Keeping Score

Ex-USC Football Player: How My Coach Called Me A “Motherf—-r” for Going to Class

A new film, produced by a former USC defensive lineman, will try to shake up college sports

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Jonathan Moore / Getty Images

Assistant head coach Ed Orgeron of the USC Trojans on the sideline during a 22-13 loss against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on November 24, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.

When Bob DeMars was a football player at mighty USC back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, he wanted to major in the school’s prestigious cinema program. Since some of the prerequisite classes interfered with football practice time, however, DeMars says that the athletic department wouldn’t allow it. So he majored in business instead.

In order to show up on time for a required statistics course one semester, he says he had to leave spring practice twenty minutes early, once a week. His defensive line coach, Ed Orgeron, wasn’t happy. You motherf—-r, DeMars remembers Orgeron, who went on to become head coach at Ole Miss from 2005 to 2007, and is now back at USC as assistant head coach, shouting at him. “He M-F’d me all over the place,” says DeMars. “He made me feel like a bad person for going to class.”

USC did not make Orgeron available for comment. “While the alleged events happened before my time as athletic director at USC,” school athletic director Pat Haden said in an email statement, “I can say that all our football practices have been open to the media and players’ families since before Bob was here, and have been open to the public for most of that time as well. The transparency of practice would have brought to light this type of alleged inappropriate behavior. We also have high standards for our coaches and monitor and evaluate them as we would any of our employees.”

“Additionally, we have always been proud to support our student-athletes in a full range of academic pursuits. Majors represented in 2012 among football alone included Theatre, Business Administration, Psychology, Communications, Economics, Chemical Engineering and Political Science.”

With the news coming out of Rutgers this spring — Mike Rice hurling balls and homophobic slurs at players, new athletic director Julie Hermann allegedly verbally abusing players while coaching volleyball at Tennessee in the 1990s — coaching behavior is under intense scrutiny. DeMars calls Orgeron “one of the most brilliant defensive line coaches in the country.” He acknowledges that he helped DeMars improve as a player. But he believes Orgeron could have been just as effective without undermining education. DeMars says that when other players ran sprints for missing class, Orgeron would give DeMars the “stink-eye,” as if DeMars let him down for actually going to class. “I still remember him as someone who got paid a lot of money to care about football,” says DeMars, who went to high school in the Los Angeles area. “When I signed with USC, no one said good luck on your degree. No one said, go to school and get good grades. You’re not a student-athlete. You’re an athlete-student.”

DeMars, who spent most of his career as a backup before starting two games his senior year, may have missed out on the major. But he still managed to fulfill his dream: DeMars is now a filmmaker. The first documentary that DeMars produced — Adjust Your Color: The Truth Of Petey Green – aired on PBS’ Independent Lens program, and won the show’s 2009 Audience Award, given annually to the film to which audiences give the highest rating. Now, he’s using his skills to try to change the college sports culture in which coaches like Orgeron thrive. DeMars is seeking Kickstarter funding for a new film questioning the direction of college sports, called “The Business of Amateurs.” Nineteen days into the film’s 35-day funding period, DeMars has raised nearly $18,000 toward a $30,000 goal. “The NCAA was originally founded on the principles of protecting and benefiting the health of the student athlete,” DeMars writes on the film’s Kickstarter page. “This documentary will challenge the NCAA’s current role in the marketing and selling of their cheapest commodity: amateurs.” You can see a trailer on the Kickstarter page here: the film’s mission seems promising. Former USC star quarterback Matt Barkley, who was selected in the fourth round of the NFL draft, tweeted his support for the film last week, giving it a funding boost.

DeMars doesn’t say that schools should pay players salaries, though he thinks that, like Olympic athletes, they should be permitted to secure individual sponsorships and sell their likeness on the open market. “The Olympics are a great example of what the NCAA could be,” says DeMars. “People look at Olympians with great pride, and not as if they’ve violated some sacred amateur ideal.” His major cause is long-term health benefits for college athletes. DeMars says that thanks to his college football career, he has a severed posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) in both knees. He also suffers from frequent neck pain. These conditions will drive up his future health care costs.  Shouldn’t a higher percentage of the ever-ballooning television revenues that schools receive be allocated toward health care for the unsalaried players who helped create the financial windfall?

(MORE: Latest Rutgers Scandal – Does Verbal Abuse Have A Place In Society?)

