Facebook Twitter

Crowton plans to remain positive

SHARE Crowton plans to remain positive

If BYU football coach Gary Crowton decides to take his phone off the hook, he shouldn't be blamed. Who knows what the next call will bring? It might be a wrong number, or maybe just one of those annoying "courtesy" calls.

On the other hand, it could be the police.

Whatever the case, the BYU Football Crisis Hotline is open 24 hours, seven days a week. Operators are standing by.

Crowton remains undaunted by the Cougars' recent problems with the law. This is his dream, by darn, and he's going to live it. A few players getting in trouble won't change his opinion that he has the world's greatest job.

"What's interesting to me is the problems we have been having are a very small part of what I've been dealing with since taking the job," said Crowton on Wednesday. "Most of what I've dealt with has been positive."

Crowton landed his dream job last December, succeeding LaVell Edwards. But it hasn't all been pleasant. On the positive side, he had a good recruiting year and has the highest number of players working out on campus this summer of any college team he's worked with. BYU's cumulative GPA has risen from 2.8 to 3.0. A new strength coach has players breaking personal records.

Of course, a headline that says COUGARS RAISE GRADE POINT AVERAGES! isn't news.

At the same time, Crowton has been subjected to a string of unflattering stories about BYU players, usually involving one or a combination of the following terms: charged, arrested, expelled, suspended.

The latest problem arose when offensive lineman Teag Whiting was charged with assault for allegedly punching a man outside a Salt Lake nightclub. Teammate Ryan Gunderson was reportedly involved in another fight near the same location but was not arrested.

Knocking people down is a problem. But even being outside a nightclub raises eyebrows if you're a BYU athlete.

Crowton isn't exaggerating when he says similar cases occur at any school. Trouble is, BYU isn't just any school. It is a school that expects its students to live by a strict code of conduct. Planning on ordering pizza and beer with your frat brothers? Make that one pizza and a two-liter bottle of Sprite. Animal House, it isn't. Meanwhile, at other schools, having extramarital sexual relations isn't an issue. At BYU, it's grounds for expulsion.

BYU coaches have to deal both with players who break the law and those who break the honor code.

"It's just a different job than others," said Crowton. "I can't say that it's harder, because here you're dealing with different kids and a caliber of young men that is a lot better (than other places), so that makes it very workable."

That doesn't mean they're all perfect, or that there aren't problems. Running back Brian McDonald, receiver Jonathan Pittman and lineman Brent Pollock were charged with varying alcohol-related offenses in recent months. The Pittman and McDonald incidents occurred before Crowton landed the job — though by the time the matters became public, Crowton was the answer man. He hadn't even met either player at the time.

Then there was running back Marcus Whalen, who was charged with misdemeanor underage drinking and possession of an open container in April. The good news for Whalen, and Crowton, is that those charges were dismissed on Monday. But earlier this year, Whalen also pleaded guilty to retail theft. He has withdrawn from school.

McDonald remains on the team but is on one-year probation after pleading no contest in February to a charge of underage drinking. Pollock was booted from the team some time after being booked into Utah County Jail for investigation of shoplifting, illegal possession of alcohol and illegal consumption of alcohol. Pittman pleaded not guilty to charges of driving under the influence of alcohol and driving on the wrong side of the road. He withdrew from school shortly after the Dec. 9 incident.

OK, things aren't going as well as they could. Still, Crowton maintains an upbeat disposition. "This is the job I wanted and I'm excited to be here right now," he said. "I didn't expect it would be without challenges or problems."

Maybe things will settle down and the rest of the summer will pass quietly. Crowton would love to make it to August with nothing to worry about but two-a-days and upcoming opponents.

Ironically, the day he learned of the incidents in Salt Lake involving Whiting and Gunderson, much of the team showed up for physical testing by pro scouts. "We had 89 guys where they were supposed to be, two of them who weren't," he said. "So I don't want the negative to pull us down and not let us see the positive."

Even if the positive doesn't make the papers.

E-mail: rock@desnews.com