Charlie Strong: Scapegoat

Charlie Strong, head coach of the University of South Florida. (Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.)

Recently hired head coach of the University of South Florida (USF) football team, Charlie Strong, was called out by Judge Margaret Taylor on Wednesday at his player's inaugural court appearance on charges of sexual battery.

The player in question, LaDarrius Jackson, was the second player who has run into trouble with the law since Strong became coach of USF, mid-December 2016. The first player, Hassan Childs, was arrested for aggravated assault and possession of marijuana in March 2017.

This series of criminal charges led Judge Margaret Taylor, a USF alum, to rant about her former school’s new head coach. “Let’s just say my USF diploma is not proudly hanging in my office right now. And I have a message for your coach as well: Coach Strong, if you are listening, in the last couple of months there have been two arrests of your players — very violent felonies. This court, and I’m sure I’m not alone, questions whether you have control over your players. It’s fairly clear that you do not have control over them off the field and I guess only time will tell whether you have control over them on the field. I would implore you to think long and hard about whether being head coach at USF is a good fit for you, before any other members of this community have to suffer at the hands of one of your players.”

 
 

Well, with all due respect to Judge Taylor, this is absolutely ridiculous, poorly researched, scapegoating nonsense.

I would be the first one the tell you that coaches need to get control of their players. As a college coach, part of your job is moulding these athletically inclined kids into quality adults with morals, values and an education.

We’ve had a lot of different cases recently where that hasn’t been happening, from Jerry Sandusky, to the UNC scandal and everything in between, it seems like programs value winning more than right and wrong. When someone questions a coach’s control over his players in a program, it’s very easy to side with them.

But not in the case of Charlie Strong.

Charlie Strong is the wrong person to go after for many reasons. One being the fact that he didn't even recruit those players. When coaches recruit a player, they decide whether or not the player's character will be congruent with his vision for the team, as the team represents the coach. Coaches recruit players knowing that.

Second of all, Strong has been a part of USF for just under five months, to say he doesn’t have control over his players seems quite silly. They committed a crime and should be reprimanded (Strong has suspended LaDarrius Jackson and released Hassan Childs from his scholarship), but I find it hard to believe that Charlie Strong, who hasn’t even coached them in one game, would have the ability to stop them from making the decisions that these two players made.

It’s unreasonable to blame a coach who hasn’t recruited a player, and has no background of recruiting players with character flaws, for not having “control” over his program.

To be fair to Judge Taylor, these cases carry significant weight for her. This is her alma mater, and she only wants to see the best from it. Thing is, she needs to aim her disappointment where it belongs, and Charlie Strong does not deserve to be the one who has to bite the bullet. At some point, you must realise that people make choices and authority figures can’t stop them from every single bad decision, or heinous action, that they choose to make.

Judge Taylor, you may not be the only one questioning Strong, but that doesn’t mean you’re right to question him.