A special to Cyclone Fanatic by former ISU and NFL quarterback Sage Rosenfels.
In what seemingly has become the daily segment of our news called racial friction, the president of the University Missouri system has resigned. This occurred partially due to the pressure put on the Board of Regents etc. by the University Missouri football team and coaching staff. Why the coaching staff stands side-by-side with the players is not surprising to me.
College football is a special place where young man from all over the country come to a school for a common cause. While playing football, they also are learning about cultures, history, and our country in the classroom. That’s the other half of "student-athlete". The head coaches attempt to take these kids with all different backgrounds and bond them together for the grind and challenges of college sports. At the forefront of this is the phrase that every football coach uses, FAMILY. You will see it in every locker room. Most coaches talk about family, sticking together and being close knit, as the glue that keeps their team united. Great head coaches produce tightly woven teams that sacrifice for each other and put it on the line in a quest for greatness. Coaches know that there is nothing more powerful than family.
So when a large portion of your family has taken a very strong stance against someone in your institution that they feel has wronged them, head coaches have a choice to make but they usually don’t blink. Family sticks together when somebody has wronged someone in the circle.
These coaches also know when they travel the nation scouring every school in search of the next recruit, they see every piece of this country. Good and bad. They go to parochial powerhouse schools in the big cities and they travel to the farm towns of the Midwest. They recruit the wealthy suburban schools as well as the kids from the inner city. If anybody knows a thing or two about financial and racial inequalities in this country, a college football coach is not a bad place to start.
Once these men step foot on their campus they might be the first father figure these boys have had. Most coaches have an open door policy for issues off the field or for a player struggling with family situations. Every team as them. Every player has them. These coaches have also seen the sport change over the years. From a time when there were no black quarterbacks in college football because they weren’t deemed smart enough to play the position, to seeing racial bigotry and bias in big time recruiting states like Texas, Florida, Alabama, Ohio and California. Most of these coaches see it and most of them empathize with their student athletes’ challenges.
Former national championship winning Colorado coach Bill McCartney recently spoke about it in the ESPN 30 for 30 episode that aired last week. He recruited some of the toughest places to grow up in Southern California and his conscious and strong faith led him to speak out about these inequalities in his public speeches and to his church congregations.
Bobby Bowden spoke about it regularly as he recruited some of the toughest areas in Florida and the south – many times leaving people scratching their heads as to why he’d have a player with a checkered past.
I bet that even Nick Saban, my coach in 2005, would have strong words about the racial and social inequalities that our country faces. Known for his zero excuses approach, Saban also was on campus during the Kent State massacre in the 70s and has seen this country change in his 30 years of coaching.
Racial tension has been brewing more and more in the last few years – more than I can remember as a youth. Weekly videos that go viral with people pitting one group against another. People are taking a stand.
This Missouri football team has taught our country some lessons. They know the power of college football. The money talks in college athletics and those players are using it to help fight for their cause. Because of our constitution and freedom, they have every right to let their voice be heard.
So if you catch yourself wondering why the Missouri football coach put his neck on the line and stood up to his boss for his players, then I guess you don’t understand family.