Rick: How can you close me up? On what grounds?
Captain Renault: I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!
[a croupier hands Renault a pile of money]
Croupier: Your winnings, sir.
Captain Renault: [sotto voce] Oh, thank you very much.
Captain Renault: Everybody out at once!
The above is one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite movies. The beauty of it is the simplicity of the joke. No over the top punch line. No pause to let the audience catch up and laugh. Just a basic set-up and understated follow through.
I also love it because of it universal applicability in today’s ultra-hypocritical world. When you look at stars of politics, sports or entertainment, 9 times of out of ten the words coming out of their mouth have the same relationship to truth that I do to Aaron Burr. Remarkably distant at best or non-existent at worst.
No group is more like Captain Renault than college coaches. So this week as college coaches feign shock and disappointment at the presence of professional agents within the members of their team, it is a little hard for me to muster up much sympathy for any of these guys.
Two of the shadiest and most successful recruiters in the NCAA are Lane Kiffin and Nick Saban. Besides both being guys that are willing to forego all semblance of loyalty at the drop of a dime, they have something else in common. They both coached in the NFL. Don’t think this is a coincidence.
Can’t you picture it now? Both of them coming into the small, dilapidated house of a high school recruit and telling him and his parents about all of the players he has put in the NFL and how that recruit has the same attributes of players he saw as successful when he was coaching in the pros?
It isn’t the 1950’s any more. Schools don’t recruit players by promising a letter sweater and a solid education. They offer early playing time and opportunities to get noticed for the NFL. Players in exchange agree to these schools not because of their engineering or pre-med departments (Myron Rolle excluded) but rather as the best avenue for exposure to reach the NFL and make its millions as soon as possible.
Successful college coaches know it is a two-way street: you come to my school and make me millions and I will get you to the NFL so you can make your millions.
Yet, coaches are always outraged when some enterprising agent (or agent’s intermediary) gains access to his players and offers them some of those same luxuries of the NFL that the coach initially promised. Only the agent doesn’t have to wait until their collegiate playing days are over.
These coaches whining and complaining about their sweet, innocent players being corrupted by the horrible influences of agents need to shut up. This is the deal with the devil each coach makes when he brings these players to campus with visions of NFL signing bonuses dancing in their heads. The players know this. The coaches know this. To feign outrage later that some of these players wanted some of those luxuries a little early just plays the rest of us for fools.
The players are just young kids, many from poorer backgrounds. If we are really truthful, how many of us at the age of 19 or 20, if offered money and gifts would be honest enough to turn it down? Not many. Especially if we have come from a background of little.
Coaches on the other hand know exactly what they are doing when they recruit these kids with stories of NFL stardom. If coaches really want to fix the problem, recruit players by extolling the new computer lab in the college of business. It will cut out the players just in it to make their fortunes at the next level. Of course, it will also make your team stink and probably get you fired.
Until then, quit all of your whining about the system you have set up and operated to make your millions when it turns around and bites the hand that fed it.
Just take your winnings, keep quiet and go home.