Former AAMU Head Coach talks about game changers

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WHNT News 19's Steve Johnson chats with Ray Greene, Director of Huntsville Neighborhood Services

Huntsville, Ala. (WHNT) – It’s that highly anticipated time of the year once again.  Football season is finally here.  This week in Leadership Perspectives, WHNT News 19’s Steve Johnson sits down with Ray Greene, the former head coach at Alabama A&M University and current Director of Huntsville Neighborhood Services, to talk about what’s going on with the game, both on and off the field.

Recently there was an effort by Northwestern football players to form a union.  They claimed that they were employees of the university and should be recognized as such.  That didn’t happen, but it really bothers a lot of people associated with the game.  They’re worried it may become a business even more than it is now. That topic of conversation is far from closed though.

“I hope it comes back,” explained Greene.  “I think it’s a disservice to athletes to have them come play a sport.  And then you say you’re getting tuition, board, books and fees, you can’t work.  And they’ve changed the work rules a little bit, but during the season. ”

He said it’s hard to be a student athlete strapped for cash.

“I think there needs to be a stipend.  At one time there was back in the day,” he said.  “We got 15 dollars for laundry money so to speak.  But you can’t ask a kid to come to campus, spend the time he spends at football, be a good student athlete in the class room, and have no money.  He still has to wash clothes, if he wants to go to the movie, if he has a date.  So there needs to be some kind of conversation.”

He asks fans to take a hard look at the salary of coaches, and compare it to that student’s struggle. “Consider how much money coaches are making. When a coach can get paid ten million dollars a year, and you can charge 60 or 70 dollars a seat in a stadium that seats a hundred thousand people.  I think the athletes should be compensated in some way.”

A case can be made that football is an extremely dangerous game.  The players risk long-term injury all for the sake of our entertainment.  Concussions happen in a hard hitting game like football, and player safety has finally become a conversation that has made some headway in how the players are treated.

“I think it’s a legitimate conversation,” said Greene.  “Coaches have violated some of the things that promote safety a lot of the times in the past.   You used to hear stick your head in there… Every rule that’s been changed is to protect the athlete and I think that’s been reflected in the rules in the NFL and high school and college football.”

He said practice can also play a role. “It’s just going to be a matter of coaches having to realize that you don’t ask players to go out and hit each other 40 or 50 minutes a day,” he said. ” And you know most of the injuries, the head injuries, they might occur in a game, but it’s an accumulation of hits practicing.  So, they’ve cut back on the length of time they can practice per day.”

Heat stress is also a very pressing concern. He said, decades ago, this was not the case as some coaches frowned upon water usage.

“I was playing at the end of the era when they first required face masks,” he said.  “We used to hide pieces of lemon peel in our helmets, because coaches said you were a sissy if you drank water.  It’s just amazing that more kids didn’t die from heat exhaustion and that sort of thing.  It is a violent game in many ways.”

Watch our full conversation with Ray Greene here: