In his feature story on Chris Floyd, “When the Lights Go Off,” Ben Estes writes: “From talking to his former teammates, Floyd says that some ex-Wolverines feel ‘used’ by the program.’” Estes’ feel good story wants to have it both ways, at once telling the poignant stories of “the more forgotten players (men like Floyd)” while at the same time valorizing the Michigan Career and Professional Transition Program: “Should M-PACT continue to gain strength, perhaps those ‘souls‘ won’t ever lose their way.”
What we have here is another instance of subtle exploitation of players, as a way of lauding the Michigan Athletic Department. Had nothing more been said, the story would have passed with the munificence of the Athletic Department intact. But as with all stories, there is another side. That other side came with the publication of Chris Floyd’s follow-up editorial (Leave no man behind, 11/20/12) in which he commented, “To say I was disappointed would be an understatement — but if you want a story told right, you should tell it yourself.”
In Floyd’s piece he writes, “[what] many of us have in common is the feeling that the athletic department we care so much about no longer cares for us.” Imagine that. The very idea that the University sees the football team as a cash cow where the players are cogs in a money-making machine that deems them expendable when they either are hurt or graduate. Sometimes they don’t even have to graduate before they’re kicked to the curb. Having taught the three “lost souls” alluded to in the Daily, Floyd, Marcus Ray and Sam Sword, along with many other athletes, I was pleased and proud that Floyd’s rhetorical skills were in fine form. His op-ed showed “ethos” (his experience as a player), “logos” (a logic borne of his close reading of Estes’ essay) and “pathos” (a passionate conviction for the subject at hand).
But I digress. What I really want to talk about is the treatment of another former student of mine: Denard Robinson.
When asked about Devin Gardner (another former student) being pressed into service as a wide receiver, Hoke’s response was that he wanted his best 11 players on the field. Okay, coach. I assume that having Denard stand on the sidelines with his hands on his hips for the last three minutes of the Ohio State game means he doesn’t count as one of those 11 — never mind that Robinson is one of the best 11 players in the country.
I, for one, was sick at seeing this. All personal feelings aside, Denard Robinson is Michigan’s best running back. Additionally, even though Denard can’t throw the ball with full strength, he could certainly throw a short ball to the flat, or pitch the ball on the run. But forget the strategy part. Denard has made every sacrifice in putting University football first. To not have him on the field in the waning moments of the biggest game of the year was unconscionable — a slap in the face to a guy who’s given it all.
Shame on you, Brady Hoke. And Borges’ role? Hoke is the head coach, and this is one instance where he should have over-ruled his offensive coordinator. Here’s Hoke’s quote from Monday’s press conference following the game: “I thought the play calling was exactly what it should have been.” Oh, really, coach?
Randall L. Tessier is a lecturer in the English Department & Comprehensive Studies Program.