It's not easy being a college football or basketball coach. And the biggest challenges aren't winning games. The biggest challenges come in dealing with the well-publicized minority who just won't do the right things off the field.
Senior Editor Phillip Marshall
In those two sports more than any others, many of the players come from poor backgrounds and from neighborhoods where the most revered person on the street is the local drug dealer. One coach told me part of the reason for that is a lot of guys who come from more affluent backgrounds aren't willing to pay the price one has to pay to play college football. They don't have to. Maybe there is something to that. I don't know.
I do know I could tell you dozens and dozens of wonderful stories about young men who have overcome those things and become, not only great players, but great citizens and great students. Sadly, it is the other stories that make headlines.
The latest is running back Isaiah Crowell, dismissed from the Georgia football team after being charged with two felonies. Police said his car, which was also carrying four teammates, smelled of marijuana. They found a 9-milimeter pistol under the seat with the serial number filed off.
And thus ended the Georgia career of a young man who had the ability to be an all-time great.
You shake your head and wonder. How can it be so important to carry a gun, to smoke weed, to act like a gangster, when you have an opportunity to change your life and the lives of people in your family for generations to come?
The natural response of most coaches - be it Mark Richt, Gene Chizik or Nick Saban - is to try to help those who stray. There comes a time when that becomes impossible, when the only option is cut ties. Richt reached that point Friday.
This is not about Georgia or really even about Crowell. He's just the latest. And there'll be others
Crowell is so talented that, once he has dealt with the charges facing him, some other school will take a chance on him. It won't be an SEC school, but it will be a place where he will have an opportunity to show he has learned from his mistakes and an opportunity to be seen by NFL scouts.
Will he take advantage of it? Some in his position have. Some haven't. To be one of the ones who comes through, he'll have to change. Maybe he will. We should all hope and pray that he does.
No one should take any delight in what this young man has brought upon himself. Auburn, as we have seen over the past year, is certainly not immune. No one is. We've seen it at school after school after school.
Coaches can preach. They can threaten. They can make players run until they can't run anymore. They can suspend them. They can do all those things. But in the end, it's up to the young men to do what is right and take advantage of their opportunities.
When they don't, they lose, their families lose, their schools lose and college athletics loses.