Charles Barkley Says He’ll ‘Never Blame The Coaches’ For Off-Field Incidents Involving College Athletes

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The college athletics world has seen its share of bad news over the past year, whether it be the tragic loss of life at Alabama and Georgia, or players getting into trouble. In the case of who’s to blame, Charles Barkley feels it shouldn’t go towards the coaches.

There are arguments on both sides this topic, with a number of examples. The tragedy at Georgia, when sophomore lineman Devin Willock lost his life, along with Bulldogs staffer Chandler LeCroy, in a car crash after Georgia celebrated its national championship hits hard.

While teammates still mourn the loss of beloved friends, a battle is brewing when it comes to who’s at fault, financially. If the civil suit makes it to a court room, there will be enough blame to pass around. There wasn’t much head coach Kirby Smart could’ve done that night to prevent the accident.

But the upcoming civil suit will look to put the athletic department and Smart’s program in the spotlight.

Charles Barkley Thinks We Shouldn’t Blame The Coaches

In this particular case, Chandler LeCroy was technically working for Georgia when the crash occurred, so legally the plaintiff (Willock’s father) is trying to make that case. There are a number of questions about that night, considering it was a vehicle leased by Georgia, with a staffer driving. But the argument of whether Kirby Smart should take some type of heat for what happened that night has been making the rounds on social media for the past five months.

Georgia coach Kirby Smart and NBA commentator Charles Barkley. (Getty Images)

You see it, I see it. Kirby is not managing his program or Kirby has lost control since winning another title. In today’s world, everyone has an opinion on social media, while coaches from other schools will try to use it against Georgia on the recruiting trail. But, this is Smart’s program, so everything is directed towards him.

Charles Barkley, the former Auburn Tiger and current NBA commentator, insists that coaches are not baby-sitters.

“I never blame the coaches. I get so mad when guys, idiots and fools like myself on television try to play God,” Charles Barkley told Paul Finebaum. “The coach is not a babysitter. When you leave the coach, yeah when you get in trouble with the coach, that’s a totally different animal. But once these kids go home or they’re not at practice, you have no control over what they do. I don’t blame the coaches. But like I say, guys gotta be careful with the decisions you make.”

Coaching staffs are caretakers. It’s their job to watch over these players during their time at that school. So when one of their ‘kids’ is hurt or makes a bad decision, coaches are automatically thrust into the situation.

Kirby Smart Trying To Deal With The Unfortunate Tragedy

There are some things coaches cannot control, like having young adults out drinking and driving at 2 in the morning. But, there is certainly the difference between a coach losing control over his program and an unfortunate incident happening on their watch. Right now, Kirby Smart is still trying to process the loss, along with his staff and team.

“It’s been one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to deal with,” Kirby told Paul Finebaum. “I always tell people, I’ve never had to deal with the loss of a player or staff member in all the years coaching. That morning I got the call at 3 a.m., one of the toughest times in my career…The young people don’t understand any better than the 47-year-old grown man. The loss of life at the age and how quick it can happen. I mean those kids were celebrating and having a parade that day and then to have that happen tragically, it’s been tough.”

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Head coach Kirby Smart of the Georgia Bulldogs waves to fans following the celebration honoring the Georgia Bulldogs national championship victory on January 15, 2022 in Athens, Georgia. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)

These young men are essentially family members to the coaching staff when they enroll in school. They are invited into coaches’ homes, eat with their kids, spend Sundays with their families. So yeah, when a kid commits to a school, they’re pretty much gaining additional parents in the process.

But decisions have consequences. In Tuscaloosa, one former student athlete could spend the rest of his life in a jail cell for the senseless killing of Jamea Harris, which has affected numerous lives. In Georgia, families, players and coaches are trying to wrap their head around the loss of two people that were thought of as family.

In the end, Charles Barkley is steadfast in his opinion of the coaches shouldn’t receive the blame. The aftermath of a few different decisions have changed the lives of too many people to count. It’s not just the ones who were involved.

“You have to talk to these guys about decisions,” Barkley said. “I don’t ever wanna be one of those get off my lawn guys, but sometimes you make decisions you don’t get to come back from. So you have to really be careful with decisions you make. Because man, all it takes is one really bad decision and it can change the entire life or death.” 

Written by Trey Wallace

Trey Wallace is the host of The Trey Wallace Podcast that focuses on a mixture of sports, culture, entertainment along with his perspective on everything from College Football to the College World Series.

Wallace has been covering college sports for 15 years, starting off while attending the University of South Alabama. He’s broken some of the biggest college stories including the Florida football “Credit Card Scandal” along with the firing of Jim McElwin and Kevin Sumlin. Wallace also broke one of the biggest stories in college football in 2020 around the NCAA investigation into recruiting violations against Tennessee football head coach Jeremy Pruitt.

Wallace also appears on radio across seven different states breaking down that latest news in college sports.

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