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UMass football alumni call for coach Charley Molnar to stop ‘improper treatment’ of players

09.27.13 at 11:10 am ET
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UMass football coach Charley Molnar, who has just one win in a season and a half at the helm of the Minutemen, found himself defending his reputation following an online petition circulating among former players critical of the coach’s methods.

The petition, originally posted on the UMass Football Alum private Facebook group, calls for Molnar to “stop the improper treatment of the current players” and “improve the quality of the program.” It notes that a number of players have left the program since Molnar’s arrival.

It makes reference to a YouTube video that shows players wrestling and boxing during winter conditioning workouts prior to the 2012 season. At the time, such workouts were legal, but the NCAA since has banned “combatives.”

‘€œWe used a number of different training methods to measure and hopefully develop mental toughness and accountability with our guys. It’€™s hard for a guy to go out there and wrestle or box another man if he has self-doubt,’€ Molnar told the Daily Hampshire Gazette.

‘€œWe tried to get these guys to feel that fear but go out there and do it anyway,’€ he added. ‘€œWe never had one guy not go out and box or wrestle. Some of them went out with a lot of trepidation, but by the end of the cycle were thoroughly enjoying the activity. We did all these activities with safety in mind. I’€™m a fanatic about player safety. I thought it aided in team-building. Guys faced the fear and fought through it. That was the objective.’€

Former UMass quarterback Brandon Hill, now a starter at Monmouth, said he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury during a wrestling match.

Molnar ‘€œhad me wrestling a linebacker in the snow,’€ Hill told the Gazette. ‘€œHe put me down and I dislocated my shoulder and completely tore my labrum in half. That kind of bummed me out. I had to go get surgery after that.’€

While he said the bouts were optional, Hill noted that there was pressure to impress teammates and coaches.

‘€œI think it was to see who was tougher and to get us going and pump us up a little bit,’€ Hill said. ‘€œYou’€™re not going to say no. Kids wanted to do it. The nature of football is kind of like wrestling and kind of like boxing. It’€™s not like it was forced upon us.

‘€œFor a quarterback, I don’€™t think I should have been doing it, but I’€™m not going to say no to something the head coach wants you to do, especially with a new coach,’€ he added. ‘€œYou want to try to impress him and you’€™re going to do anything you can to play.’€

Hill and other former players also noted that UMass ran full-contact practices throughout the season, including one-on-one “Oklahoma” drills that have fallen out of favor at many schools due to the injury risk.

Most alumni have kept quiet about the petition, but some have spoken out. Sean Higgins, who was an All-America tight end in 1999, told the Gazette: ‘€œIt’€™s unfortunate what’€™s going on and how guys are being treated. 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.’€

Responded Molnar: ‘€œWe have relatively few alumni that ever come back to watch practice or watch winter workouts. 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. My goal is to make each of these young men, better husbands, better fathers, better community leaders. I work on that with our guys each and every day. I’€™m driven that our guys succeed in the classroom as well as on the football field.’€

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