Hamilton head football coach Steve Belles is a good man, a family man and he’s a damn good football coach. The winning part doesn’t matter to me right now. The fact that Belles is a good man, does.
A report by Chandler police earlier this week stated that five student/football players on Belles’ program were arrested for various crimes, involving hazing. It’s a story that has sent shock waves through the Arizona high school and college community. One Pac-12 coach sent me a text shortly after the news broke which read “That’s just crazy!!! I can’t wrap my head around it.”
Last week 10 student athletes were arrested in La Vernia, Texas for hazing. Last summer eight players at Paradise Valley high school were let go from the football team for the same reason. At the college level, the University of Arizona has had a couple of public hazing incidents in recent years. Read all the way back to 1983 in our State and you’ll find that seven Nogales high school baseball players were hazed in the back of a school bus. This isn’t something new on campuses.
I can’t agree with those that who say that the head coach should know everything happening about every kid in his or her program 24/7. I don’t think that is possible in this day and age of social media. On the topic of hazing, Google David Beckham and you’ll read that he was sexually abused in a hazing incident when he was 16. Remember Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito? Should Steve Belles have known this was happening? I can say there’s NO WAY that he would look the other way on this sort of unacceptable behavior. NO WAY. Not the man I know.
Eventually Coach Belles will be asked questions about what happened inside his program. On the field, Hamilton has a high-profile quarterback and running-back who have received several national scholarship offers. They are going to be asked about this story too. In reading the Chandler police report, I would suggest a deeper look into changing the culture. The incidents have taken place over the last two years. How could this go on for such an extended period? The head coach needs his assistants and team captains to have the pulse of the team. That goes for EVERY program, not just this one.
I would suggest that every high school principal, athletic director, and head coach that is reading this, re-double your efforts on the issue of hazing. You may think you’ve got it all under control, but are you sure?