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Tom Izzo: ‘What College Kid Does Wrong Is Coach’s Fault’

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AUBURN HILLS, MI - MARCH 23: Head coach Tom Izzo of the Michigan State Spartans talks with Gary Harris #14 of the Michigan State Spartans during the third round of the 2013 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at The Palace of Auburn Hills on March 23, 2013 in Auburn Hills, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Gary Harris and Tom Izzo (Credit: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Yes, it’s still the offseason, and yes, we probably care more than we should anyway, but if you’re the Cleveland Browns, is the constantly partying Johnny Manziel cause for concern?

“Not being there on a daily basis, you do worry about distractions,” Michigan State coaching legend Tom Izzo said on The Morning Show. “If there’s one thing that changed my job in college, it’s distractions – and distractions can eat anybody alive, especially if you’re in the public eye. I think the more distractions you have, the harder it is to do your job. Some people deal with them better than others, and yet, the guy’s 21 years old, and you got to have a life, too.”

“I think social media – as I always get my rip in on it – kind of hurts a lot of things for public people nowadays and sometimes blow them out of proportion,” Izzo continued. “I think if you’re quarterback – of all positions – you better be pretty grounded, you better have the respect of everybody and you better be working 24/7. I’ve had enough football friends at the professional level (to know that).”

It’s not all that different in college. In fact, it’s becoming increasingly harder to keep tabs on players and hold them accountable.

“It seems like we have more and more responsibilities each year,” Izzo said. “Everything that a college kid does wrong is the coach’s fault a little bit more. If I’m going to be responsible, I’d like to have some control of it. But coaches have probably abused that a few times, and like most rules and most laws, we make them for a very few – not the norm. I think if you looked at 90 percent of the coaches in America, we all have a concern about kids getting their degree and becoming better players, better people and better students. That’s kind of the way I recruit.”

It’s also why Izzo can’t fathom the allegations swirling around North Carolina. According to Rashad McCants – who was on the Tar Heels’ 2005 national championship team – he and other players didn’t take real classes and had tutors do their homework and write their papers.

“It’s hard for me to believe,” Izzo said. “Not being there, I don’t know. But I think Roy Williams has earned his stripes. We all want a kid to become successful on the court and off the court.”

Unfortunately, there appears to be a growing divide between coaches and professors.

“When you don’t have control of it, (it’s difficult),” Izzo said. “I’m a teacher. That’s what my degree’s in.”

Still, Izzo loves seeing his players graduate. He also loves seeing them go to the NBA, especially this year, when two of his players – Adreian Payne and Gary Harris – were drafted in the first round. Payne went 15th overall to Atlanta, while Harris went 19th overall to Chicago and was later traded to Denver.

“God, it’s exciting,” Izzo said. “For me, even tough you lost a Gary Harris early, there’s nothing greater. I think it’s because of my own background. Coming from Iron Mountain, the chance of being the coach at Michigan State was a one-in-a-million dream come true. It’s a long shot. Every kid thinks he’s a pro football or basketball player, and so few make it. It’s a special group. When you get to see a guy live his dream instead of just (moving) on – and actually live what you dreamed about your whole life – that’s an exciting time.”

 

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