The Politics and Reality of College Athletics
At the end of every season, players have interviews with the coaches to figure out what happened during the season and what the game plan is for the summer going into the following year. They’re not very formal, but it’s possible to learn a lot about where you stand on the team during these discussions. When it was my turn for the interview, I went into Coach Stewart’s office.
Entering the room, the sun was shining through the office window behind him. He sat behind a huge desk with basketball books and DVD’s in the cabinet to the right. Scouting reports lined his desk and ran onto the floor beside us. We started talking to recap the past year, and I told him I felt I was improving and getting more comfortable with the system. I felt he screwed me over a few times, but in talking to him I took the high road and was willing to put that behind us to set myself up for the following season.
About halfway through our conversation, he spoke the words that altered my trajectory in life forever.
He said, “Tyson, you will never play at this school.”
Confused, I replied, “Um, what do you mean?”
He continued, “Here’s the deal. You can be on the team, but you will never get any significant playing time. I honored the scholarship that Coach Gianinni gave you, but you will be a practice player here until you graduate. Now, I don’t know if that’s what you want, but that’s the reality of your situation.”
His words hit me like a ton of bricks and I must have looked like a deer in headlights. Here I was, ready to work my butt off for him this summer and do whatever he asked, but instead, he had other plans for me. These plans turned out to be no plans at all.
I tried to bargain with him, telling him I thought I was as good as some of the other starters. “I can be an asset if I get some more playing time since I’m really starting to learn the system.”
“Tyson, we’re bringing in a lot of great players next year, and you’re not going to have a shot against them.”
I knew I could hang with anybody, but there was nothing I could say to change his mind.
“Look, Tyson, lots of players do it. They’ll go to a Division 1 school, then transfer to a lower level school like a Division 3.”
I thought, I would never do that. My goal was to play Division 1 basketball, not Division 3.
For the rest of the conversation, I just stared at his pasty face as he told me how great the team was going to be the following year. I was in a daze, wondering what the hell was happening. I thought, Do I want to keep my scholarship and be a bench player for the next three years? Or do I want to get the hell out of Maine and get playing time somewhere else?
Once he stopped talking, we shook hands and I walked out of his office. After that, my first order of business was to call Rick and explain to him the situation.
Rick picked up, “What’s up Big Tymerrrrr?”
“Rick, I just had my exit interview with Coach Stewart and he told me I would never play at Maine. He told me those exact words.”
He got serious, “Okay, I’ll call some coaches in Philly right now and tell them. I know a few guys who would love to have you on their team.”
We talked for a little longer and since he knew this was tough for me, he didn’t give me any shit about it. I walked out of the gym and into the sunlight with absolutely no idea of what to do next.
This provides The Politics and Reality of College Athletics.