Arkansas Razorbacks head coach Bret Bielema spoke with Sports Illustrated Friday in an effort to clarify the comments he made Thursday regarding the death Cal defensive lineman Ted Agu. (Bielema used Agu’s death as one of the reasons why the NCAA should consider slowing down the pace of play.)
Here’s what Bielema had to say to SI Friday:
The reason I brought up the Cal player is this: We all have sickle cell players. To me, it’s the most scary individual thing we face. There are no signs. There are no indicators. You test every one of your players when they come in. And there are players who come in that have no idea they have it. Then you’ve got to call the parents, sit the kid down and talk to them what it means — what the possibilities of things happening are. It’s a scary deal. But you contact the mom and dad and you tell them, listen, the one thing we’ll do is we’ll have our trainers locked into it. His coaches know. His position coach knows, and I know as the head coach. We’re always going to be looking out for his well-being. You promise them that. I always make the guarantee when I’m in the parents’ home. I say I can’t guarantee playing time or a degree, but I’m going to guarantee that I’ll help you get both. And the second thing I can guarantee is that I’ll always look out for the safety and the well-being of your son. When you’re halfway across the country, that means something. It means you’re going to look out for their safety.
When this whole safety issue came up, everybody’s thinking you’re talking about knee injuries or hamstrings. I’m talking about the concussion crisis, sickle cell trait. This one [sickle cell trait] really scares you because you don’t know when it’s coming. The kids have difficulty breathing. They don’t want to come out of practice or the game. All the ones I’ve ever been around, they want to stay in because they don’t want their teammates to think they’re quitting or stopping. What we began to rationalize is that when these players pass when they’re involved in these conditioning drills, they pull themselves out of it or the trainer pulls them out of it because they’re having difficulties. What if you’re in the middle of the third or fourth quarter and you know that the kid standing 15 yards away from you or on the other side of the field has this trait. He’s got this built-in possibility of something happening. Your doctors have told you about it. Your trainers have told you about it. He looks at you through those eyes or maybe the trainer even says, “Hey coach, you need to get him out of there.” And you can’t. You have no timeouts. He’s not going to fake an injury. He’s not going to fall down.
Yeah, considering Agu’s official cause of death has not yet been determined, using his health as a prop in an argument is a bit questionable.
(Bielema has since apologized for his Thursday comments.)
[Source: Sports Illustrated]