A few weeks ago I was watching a Dallas Cowboys football game. It was halftime. The Cowboys were playing a half-hearted game and Deion Sanders was one of the commentators. He seemed agitated at his former team and lectured the Cowboys on attitude.
Put simply, he challenged them to do their job. They’re professionals and are being paid handsomely for what they’re doing. Then he suggested they show some dignity and self-respect. Their families were watching.
As I reflect on Baylor University assistant coaches and support staff, I find myself thinking the same. After a joint tweet about how unhappy they are with head football coach Art Briles’ firing in May and how unjustified allegations against him are — and on the eve of Baylor’s stunning 62-22 loss to TCU — they need a reminder that they’re supposed to be professionals who expect to be paid for their work. If they’re giving only a half-hearted effort, they ought to refund half their salaries to Baylor.
Exception to this scenario: interim head coach Jim Grobe. He, too, seemed concerned about the assistant coaches’ lack of focus. Here’s a man who came out of retirement, walked into a bear pit and seeks to forge order from chaos. We should applaud his courage and resolve.
Leadership is when a person puts forth a vision, especially when matters grow difficult. As the saying goes, “When things get tough, the tough get going.” Coach Grobe has been living those words lately.
And the Baylor players? Some did cut and run to other schools after Briles’ firing last spring. But many stayed and wanted to play. Regardless of the circumstances, they know they have a good team and want to be a part of it. Unfortunately, these student-athletes seem caught in the middle of the assistant coaches’ preoccupations with the past, highlighted by their Nov. 4 tweet defending Briles of what regents claim was inaction in response to allegations involving a gang rape on his watch some years ago.
Coaching involves vision, courage and leadership. And this team needs coaches. The players need direction. They need mentoring. When coaches coach, they provide these things.
So I say, along with Deion Sanders: Come on, guys. Show some self-respect. Show some integrity. You are professionals who expect to be paid, so earn your pay. Invest in these players and let other factions fight about the past. Anything else from you is a distraction.
Frankly, the attitude of some coaches seems to be just to get to the end of the season, then flee. So I offer to the coaches several questions for reflection:
What will you put on your résumé? Will you admit that when things got tough, you tucked tail, whined and ran away?
If you wrote your own letter of recommendation, what would it say? Would it lie or tell the truth about how you handled turmoil?
A year from now, what will you tell your family? “Daddy had a really difficult job last year, so he quit and moved away?” Is that your legacy for those who love you?
Michelle Obama famously said, “When they go low, you go high.” If anyone believes Baylor regents went low with their decisions regarding the athletic program — and many folks do — then some coaches seemed intent on going even lower. They’re certainly not taking the high road of leaving with dignity and respect.
Coaches, if it’s as bad as you suggest, turn in your salary and leave. But, you say, you cannot leave mid-year with nowhere to go? So, in other words, you will just stay here and drain Baylor for all the income you can till something else comes available?
Man up. Be professional. Be the man each of you presumably claims to be.
Hal Ritter is a retired counselor and educator.