AUSTIN, Texas -- In the wake of the Ricky Seals-Jones decommitment, Texas coach Mack Brown let it be known he was not opposed to any of his players participating in another sport.
“… it would not be a problem at all,” he said.
Yeah, but talk is cheap. For real evidence of the coach’s stance on pick and rolls as opposed to blocking and tackling, look no further than Camrhon Hughes. The soon-to-be freshman backup offensive lineman took a severe step back in his progress by tearing up his knee playing hoops last month. OK, so maybe Hughes is not exactly on the same level as Seals-Jones when it comes to excelling at two sports.
But the point is, at least Brown allowed Hughes to play two sports, even if one is at a rec center not the Frank Erwin Center.
“I talked to my buddies across the country that are coaching, they want to all pull [the players] off Twitter, Facebook, not let them play basketball, not let them do this, do that,’ Brown said. “They are human beings, and they're kids.”
They are also valuable commodities. Texas spends more than $550,000 putting together a football recruiting class. In Hughes’ class of 28, that is roughly $20,000 spent on each player signed. Once the player is in school, Texas spends $42,000 per year.
That is a sizable investment even for a school with a $150 million budget. In Hughes’ case, the return on the investment has now been delayed or even possibly scuttled altogether.
Remember Ivan Williams? Brown does. The running back ruptured his patella tendon playing pickup basketball.
“It really curtailed his career,” Brown said. “He went to fullback instead of tailback after that.”
Williams played in 23 games as a freshman and sophomore before the injury and played in 15 after the injury. Still pickup basketball is a fixture in many of the players’ day. Tweets are sent out looking for players, times arranged and fun is had by all. That is until someone goes down like Hughes did.
Then the fun comes to a crashing end. In Hughes’ case all 6-foot-7, 320 pounds of it.
“I think Camrhon's dad said, ‘Medicine ball is the only ball you'll be picking up in your future,’” Brown said after the injury. “Parents usually handle (the restrictions placed on their kids.) We just tell them to be careful.”
That’s really all they can do. Despite the fact that Texas invests more than $100,000 in a four-year player’s career, these are amateur athletes. Pro athletes often have clauses in their contracts restricting them from playing pickup basketball. For example, Aaron Boone of the Yankees tore his ACL and was then cut. Chad Pennington tore his as a free agent and saw his stock go down. Terrell Suggs has vehemently denied tearing his Achilles playing hoops despite eyewitness accounts to the contrary. All of those professionals potentially have money to lose.
Hughes might too some day. But, right now, he’s just a freshman doing what most other freshmen football players do, run the court in his spare time. If Brown were to forbid the players from playing basketball, it very well could cause some strife among the team. And it could certainly be used against him in recruiting.
So for now, Texas and Brown will just have to live with the possibility that injuries might happen on the hardwood. Like he said, players are “human beings and they’re kids.”
They are all kids who are more than welcome to play two sports at Texas.