It has been a couple days since the latest incident to shake the college football world occurred, 12 football players at Iowa being hospitalized following a brutal workout session. As with anything Iowa we've kept our eye to the folks over at Black Heart Gold Pants and of course Adam Jacobi's other work over at the CBS College Football Blog as well. By now everyone has gotten their respective shots in from whatever angle they saw to best fit the situation.
There's a lot going on here and while I've got no issue with the folks chastising the University of Iowa for their handling of the situation, no issue with the quest for information or knowledge. The Hawkeyes didn't win any allies with their attempt to get a grip on the situation, in fact they left more unanswered queries than the "what happened" question we started out with on Wednesday.
What I do take immediate issue with is the rush to immediately call for someone's head in this situation. I'm not a fire someone quick guy. Especially when there are unknown factors that contributed and we don't have all the information. Firing someone doesn't solve the problem it is just a quick reaction, not necessarily the right reaction and I said as much the day after the incident.
I thought that would be the biggest issue regarding this crisis; folks split on whose fault this incident was, who should or should not be fired and ultimately what should be done in regards to this entire ordeal.
Well, that was until I got to read this Dennis Dodd piece on Wednesday evening.
What. The. Hell. Man.
I cannot begin to express the outright outrage at seeing someone label January to August "The Kill Season." It is beyond appalling, I find it down right disgusting to use that sort of language. Yes, the offseason is hard. Yes, we have seen accidents in the offseason. Yes, this Hawkeyes incident scared a lot of folks.
But, "The Kill Season" as a way to describe it? C'mon.
This isn't just about the risk to the players. That danger is a legitimate one and there are plenty of folks who are necessary for offseason training to work and instead of grandstanding the point should be to give folks a more clear picture of how this "Kill Season" works and who makes offseason's successful.
First and foremost, the coaches that most fans know and love are minimal during this time period. During offseason conditioning they may be running drills or watching line touches but the true coaches that matter here are on the Strength and Conditioning staff. They take the somewhat abstract ideals of "get player X more flexible," "get player Y faster," "get player Z to lose some weight" from the football staff and make those requests real through their weight training and running programs.
Along with the S&C staff you've got the training staff. They're the folks with the water, the band-aids, the extra mouthpieces but most importantly of all they are the people with the medical know-how to respond to problems in a timely fashion. They are the group that understands warning signs, how much is too much and the steps to take in maintaining player safety.
This last group is one that, at least in this Iowa situation, tend to forget. That group is the players. We bear responsibility as one of the most crucial elements of the equation; giving the S&C staff a proper lump of clay to mold. Giving the training staff the right answers, asking for help when distress feelings set in. Most importantly putting the right things into your body, getting rest and doing the things to get the athletes machine ready to operate.
If one part of this system fails there becomes an issue. If the Strength and Conditioning staff doesn't push players while also allowing their bodies to recover then they have failed. If the training staff is not constant in their vigil then they have failed. If the players aren't properly hydrated, aren't putting the right things into their body or, worse yet, are putting the wrong things into their body then, they too, have failed.
Regarding Iowa I don't doubt that the workouts were intense. You've got a team coming off a season they expected to win the Big Ten and have a legitimate shot at a BCS Championship plus they have been quagmired in off the field issues. Yeah, I totally buy the idea that the coaches stepped up their intensity in the weight-room, don't doubt that for a second.
The truth is we don't know which element failed, was it the S&C staff for designing the workout? The training staff missing warning signs? Players ignoring earlier warning signs or not properly hydrating? Was it a combination of all three?
As a football community we've come a long way from the "Junction Boys" and "no water" mode of treatment and approach to training. However, we're also seeing more specialized athletes then ever. Bodies dialed up to the maximum trying to shave that extra .002 seconds off of a 40 time. Trying to add that extra 7 lbs of muscle to a frame. Trying to get an extra 1.25" on to a vertical leap.
That doesn't come with being "comfortable" with a workout. It comes from being pushed until the player thinks he can't go anymore and then being asked to take one more step. It comes from shins being busted open doing box jumps until failure. It comes from lungs burning trying to make times on seemingly endless 110's. It comes from putting 10 more lbs up on the power clean.
And yes, it comes with squats. Deep squats. Box squats. Band squats. Squat cleans. Top half squats. Bottom half squats. Overhead squats. One-legged squats. Knee wrapped squats. Tendo squats. Front squats.
If I left some out, sorry, that's all I could think of on this early Friday morning.
There is no excuse for what happened at Iowa folks. I can't rationalize it or justify it. I don't care to, to be honest. The only thing I want to see gained from this incident is more prevention. More safeguarding of the players because that's who I care about. I never want to see a player go down. For me 1 is 1 too many. I love the game too much to see this stuff happen. I love the players too much to see their families go through this, to see their lives altered due to complications during a workout. Too much to see their teammates and school community go through it.
Much like the head trauma situation we've hit on here before, this issue hits close to home for me. Not just because I've been the guy throwing up after a workout. Not just because I've been unable to straighten my arms for a couple days after a workout. Not just because there have been times after a workout where all I could do was lay in the locker room for a half an hour because I couldn't bring myself to crawl to the shower.
No, it hits even closer to home because a good friend of mine and former teammate is a long time sufferer of the rhabdomyolysis and during college he went through a lot to balance his affliction with our training regiment. I also had a roommate who was forced out of football for good entering our junior season due to some advanced stages of the condition. Warning signs were missed by S&C and the training staff, signs were ignored by my roommate and he ended up in the hospital for several days.
Offseason workout are where championships are won and lost. They're where teams make or break their season and the weight-room, mat drills and running are a part of that. Training staffs have to monitor, players have to monitor and strength staffs need to monitor to make sure this doesn't happen again, ever. To single one group out at the problem is to misunderstand the way they all must work together to not only get max results BUT most importantly to ensure safety in working to achieve those results.