Morgan State made right move in supporting Ricky Diggs

John Steadman

November 25, 1992|By John Steadman

All the crybaby protests and threatened strike by the football players of Morgan State University achieved, aside from bringing embarrassment to themselves, was to solidify the position of the coach they were complaining about. Good.

Ricky Diggs didn't deserve to be boiled in hot grease or thrown into the discard. The school administration, much to its credit, decided to stand behind the coach. It wouldn't cave in to the unfortunate demands of the malcontents.

Diggs is what Morgan needs -- a return to discipline and, with this, a chance to regain glory.

With the new security Diggs has gained, although it happened inadvertently, comes a respect and a reinforcement for all of those invested with positions of authority at Morgan. Suppose a segment of the student body decided to rebel against a professor who was demanding in his classroom and tried to have him removed by signing a letter of complaint?

Had the Morgan officials given in to the athletes, it would have established a woeful precedent. This, fortunately, didn't happen. Dr. Raymond Downs, vice president for student affairs who investigated the situation and listened to the testimony, is to be commended for his decision and the way he gathered pertinent information.

Diggs was mildly reprimanded for using strong language, but football is a game for those possessing both mental and physical toughness. If you don't have those qualities, then find another sport or spend fall afternoons taking a walk in the park.

If Diggs had been given the gate, he no doubt would have been overwhelmed with job opportunities elsewhere. Coaches all over the country were aware of what had been reported and were waiting to see how Morgan handled the situation, to see if the school would back Diggs or let the players toss him to the wolves.

By their actions, the players put themselves -- not Diggs -- in an untenable position. Signing a petition asking for the removal of Diggs was serious and could have been used against them. In what way? Loss of scholarships.

Team members threatened a sit-in at halftime before the Bethune-Cookman game, which Morgan decided to cancel fTC rather than risk the possibility of disorder in the stands and on the field.

In the future, as Morgan looks back and sees that 2-0 forfeit in the record book, it's going to be a constant reminder of the unfortunate way the 1992 varsity acted.

The Morgan football tradition is rich and impressive with such illustrious names studding its golden past as Ed Hurt, Lenny Ford, Willie Lanier, Roosevelt Brown, Leroy Kelly, Earl Banks (headed for the College Football Hall of Fame) and so many others of distinction.

With Diggs, the Morgan team has made progress. It's not reflected in the won/lost numbers, but the team is better prepared and more competitive. Diggs comes from a coaching background that includes terms at two excellent service academies, The Citadel and the Air Force Academy, where every aspect of a cadet's life is well-disciplined -- including the football team.

Strong language on the part of an explosive coach isn't a pre-requisite to getting the most out of the personnel but some of the magic coaching names in football, ever since it began, have asserted themselves with descriptive words that would shock a sewing circle or a bridge club. Hopefully, the way Diggs treats his players is uniform. He can't have two sets of rules, being hard on the reserves and soft on the starters.

Bill Roper, the famed Princeton coach, would scream at a player who fumbled and tell him, "Rather you would have died as a baby than to have lived to fumble that football." And didn't Bob Zuppke, when asked what it took to play football, answer: "You have to have big feet and smell like a goat."

Football is based on dedication, perspiration, a willingness to accept pain and unending personal sacrifice. And, yes, even biting criticism from the coach.

The Morgan squad needs to be reminded of that. It should be concerned with carrying out assignments, pushing the ball across the goal line or keeping the opposition from doing the same, rather than trying to get Diggs, the coach, fired.

It's the responsibility of the president and athletic director to address the subject of whether a coach has the ability and personality to be retained; not the guards, tackles, halfbacks, etc.

It's hoped Morgan football players will put the incident behind them. They should seek out the coach and offer an apology and pledge to make amends. Diggs was only endeavoring to achieve what he was hired to do -- turn around a team that had become comfortable losing.

Some coaches talk softly and others in harsh terms, but in any case it's not a job where finishing high in a campus popularity contest is correlated to winning.

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