SI.com college football writer Stewart Mandel shares his commentary, analysis and random tidbits on the latest developments around the country.
8/01/2006 10:24:00 PM
Health Scares for Big Ten Coaches
Following Randy Walker's death, Minnesota coach Glen Mason decided to take better care of himself.
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images
CHICAGO -- Attend enough of these conference media events and you quickly become accustomed to one coach after another discussing the "health" of his team. Either he's excited because the team came out of spring practice "healthy" or he's nervous because the squad is "banged up" at certain key positions.
One of the main topics of discussion at Tuesday's Big Ten coaches press conferences, however, was the health of the actual coaches, in light of Northwestern coach Randy Walker's sudden passing from a heart attack at the age of 52. Mortality is on the minds of many around the conference these days. In addition to the Walker tragedy, two Ohio State assistants, Jim Bollman and Joe Daniels, were hospitalized with heart ailments this summer, and Daniels has since begun chemotherapy treatments for an undisclosed form of cancer. Meanwhile, Indiana head coach Terry Hoeppner sports a large scar on the side of his head where doctors surgically removed a brain tumor last winter.
Amazingly, despite leading some of the most stressful lifestyles imaginable, several of the coaches who spoke Tuesday admitted to being lax when it comes to their health. "I'm a poor eater," said Minnesota coach Glen Mason. "I mean, I'm a good eater -- but I eat poor things." Despite constant hounding from Gophers team doctor Pat Smith, Mason said he put off getting a physical until this year ("I was afraid they'd tell me there's something wrong with me," he joked). Eerily, he scheduled the appointment just a week before Walker died. "I'm going to get one every year from now on," he said.
If there's one positive to come from Walker's death, hopefully it's that other members of the coaching fraternity will, like Mason, see it as a wake-up call. Football coaches work ridiculous hours, travel endlessly and often eat horrendously during the season and in peak recruiting periods. While they're not likely to start putting in fewer hours anytime soon, there are other factors within their control -- like getting regular check-ups.
Then again, the man who defies all scientific logic, 79-year-old Joe Paterno, was also at the dais Tuesday, where he revealed he gets a physical "every eight to 10 years," and that his only nick of late was an inflammation in his legs. He discovered this only after climbing Mount Nittany with his grandchildren during a family reunion. Clearly, the guy is bionic.
These guys should get a workout (weights and cardio) every other day not only because of the health aspects but to set an example to their players. A football coach, or any coach for that matter, sporting a beer belly sets a bad example for his players.
Use all the time they spend working (12+ hours on average?) and set aside 45 minutes to get in a workout It's not that hard...make it mandatory and make it a priority!
I don't see why it is amazing that they eat poorly because they have a high stress life. A high stress life would be the exact reason they eat poorly. More amazing is that they are around athletes in great shape (for the most part) and they do not emulate them at all.
12+ hours? I am not a college coach, but from all reports the average working day for a college coach is 16+ hours. I think we can give them a break if they don't have time to get that extra set of curls and a jog in, especially when they hardly get to see their families.
It's all about choices...we all have 24 hrs in a day and choose how we spend it. There are ways to get it in if you choose to. Bottom line is make a choice and accept responsibility for the consequences.
Maybe college football and basketball. . . the pros as well. . .should look inward at WHY they put in 16 hours a day on a "sport". Yeah, I know, the pressure to win, satisfy those alums in the stands with painted faces . . or worse. . isn't going to allow for a "normal" pace but until people stop deifying sport, more coaches are going to die from heart failure and disease. Stress kills. In any profession. I love college football. . .but it's getting too much like the pros. I'd hate to lose the traditions. Hopefully something beneficial can result from the tragic loss of Randy Walker. It was indeed a wakeup call.
Charlie Wiess needs to diet and exercise more than any other head coach I can think of.
These guys are making $1,000,000 or more a year. They can afford to have healthy, balanced, properly sized meals brought to them. Plus, it can't be that hard to find a spare hour a few times a week to head over to the gym for some cardio, especially during the 8 months of the year when there are no games.
While it will never happen, the answer is to protect the coaches the same way the players are protected. Players are only allowed so many hours a week of practice/sport related activities, and the NCAA should set up rules that limit coaches to doing work related activities to say 60 hours. Yes, the reality is that some would choose to cheat, but on the whole the work hours are more of an "arms race" and no one will back down until they're made to.