UMass coach Charley Molnar addresses report on controversial training video

By Cameron McDonough

Maria Uminski/Daily Collegian

Last week, Massachusetts football coach Charley Molnar had a message for his players.

This particular message wasn’t about the Minutemen’s next opponent or a review of what happened the previous Saturday, though. The message, rather, regarded the report made by the Daily Hampshire Gazette last Thursday, which brought to light a petition created by a group of the football program’s alumni, who are calling for the UMass coaching staff, and particularly Molnar, “to stop the improper treatment of current players, improve the quality of the program.”

The petition, which has 154 signatures as of 8:15 p.m. Monday, includes a link to a controversial video made during the Minutemen’s 2012 winter conditioning workouts. The video shows players wrestling and boxing one another, which was legal by NCAA standards at the time, but the NCAA has since banned the use of what it calls “combatives,” according to the Gazette.

“I just told them that when the story comes out you read it,” Molnar said. “You be the judge yourself. Guys that were here, they know what went on. Players that weren’t here, hopefully guys that were pass it along, tell them what went on. From there we just moved on.”

Molnar did not address the situation further because of UMass Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy’s statement that said the matter was being investigated, according to UMass associate director of media relations John Sinnett.

“A video depicting an off-season training exercise of our football players from the winter of 2012 has recently been brought to my attention,” Subbaswamy said in his statement. “The activities depicted in the video raise concerns about player safety and call into question the appropriateness of some of the exercises.

“The health and safety of our student athletes is of paramount concern to me. We must ensure that our student athletes practice and compete in an atmosphere that promotes not only mental and physical toughness, but also the positive values of civility and scholarship to which we aspire as a university. Even though it appears as though no NCAA rules prevailing at the time were violated, I am asking the Compliance Subcommittee of our campus Faculty Senate Athletic Council (along with the Faculty Athletic Representative) to conduct a thorough investigation of the circumstances surrounding the video to determine whether such exercises constituted either physical or mental abuse of our student athletes. While such exercises have apparently ceased as a result of change in NCAA rules, I want the Subcommittee to make recommendations for best principles and practices for the conduct of training exercises, and to propose a mechanism for monitoring them.

“My administration and I take this matter very seriously. If Athletics is, indeed, the front porch of the university, what happens on the front porch affects the entire campus.”

The report came out during the team’s bye week as it prepares for its first Mid-American Conference game of the season against Bowling Green on Saturday. Molnar said he was “glad” this didn’t occur during a game week since it could’ve been an added distraction.

UMass quarterback A.J. Doyle said that the team is focused on moving forward.

“Honestly, he was just letting us know what was gonna come out, what it was about,” Doyle said. “A lot of guys obviously they went through it and honestly nobody really paid attention to it because we can’t do anything about it. All we can do is focus on Bowling Green and get ready for that game.”

Molnar echoed similar sentiments.

“I think to young people, they don’t let things like this distract them very much.” Molnar said. “So they just have moved on. Very little scuttlebutt in the locker room, very little buzz about it. We just have moved on. Really our goal is to just go into MAC play and do the very best we can.”

Cameron McDonough can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Cam_McDonough.