Jemele Hill, Turner Gill and the 'no girls allowed' rule

ESPN columnist and occasional morning pundit Jemele Hill, whom I respect and immensely enjoy reading, penned a column – out today – which can you can find here.

She illuminates that new Kansas football coach Turner Gill enforces the following rules for his players:

1. He collects all cell phones 24 hours before kickoff, and does not return them until after the game

2. No women after 10pm

The question at the crux of this piece: “Do these rules stunt maturity and development?” Hill claims ‘no’, and while I don’t necessarily disagree, I do believe it’s less harmful than you’d think, and I strongly support these measures.

If you’ve ever been to Europe, you know Europeans have a completely different approach to alcohol consumption than we do. Let’s just say their approach is more open. I once attended a World League football game in Dusseldorf, Germany. There were no tailgating restrictions. Alcohol was sold the entire game. Beer was cheaper than Coke.

The problem with this line of thought is worldwide fans of soccer are notoriously more drunk and disorderly than any American fans of any sport, including American football. We cut our alcohol sales after halftime, or the second period, or the sixth inning. These measures work, even given hours upon hours of pre-game tailgating time.

Gill is hardly alone among coaches. Following Miami’s 36-24 loss to Ohio State, Hurricanes coach Randy Shannon banned his players from using Twitter that week — as if it were the complexity of Twitter’s 140-character limit that caused quarterback Jacory Harris to throw four interceptions. Some coaches have banned Twitter altogether, including Boise State’s Chris Peterson and New Mexico State’s DeWayne Walker.

It isn’t the Tweeting itself that’s distracting. The fallout from Tweeting – accidental lapses in confidentiality, potential for un-PC comments, on-the-record takedowns of coaches and teammates, are distracting and creates headache for programs trying to maintain focus.

One of the biggest mistakes college coaches make — particularly those who oversee the revenue sports like football and basketball — is keeping their players segregated from the normal college experience …

The result is a college experience that doesn’t broaden their view, but narrows it. If Kansas players aren’t allowed to interact with women after a certain time, how does that actually improve the way they view and treat women? How does it help them make the appropriate decision when they encounter a difficult situation? How does this help them become well-rounded individuals?

While her position is admirable and not incorrect, there’s one glaring caveat: These young men are just past the age where ‘well-rounded’ and ‘appropriate’ are plausible goals if they’ve shown sides they’ll be neither of the two.

The players’ attitudes toward ‘normal’ and ‘women’ and ‘experience’ have all been near-irreversibly skewed before they play one snap at college. They’ve been coddled and segregated, boosted and stroked since their pop warner coach or parents first sensed ‘greatness’ – this especially applies to the young men who will with certainty use college as a springboard to the NFL.

Their high school experiences were anything but normal. They ran with crowds – both peer and adult – who showered them with accolades, gifts, opportunities and, most of all, women.

Talent is a key to a high-status world, and thus an aphrodisiac. These men have had girls flock to them in hordes since they were just kids. They’ll never have ‘normal’ perception of proper interactions with women.

A young man – all hormones and inexperience and poor judgment and messiah complex – being regularly flanked by women at all hours of the day simmers a strong possibility for events to go awry. Part of putting yourself in a position to succeed involves avoiding positions where failure is possible. Hell, I know 90% of the bad decisions I’ve made in my life directly resulted from choosing the path that led most easily to getting laid.

Casey Stengel once said, “The trouble is not that players have sex the night before a game, it’s that they stay out all night looking for it.”

The rule isn’t about developing the players’ ability to think for themselves.

The rule’s about risk mitigation, which is also an essential life skill every young man should learn.

Do Turner Gill’s rules impede young men’s development? [ESPN]