I never saw anyone mention this article by Jeffri Chadiha that came out last Friday on ESPN.com, but it's an issue we deal with from time to time around here and has become highlighted by the Almighty VY's recent troubles. The question he raises (and treats fairly in my view) is whether the Longhorn football program is adequately preparing it's players to be succesful pros.
In the end, my first concern is that the team wins it's college football games (esp. against OU and A&M) so as long as that's happening, whatever. On the other hand, it is a point of pride for all of us Longhorn fans (I think) that "our boys" end up being successful after they leave The University. (And I don't think it is limited to football or basketball, I was yelling support at the TV every time a Longhorn athlete competed at the Olympics this summer.)
So, is Mack Brown's approach to coaching these kids failing them in the long run? Is he recruiting a bunch of "cry-babies" to begin with? Is it actually an institututional thing with The University, seeing as Ricky Williams is a noted "troubled soul" in the NFL and spent the majority of his time under The Concussed Wine-Sipper?
For my part, I believe in personal responsibility. VY's problems may stem from a troubled family life, or from letting all the glory go to his head. Or he might just be a sensitive guy who was sheltered during college. Had we seen this coming, would we have recommended that Mack break Vince's spirit down during college to prepare him for the big bad real world? Rather, I think we should expect and encourage Vince Young to grow up and accept that he's the only one to blame for what Vince Young does. Who knows, maybe he already does and maybe it's the people around him that weren't allowing him the time and space to deal with his issues. Some times I sort of envy the way Ricky Williams was able to deal with his problems: he basically up and took off and spent some time away exploring himself and coming to grips with his issues. You didn't see his mother telling the press that he needed time away, he just did what was right for himself.
Anyway, I can't pretend to know what it's like to be a big-time college football player or an NFL'er. I do know, however, that everyone comes to a point in their life when they realize that things suck and they're tempted to give up. I don't think that anything anyone does to/for that person beforehand will really affect how they react to that moment. People either buckle down and get it done, or decide it's not worth the effort and I think it's probably unfair for outsiders to place a value judgement on that decision. The idea of "wasting god-given talent" is a Calvinist (I think) concept that doesn't really fit in with the modern rejection of pre-determination. But that's a philosophical debate for someone else to engage in.
For me the most important question raised in the article is this: Is it better for these football players to have a happy, healthy college experience or is it more important that they are hardened and inured to the grim realities of the NFL and life after college? It reminds me of a question that we liberal art majors used to raise when taunting our business major nemeses: were we in college to get an education or to train ourselves for a job? I chose the first and am very happy about the choice, but a bunch of people who chose the second are making a lot more money than me.