First of all, I would like to say that I have no problems with anybody on The Optimist staff. My disagreement with the column in question in no way expresses my feelings toward Collin or Daniel. I have had many conversations with both of them about ACU Athletics and oftentimes see eye-to-eye, and this column does not change what I think about them personally. In addition, I believe that everybody is entitled to their opinion, and Collin is certainly entitled to his. So here is my explanation of mine:
I vehemently disagree with this column being released on a few grounds. First of all, articles like this make people question why anybody would ever want to come and support our teams. Secondly, there are so many good things going on in ACU Athletics that there is plenty of material to write articles supporting and encouraging our student-athletes. My last and most significant reason is that we should never write articles that single out student-athletes and blame them for their team’s failures.
There is no doubt that ACU struggles with school spirit in regards to athletics. It is a battle every game day to get students to come to a game. It does not matter what sport it is, or how big of a game it is, it is an almost unbelievably challenging task. Often times, the weekly Optimist newspapers and columns released on Twitter are the only pieces of news students receive about how their teams are doing. No, The Optimist is not responsible for pushing out pro-ACU pieces all of the time, but when this is such a struggle, why would they not want to help? Why not put a positive spin on the bad? Doing so will go a long way to building a university that supports our student-athletes. Just an idea for this past football game against Sam Houston State: if you remove the abysmal first quarter the game would have ended in a 21-21 tie. In this scenario, the bad is still mentioned (the first quarter) in which you can talk about everything that went wrong, but the good is also mentioned and a silver lining is presented. Whether or not they mean it to be this way, the opinions expressed in The Optimist often become the opinions of the student body.
ACU Athletics as a whole is performing really well in Southland Conference play so far this year. Yes, football is 2-3 in conference, but after five conference games last year the team was also 2-3. Maybe we have not seen the improvements we thought we would see from last year to this year, but we are not losing any more than we did last year. Other than football, everybody else has dramatically improved. Other than a 1-0 loss at Southeastern Louisiana nearly a month ago, soccer has not dropped a game. Not only that, but they sit second in conference (6-1-1) behind a SFA team (6-0-2) that comes to Elmer Gray this Friday at 7 pm. After that, soccer has two more home games against Sam Houston State (Sunday 10/25 @ 1 pm) and UIW (Friday 10/30 @ 7 pm). If we win all three of those home games, we will win the conference championship in only our third year of Div. I athletics (by the way, we finished the season 5-4-2 last season). But there is no full length article about the chance at the conference championship or the dramatic improvement in performance. Instead, we get articles entitled “Soccer looks to end road woes with Lamar and McNeese.”
ACU Volleyball has made a remarkable turnaround from last year to this year, too. We have already matched the number of conference wins we had last year (four) this year, with eight games to play, three of them at home (Thursday, Saturday, and Monday). Last season, we only finished above New Orleans, but as of when this article was written we are only .5 games out of fourth place. In place of writing the article about the QB situation, maybe we could see another article about how well the team is doing and how good of a job Coach Bibler is doing turning this program around.
AND how about that cross country team we have? Alexandria Hackett has been dominating everybody. I mean everybody. And she is not the only one. The rest of the team is putting together an incredible season and are the favorites rolling into the conference championship on Friday, October 30. There have been lots of articles about how good the cross country team is, but in case you did not put the pieces together, we could win TWO conference championships on Friday, October 30. That’s noteworthy. And that would certainly be a better and more beneficial read than calling for a student-athlete’s job.
Or maybe The Optimist could mention the home-field advantage Wildcat Reign has built up so far this year. In case you all were wondering, our teams are 8-3-1 (8 wins, 3 losses, 1 tie) at home. Last year by this date (October 21) we were 6-8 in front of our home crowd. Although we want to win every game, especially every game at home, that is still an impressive improvement. But there has not been an article on Wildcat Reign. What I mean to say by all of this is that there are so many good things going on at ACU that there can be plenty of articles written that talk about those things instead of talking about how poorly one student-athlete is playing.
This brings me to my final point of contention with the column in question. There are 11 guys that play on offense every play. There are 11 guys that play on defense every play. There are 11 guys that play on special teams every play. Although the QB position is arguably the most important position on the offense, there are still 10 other guys on the field with him. If the offense is not playing well, and it has not during these past three games, all 11 guys should be held accountable. In addition, the coaches should be held accountable. But to blame it on ONE player is unacceptable. And to call for his job too? That should not be tolerated.
The defense has not played well in any of the three games either and the QB does not play on that side of the ball. I’m not trying to throw more people under the bus, but what I am trying to do is point out that the QB position is just one position. Is it a very important position? Yes. Does his play determine whether or not we will win a game? No. We ought to be able to win games if he does not play well.
The only reasons given in the column that we need to change QBs is that our current starting QB has more turnovers than our backup, and he is not as much of a “scrambler.” In response, I would say that when you play more snaps, you are going to make more mistakes. That is how anything works. In addition, Mitchell Gale, Billy Malone, and John David Baker were not exactly known for their scrambling ability either, yet they managed to find success in the offense.
At the end of the day, this is one of our peers. This is someone we go to class with. This is someone we see in the Campus Center. We worship next to him at Chapel. And now we are going to write columns that tear him down. This is worse than all of us booing our team during the game, which we would all agree would not be right. This is more of a public humiliation than that would be. Because now his name and picture are singled out and plastered all over social media with the description “has failed to live up to expectations.” I feel for the guy. And based on the responses from other student-athletes and former student-athletes on social media, they are not too happy either.
Keep your head up, Parker. We believe in you. And we will be here through thick and thin, painted up, making fools of ourselves, and constantly supporting you and the rest of the guys. #GoWildcats
By Bryan Maier, a mathematics-teaching major from St. Louis, Missouri.