Imagine yourself doing something you love, doing it for free, but at a high level. People make millions of dollars off of your actions and you could certainly make the case you should be getting paid at that time. You also know that you have the potential to make millions in just a few short years. But before you reach that pay day, you have to give your services, and more importantly your life, to someone who is making millions of dollars that has absolute control over everything you do.
Now imagine yourself being screamed at by this person, day in and day out, but you take it, because you have no choice. No immediate reward for putting up with this outside of the personal satisfaction of doing the thing you love at the highest level, and admittedly, receiving a free (largely in the case of men's basketball and football) education.
This is what we all got to witness on Thursday evening in McKale Center, when Sean Miller not only pulled Kaleb Tarczewski for making a mistake, but after the 22-year-old center told coach to relax, was responded to by the 47-year-old Miller by getting called a "motherfucker". Miller was not done there, going back at his four-year player and getting right up in his face again.
That's one way to get your point across if you are Sean Miller pic.twitter.com/LmehfWtuvG— DailyWildcatHoops (@WildcatHoops) January 29, 2016
This, to me, is not about being "naive about cussing" or the "wussification of America" as so many people have commented on our various platforms since Thursday night's debacle. It's not about "growing a pair" or handing out participation trophies.
It's about the fundamental issue with college athletics.
It's about the wealthy having absolute power over the student-athlete.
I'm not sure there is anyone who embodies the spirit of the student-athlete on this Arizona Wildcats team more than Kaleb Tarczewski. About to graduate with his degree from Eller College of Management, the big man grew up in a cabin in New Hampshire, and is on the verge of achieving success in the real world, or in the basketball world. After he returned to action against ASU, Tarczewski said that his injury gave him a chance to focus on his academics, and the time away from basketball may have actually been a blessing in that aspect.
Not sure you would get that from a lot of people.
He's always been a little different, and has been the target of Arizona fans' vitriol for years now. This is just the latest instance, being attacked with the "soft" label for telling his coach to relax.
That's what he said. "Relax".
In the world of college athletics, this has become unacceptable. A player that has no control over his life to say something so simple, and have good reason to say it. I think we can all agree that Miller is always toeing the line of taking it too far during a game.
Watching this event took me back to, of all places, the 2015 ACC Football Championship Game between Clemson and North Carolina. Why? The Tigers' punter called for a fake punt on his own, drawing the ire of Dabo Swinney. Not once, but over and over and over again.
Just like Swinney, Miller's actions can not be considered "coaching". They are the actions of a man frustrated with the results of the game he is coaching in, and taking out those frustrations on someone he knows can't do anything to respond. They just have to sit there and take it.
I'm sorry, but this isn't right.
Now, if you make changes to the NCAA, and say, pay the student-athlete in a way, or allow them to profit on their likeness, then my take changes. I also think the behavior by coaches and players immediately changes as well. But in the current system, people should not be standing idly by and just chalking this up to "being part of D-1 athletics". Give me a break.
This isn't limited to just Miller, or Swinney. It includes Rich Rodriguez. It includes these other "great" college coaches people keep bringing up like Calipari, Coach K, Izzo, Bill Self. They're taking advantage of a broken system, and are using it to abuse alleged students verbally and mentally in a very public forum. And they're able to do it without having to suffer any repercussions.
People say "this is big boy basketball". When's the last time you saw Gregg Popovich absolutely lay into one of his players like this. When did Phil Jackson do it? Steve Kerr? Erik Spoelstra? You don't see it. Why? They're busy coaching, and they know that screaming at a guy isn't going to actually improve anything. And if they do it just to vent frustration, those players might actually respond, because, well, they're not in a subservient role like they are in college.
So don't just come with the caveman take of "you're soft, grow a pair". Take a second, step back from the insane passion that some people have for college sports, look around at real life, and realize that there are bigger issues here that need to be addressed by everyone.
The status quo isn't acceptable anymore. Everything evolves. This is something that needs to evolve.