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Good decisions: no joking matter

 


What's worse? Having your picture taken with college girls kissing your cheek, or having the same picture taken with a can of Natural Light in your hand?

What's worse? Ringing up $200 on your credit card at a strip club called Arety's Angels, or allowing a stripper, from said strip club, ring up $1,000 in hotel room service on the same credit card?

Ahh, the dilemmas that face major college coaches these days.

It's easy to throw cheap jokes at Iowa State basketball coach Larry Eustachy after pictures of him cavorting with college coeds at an after-bar party on the University of Missouri campus surfaced in the Des Moines Register a week ago.

Eustachy was shown looking very intoxicated with his arm around several different girls and receiving kisses on the cheek with a can of "Nattie Light" in his hand.

My first reaction was that Eustachy had to be intoxicated because the girls that were kissing his cheeks were far from attractive. My second reaction was how can the highest paid public employee in the state of Iowa be seen drinking turpentine like Natural Light? He might as well have had a bottle of Boone's Farm Strawberry Hill in his hand.

Before I could delve into Eustachy's situation in this column, a story about current Alabama head coach and former Washington State coach Mike Price and his foray into the wonderful world of Florida strip clubs hit the newspapers after weeks of internet rumors.

Price was said to have spent $200 on his credit card at the club and then later that night a dancer from the club tried to charge $1,000 worth of food and drinks in hotel room service to Price's same credit card.

My first reaction was how can a man who just agreed to a contract worth $10 million dollars have to use a credit card at strip club. People like Price shouldn't need to use credit cards at a strip club, people like my friends need to use credit cards at a strip club. My second reaction was that room service prices are really getting out of hand these days.

It's easy to joke about these situations on the surface. I had more one-liners about Natural Light and natural blondes floating around in my head to ridicule Eustachy about. The Price thing was even easier. Jokes about the Arety's Angels changing their name to "The Price Club" or using the whole Mastercard commercial with the end being, "losing your job as the University of Alabama football coach - Price-less" were right at my fingertips.

But after initial reactions, you realize that these are real people with real lives, real families facing real problems. Both Eustachy and Price are married and have children. They have watched their private lives become very public and their job security disappear quicker that it takes to swill a beer, or get a meal from room service.

As of today, Eustachy was fighting to keep his job after being suspended on Wednesday. His athletic director, Bruce Van de Velde has already recommended that Eustachy be fired. Price is meeting with University of Alabama officials on Saturday to determine his job status. He could be fired before ever coaching a game for the Crimson Tide.

There is much debate concerning both situations. Eustachy, who was rumored to have had a similar incident at Kansas University a year ago, has admitted to being an alcoholic and is currently in treatment. Price has apologized to his players, and the club owner has said publicly that Price was not loud, belligerent or intoxicated at the club and left alone in a cab that the club provided.

Regardless as to the extent of either's guilt in the situation, they are both guilty of making poor decisions.

The choices you make are your own. And, bad or good, they cannot be taken back. No matter, how much you wish you could.

For as much as the situations are similar to be examples of poor judgment there are different circumstances surrounding both.

Is it legal for Eustachy to drink a beer, even if it is Natural Light? Yes. Is it legal for him to be at a party with other people drinking beer? Yes. Is it legal to get kisses on the cheek from college girls, no matter how attractive? Yes. But it isn't a question of legality with Eustachy. It's a question of leadership.

How is he supposed to be a leader of young men when he demonstrates the leadership of a drunken frat member? No matter how much alcohol clouded his mind, somewhere in the back a light should have been going off saying, "You know, maybe I shouldn't be here." How can he look into his players' eyes and preach about making good decisions off the court, when he obviously doesn't.

As for Price, his situation is a little different. Yes, it's perfectly legal to go to a gentlemen's club and spend money. Thousands of men ranging from doctors to lawyers, businessmen to coaches have been to these clubs and a story isn't published in the paper. However, Price's mistake isn't that he went to the club, it's that people remember him being at the club. And nobody is quite sure what happened concerning the hotel incident.

Many people who are defending Price, believe it's none of the newspapers' or the public's business what Price does in his private life.

To steal a line from a movie, "the public has funny way of determining what is and what isn't its business." Being the head football coach at the University of Alabama doesn't make you just a public figure, but probably the most public figure in Alabama besides the governor. What you do in public and in private will be scrutinized at all times.

Maybe it is wrong that we hold certain people like politicians, administrators and coaches to a higher moral standing than the common person. After all, we are all human and susceptible to human mistakes.

Eustachy clearly has a problem with alcohol. But unlike a player at Iowa State or any college, a coach isn't afforded the right to make that kind of mistake. It detracts from his credibility as a coach and the credibility of the program. Whether he should be fired is a different matter.

In a world filled with second chances, coaches don't often get them at the same school. Eustachy will most likely be fired. But if he beats his addiction, he will one day coach again.

Price is being bombarded by people in Alabama, who are taking the moral high ground. This coming from the same people who still fly the Confederate flag with pride. He should probably keep his job, but his contract will have a morals clause in it. His players are behind him and his mistake isn't as egregious as Eustachy's.

A word advice to college coaches, the choices you make are your own. Good or bad, they can't be taken back. In a lapse of judgment everything you've ever worked for can be taken away faster than you can say Natural Light or lap dance. And that's nothing to joke about.

 

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