Hudspeth takes steps towards 'discipline and direction' after viral video
After a few contentious days between a college football program and some of its most-ardent supporters, Monday was a day of contrition for University of Louisiana at Lafayette head coach Mark Hudspeth and his Ragin’ Cajuns.
Seeking to sooth the hard feelings that surfaced after a profane locker room video went viral last week, and those stemming from some of the coach’s subsequent comments that riled several of the UL athletic department’s biggest financial backers, Hudspeth revealed a series of measures he hopes will alleviate concerns about the program’s discipline and direction.
The cellphone video showed Cajun players, at least four of whom were disciplined but not suspended, dancing obscenely and singing loudly to rappers YG and Nipsey Hussle’s protest song FDT (F--- Donald Trump) on the day one week ago that Trump was elected President of the United States.
Monday morning, Robert Daigle – executive chairman of the Ragin’ Cajun Athletic Foundation (RCAF), the department’s fundraising arm – expressed hope for change.
“My initial reaction was I very disappointed in the athletes,” Daigle said.
“On reflection, I’m more concerned, No. 1, about how we address it, and making sure that we address it with the athletes and the coaches, and, No. 2, trying to educate these athletes about what’s appropriate and what’s inappropriate, so going forward we don’t have to continue dealing with these types of issues.”
Monday afternoon, an emotional and contrite Hudspeth – speaking after what he said was a weekend spent thinking and reflecting – said he took “full responsibility.”
Hudspeth also outlined a plan of penance in moving forward and a tightening of locker room rules.
One change: Players will no longer be permitted to film anything in the locker room.
Another: Locker-room music in common areas will now be played by the team’s video department, and not through players’ phones.
“Although,” Hudspeth said, “we are not taking away their privilege to play whatever they like through their headphones … in their car, in their room, in their locker.
“Most of the guys listen to their own headphones anyway.
“Everybody (doesn’t) listen to the same music and have the same music likes,” he added, “so we’re just gonna play popular music that is clean and respectful, then each player has their own right to listen to their own music in their head phones.”
READ MORE: RCAF looks at effect of profane video
Cajun players and coaches, Hudspeth said, will perform 1,000 hours of community service over the next few months by going to every Acadiana-area high school and middle school that will have them “to talk to their players, so hopefully we can keep them from maybe making a similar mistake one day.”
Visits also will be made to local Boys and Girls Clubs, including some from players who were involved in the controversial video.
The four players initially involved have not been identified; Hudspeth said Monday that additional undisclosed disciplinary action had been taken, and that an undisclosed number of additional players have been reprimanded (but not suspended) as well.
“We want to impress upon these people how important it is that their character and their actions do follow them,” said UL athletic director Scott Farmer, adding he was disturbed by the lewdness he saw on the video and the “disregard” he saw for other “people in the locker room.”
“It was just a blatant disrespect,” he said.
Hudspeth said Farmer asked him for a plan of action in response to the incident.
The ideas for the various measures he plans to implement, Hudspeth added, were his and his alone.
“He and I have had several meetings on this subject,” Farmer said, “and I think he obviously understands what our priorities are and what our goals of this department are, and I think he will be a better coach moving forward.”
Among the topics of discussion in visits to schools and other locales, Hudspeth said, will be “the dos and don’ts of social media.”
"Things that we have to learn the hard way we hope to take and teach to a lot of young men and women across the area,” he said.
Hudspeth called his players “a group of young men that are very remorseful, apologetic, embarrassed, sorry and are hurting at this moment.”
“They’re not proud of themselves,” he said.
Hudspeth also acknowledged his personal failures surrounding the matter, and said he sought a locker room that “breathes an environment of discipline, relaxation, comfort and a place where there is privacy for all.”
(At least one Cajun player shown in the video as it initially made its way around various social media channels was not clothed).
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Members of the entire team – including those offended by what they saw and heard – will take part in the community service, Hudspeth suggested, because he thinks it is important for everyone to deal with all of the team’s successes and failures.
“The way I look at it is we win together and we learn together,” said Hudspeth, whose 4-5 Cajuns – coming off last Thursday night’s 33-26 win at Georgia Southern – visit Georgia on Saturday.
Hudspeth also said players will be educated “on the consequences which they are definitely feeling and seeing when we make mistakes like we did in our locker room.”
Hudspeth additionally apologized to those program supporters who were offended when he essentially suggested it was hypocritical to both have voted for Trump and bash 19-year-olds for their behavior.
He indicated the message he was trying to make was not intended for as broad of an audience as some took it.
Farmer said that after some boosters “got a little bit more of the story, and thought about it and calmed down a little bit,” it was “a lot quieter” Monday.
The athletic director said he was not aware of anyone who had followed through on prior threats to pull financial support from the program.
Hudspeth, however, did remain upset Monday by what evidently was said by at least prominent booster after the video went public.
“I love these players on our football team,” the Cajun coach said.
“It would hurt any father if someone called his family or his kids ‘thugs,’ and he knew deep down in his heart they were not,” Hudspeth added. “And I would disappointed for any father that did not stand for them.”
Still, Hudspeth feels there are lessons that should be and have been learned from the experience.
“Phewww,” he said, letting out a sigh long after his formal news conference was complete.
“I think one,” Hudspeth added, “is being disciplined enough to be doing the right things even when no one is watching.”
RCAF chairman Daigle, for one, sure hopes that indeed is the case.
“Not only, I think, should the athletes be made aware of the fact that, in general, they should not represent the university, or themselves, in that manner,” he said, “but certainly, regardless of the venue or the location that these things take place, the athletes need to understand that nothing they can do or say should deemed private.
“Certainly not today.”