Column: Loyalty only when it is convenient

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Jeff Budlong, On the rebound

Loyalty. If the coach doesn’t have any why should his athletes?

That is the question that has gone through my head on occasion throughout the years and it is back once again thanks to the Virginia Tech and Iowa wrestling programs.

Tom Brands, a national champion for the Hawkeyes, spent years as an assistant to legendary head coach Dan Gable at Iowa only to be passed over for the head coaching job when Gable stepped aside. Brands would eventually find his way to Blacksburg where in just a couple of seasons turned a program that barely registered a blip on the national radar into a legitimate up-and-comer thanks in large part to a stellar group of Iowa wrestling recruits.

That group red-shirted this past season and when the Hawks’ Jim Zalesky was let go Brands quickly made his return to Iowa. However, those wrestlers who went to Virginia Tech are not so easily able to pick up and go.

The Hokie athletic administration will not grant the wrestlers their releases to leave and continue their careers at Iowa. They feel that they are owed something for the year that the wrestlers were on scholarship without participating in matches for the school. If the students left without their releases they would lose a year of eligibility.

The fact that coaches can jump from job to job with little penalty while their athletes have a much harder time hardly seems fair. While I understand VT’s disappointment, I do not agree that the wrestlers, who came to the program for the coach and not because of the tradition of the program, should

have to pay such a steep price.

Coaches are charged with leading student-athletes both on and off the playing field but when they are able to move from job to job how can that instill any loyalty in anything?

If I were running the NCAA that is one of the first rules I would make. If the coach leaves for another job while he still has a contract with the current school, players are also free to leave without penalty.

The coach is one of the first people that high school seniors come in contact with during the recruiting process.

Often times they are a major &045;&160;if not the main reason &045;&160;an 18-year-old decides to attend one school over another.

Duke men’s basketball has developed a level of success that has not been matched since the early 90s, but if coach Krzyzewski were to walk away something tells me the classes of four and five McDonald’s All-Americans would leave with him. The Duke campus and quality of education would not change, but the basketball team’s success would most likely decline.

Loyalty in professional sports is quickly becoming a thing of the past, but at the college level loyalty only seems to apply to the kids and not the adults supposed to lead them.