At Colorado, a Breach in Football’s Wall

By on April 18, 2019

From NY Times:  The University of Colorado hired a new football coach in December and, as coaches are wont to do, he talked tough.

“Our team, we will be physical,” Coach Mel Tucker said at his introductory news conference. “My dad always told me the name of the game is hit, hit, H-I-T. There is always a place on the field for someone who will hit.”

He was preaching that old style pigskin religion. Unfortunately, Tucker, who came from the University of Georgia, runs a football program that has seen at least a half-dozen former players — including several who played in the N.F.L. — kill themselves. Other former players are alive but afflicted by severe post-concussion problems.

Two university regents, dissenters from the Church of Hit, Hit and Hit, read Tucker’s remarks and shook their heads. A few days later these heretics voted against his five-year, $14.75 million contract. They could not block the contract, but another cannon had been fired in the football concussion wars.

Linda Shoemaker, one of the regents, described her pilgrimage from casual fandom to casting a vote against football.

“I really thought at first that we could play football safely with better rules and better equipment; I drank the Kool-Aid,” she told me. “I can’t go there anymore. I don’t believe it can be played safely anymore. I want these young men to leave C.U. with minds that have been strengthened, not damaged.”

[Read Michael Powell’s account of a Colorado player struggling with head trauma.]

The N.F.L. long ago settled on a tobacco-industry stance toward the damage done by concussions and sub-concussive hits; its officials have covered up, obfuscated, and only reluctantly conceded liability for the many hundreds of former players left with minds that fade in and out like old television sets. It is a $14 billion industry, and acting in its pecuniary interests is deplorable but perhaps not surprising.

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