Vaught's Views: More access means less freedom for players

August 04, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

If major college basketball coaches have their way, they'll be spending a lot more time with their players next summer.

The college coaches claim that if they can spend more time with their players, then the players will be less likely to get into trouble. It's no surprise that since the Division I basketball coaches made this claim, most Division I football coaches have also started waving the same flag.

While the idea may seem logical, don't forget that there is another side to the issue. The more control the coaches have, the less freedom the players will have.

Even the Kentucky High School Athletic Association had to establish a two-week dead period a few years ago to keep coaches from making their players practice all summer.


Of course, many coaches have figured a way around the dead period. The rule prohibits a head coach from having any contact with his own team those two weeks, but it doesn't keep the coach from sending the team to camp where a different coach can have the team practice.

The same goes for a summer league team where the high school coach merely takes two weeks off while another coach keeps the team going.

College coaches would be no different. Some would follow the rules perfectly. Others would find a way to control the athletes even more.

That's why it was really no surprise that one current college basketball player, who asked not to be identified, is not the least bit thrilled with the idea of spending more time with his coach during the summer.

"The last thing I want is an individual workout at 6 a.m. in the summer to make sure that I am not staying up too late at night," said the player, who has never had any disciplinary problems during his high school or college career.

"We need a break from the coaches. It's nothing personal. But we just need some time when we can maybe do what we want. We love it when the coaches are gone recruiting in the summer."

More time with coaches would help when there's a coaching change

The one time a current Kentucky football player thought it might be a good idea to spend more time with coaches in the summer would be when a coaching change occurs.

"If you have a new coaching staff, it might be nice to have extra time with them in the summer," the football player said.

"But if it is a staff you already know, then I'm not sure I want to give up what little free time I have now. Give us a little more credit. I don't think extra access will mean no more trouble."

It wouldn't. Kentucky football coach Rich Brooks could have talked all he wanted to cornerback Bo Smith about not being in a place where he might got drawn into a fight but that likely would not have prevented the incident where Smith got hit in the head with a baseball bat and is now out for the season.

"Rules will not always solve problems," Brooks said during the Southeastern Conference Media Days in Birmingham last week. "Who you have on your team and who you recruit will solve more problems than anything else."

He's right. Remember Team Turmoil? Kentucky basketball coach Tubby Smith learned then that the time he spent with the U.S. Olympic team, and not in the homes of potential recruits, kept him from evaluating players' character as well as he needed to.

Once Smith encouraged four players to leave, Team Turmoil became Team Harmony and now Smith insists he evaluates character as much as talent when he's recruiting.

No more how much access a coach has, some players are going to have problems. No amount of access can prevent that just as there's no guarantee that the most loving, caring parents may not find themselves with a problem child.

That's why while it may sound like a good idea to give coaches more off-season access to players, the result likely will be less free time for the players and just as many off-the-field incidents as ever.

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