Was Ferris State University head coach Tony Annese’s suspension justified?

I have covered football for over 15 years mostly at the high school level.

During that time I have seen plenty of coaches yelling at players when they came off the field.

Shawn-Livererance-Column-logo-One of those coaches was Tony Annese when he was coaching the Muskegon Big Reds.

So, was it a real big surprise when I heard he was suspended last month from his head coaching duties at Ferris State University?

No, not really.

Annese was suspended for eight days after an incident during halftime of Ferris State’s game at Michigan Tech on October 26.

According to records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, Annese lost control and vehemently shook a player and struck two others on the shoulder pads in a locker room tantrum.

Annese admitted the actions and said they were to motivate his team, which staged a second-half comeback from a 21-10 deficit to beat Michigan Tech 30-27.

According to Ferris State Athletic Director Perk Weisenburger Annese’s suspension was due to his response to the university’s investigation that showed a “lack of understanding” regarding the inappropriateness of his behavior and that he did not express remorse for these actions, but rather tried to justify them.

Of course, I wasn’t in the locker room when this incident occurred, but according to one player, Justin Zimmer, it was all about motivating the team at halftime.

“He`s a good motivator,” said Zimmer, a defensive lineman. “It was an isolated incident. “I think it was just simply a motivational factor that got us to play better the second half. That`s about it really.”

There was a time when the hard-bitten, task-master coach was the stuff of legend. No water at practice, lung-busting sprints, maybe a slap to the side of the head now and then.

There were legends like Arizona State football coach Frank Kush and Indiana basketball coach Bobby Knight who were notoriously tough on players.

So, it is not rare that a college coach who has never lost his composure or raised his voice to drive home a point.

I am not condoning what Annese did, but was it worth an eight-day suspension?

If you remember last spring when ESPN aired the damming video showing Rutgers men’s basketball coach Mike Rice shoving his players, hurling gay slurs and throwing basketballs at their heads.

He was fired as a result and he should have been.

Coaches are going to yell at players on occasion and sometimes they are going to put their hands on players at practice or during a game.

I do think any contact you have with your players should be done appropriately.

Appropriate actions by coaches are as much a function of instinct and common sense as they are of rules and regulations.

But, what exactly crosses the line in reprimanding, disciplining or dishing out what’s known as “tough love” to players?

Athletes can bring immediate problems to the athletic director at any time.

The NCAA does not provide lists of exactly what coaches can and cannot do, and individual schools don’t either. The coach is supposed to know how far is too far.

Personally I always liked a coach who showed passion, knows the game and cares about you as a player and as a person.

Yes, coaches are primarily teachers and should be held to similar standards as academic teachers, while also making limited allowances for the passionate nature of some sports.

And football is about as passionate a sport as there is.

Thus, I think an allowance in this case should have been given to Annese and not an eight-day suspension.

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