a great game, that it deserved to win. At no point did he even that officiating might have cost him anything.
And that's because they didn't. Good teams don't let officials decide games for them. Winning teams go out and make things happen and win the damn game in front of them.

Can you imagine any of the great coaches in football history delivering lines like these? Bryant? Jordan? Pat Dye? Johnny Majors? Anybody? I can't help but wonder where the class went in our coaching ranks.
It could be money. Or possibly all the media outlets: coaches do a lot of media appearances now that they never used to. Or it could just be the Spurrier influence — he's the first one I remember pulling this garbage after a game.
I wish it would go away, though.

1 comment:

Ell said...

Nice post - as always