Commentary by Mark Schultz
The NCAA coach–official relationship reached a critical stage in 2016 as many college coaches regularly stomped onto the field, wildly gestured, cussed, threw things and physically intimidated the officials.
The officials were taught to kill the coaches with kindness, but many coaches plowed ahead and tried to bend the officials to their will through verbal and physical intimidation.
We noted is almost four years ago.
New directive works wonders…
For the 2017 season, NCAA officiating conference supervisors, lead by then Big 12 supervisor, Walt Anderson, instructed officials to flag a coach for unsportsmanlike conduct if the coach so much as stepped a toe onto the field to argue with the officials.
The officiating supervisors all spoke as one and declared that they would back their officials and ignore ratings and rantings from any coach penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct. They also said that officials who failed to enforce this directive would be graded down.
Coaches could still work the officials, but it had to be on the sideline without the on-the-field, hold-me-back histrionics.
The new directive worked wonders. Gone were the tantrums of Dabo Sweeney, Jim Harbaugh, Dana Holgerson, Nick Saban and others.
It was a glorious 2017 season.
…and then they quit
In 2018 the tantrums slowly started coming back and the unsportsmanlike conduct fouls weren’t called. Last year, I noticed that more coaches started roaming unto the field screaming and waving their arms for a call with no flag from the officials.
And this year, it was 2016 all over again.
Why tantrums in college and not the NFL?
OK, first a disclaimer. I know these thoughts don’t apply to all college coaches. These thoughts are for the 10 percent of college coaches who regularly make a spectacle of themselves with the officials.
College coaches lead a bunch of 18- to 22-year-olds. Those kids are not paid. They are impressionable. Emotional outbursts during a game can, at times, motivate them.
College coaches are control freaks. Everything has to go exactly according to plan. Coaches can’t control officials. They try to control officials through verbal and physical intimidation.
Also, some college coaches have a god complex. They have 50,000 to 100,000 people roaring their approval each week. They are revered. They bring in big donors. College coaches are most often the highest paid university employees. Some college coaches that work at state schools are the highest paid state employees.
This leads to some inflated egos and sense of self. Many powerful people work for them. Many coaches think the game officials work for them. Not so. They don’t like that.
If a tantrum got the AD to spend more money on the weight room, a tantrum surely will intimidate an official into calling one his way, or so the thought goes.
That rah-rah-sis-boom-bah doesn’t work for paid adults in the NFL. The NFL also has a strict fine structure. If a NFL coach gets penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct, they will face non-appealable discipline from the commissioner. Simple as that.
Find a backbone and back the officials
It is time for the conference presidents and supervisors to once again all speak as one. Get together. Buck one another up. Back their officials and institute a zero-tolerance policy to stop childish displays from coaches.
College conference presidents and supervisors: If you are truly concerned about sportsmanship, crack down on unsporting actions by head coaches.
Bring back the 2017 directive and institute a zero-tolerance policy against unsportsmanlike histrionics by college head coaches.
Back up your officials!