Come August every year, DeMars often wakes up in the middle of the night, sweating, after dreaming about his hellish summer practices. He says that coaches would keep him on the field in scrimmages for 50 plays in a row. “Fifteen plays is too much,” says DeMars. “I was expendable.” (The Pac-12 has announced that it will adopt a new policy limiting contact in practice). DeMars says he collapsed in the shower after one summer practice. “I remember a 96-year-old guy standing over me to help out,” says DeMars, “and thinking, ‘shouldn’t it be the other way around here?’”

DeMars thinks that so-called “student-athletes,” who have actually seen the college sports cesspool up close, have the strongest–and most underutilized–voices for change. He hopes to share his experience, and interview dozens of other players for the film. DeMars says playing for USC was a “dream come true.” But it came at a cost. “You get brainwashed by your coaches,” says DeMars. “You don’t want to let anyone down.” According to DeMars, in practice Orgeron would unleash verbal assaults on him, calling him every curse in the book. “He would push his brow into my head while he was screaming at me with his fist balled up,” says DeMars. “How am I not supposed to think this is a coach yelling at me and not someone trying to fight me?”

Todd Keneley, who also played at USC in the late 1990s, also says Orgeron was an intense — and brilliant — coach. Keneley cherishes his time on the USC football team — football relationships have helped him personally and professionally (Keneley is an MMA commentator). He has no regrets about playing. But Keneley also knows it took a toll on his academic experience. Football demands once forced him to sprint from practice in full pads, hand in a paper that was due before a lecture, and sprint out of the classroom and back to the field. “To Bobby’s point, you sacrifice a lot at that level in terms of your education,” says Keneley. “Football overwhelms every part of your college life.”

DeMars knows that some teammates may think he’s breaking a code by sharing his story. But he wants to see his school, and all schools, treat their athletes fairly. “I love my school, I love my teammates,” DeMars says. “But I want my kids to play sports–and not go through the things I had to go through.”

(MORE: College Sports Spending – The Real March Madness?)

25 comments
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stellalove580


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RekkaRiley
RekkaRiley

You know, I've always wondered...do college athletes get paid for what they do?  Even a little bit?

If not...I'm starting to wonder how ethical college sports is at all.  

The amount of time and physical effort demanded of these students more often than not prevents them from pursuing paid work elsewhere, and also interferes with their classes and thus their chance at a stable career after graduating.  I don't expect them to be paid in the millions, like professional athletes are, but given the number of hours they are expected to devote to their team, shouldn't they be paid at least some kind of minimum  hourly wage?

If they are expected to sacrifice this much, including risking physical injury and burning out before getting a chance at a professional league, why are they not being compensated for their time?

Also, I think this article brings up an excellent point:  College athletes are students as well as athletes.  Which obligation should be taking preference here?

College sports, as important as they feel at the time, are temporary.  Only a rare few are ever able to pursue sports professionally after graduating.  Their obligations as a student, however, will have a much higher chance of allowing them to pursue a financially stable lifestyle after graduation.  What good are your sports achievements in college if you are living the rest of your life in a broken-down trailer, working in a fast food restaurant, with little hope of anything better?

Should we, as a culture who supports these athletic institutions, really be demanding that these students sacrifice their hope of a a stable, happy future, for what is ultimately just a game? 

Before any sports fans jump on me about how "it's not just a game, you don't understand how important this is!":  on some level, you may be right.  I'm not a particularly huge sports fan.  I like it when my hometown's team wins, I'm sad when they lose, but I do not view sports as the be-all and end-all of my existence.  There are so many things in life that are so much more important to me personally.

But, I am not trying to belittle people who do feel sports are important.  If it sounds like I am being insulting, then I apologize.  That was never my intent.  I do challenge you to look at the bigger picture, to see exactly what we are demanding of college athletes and see how little they actually get in return.

If you're still reading...perhaps you can still answer my first question?  About whether or not college athletes get paid for what they do?

mrbomb13
mrbomb13

The purpose of going to college/university is two-fold:  

1) To make the transition into adulthood.

2) To gain the knowledge/skill-set required for professional employment/graduate studies upon graduation.

NO WHERE in #1 & 2 is there ANYTHING about SPORTS.  Athletics have become far, far too large at our [emphasis] academic institutions.  The goal of those institutions is not to, 'play Division I.'  Yet, with articles like this, the influence of sports is shown to be tremendous.

