No Women After 10 p.m.? What's a College Athlete to Do?

University of Kansas football coach Turner Gill says his curfew will help his players become more disciplined and respectful of women. Here's why his approach might backfire.

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Jayhawks coach Turner Gill with his team (KUAthletics on YouTube)

I didn't realize the good fortune in being assigned to Carver Hall upon my arrival at Howard University in 1982. It was one of two all-male dormitories (the other was for lowly freshmen; I was a transfer), and I soon discovered that it was the only dorm with a 24-hour visitation policy. We enjoyed the privilege of having company anytime we wanted, even overnight.

At some point in time those privileges must have been rescinded, because Howard was in the news last week for once again allowing upperclassmen in one residence hall 24-hour visitation. Residents at every other dorm must continue to escort their guests out by midnight during the week, or 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. But a 2 a.m. curfew must seem like unbridled freedom to members of the University of Kansas football team, who are saddled with archaic restrictions under first-year coach Turner Gill.

One of five black coaches at college football's highest level -- the Bowl Championship Series leagues -- Gill has instituted at least two rules that will test his young players' discipline, if not break their will. The first isn't too bad: Players must hand over their cell phones the day before a game and go without until the game is over. But the second is downright puritanical, an edict that challenges common sense as much as common decency.

Gill has forbidden his players from being in the company of women past 10 p.m.

"It's just teaching them discipline," Gill said last week during the Big 12 coaches' teleconference. “I don't think it's that big a deal. Just trying to teach guys how to do things in a proper way and be respectful to women and be respectful to everything that we do in our society. It's teaching people all about things and about life.”

Really? What's magical about 10 p.m.? How will the rule teach them to be respectful toward women when the clock reads 11 p.m. or midnight? If Gill effectively teaches them to do things properly, the time of day won't matter. And if players don't absorb the lesson, they will act the fool at 9 in the morning or 9 at night.

"I'm not going to go into all the details of what we have on our team policies and all those things," Gill said. "But everything that we do is all about disciplining our guys and preparing them for life with football and preparing for them for life without football. It's just part of our makeup."

I have no doubt that Gill cares about his players' development off the field and wants to mold them into upstanding young men with strong moral character. Goodness knows that athletes, with all the hoopla and hotties associated with their career field, need all the character reinforcement possible. Coaches aren't doing their job if they concentrate solely on X's and O's with their players, neglecting real-life issues involving do's and don'ts and the birds and the bees.

But like a parent, a coach can go overboard in setting limits. Youngsters can be held under such tight wraps that rebellion is as likely as obedience when opportunity calls. Curfews aren't draconian measures by nature -- only if they're excessive. And unless Gill bars his players from all human interaction past 10 p.m., limiting them to male bonding does come off as extreme. I also wonder how the ban helps players relate to women as more than mere sex objects who serve as delightful distractions.

Besides, one of the main problems in big-time college sports is athletes' detachment from regular campus life, inflating their sense of importance and instilling a sense of entitlement. The more an athlete's experience resembles the norm, the better an athlete can relate to the rest of the student body.

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