Ordinarily, when MAC fans see a headline like this, we think, "Well, it's because there are some players slacking off! This is the MAC, not the SEC or the Big Ten, and we expect our guys to go to class, at least." But Tim Beckman doesn't share that feeling. According to Elton Alexander, Beckman is furious because Rockets who had classes the morning of the New Hampshire game were expected to go to class until noon on gameday. And not only that, but when Beckman made a big press conference show about how upset he was, he wouldn't say why he was upset -- he made Alexander call up the Toledo SID to get the whole story.
My thoughts after the jump.
In past years, MAC football players apparently didn't have to attend class on game days if the game was on a weeknight. (This may have been school-by-school; Miami players certainly attended morning classes when I was there.) Toledo's athletic director, Mike O'Brien, has decided to require players to attend classes until noon on weeknight gamedays. To most of us sitting on the outside of the power conference picture looking in, this doesn't seem like such a bad thing: after all, these guys are student-athletes. Tim Beckman, it seems, feels differently. The former Oklahoma State and Ohio State assistant took to the podium after a blowout of I-AA New Hampshire to complain about the "adversity" his team had faced before the game because players were expected to show up to their 10 a.m. Introduction to Marketing class.
I, for one, wonder what planet Beckman is on. I understand (though I think it's rather crazy) that coaches expect to have the whole team in a hotel the night before home games, and want to keep tabs on every movement the players make during that time. But MAC schools aren't football factories. Although the MAC certainly produces its share of NFL-worthy talent, players who go to MAC schools, by and large, know their careers are going to end on senior night, or hopefully at a bowl game. They're here to get educations and play football, not play football and get noticed by agents.
And that's one of the things that makes MAC schools special, in my opinion. My high school biology teacher did graduate work at Ohio State, and was a graduate teaching assistant for introductory biology. For several years, he taught a small section that was made up exclusively of Buckeye football and men's basketball players. Registration was limited to scholarship athletes from those two teams, presumably so that coaches would have an easier time keeping track of grades and attendance. That just doesn't happen in the MAC. My lab partner in Physics 184 was Eddie Tillitz, recipient of the most amazing pass in Miami history. I took Charlie Coles' basketball coaching class, and no one cared that I was just some guy who wanted to be there; Coach had me practice writing recruiting letters with current Miami hockey assistant (and then-goalie) Nick Petraglia.
From talking with friends at other MAC schools, I know my experience is in no way unique. We were all used to seeing athletes in the classroom, in the dining hall, and around campus in general. They weren't sequestered in some odd corner of campus, except on the nights before home games, and only then if the coach insisted on putting the entire team up in a hotel. Tim Beckman thinks one of the things that makes the MAC special is actually "adversity," and he thinks it merits a tantrum during a press conference after a 36-point win. He may have a point, I guess: eight Butler players attended class the morning of the 2010 NCAA championship game, and Butler lost. Maybe if they'd skipped out, the Bulldogs would have beaten Duke! (Of course, if Gordon Hayward's shooting wrist had been angled just half a degree to the left, the Bulldogs would have won too, and that seems to be a more direct connection than showing up for Western Civ.)
Seven years ago, Frank Deford sarcastically referred to Toledo as the Sorbonne on the Maumee. (Little did he know how accurate he was, as Toledo's campus is also on the Rive Gauche.) Of course, we in the MAC don't expect our schools to be the Sorbonne or Oxford or Cambridge or what have you. But I think it's fair to say that, in the MAC, we really do expect the "student" part of student-athlete to come first.
That fact seems to have escaped Tim Beckman.
(HT: digitalhawk at MHT.)