Kevin Cooney is in his 18th season as head coach at Florida Atlantic
University of the Atlantic Sun Conference and 22nd overall. A former pitching
star at Montclair State, Cooney has led FAU to an average of 46 wins per season
the past six years. He as guided the Blue Wave to a 273-106 record and five NCAA
Regionals in the past six years. This is the second year he has offered his thoughts on
baseball - and other things - for CollegeBaseballInsider.com.
March 31, 2005
The Working Life
One of the nice things about being a college student is
that it delays one’s entry into the real working world. The undergraduate has
the job of attending class, studying, completing assignments and passing tests.
Some also add a part-time job to their responsibilities, for others,
intercollegiate athletics might be thrown into the mix.
It sometimes becomes hectic and stressful, but students can
take solace in the fact that this is only a temporary stop on the journey of
Contrast that life with the day-to-day existence of the
character in the song “Factory” by Bruce Springsteen.
Early in the morning factory whistle blows,
Man rises from bed and puts on his clothes,
Man takes his lunch, walks out in the morning light,
It’s the working, the working, just the working life.
Through the mansions of fear, through the mansions of
I see my Daddy walking through them factory gates in the rain,
Factory takes his hearing, factory gives him life,
The working, the working, just the working life.
End of the day, factory whistle cries,
Men walk through these gates with death in their eyes.
And you just better believe, boy,
Somebody’s gonna get hurt tonight,
It’s the working, the working, just the working life.
I have always listened to that song with feelings of guilt.
My father always left our house before dawn’s light, and
rarely returned before dark. He was behind the wheel of a bus driving people to
work or school before I normally am awake. His was the first bus up Springfield
Avenue in Newark the morning of the race riots in the 60s. Gunshots were fired
at his bus as he high-tailed it out of town to protect his passengers. He worked
overtime every night the last few years to increase his pension, earning $10,000
the year he retired. He loved his job in the early years, but after 30 years, it
took its toll.
My biggest problem is whether to bunt or steal!
Most college baseball players have a much easier life than
that, despite some of the extra responsibilities that come with being a member
of the team. At Florida Atlantic, we require our guys to be clean shaven, neatly
shorn and to act properly at home and on the road. All players are expected to
attend classes, and study hall is required based upon a player’s GPA. Our guys
also lift weights, attend practices and play in games.
That’s a full schedule, but hardly “the working life.”
So, it would seem logical to assume that our young men
would not have much trouble fulfilling the requirements set forth by their
baseball program. After all, how can one expect to do well in school if one
doesn’t attend his classes? It’s hard to learn through osmosis.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I must admit that as an
undergraduate baseball player, I sometimes missed class. I should also point out
that it took seven years for me to graduate. That was due in part to some
classes that I failed because of a lack of attendance. So, when I discuss this
topic with my players, I know from whence I speak!
Let’s think about study hall in college for a moment.
My feeling is that forcing a student to spend a required
number of hours in a supervised study hall is high school. Yet, we do it for a
It sounds good to parents, provides a “cya” for coaches if
the kid does poorly in school, serves as an incentive to do well (good GPA = no
study hall), but also guarantees that an incoming freshman will actually be
forced to look at his work for a set period of time each week. That last point
is a positive one and is good reason for study hall to be mandatory for freshman
until they grade out of it.
The average person would trust that the student athlete
would, perhaps grudgingly, be amenable to fulfilling this obligation. Remember,
many of these guys are getting a portion of their college bill paid through a
scholarship. Even the non-scholarship players get the benefit that being a
member of the program brings. They are playing college baseball.
That should be considered a privilege, not an entitlement.
Seven of our players are not going to dress for tonight’s
game against Harvard.
Some of them missed class when checked on Monday; others
were discovered to have falsified their time cards in study hall. The system
devised would probably impress even a Harvard student.
If players would spend as much time on their work as they
do devising methods to beat the system, their grades would skyrocket. But rather
than deal honestly with a reasonable set of rules, some chose a different path,
a path that leads us into a game with a shortage of infielders and bullpen
It’s too bad.
Our players have been treated fairly by their academic
counselor and by their coaches. They chose not to return that treatment in kind.
That’s my biggest disappointment.
Do unto others as you’d have others do unto you.
That’s a pretty simple concept to follow, but when we’re
young, we sometimes fail to stop and think about the consequences of our
actions. Most of us disappoint the ones we care about the most. Some young
people, and old ones too, often don’t stop to think about the other person.
Maybe it’s expecting too much for a young man to realize what he is doing when
he circumvents or disobeys someone’s rules.
And what about the players who followed the rules, how do
they feel about playing a game at less than full strength? The actions of a few
have jeopardized the success of the entire team. Is that fair?
My argument is this.
Is the life of a college baseball player anything at all
like that of the character in that song?
The answer is no…and the fact is that “the working life”
will be upon these guys all too soon. In the blink of an eye, careers are over,
and kids are thrust into the real world. For some that is after college baseball
ends, for others it is when pro ball cuts them loose. At that point those men
are faced with reality.
I don’t think these guys will encounter a life as bleak as this
factory worker. They all have had the chance for a college degree, which serves
as a key which unlocks the door of opportunity. A comparatively easier life
awaits them. I hope they will come to understand that concept.
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Conference Sweep (3/13/05)
Madness and Soaring Eagles (3/11/05)
Viva Las Vegas (3/8/05)
The Rocket, and a Black and Blue Big Ten Weekend (3/1/05)
So You Wanted to Coach (2/21/05)
Mickey was the Story (2/15/05)
The Rocket's Red Glare (2/11/05)
It's a Dog's Life (2/3/05)
'You've Got to Learn to Live with What You Can't Rise Above' (1/31/05)
25 Years of FAU Baseball (1/16/05)
So this is Christmas (12/24/04)
The Graduate (12/8/04)
Thanksgiving in Palm Beach County (11/25/04)
An Empty Seat (11/10/04)
Fall is in the Air (10/21/04)
Hurricane Carmen (9/24/04)
(photo courtesy of FAU Media Relations Office)