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When coaches should speak -- or notPosted Thursday, November 15, 2007, at 7:45 AM
Become a college football or basketball coach. Live your dream. Try to win a national championship. Keep trying to become a legend.
But muzzle your mouth -- or pay the price. Speak out and conference officials -- and we mean the front office suits, not the on-field guys -- will strike back.
Texas Tech football coach Mike Leach became the latest victim when he was fined $10,000 by the Big 12 conference after criticizing the officiating following a loss to Texas.
Most conferences have rules limiting coaches' criticism of officiating. Those conferences go against everything in the U.S. constitution by 1) levying high fines, which I contend only Congress and state legislatures should be allowed to impose, and 2) limiting freedom of speech. Leach can criticize his elected government leaders freely, but not the governing officials of the Big 12, which, note, is made up of state -- not private -- institutions.
Here's part of what Leach said, according to reports:
*The officiating was a "complete travesty," after two Tech touchdowns were called back.
*NCAA's instant replay system? "A sham."
*Members of the offending officiating crew should be "suspended" and "replaced."
*"It may be incompetence, it may be bias, I don't know." Leach thought they might be biased in Texas' favor because they were from Austin, home of the Longhorns.
Coaches should be sportsmanlike, of course. But after the game when emotions run high, freedom of speech doesn't disappear. And someone so affected by officials' decisions should be able to express opinions, even pointed ones.
If coaches need to watch their mouths it's on the high school level and below, where a select few here and elsewhere over the years are being or were allowed to get by with verbal abuse in the name of motivation.
The choice of words is the issue. There's a big difference between simply yelling to encourage or motivate and screaming insults and curses at your own or other players.
When a player visibly cringes while being yelled at and called names by their own coach -- and when those coaches can't get results without insults -- things have gone too far. It's only a game.
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David Melson is a copy editor and staff writer for the Times-Gazette.
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