So, I felt that Chris Ash made a mistake - a blunder - in not handing out three spring practice awards. And I wrote a post offering my thoughts.
And believe me when I tell you that I really never expected the reactions that erupted from that 500 word essay. And I'm not the kind of person to pour the gasoline, light the match, and then walk away. So, we're back to look at what was said.
I still feel that Ash made an error in deciding to not give out the Frank Burns Award, the Douglass Smith Award, and the Mark Mills Award, and I'll add more later. Ryan Dunleavy wrote the news story and you can revisit the details there. There were comments on both sides of the issue, and we're going to offer a few of the more pithy ones - on both sides - here.
Yeah, Ash was wrong
Let's hope Ash rethinks this poor decision. Doing things your own way is fine. Thumbing your nose at one of Rutgers valued traditions is not.
There are some things you just don't mess with
And it's not about the awards, it's about the people who gave MUCH, MUCH more than they took.
Couldn't agree more, Bob
I'm very reluctant to criticize our new coach publicly, but here's what I'd say: There has to be some kind of compromise, such as doing something else to keep Burns' name a constant in the program.
Well, KnightinNewark, I'd say I was hesitant to do that, too, but being the new guy, trying to rectify the dumpster fire that had been left behind, doesn't make you immune from criticism. And it carried over to Facebook, where the story was posted both at On the Banks site as well as Rutgers Athletics Tailgating Club, where these comments were left.
Mike Weiss Dale I 100% agree. Being a close friend of the Burns family this is really just a slap in the face. I understand Ash trying to change the culture but if anyone exemplifies, as you know, the hard work, toughness and dedication to play football at RU.. Frank Burns is the one. He did more with less than any coach in the history at Rutgers. Are they going to remove his classes statue at the walk next? Somethings need to remain April 14 at 8:33am
Ross S. Blacker In every program there are time honored traditions that take precedence over the wishes of coaches and even administrators and this is one of them. Totally unacceptable to remove this award! April 14 at 9:38am
You're making a mountain out of a mole hill
Of course, not everyone agreed with my or those feelings. And I have to admit I didn't expect quite this much pushback to the post. Some samples:
I'm fine with this
he shouldn't be the sole person responsible in honoring important past members of the program. I'm sure Rutgers has a marketing department who should be the group responsible for honoring past players/coaches.
if ash does not want the awards or feels no one has earned them, then he needs to break with "tradition" and continue remaking this program in his vision.
Agree, I've got no issue with this
Think Ash was just saying that he does not want to give out awards because right now they are not deserved. The other coaching staff may have liked to talk about awards, and what a family they all were, and what a fun atmosphere it was, and have ice cream dance offs and ice bath DJ tents. Now, however, if the players want to beat OSU and Mich then they better get their act together and not be concerned with Spring awards.
I do not care about spring practice awards, and yes I was a Frosh the last UNDEFEATED season ( under Frank Burns )
I bet the players could care less.
Has anyone else notice those spring awards do not seem to carry over to actual game-day achievement?
And from Facebook:
Krista Booth Crowe For those who didn't watch the presser, the point Ash was trying to make is that giving out awards at this time would be sending the wrong message to the team. He only wants to give put awards if the awards are meaningful and I agree with that approach....Everyone needs to calm down. I'm sure the awards will still exist, just not giving them out this Spring. Let the guy runs his program.
Ash did, in fact, hold open the possibility of reinstating these awards, or some variation. But that brings me to my final assessment here, and a point that was made by others. Does a coach have the right to create - or do away with - awards for his team? Within certain parameters, I'd say yes.
but it's just the first year. I kind of get that he doesn't know who most improved is because he wasn't here last year so he has nothing to judge it on....Hopefully there will be discussion for the future. I can't believe he's that stubborn and dumb, and that his boss Hobbs is so publicity unaware, that they'll let this be perceived as an "eff you" to some RU traditions (which only stared in the 80's by the way - it's not like Paul Robeson won these awards). [emphasis added]
"Hopefully there will be discussion for the future." But why wasn't there that discussion before this was done.? As I stated in the original post, the individual who sponsored (paid for) the awards was told nothing other than we aren't doing it. There was no 'We'll likely be doing something later' or 'We'll look into reinstating them'. It was just, we aren't doing it. And that, to me, is the key point; it's the process that failed, that fell short. It is not the "transparency" that everyone has said was needed in RU athletics. In a post we ran on Pat Hobbs and "ethics" at Rutgers, we cited an nj.com story. In that story, Pat Hobbs said, "We won't always get it right. But if we don't get it right, we admit that we didn't get it right and we fix it and go forward. Nobody's perfect, I'm far from perfect. You learn from those mistakes and errors and being able to own up to them." And while he wasn't talking about this particular decision, it certainly applies. There needed to be, and I feel there still needs to be, a conversation about this. It came out cold and blunt, and it didn't need to be that way.
