Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Time to regroup

The fallout from the Chris McCray fiasco continues as his mother, Shirleeta, was quoted in the Washington Post as saying:

"They make sure he goes to practice; they should have made sure his grades and things were straight for him to be eligible," she said. "I'm not only going to fault Chris; I'm going to fault everyone up there. I knew when [former assistant] Dave Dickerson was there, if anything like this would have happened, they would have called me and let me know."
Certainly self serving comments from a mother who is trying to protect her child. Sources inside the basketball program claimed that McCray's mother was aware of his academic situation. Clearly McCray had been teetering on the brink of ineligibility for a number of semesters and his GPA must have been just at 2.0 for a few bad grades in the fall to drag him below the eligible level.

When asked about her son's current status with the team she said, "No, he is not going to practice. He doesn't need them. They did all they could do for him. I hate to sound like this.". Maryland stated that they will honor his scholarship for the spring semester regardless of his suspension.

I'm not going to get into this too much but I would like to point out that instead of her son breaking the news to her that he was ineligible a reporter had to deliver the final decision. I'm not sure that is characteristic of a someone who is involved in the college career of their child. If you put the education of your child completely in the hands of a stranger you shouldn't be surprised if things don't go the way you hoped they would.

We all know the graduation rates under Gary Williams are not stellar and I think we all wish that the program put a greater emphasis on the scholastic aspects of the program. Having said that this is the first player in 28 years that Gary Williams has ever had become ineligible during the season. Consider that when apportioning blame in this disaster. Maryland spends well over a million dollars a year on academic support for the basketball and football teams. These kids have a better safety net than the average corporate executive, who should take the blame if they don't take advantage of it.

Gary Williams took the blame for McCray's suspension today in a press conference but also had this to say, "You don't expect it from a senior. Having been here for 3 1/2 years, you know how the system works. But at the same time, it can happen, I look at this as a one-time situation. We have a lot of things in place that help our student-athletes ... but we also have to have people that are willing to do their part, too. This is a two-way street.". Williams also lamented that it is a fine line between lending a helping hand to a player and becoming their enabler. A player who has been coddled and indulged at every turn is in for an unpleasant shock when their eligibility runs out and all the perks and privileges vanish. Suddenly they're forced to act like everyone else in the real world. If no one has the courage to treat a 21 year old as an adult then he'll never become a man. There will always be kids who make bad decisions, that is usually part of the learning process, but setting your expectations to the lowest denominator is akin to setting yourself up to fail.

Dispatches from the bizarre world of recruiting

It makes you wonder, perhaps with fear and dread, where things can go from here. High school kids go on national tv at the Army all star football game and play some ridiculous game of three card Monty with the hats of their chosen few. They pick up a hat and then drop it, then again another, before finally putting the hat (program) of their choice proudly atop their heads. Family and entourage jump and yelp for joy in the background as everyone watching feels slightly nauseous at the spectacle. Another example in sports of the confusion of showmanship with the degrading of oneself. What is a little dignity when you can get on television for three minutes? It all has the sickening quality of a modern day minstrel show where self mortification doubles as entertainment and cultural undercurrent.

Maryland fans got their own taste of this circus yesterday as football recruit Antonio Logan-El went down to the ESPN Zone in Baltimore to announce on the network of the same name where he was going to play football. Wearing a suit and bright red tie Logan-El went through the same tactless procedure of picking out various hats and dropping them. After going through the process with Florida and Tennessee hats he picked out a Maryland hat. Much to the joy of the assembled Maryland fans he complimented the program. He then took out a Penn State hat and talked in glowing terms about his feelings for the Nittany Lions. After this he took out a photo and said it expressed his choice. The photo was of Logan-El towering over a frail and small old man. It was Joe Paterno, the misogynistic and boorish coach of Penn State.

This shocked a fair number of Maryland fans in attendance and one was unable to maintain his composure. He shouted out "Traitor!" to which the mother of Logan-El responded "Hater!". It was an unpleasant scene. There were a mixture of boos and cheers from the partisan crowd. Gloria Friedgen, the wife of head coach Ralph Friedgen, was in attendance and quickly left the restaurant after the announcement. It appeared that she had no idea that Logan-El would pull this kind of stunt and why would Fridge let his wife go there if he knew this kid would commit to Penn State? It was a scene that won't be soon forgotten by those around the Maryland program or among fans. In fact I think this episode has produced some rifts that won't be mended for a long time to come. The way this announcement was done smacks of maliciousness and cruelty coming from a petty vendetta that is still being played out using high school kids as pawns.

Let's examine the details. Logan-El showed up with a bright red tie on, invited the Maryland staff to attend the announcement (even though they are prevented from going due to NCAA rules), praised the Maryland program and then with a satisfied smirk on his face announced he would be going to the "University of Penn State". The correct name of the school is Penn State University, but the significance is that uber dunce Derrick Williams made the same embarrassing gaff on his made-for-tv announcement last year. Think that is just a coincidence? It was widely reported by players who had taken visits to Penn State that Williams was engaging in negative recruiting against Maryland's football program, not just trying to sell them on Penn State. To be blunt this stunt has the fingerprints of the petty feud fueled by Williams and his father all over it. You may recall his father was laid off of his job at the University of Maryland after being given a number of chances at multiple positions.

Logan-El talked about his "values" and that Penn State was the best fit for him. I wonder what kind of "values" a person has when they humiliate the wife of a college football coach. I suppose chivalry isn't among them. Don't be fooled my friends, this was an "up yours" to the Maryland football program and its supporters. It wasn't enough that Logan-El gave his word to Maryland last year and said he would play for the Terrapins, apparently keeping his word isn't among those "values" he was talking about, he had to change his mind in a way that would embarrass and anger Maryland. To act in such an ill-mannered and unbecoming way certainly reflects badly on this kid. He's burned a number of bridges with his shenanigans yesterday.

Logan-El wasn't the only Maryland high school player to commit to Penn State yesterday as DT Philip Taylor also gave a verbal commitment. As my brother said Paterno feels the icy hands of death on his neck and is desperate to go out in glory. Paterno has become a living anachronism. In recent years he has become less of a pleasant "throwback" and more of a bitter and nasty old man who is stuck in a more narrow minded and intolerant era. Some of his recent comments should make even most conservative listeners cringe. College football, especially recruiting, is declining on a steady path of oblivion and one of the former legends of the game is going along for the ride.


Paul said...

Good post. It happens for a kid to change his mind, but to announce it in such a way shows you his character and the character of whomever is in charge at Penn State. Some class program you got there JoePa. I don't even think he's really in charge there anymore anyway.

irwin robinson said...

It should be pointed out that in spite of his ability; considerng his actions Maryland is better off without him. Still a disappointment.