Full on damage control, or brutal honesty? Considering what took place from Saturday night to Tuesday night, it’s telling that Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez had to come out and speak to the media to quell some of the firestorm building up.
On Wednesday, Alvarez spoke to Andy Baggot of the Wisconsin State Journal about the last of a PR nightmare — the Joel Stave injury, non-injury saga.
He defended head coach Gary Andersen’s choice to play Stave’s absence off as an “injury” that would “shut him down” as a way to protect the player.
“He’s a guy worried about his player,” Alvarez said, “trying to protect his player.
“I don’t think there was any deceit there. I don’t think there’s anyone hurt there. I just think it’s really overplayed.”
Sometimes the road to hell (or media circus) is paved with good intentions. Having been around coach Andersen enough to know, he has always been a straight shooter with the media and one not to hide things often.
It’s part of what made this whole situation crazy to begin with. Andersen’s reputation early on as a straight shooter stood in stark contrast to the incidents involving both Melvin Gordon and Joel Stave.
One could easily chalk this up to protecting a player, like Alvarez did, but the combination of the two scream of a program trying to skate by without people catching on to what is really happening behind closed doors.
Don’t think for one second that the Badgers wouldn’t have been better off if Gordon’s injury never came out. UW never having to answer questions about why Stave isn’t a full participant in practice would’ve been ideal too.
It’s not as if extra distractions and questions are what coaches enjoy dealing with. Ironically, in trying to avoid that scenario, the Badgers’ head coach actually caused himself more headaches than was necessary.
Alvarez didn’t see a coach out to play games though; instead he reiterated that it was all about protecting the player.
“He’s a head coach trying to protect the kid,” Alvarez said. “He’s not a wordsmith.
“A coach can’t come out and say, ‘My guy has mental issues. He’s not throwing it well.’ You don’t do that. He’s trying to protect the player and that’s the right thing to do.”
Yet, what struck me most is that in trying to protect the player from the stigma (because that’s exactly what Alvarez was suggesting between the lines) of having a “mental issue” in the throwing game, no one seemed to ask Stave what he was comfortable with.
Stave coming out on Tuesday night, telling the world he had no physical issue and was going through some other things with the pass game shows us just how uncomfortable he was in not telling the truth.
That kind of courage should be complemented, because all too often players and coaches are more than willing to take the easy way out and not be subjected to difficult questions.
At the end of the day, Alvarez is right in some respects because in a few weeks no one is going to be talking about the saga that took place in Week 1. Instead we’ll be talking about the just completed non-conference season and what’s in store for Wisconsin Badgers football.
That is, if there are no more public statements being made that contradict themselves. Knowing the people involved, this week was a good lesson learned and it won’t be repeated ever again.