Who are those guys, anyway?
Among the comments, there seemed to be a sense that 1) spring awards are meaningless and 2) what's the big deal about giving awards that nobody ever heard of? Well, as I wrote in a comment, 1) tell that to the people who won the awards and 2) tell that to the families of the people who have their names on the awards.
The Frank Burns Award for mental and physical toughness in spring practice has been awarded since 1990 and its recipients include the likes of Jay Bellamy, Ryan Neill, Kevin Malast, Mason Robinson, KaLial Glaud, David Milewski, and Nick Arcidiacono. So much for the comment, "....how many Burns award winners did nothing during the season. More than many would care to admit. Cuz as I said its stupid"
The Mark Mills (Offense) and Douglass Smith (Defense) Awards to the players who have shown the most improvement during the spring have gone to Gary Brackett, Chad Schwenk, Chris Loomis, Jason McCourty, Kevin Haslam, Kenny Britt, Khaseem Greene, Tim Wright, Quentin Gause, Taj Alexander, and Janarion Grant. Not a bad list.
Do away with the awards? Fine, I really can live with that. But you still need to follow through - maybe in advance - explaining why, particularly when people and history are involved.
Liars never figure and figures never lie
Then there was this comment that got me thinking:
I didn't even know these awards existed
Now that I do I am glad they are gone because awards for spring practice are dumb.by Scott Huh on Apr 14, 2016
Do people know about any awards that are given out? Do people who are not involved with the program as players or staff or media have any idea about what awards get handed out to the players? I had a feeling I knew the answer but - and here's the caveat - I decided to do a far too small and way too unscientific survey to find out. I asked people who are affiliated with/fans of Rutgers if they had ever heard of a series of awards. I asked OTB staff as well as friends, including a former football player. The results:
The Paul Robeson Award, begun in 1968, also known as the Touchdown Club Trophy, awarded to that senior whose performance, leadership and dedication on and off the field, during his varsity career, had the greatest impact on Rutgers Football 13 said Yes they had heard of it, 3 said No they hadn't
The Loyal Knight Award, begun in 1984, awarded to the player who distinguished himself by sacrificing personal goals for the team, and whose character and dedication have proved resilient in his pursuit of excellence 8 Yes, 8 No The last award was issued in 2014
The George T. Cronin Trophy, begun in 1931, awarded to the varsity football player who has manifested the most improvement and progress 0 Yes, 16 No The last award was issued in 2004, but it was presented for 73 years!
The David Bender Trophy, begun in 1947, awarded to the offensive and defensive football linemen to properly recognize merit 1 Yes, 15 No
The Homer Hazel Award, begun in 1953, awarded to the most valuable player on the varsity football team 10 Yes, 6 No
So, what's my point? What was my point? Oh, right, there are awards that are given out to the team that people don't know about; it doesn't make them useless or "dumb". There are also awards that were around and have been discontinued, for whatever reason. But in this day of social media and literally instant access to information - and opinion - those in positions of authority or impact need to be more circumspect in how they approach such decisions.
So, now what?
Well, whether Chris Ash made a blunder, acted without fully understanding the background, or was simply doing what he, as the head coach, thought needed to be done is up to each of us to decide. Personally, I don't think this is over (although it is here), and I do believe there will be more conversation/explanation/resolution. Regardless, the three people who have their names on these awards should not be brushed aside, and I don't think they will. Many commenters said as much, suggesting other awards that could bear their names.
If anyone needs to be recognized it is Frank Burns. There are a lot of reasons why more than a spring achievement award should have his name on it. And we'll explore that next.
* Rutgers was founded as Queen's College in 1766, named in honor of Charlotte of Mecklenburg, queen consort of King George III of England. Now you know.