But it wouldn’t necessarily take tragic consequences to expose this kind of behavior if schools weren’t running their football programs like secret societies in the first place.
Maryland, you see, was like most college programs these days. Aside from a few minutes here or there, practices and workouts were closed to all eyeballs other than those who work for the athletic department. Assistant coaches and staffers were generally off-limits to the media, and access to the players was highly managed. If something inappropriate was happening inside the program, it would have been nearly impossible for anyone to observe it.
Over the last several years, coaches have been allowed that leeway to reject the media’s role as a watchdog because they feel — and perhaps rightly so — that it doesn’t benefit them to operate under that kind of scrutiny. And certainly an athletic director, who is technically the boss but might make 20% of the football coach’s salary, is in no position to argue. Nor is there any pressure from the public, which isn’t disposed to cheer on the media generally and has largely dismissed complaints from reporters about access.
But it’s become clear that the secrecy with which these overly powerful coaches are allowed to run their programs has become a burden on the sport, the potential safety of players, their own careers and the schools for whom they profess so much loyalty.
Do you think Rick Court, the Maryland strength coach who allegedly threw weights or objects at players as a motivational tactic, would do that if there were eyeballs on him? Do you think coaches generally would engage in the kind of verbal abuse alleged at Maryland if there were reporters around to ask questions? Do you think players would be as afraid to come forward if locker rooms were open and relationships with reporters were built?
That’s not to suggest more media access would have saved McNair.
It may not have saved McNair, but I’d be willing to bet pretty good money that, if the media had been present at that scrimmage, this time frame would have been shortened.
Fifty. Seven. Minutes.