With the Aaron Hernandez story still very much on the minds of reporters this week, coaches have been getting questions during SEC Media Days about their thoughts on the subject of player behavior. Florida’s Will Muschamp said Tuesday that coaches are “100 percent responsible” for their players, but stopped short of saying they can know what their players are doing 24/7.
Similarly, Alabama’s Nick Saban explained Thursday that a coach can only provide guidance to a player; what the player does with that guidance is up to them.
“We can be the moral compass for our young people but we cannot always be there to drive the ship,” Saban said during his Q&A with media.
The opinions on the responsibility of coaches when it comes to player behavior vary quite a bit. Some think a coach is there solely to win games and graduate their players. Others think it’s a coach’s place to be a role model. As with most things, it falls somewhere in between.
Coaches can give players every opportunity to be successful in football and in life, but ultimately, the athlete has to decide for himself if that’s what he wants. Will coaches take a risk on certain players or give them more chances because of talent? Of course. They still have a job to do.
But it should be considered that, for some of these players, football is more of an escape than a privilege. Sometimes, a coach has to consider if the alternative — a life without the structure of football — is actually worse for the athlete. Not every light bulb turns on at the same time for everyone.
There are obvious exceptions — murder, rape and the like — and each coach handles their personnel differently. But when it comes to player behavior, there is no easy answer.