Football: Waterloo blows it; clearing coaches causes further confusion

Is anyone else staggered that what happened at Waterloo was bad enough to causes reams of bad publicity for CIS football, but not bad enough to be a firing offence?

The U of Waterloo released its internal report (PDF) and exonerated head coach Dennis McPhee and defensive coordinator Marshall Bingeman, the full-time assistant coach. So the university didn't have the confidence in them to play this season, but maybe a season. Whhhhhaaaaaa?

The report suggests there was a "policy gap" that left McPhee and Bingeman without a framework to work from, unless they wanted to use common sense. Fair enough. However, nothing is in and of itself. It just further affirms that a fine university has sent a muddled message, and who knows at what cost to the image of university football and other sports.

There was enough of a problem to warrant cancelling the season, at whatever cost to other OUA programs, both figurative and fiduciary. It was made out to be bad enough to burn the village in order to save it. Now, weeks later, there was just not enough for the buck to stop with the coaches. Their team, their watch.

This report would have been fine if the season was still on. As it stands, it's very curious. Perhaps Waterloo just can't bring itself to nut up and admit it overreacted. McPhee said all the right things ("we're going to have integrity, and we’re going to have a successful program"). That's a bit of a fake guarantee, but he will get a chance to keep working on building a respectable team.

Not saying conspiracy, perhaps Waterloo just didn't have the budget to pay out a contract.

I am about talked out on this [Thank goodness! — Ed.] and there just are a couple small points from a small man.
  1. Some other school could pull the same grandstanding stunt.

    The report's authors seem to feel Waterloo's fake punishment would actually work. Their basis? One player felt guilty because he got caught.
    "At least one person who had used a banned substance had believed that all the sanctions would relate only to the individual. He had felt that if he were caught only he would suffer the consequences. The player indicated that if he had known that the team would be punished he would not have taken PED’s. There is some reason to believe that if sanctions for the use of banned substances could be applied in some form to the entire team as well as the individual player, they may serve as an additional deterrent." (Pg. 10)
    Please. How is that even legal?

  2. Perpetuating PED hysteria, which is Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sports' stock-in-trade, is actually part of the problem.
    " ... we found that although some information about the risks of PED use is widespread, there is a lack of systematic education for players on the health issues. The review disclosed that there is greater emphasis on apprehension and sanction than there is on the health of the individual, both in the online course and in the other materials they received." (Pg. 5, emphasis mine)
    In other words, treating it as dirty and taboo foments misinformation and mistrust, along with accurate information about the adverse health effects.

  3. What about the legal/illegal gray area?

    Remember Chris Deneau, the Windsor linebacker who got a two-year ban for a positive test? He claimed he took, "something I bought at a health food store," which jibes with a lot of what we've said about hypocrisy and double standards.

  4. The media hue-and-cry in May and June missed the mark.

    You might recall some of the hysterical reaction initially involved people worrying CIS was getting quote, unquote too much like the NCAA. One columnist likened Waterloo, disparagingly, to 1990s football factories such as the Miami Hurricanes and Nebraska Cornhuskers, raising the question of when was the last time he checked the standings.

    The report states very clearly that the problem was not created by university football. It went one level higher, to professional football. It stemmed from individual desperation, not East German-style systemic abuse.
    "... football is the only sport in Canada where players are recruited in substantial numbers from university teams to the professional level (CFL). We heard in player interviews and testimonials that a big factor in the decision of some to take performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) is their desire to be able to play 'at the next level,' namely in the professional leagues. Until very recently (announcement June 29, 2010) there has been no program of testing in the CFL.

    "The football roster is large, with about 100 members at the start of a season, and there is keen competition to be able to play in the season games. During their university career players work extremely hard to build up their strength through power lifting and other forms of working out. We heard the opinion that some players take PEDs to try to improve their chances of being able to play." (Pg. 3)
    That could even be spun off into an argument for creating more teams and more opportunities to play.

    Look at it this way: the CFL has 160 spots for Canadian players (20 non-imports per team). There are 650 starters in CIS (25 per team, counting punter/placekicker). That works out to a ratio of one CFL job per every 4.17 first-stringers in CIS. And not every spot is coming open each spring. Plus CFL teams often prefer a Canadian with U.S. collegiate experience.

    The NFL has 1,696 roster spots (32 teams, 53-man rosters). The player pool mostly consists of players from the NCAA's 120-team Football Bowl Division. Using the same calculation (with 24 starters on a team), that works out to a 1:1.7 ratio.

    In other words, the scarcity of developmental teams means a CFL job for a CIS player is more statistically remote than a NFL job for NCAA FBS grad (in no way am I saying it's harder). And those aren't long-term jobs.
The reports contains several simple, small suggestions. Hopefully, each recommendation is embraced. The handling of this, and the report's findings, show the decision was not justified.

Waterloo blew it but cannot admit it. Hey, perhaps that's why it didn't tie the can to the coaches.
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1 comment:

  1. I thought I saw Lawrence Phillips walking around downtown Waterloo. Go Big Red!