By Dan Bernstein-
CBSChicago.com Senior Columnist
(CBS) Coaches lie and coaches leave. They lie about leaving, leave while they’re lying, and fly off in pursuit of better, richer, more interesting jobs.READ MORE: COVID-19 In Illinois: More Than 3 Million Residents Fully Vaccinated, But Cases And Hospitalizations Still Up Significantly Over Past Month
But that’s harsh. True, certainly, but harsh.
Let’s cut them some slack. Sometimes reality is fluid, allowing for the possibility that a promise was actually meant at the time it was made, or that an opportunity once publicly identified as a “dream job” ceased to be that because hey – dreams change. A coach can envision his ideal career path, but can’t be asked to predict which doors will open when.
We must stop fighting nature on this one. Stop racing to dig up videotape of say, Bret Bielema slamming the SEC before joining it or Brian Kelly all but declaring lifelong loyalty to Notre Dame before he ran to consider the Philadelphia Eagles. That’s a pointless exercise that proves nothing, since this is what coaches do, and you know it. And it’s fine.
This is just the latest case of phony, convenient indignation over what too many still perceive as a violation of commitment or lack of loyalty, when such is not the case. If there was any expectation of an old-fashioned handshake and one’s good word sealing a deal to stay forever at Wherever State, there would be no need for the teams of expensive lawyers designing complicated contracts that specifically anticipate the end for both parties.
Any loyalty need only be to that document.
Small school success brings a chance at a nearby directional-adjective mid-major. A couple conference titles and it’s from there to a bigger-name school that’s had a few down years. Build that one back up and a historical power is interested. The private plane is waiting for the trip to meet with the money guys, and then for the flight back to grab a few things and have the tearful team meeting. Then start the timer on the NFL.
And this is somehow new or surprising to fans each and every year that it happens, no matter what level.
Any recruit naïve enough to believe everything he’s told during the meat-marketing process needs to have parents willing and able to explain to him how the world works. That larger-than-life guy with the silver tongue could easily be wearing a different color golf shirt in a matter of months, making the identical, oily pitch on behalf of others. As he offers his unfulfillable guarantees over weak coffee and Mom’s famous lemon bars, it is on the player and the family to be aware and appropriately skeptical.READ MORE: Preparation Work Begins In Jackson Park Ahead Of Fall Groundbreaking For Obama Presidential Center
Schools mutter about a coach bailing on a prized recruiting class, when they should instead be thankful he worked so hard putting it together and finalizing it in the first place, even as his agents were reaching out elsewhere and receiving overtures. What would be preferred – that he not make the effort to secure another wave of talent for the program before his payday?
The other thought that needs to go away is that returning to one’s previous job after exploring options is somehow the “right thing,” to be celebrated for flying in the face of soulless carpetbaggery.
He’s only back at your beloved alma mater because he was able to extort more cash, power and perks for himself and his staff. He doesn’t love you, and doesn’t have to. All he has to do is win games and work within the deal he signed. You know that deal – it’s the one with the pre-negotiated buyout clause you’ll be aware of when he gets an even better offer next year.
What’s right is what’s right for him. He knows he’s a few key injuries and unfortunate bounces away from having anonymous message-board sock-puppets and social media ranters calling for his ouster, anyway.
(And yes, all this includes you, Notre Dame. You are not special, or even distinguishable from any other heritage program.)
Listen to coach when he’s talking about riding the fullback through the mesh point and reading the defensive end. Believe him when he says that a Cover-0 alignment close to the goal line has to be aware of inside leverage on slant patterns, or that keeping gap integrity is more important than covering for an out-of-position teammate.
But when he’s talking about his future, tune out. He may not even know yet that he’s lying.
Dan Bernstein joined the station as a reporter/anchor in 1995, and has been the co-host of Boers and Bernstein since 1999. Read more of Bernstein’s columns, or follow him on Twitter: @dan_bernstein.MORE NEWS: Bell-Ringing Ceremony Honors Chicago Firefighter Edward Singleton