More than 100 former UMass football players have raised concerns over head coach Charley Molnar‘s treatment of current players and the use of “combatives” in optional offseason workouts.
The former players, who have signed a petition that reportedly includes 123 signatures and growing, are upset over Molnar’s failure to include alumni in the program’s culture, in addition to the use of wrestling, boxing and other non-football activities in winter practices, the Hampshire Gazette reports. Some of those activities, which are now illegal under NCAA rules, were highlighted in the video below, which was posted in winter of 2012.
At least one player was injured as a result of the combatives, according to the Gazette. Numerous others have quit or transferred, anonymous and named sources told the newspaper.
“It’s unfortunate what’s going on and how guys are being treated,” said Sean Higgins, an all-America tight end in 1999. “It’s such an embarrassment to the university. I’ve heard how he’s treated former players and coaches. Since he’s been on campus, he’s turned away alumni with his attitude. No one wants to back a guy like that. If he didn’t come off so much like an arrogant politician, maybe we’d support him more. He doesn’t care. The video was just icing on the cake.”
Molnar countered by telling the Gazette that he has tried to reach out to alumni, with little success. He said the practices in the videos were taken out of context.
“We have relatively few alumni that ever come back to watch practice or watch winter workouts,” Molnar said. “No matter how hard I’ve tried, we don’t have a great alumni connection. It wasn’t there when I took over and no matter how hard I’ve worked, it still is not there. How could anyone know what goes on inside our program? The welfare and positive experience of being a student athlete at UMass is my No. 1 priority with these guys.”
That doesn’t do much for Brandon Hill, a former Minuteman quarterback who missed the entire 2011 season after suffering a shoulder injury in a winter wrestling match, the Gazette reports. Now the starting quarterback at Monmouth, Hill said the injury “kind of bummed me out” and that while the physical contests were optional, “you want to impress [your coaches] and you’re going to do anything you can to play.”
Although the wrestling and boxing matches were highlighted in the video and in the Gazette’s story, one of the more surprising details was that the Minutemen still hold “Oklahoma” drills daily during the season. The drill, which involves two players fighting to get past each other in a narrow space between blocking pads, has decreased in frequency in many programs due to the risk of injury, as well as the wear and tear that comes with hitting every day during in-season practices.
Yet the non-football bouts in the videos, which helped spark the alumni protest in the first place, remain one of the major points of contention.
“So many of us worked so hard to get the program to this point, and there is no way I can believe I am associated with the foolishness I saw on that video,” former defensive back Breon Parker commented in the online petition. “That has nothing to do with football. Really obvious why we can’t play tough on the weekends. The kids are misguided. Time for a change.”
Check out UMass’ winter bouts in the video below.