Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey are being criticized for sitting out their respective bowl games, yet again illustrating the double standard between players and coaches in college football.
How many times did you hear the phrase “do as I say, not as I do” when growing up? It’s a familiar double standard brought forth by teachers, parents, siblings and really anyone with a few extra years of life experience.
Such is also the current maxim of college football, where coaches can (and in many cases are expected to) leave their teams before bowl games if a better employment opportunity presents itself, whereas players are scapegoated should they take the same course of action.
With Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey opting to skip their respective bowl games in favor of preparing for the 2017 NFL Draft, the contradictory message has come to a head. Many in the media are lambasting the two student-athletes for being selfish, putting their future aspirations ahead of team goals, and relinquishing a chance to play one final time for their schools. There is, to say the least, no shortage of media members offering pithy jokes, in 140 characters or less, about whether they’ll opt out of covering Bowl Season
Great. They can voice their opinion, but should also at least mention the sport’s paradox, lest all credibility go out the window. In short, why are two college football players held to a higher standard than Tom Herman, Willie Taggart, Matt Rhule, Jeff Brohm and the numerous coaches before them who left the team they led all season long for greener pastures before a bowl game?
The river of hypocrisy in college sports, of course, runs deep. From a model that offers no pay for play, to archaic transfer rules that penalize players that change institutions, while a coach can freely jump from job to job like a game of Frogger.
For Fournette and McCaffrey, who will both likely be first round picks, it is about preserving health – both have suffered injuries that kept them out of action this season – in order to secure larger paydays come the NFL Draft. One bad break, and it might disappear forever. It is not surprising that one defender of their decisions is former South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore, who was surely headed for a spot in the NFL before two injuries prematurely ended his career before he could ever take an NFL snap.
There is a huge imbalance of perception between the players and coaches. The coaches have already earned their money, and are bowing out on their team. Abandoning players that they recruited for a bigger check and new opportunity.
Herman, for example, could have stayed at Houston for another month while also performing duties for his new position at Texas. He proved as much was possible while transitioning from Ohio State offensive coordinator to Houston head coach – in the middle of a championship run for the Buckeyes, no less. And to the argument that skipping out on the Las Vegas Bowl is vastly different than the College Football Playoff, the same can be said for missing the Sun Bowl in lieu of rehabilitating one’s body ahead of the most important job interview a player will ever have.
Many have asked, “If Fournette/McCaffrey were playing in the playoffs, would they be making the same decision?”
The answer: most likely no. But that goes both ways, as Herman’s recent history shows.
After preaching “team” and “family” and “finish,” coaches who leave prior to bowls are viewed as making little more than a business decision. Players who use the same strategy become pariahs to the institution of football.
Aren’t the coaches supposed to set the example? Aren’t they supposed to lead the way through their actions?
Maybe they have. The only difference is they’re not castigated like players.
How many times did you hear the phrase “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander” when growing up?
Unfortunately, that’s one maxim not applicable to college football.