As a country, we need to re-align our priorities and investments into educational, technical, and vocational training.  Not a dollar of investment should be going to 'state of the art stadiums or gyms,' for those are focused on the short-term.

Learning, and then leading a good life will help those students most in the longer-run.

CoachK_Miller
CoachK_Miller

I'm a former college football player and I can tell you Demars is SPEAKING THE ABSOLUTE TRUTH!!

IntheBhav
IntheBhav

That is not the way a couch should treat players, I don't care what any of you say. Yes, he might have gotten a free education, but it came at a price to his mind and his body beyond the USC tuition. College Athletes need rights and to have their story told. Good on ya, Bobby for coming out and sharing your story. 

FerdBerfel
FerdBerfel

I can't believe a major university would punish students for seeking an education. Are we talking about the University of Southern California, the school that gave America the illiterate miscreant OJ Simpson and that is on NCAA probation now after their star player Reggie Bush had a $750,000 house given to his parents? That USC?

mchendrix
mchendrix

If Samuel Jackson called me a “Motherf—-r” I'd take it as a compliment. 

AndrewPulsipher
AndrewPulsipher

The thing that is missing here is that he could have probably taken that class another time or another semester and probably should have because the football team was paying ($50,000/year) for him to even be there. 

eagle11772
eagle11772

Is this how Vince Lombardi coached ?  How does screaming at players, cursing at players, calling them homophobic slurs, and other slurs, (why is it acceptable to scream homophobic slurs at players but not scream the "N-word" at a player ?) throwing things at them, and assaulting them make them a better player ?  Can anyone explain this to me ?

DrLarryHill
DrLarryHill

In a time where the 8 second sound bite is king and attention spans are dwindling we must turn to good documentaries for good information. The trailer alone will blew my mind about the origins of American Collegiate sports. I was gripped by the story line because the data is used as a basis to have a conversation about RIGHTS. In the US we often use the constitution to ground our conversation about RIGHTS. The world of sports is a business industry capable to RIGHTS violations as its workers are exploited. Why not at least enter the rights conversation with a legit documentary rather than Joe Smoe know-it-all who likes to quote sports stats to boost his Machismo. I have a feeling this documentary will Like ESPN's Beyond the Glory. Yet this one will be on 'Roids'.

valentine.godoflove
valentine.godoflove

"MOTHERFRUCKER"!!!!!!!!!!!! I LEARNED THE WORD FROM RICHARD PRYOR , THE COMEDIAN.......AND IT HAS BEEN USED COUNTLESS OF TIMES SINCE TO EMPHASIZDE WHAT ONE IS SAYING.

OKAY BY ME.....SO LONG AS THERE IS NO ANGER OR VENOM BEHIND THE WORDS;;;;;;;

LOL

Valentine, the god of love, comedian......lol

JimSmith4
JimSmith4

Another panties in a bind SC hating statement from the past. Is the author entirely ignorant of what goes on in college football. You think Nick Saban and Les Miles havent done anything like this. Ridiculous story...

MustBeReallyBored
MustBeReallyBored

Geez N Rice! Man up, move on. Dunno which is worse, this clown complaining that his coach yelled at him, or the fact that he's just another leech making money off our children....

borromini
borromini

Right...that's because the Old Ball Coach...simply has "tutors" attend class for Jadeveon and the other Clowneys.

Worleybird
Worleybird

MY USC  The University of South Carolina would NEVER Do that YOU can have your USC

cjh2nd
cjh2nd

@AndrewPulsipher 

"Since some of the prerequisite classes interfered with football practice time, however, DeMars says that the athletic department wouldn’t allow it" 

Cinema courses aren't like businesses courses where every alcoholic fratboy majors in it so they offer the courses 5 times a week.  Often times, those courses are offered just once or twice a week, at times players have no control over.  If he was trying to take a course to get out of practice that's one thing, but making uninformed, blanket statements about a topic you have no inside knowledge about is just ignorant.  but then again, maybe you just majored in business and don't know/understand how the liberal arts path works


cjh2nd
cjh2nd

@eagle11772 

 some players respond to that. not everyone likes to have their hand held and told that "it's ok to suck, as long as you try hard and have fun"

cjh2nd
cjh2nd

@JimSmith4  just because other coaches have done it doesn't take away from it as a story or diminish the fact that it's BS. the only thing ridiculous is the ignorant viewpoints of college football (and, in this case, USC in particular) fanboys willing to ignore how royally f-ed up the NCAA system is as long as you get to watch your team win.  pathetic.

cjh2nd
cjh2nd

@Worleybird 

are you f-ing kidding me? YOUR USC is in the conference that has the worst academic records of any conference in the country, and YOUR USC is not an exception to that rule.  if you honestly believe that, YOUR USC obviously fails miserably in the "developing critical thinking skills among its students" department

AndrewPulsipher
AndrewPulsipher

@cjh2nd @AndrewPulsipher I'm not saying the player had 100% of the fault. They should have worked something out before hand to accomodate the schedules. He was getting a free education.

