SALT LAKE CITY — Chip Kelly’s appointment as football coach at UCLA was a fashionable and promising choice. In his previous life, he had made Oregon famous. But three games into this season he’s as popular as dandruff. His Bruins are 0-3, with no relief in sight. Their next game is at undefeated Colorado.
But the worst news isn’t the losing; it’s the distraction. Angry boosters are one thing, but when it’s a dad doing the trash talking …
The father of Bruins quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson took the offensive this week by calling out Kelly in a series of tweets that screamed OPS: Overbearing Parent Syndrome. Michael Robinson called Kelly a "million dollar coach who bares [sic] no responsibility" for the team's 0-3 start.
Just what every coach needs: a keyboard warrior named Dad.
“It is all about the coaching, lousy coaching and play calling ... Coaching that is so bad that it demands closed practices ... Million dollar coach who bares [sic] no responsibility ... Just random observations from a frustrated dad!”
Random is right. Apparently Robinson doesn’t know virtually every team closes practices to the public.
A decade ago, there were also stories about meddlesome parents. They confronted coaches, in person or via phone or email, and argued about starting minutes. Some interfered with their kids’ national letters of intent. But nowadays parents can shame the coach with a few keystrokes. All it takes is a Twitter account and a dark mood.
Under the handle @DoriansDAD, Robinson ripped Kelly’s record with Oregon, as well as UCLA.
“His years at Oregon was simply a fluke on his part ... I am sure that he stood on the shoulders of the actual player callers ... Random thoughts, outside looking in, closed practices,” he wrote.
Why Robinson would take this approach is obvious. Coaches don’t routinely discuss playing time or play calling with parents. So how does a parent be heard?
By going public, of course.
In August, former ESPN personality Merril Hoge teed off on BYU’s coaching staff during an interview with “BYU Sports Nation,” calling assistant coach Ed Lamb “a weasel” and labeling the decision to change his son’s position “stupid” and “as bizarre and smelly as anything I’ve ever seen.”
Those candid TV shots of happy parents in the audience might be the same people hounding the coach. One high school football coach told the Arizona Republic he considers quitting every year because of intrusive parents. Author John Tufte told the newspaper there are two kinds of “helicopter parents”: those with “harmonious passion” and those with “obsessive passion” — the latter “trying to help the kids but they’re killing them.”
A more recent term is “lawnmower parents,” who attempt to remove any obstacle in their kids’ way, thus delaying the normal maturation process.
Joe Cravens, the former Weber State and St. Joseph High basketball coach told the Deseret News the toll is mostly being taken at the high school level. Kelly makes nearly $5 million annually. That helps absorb a lot of parental criticism. But Cravens said high school coaches earn only $3,000-$4,000 above their teaching salary.
“It’s not worth the money to put up with it. I do see that every day,” Cravens said. “Guys get into coaching because they want to coach and then the parents spoil it for them.”
Cravens likes to quote Bob Knight, who once said it wasn’t the athletes who had changed over the years, but the parents. Cravens’ own father interacted with the coaches in a different way.
“He wrote letters telling them to shake me as much as you want to, because if you do it, he deserves it,” Cravens said.4 comments on this story
Now comes Robinson, irritated his son isn’t playing well, miffed the Bruins are a laughingstock and taunting a coach who won 46 games in four years at Oregon.
In his Pac-12 conference call Tuesday, Kelly did what he should have.
“I have no response,” he said. “I mean everybody's entitled to their opinion, that's the great thing about sports. When you win, people say good things. When you don't win, people don't say good things. That's life, you know? We all have to play better here … we're all in this together.”