There’s a very clear double-standard in college football and it’s mind-numbing. When Christian McCaffery and Leonard Fournette opt out of their bowl games it’s a symbol of a me-first generation of Millennials who are terrible teammates. When coaches jump to another job and miss their bowl games it’s just adults doing business.
For the last three weeks Lane Kiffin has been pulling double duty. He was hired as FAU’s head coach December 12th, and has also been working daily as Alabama’s offensive coordinator heading into the College Football Playoff. Kiffin is an easy mark for his history of immaturity and brattiness. But he hasn’t blinked an eye at staying on with the Tide for as long as the national championship is a possibility, which will likely last another week longer. That will be nearly a month he’s compromised at building his program at FAU, which happens to be a critical opportunity in his career.
If the Owls flame out, Laney’s head coaching days in FBS are extinguished. This is his last chance to rehabilitate his reputation as the CEO of a program, not just a bright offensive mind riding the 5-star talent of Tuscaloosa. But he’s sacrificing that time in Boca to help win a title, which seems to be the unwritten understanding among the coaching fraternity. Kirby Smart stayed on the sidelines last year for Bama after accepting the Georgia job too.
Cynics will say Kiffin and Smart would never have stayed for the bowl game unless it was the CFB Playoff, and that may be true. But under that argument we are consciously rendering all other bowl games inferior. So if not in pursuit of the national championship, why should these guys stay? The same can be said about McCaffrey and Fournette. If we assume Kiffin and Smart would leave immediately had the Tide made the Sun or Citrus Bowls (boy, that’s a Dennis Franchione alternate reality) why do we expect the players to act differently?
It’s the ultimate double standard which is often shouted by adults at young people, simply because these adults cannot relate. The sports talk bloviators, the television talking heads, the online sports columnists would all leave their current jobs for a better one in a millisecond. Sports media is a cutthroat business, and big jumps in scale and pay are extremely rare for most. So the adults on this side of the microphone and keyboards can envision themselves doing the same thing as these coaches. Same with the fans that are adding to the din against McCaffrey and Fournette.
But these same adults can’t relate to being 21-years-old with a winning $10 million lottery ticket waiting to be scratched. Most people envy college athletes, seeing the attention, celebrity, and rock star treatment they’re surrounded by. Every weight room and training facility at a major program is light years better than any of our work places. What fan wouldn’t give everything they owned for a chance to run down a hill, into a stadium of 100 thousand screaming people, and go catch a few passes? So we resent that lifestyle when we feel like it’s being taken for granted or wasted.
But what Fournette and McCaffrey are doing is exactly what any coach does when leaving before the bowl game for a better job. They are increasing their earning potential and rewarding their new employer. Tom Herman wasn’t expected to stay at Houston through the Las Vegas Bowl. He was expected to be recruiting for Texas and assembling a staff 60 seconds after accepting the job. But had his quarterback Greg Ward Jr. decided to skip the bowl game to improve his draft stock, the cacophony of critics would have rained hell on him.
We have become a nation of critics, and a nation of hypocrites. And nothing underlines the intersection of the two as clearly as college football.
D.A. hosts 6-10 p.m. ET on the CBS Sports Radio Network. He has hosted The D.A. Show (aka “The Mothership”) in Boston, Miami, Kansas City and Ft. Myers, FL. You can often catch him on the NFL Network’s series “Top 10.” D.A. graduated from Syracuse University in ’01, and began looking for ways to make a sports radio show into a quirky 1970’s sci-fi television series. Follow D.A. on Twitter and check out the show’s Facebook page. D.A. lives in NYC, and is a native of Warwick, NY.