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FLA Coaches "off field" media day

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FLA Coaches "off field" media day

My Thoughts:
I've highlighted Central Florida's George OLeary's comments. It may just come back and bite him in the butt before his tenure is over at UCF.

Off-Field Antics Steal The Show

Published: Jul 26, 2004

ORLANDO - The voice in the back of the room had asked University of Florida football coach Ron Zook about the attitude of his team entering the season.
``Football,'' Zook said, savoring the sound of the word. ``Thanks, Mike. Football.''

Zook had fielded questions for nearly 15 minutes Saturday at the Florida Sports Writers Association's media days before anyone even hinted that the Gators might actually play games this season. But Zook's inquisitors had legitimate reasons to ask off-the-field questions.

Last week, Florida linebacker Taurean Charles was charged with a count of felony aggravated battery for allegedly throwing a partially full keg at another student during a fight at a party. At least one more player could be charged with a crime today based on an investigation of the fight.

The misbehavior isn't limited to the Gators. Reporters grilled Miami coach Larry Coker on Sunday for his support of the admission of linebacker Willie Williams, he of the double-digit arrests. Florida State's Bobby Bowden had to answer questions about offensive lineman Bobby Meeks, who is accused of battery on a law enforcement officer.

Even Florida International's Don Strock, who normally would have answered only warm-and-fuzzy questions about his program's meteoric leap to Division I-A, had to face interrogation after three of his players were arrested on armed robbery charges earlier this month. One player, Everett Baker, was charged with attempted murder.

So, are athletes committing more crime, or, as Zook said Saturday, does saturation media coverage make a small, law-breaking minority seem like a majority?

``The first line in our handbook is, `You live in a fishbowl,' '' Strock said Sunday. ``The fishbowl has a little bit of a crack in it.''

While arrests might touch off a media storm, the bulk of the analysis and criticism comes after a coach decides what punishment he believes a player deserves. But with millions in salary riding on wins and losses, can coaches afford to keep misbehaving stars off the field?

Coker said Sunday that such feelings are bound to seep into the decision-making process, but he hopes he has built enough cachet in his career that sticking to his principles wouldn't cost him his job. Zook also said he had to let his conscience - not his job security - guide him.

``There are two things I won't be held hostage to. No. 1 is the player. No. 2 is the job,'' Zook said. ``All you can do as a coach is what you think is right.''

Central Florida coach George O'Leary considers discipline a relatively simple component of the job. No single player is more important than the program, he said, and certain players require more supervision than others.

``Each college coach in America can identify the five or six yahoos on his team,'' O'Leary said. ``If you can't do that, you're not doing your homework.''

Bowden disagreed Sunday. He said he never would have expected Meeks' name to appear on a police report. That surprise factor makes a coach's job even more difficult during a time when the arrests overshadow the sport.

``If you go into the season saying, `I've got to watch these guys here,' invariably, it's going to be one of them other guys,'' Bowden said. ``I won't get to our latest one, but that's the most unlikely kid you ever saw in your life to get accused of what he's accused of.''

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