The one place you don’t want to end up is on Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel. That’s where A&M’s football program is going to turn up as former athletic trainer Karl Kapchinski is spilling the beans on A&M’s player injury policies.
The gist is, and get this, coaches try to, and in some cases do, influence doctors to put players who are injured back into games. No way. Now you're talking crazy. That's sarcasm kids. It keeps me from having to engage real emotion.
Every coach in America does this. Watch Friday Night Tikes, those coaches tell 9 year olds to stop crying, ignore the pain and get back out there. But that culture has to change. Football won’t exist in any recognizable variant if it doesn’t.
The show airs tonight on HBO at 9:00 p.m. Texas time. In the interview, Kapchinski is asked if he ever felt pressured to have a player return to play before he was ready, to which he responds "I would say yes." In some cases the pressure "resulted in the player having a subsequent injury."
It bears noting that Kapchinski filed a suit against Texas A&M claiming wrongful termination based on age discrimination. So there's that. Clearly old Karl is grinding an axe. Or maybe he's just telling the truth.
In the current climate injury protocols and coach's intervention in trainer’s decisions are coming front and center. Illinois fired football coach Tim Beckman a month before this season for his behavior towards injured players. (By the way, google Tim Beckman explaining the term “Oskee” to the assembled media at Big 10 media day last fall. It’s amazing. And Illinois hired that guy to lead 105 young men.)
Texas A&M will take a bit of a black eye as the headline act, but the issue is systematic. There’s too much at stake, coaches make too much money and athletic departments are too dependent on winning football programs. Let’s remember that Penn State let a pedophile have carte blanche access to facilities, and when certain members of the University found out about him, they didn’t call the police, they told him to stay off campus. Florida State just paid the victim of an alleged rape committed by their Heisman winning poster boy $950,000 to go away. Some would argue, and I would be one of them, FSU manipulated the investigation to insure the case stalled and never saw a criminal court.
So if you think coaches don’t pressure players and training staff to get Johnny back out there on a bum ankle, we may have a reality issue. It happens everywhere. At Illinois Beckman had injured players wear purple jerseys to look like the alleged rival of Illinois, the Northwestern Wildcats and frequently called his purple clad players a derivative a cat’s name that’s also a prominent lyric in Naughty by Nature’s OPP. Yeah you know me.
At A&M, under Dennis Franchione, injured players wore white jerseys giant red crosses on them and were segregated from the team during practice. Singled out due to injury.
All this has to stop. Concussions and CTE and scared parents are a rallying maelstrom of problems for the game. The game has to be made safer and those in charge of keeping players safe must be left to do their job.