Also why are you being so argumentative and judgmental and implying that I have no "inside" knowledge. (BTW I played Division 1 football and have a Bachelor of Arts degree)

RekkaRiley
RekkaRiley

@AndrewPulsipher @RekkaRiley @cjh2nd You said most schools schedule athlete's classes at least one week in advance.

But my point was, how does that negate the limitations of when the classes themselves are provided?

I understand having to switch majors...within reason.  I'm a little concerned that the demands placed on student athletes, in expecting them to switch majors in order to accomodate the team's practice schedule, might damage their ability to pursue a successful career outside of sports when they graduate?  After all, all majors are not considered equal, and very few college athletes are able to pursue a successful career in athletics after they graduate.  

If the first chosen major were something that has an extremely high chance of landing a well-paying, stable position upon graduating, like Accounting or Engineering, and the athletics department demanded that the student give that major up due to scheduling conflicts and required the student to switch to a major with much less chance of employment, would this be acceptable?  Would this not be demanding that the student in question sacrifice their future in favor of the present?  Your BA in Economics is a better choice than most, but a Business degree isn't worth much anymore.  There have been far too many students in my generation getting Business degrees because they thought it would be profitable, but supply and demand has kicked in and now it's no better than a Liberal Arts degree (depending on where you live, of course).  

What if the only major that fit the practice schedule was something like Art or Liberal Arts?  Sure, the student can now attend practice and games with no hindrence, but what happens when they graduate?  How likely are they to be able to find work with a degree in Art?  If they had stuck with the Accounting or Engineering degree, they would've had a much higher chance of a successful career, but now they have nothing.  

Also, no matter what you major in, there will always be required classes with limited availability.  Another point:  you haven't addressed the hypothetical situation I posted about, and I'd still like to hear how you would schedule your classes with those limitations.  How would you handle it?

AndrewPulsipher
AndrewPulsipher

@RekkaRiley @AndrewPulsipher @cjh2nd Most schools schedule all athlete's classes at least one week before any other student signs up. Classes filling up is not a problem. Also most football programs have study that is mandatory with free tutors. As an athlete you are required to put in long hours and balance your time accordingly. Most athletes receive enough money from their scholarship to cover basic living costs and if they do work they work during the summer when they aren't taking classes. Also you can't get everything you want. I personally had to not major in my first choice because of football. I wanted to get a Finance degree but the classes did not fit my schedule so I got a BA in Economics. Sometimes you have to choose between the two. Its not like high school where you can do everything.

RekkaRiley
RekkaRiley

@AndrewPulsipher @cjh2nd When classes are offered depends on the class, the school, the quarter, and a whole lot of other factors.

I'm currently in community college right now, and you would not believe how frustrating scheduling classes can be!

I need classes X and Y in order to graduate, and I need to take X and Y before I can take A and B.  X is only available during fall quarter (which has the highest rate of enrollment), at time 8 am.  A class is only available winter quarter at x time, and I must pass X before I can take it.  I am also required to take Y, which is also only available at 8 am during winter quarter and at 8 am during summer quarter.  However, B is only available winter quarter, and I must pass Y before I can take B.  If I try to put one of these series of classes off until the following year, I will run out of financial aid before I can graduate.

So, how would you suggest scheduling with the above limitations, in addition to considering such things as homework time, transportation, part-time work, and, in this case, sports practice.

Also consider that classes that are required for certain degrees and classes that are prerequisites fill up extremely fast.

Yes, there is the possibility of working something out beforehand...but that is not a guarantee.  The teacher might not be available any other time, the school itself may not have the resources to offer that class or make adjustments, and what of the limitations of the other students taking that particular class?  

I respect your previous experience good sir, and I do hope that you do not take my comment here as an attempt to insult you or your argument in any way.

I am honesty curious as how scheduling was handled at your school?  I am also genuinely curious how you would handle the scheduling limitations mentioned above?