Big Ten coaches say vent at own risk
By DAVID MERCER
If you’re a college football coach and you want to vent, there’s a short list of places where you can do it safely.
Screw it up, Big Ten coaches said Tuesday, it the comments can come back to haunt you.
If coaches and players needed any reminder, look no farther than Nebraska. Deadspin.com this week posted a two-year-old recording of Cornhuskers’ coach Bo Pelini profanely complaining about fans and news media. Pelini apologized and said he thought his complaints were being made during a private conversation.
His colleagues said little, if anything, is private in their world.
“It’s kind of like I tell our players: Unless you’re in a closet, you better assume somebody’s recording you, filming you or both,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “I guess the moral of the story is you better wait till you get home, and hope your wife’s on your side — and that’s probably a 50-50.”
Some of the 12 Big Ten coaches said they were uncomfortable discussing the subject, and Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio jokingly drove the point home, pointing out the very public place where big-time college football coaches live their lives.
“Probably now would not be the time to discuss that, since I have about 150 people listening to me,” he said.
Pelini told reporters his comments were the product of high emotion, the kind that makes him human.
“If everybody’s personal thoughts in a frustrating moment or an emotional moment got out there, we’d all be in trouble,” he said.
Dantonio said that voicing frustrations is a necessity, even if it’s not a high-pressure, high-scrutiny profession like coaching.
“Everybody, in anything that they do, they meet a point of frustration,” the Spartans coach said. “You’ve got to be able to let that go and vent, and everybody does that differently.”
Illinois coach Tim Beckman is the son of a former coach, Dave Beckman, who worked in high school, college and pro football. Dave Beckman was fired from one coaching job after a particularly tough stretch.
That whole season, Beckman said, was hard on his family. But he learned, primarily from his mom, Pat, about how and when to voice frustrations, if at all.
“The way we experienced it as a family was the proper way to do it,” he said. “That was a tough situation as a child, as a son. My mother was around us a lot and she helped us through it as a family.”
Like Ferentz, Beckman said a coach’s wife is the most likely person to hear about the frustrations of the job.
“You don’t want to take your job home, (but) I guess your wife’s the one that hears a lot about it,” he said.
Urban Meyer has held two of the more closely scrutinized head coaching jobs in college football, at Florida and now at Ohio State. In 2010, he ripped a reporter during a Florida practice, drawing national headlines. The incident was videotaped, photographed and witnessed by a group of reporters and others.
For he and other coaches in such high-profile jobs, there is little if any real safe, private space, Meyer said. “I don’t believe there is any more, not in the positions we’re in. That’s just the way it is.”