JUST AFTER NEWS that Bobby Petrino was involved in a motorcycle mishap, lied to the media about it, withheld information from his bosses, was found to have at least one mistress and eventually was fired as the Arkansas head football coach, Steve Spurrier opined on the situation.
It did not used to be this way in college coaching, Spurrier said.
Although not his intention, Spurrier provided a rather succinct and worldly look at the dramatic and altering landscape of coaching at all levels over the past decade or so.
In fact, coaching generally is not what it used to be in just about every sport and at just about every level. For the sake of argument, though, lets narrow the focus of discussion to coaching in major-college football and in all of professional sports.
There are no numbers to confirm this, but you have to believe there were fewer scandals involving coaches as late as the 1970s and 1980s. Most of the scandal then dealt primarily with violations of NCAA rules. If Bear Bryant was cheating anywhere other than in recruiting, it certainly was not reported.
Those were likely the last days of an era in which college football coaches were viewed as role models for athletes. Going back further, it is easy to romanticize about the days when Knute Rockne and Bud Wilkinson served as father figures to their players. They were leaders, bent on developing young men as much as winning football games.
Coaches really are not coaches anymore, at least not at the major-college football level and at least not in the way we used to think of coaches. As salaries for coaches have skyrocketed, and university presidents and athletics directors have ceded power to men wearing whistles around their necks, the profession has changed drastically.
Anyone who believes college athletics is about sports and the games that are played has not been paying attention. Every major college now operates a multi-million dollar business called intercollegiate athletics. Athletics directors are the CEOs of these businesses, and head football coaches mens basketball coaches at some schools are the chief fund-raisers.
Because winning games directly correlates to increased revenues for the business, it has taken the highest priority at most institutions.
If an athletics department can hook on with a top fund-raiser (coach) who can win games and championships, then that person is paid handsomely. In most cases today, the chief fund-raiser (coach) is paid many times more annually than the president of the school and its athletics director.
With that high salary, which now reaches into the multi-millions, comes power. Few schools have presidents and athletics directors who yield more power than their top fund-raiser (coach).
There is a long-held simple formula about how it works in the business world: Money plus power equals corruption. All one has to do is look at Wall Street or our nations banking industry to see that the formula has merit. Since college football has morphed into what essentially is the business of professional sports, it is easy to see how that equation applies to the coaching ranks as well.
Scandals long have wracked the professional sports ranks, where coaches are paid to win football games and no mention is made of teaching young men the values of life. So it is seldom a surprise anymore when we hear that New Orleans Saints coaches ordered bounties on opposing players, or that Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen overstepped his bounds by flapping his mouth about Fidel Castro.
We still are at the alarm stage at the college level. It stuns us to learn that Penn States Joe Paterno was allowed to turn his head to alleged sex crimes committed by one of his assistant coaches. No one at Penn State was powerful enough to stand up to the legendary football coach and the alleged actions of the assistant coach continued.
Nor was there any outrage when The Sporting News recently reported that Urban Meyer gave star players preferential treatment and overlooked failed drug tests while he was coach at Florida. Meyers flippant defense was that no rules were broken.
That response is typical for college football coaches today. They master the art of working around rules, making certain not to be in violation of NCAA standards while dismissing any ethical or moral responsibility.
So, instead of having coaches who act as leaders of young men, their actions promote the belief that every rule can be worked around, every action can be covered up, every situation can be glossed over or dealt with so the athlete can remain eligible to compete ... nothing to get in the way of winning.
While it is wrong to paint a broad stroke of guilt across all the coaching ranks, it seems increasingly apparent that coaches set the tone with their boorish actions. More often than not, when caught in some indiscretion, they get slapped on the hand, only to shake that off and go on to win more games and make more money for themselves and their athletics departments.
I would like to believe that athletics directors and university presidents are finally standing up to their coaches. North Carolina did so by recently firing football coach Butch Davis. Arkansas faced much heat from an adoring fan base in support of Petrino before dismissing him.
Both of those schools made bold statements by supporting the idea that winning football games and generating revenue for the athletics department is not as important as restoring the reputation of the academic institution.
We can only hope those firings signal another change in the college football coaching business, one in which coaches are held accountable for their actions.
Watch commentaries by Morris Mondays at 6 and 11 p.m. on ABC Columbia News (WOLO-TV)