Opinion: Eustachy Another Case of Misplaced Priorities

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The only thing more appalling than the details of Larry Eustachy's violent temper and the emotional abuse he inflicted on his players is that the Colorado State basketball coach still has a job.

Flashes of rage that resulted in broken dry erase boards, crumpled soda cans and technical fouls. Profane and derogatory language directed at his players and assistants. A disregard for authority.

"I believed Eustachy should be terminated," former Colorado State athletics director Jack Graham told The Coloradoan, "and I believed we had the basis to terminate for cause."

Yet three years after a university investigation determined Eustachy had created a culture of fear and intimidation, he'll be collecting a $200,000 bonus if the Mountain West-leading Rams make the NCAA tournament. That's on top of his nearly $1 million salary.

Remember that the next time a university brags about how much it prizes its "student-athletes" and considers nothing a higher priority than their health and well-being.

Every time there's a major scandal in college athletics -- Miami (Fla.), Penn State, Baylor, the list goes on and on -- there is a furrowing of brows and solemn promise that this will never happen again. Nothing is worth a school sacrificing its integrity, the refrain goes, and everyone will learn from Disgraced U's mistakes.

And then it happens again. And again. And again. Because the ugly truth is, winning is all that matters, and most schools will forgive all manner of sins as long as their coach is doing it.

And Eustachy has won at Colorado State. A lot. He set a school record with 26 wins in 2012-13, his first season with the Rams, and bettered it by one two years later. He's finished at .500 or better each year, a streak that will continue this season.

This was not the case of a coach simply being hard on his players or yelling a lot. That's to be expected when sports reach the level where they're more than just fun and games.

No, this was abuse, plain and simple. He belittled his players with abusive and vulgar language and told his assistants to "shut the (expletive) up." He hurled full soda cans against walls, threw a chair and kicked a basketball when he was angry.

Colorado State found Eustachy's behavior troubling enough that it told him in February 2014 that he could no longer be alone with his players and ordered him to go through counseling for anger management. Even Eustachy acknowledged he'd gone "way over the line."

Imagine an 18- or 20-year-old being subjected to that day after day. It shouldn't come as any surprise that seven scholarship players have transferred during Eustachy's five seasons, five of them starters.

That there was no evidence Eustachy physically abused his players doesn't matter. Verbal and mental abuse leaves scars, too, and no university should tolerate it, let alone by one of its most high-profile employees.

Graham, the athletics director then, didn't want to tolerate it but was overruled by the university president. Deep-pocketed alums like to see their teams doing well, after all, and everyone knows the checks are bigger when the results are better.

Anyone who has followed Eustachy's career or watched him on the sideline knows he has a short fuse. Yet the university managed to keep details of the 3-year-old investigation quiet until now, when someone tipped off The Coloradoan. The university fell back on "personnel matters" and Eustachy's expectation of privacy.

But what about the players' expectation of a safe environment? What of their parents' expectations that they were entrusting their children to a school and coach that would protect and care for them as is promised in the recruiting pitch?

No surprise, Colorado State was silent on that, lauding its integrity and standards instead.

"We stand by the manner in which we dealt with the allegations -- then and now," the university said in a statement to The Coloradoan. "We stand behind, and are proud of, the environment our athletic department and Coach Eustachy have since created for our student-athletes."

So we move on. Until the next time.

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February 17, 2017


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