Ute Golfers Tear Down Their Own Program

By By [email protected]

By [email protected]

The pen is truly mightier than the sword. Or in this case, a 5-iron. That’s the deal with the Utah golf program, a current lightning-rod of embarrassment for the University.

The five, iron-willed Utah golf team members who curiously released a letter to the media containing allegations of drunk driving by ex-coach Wayne Fisher brought upon themselves, and their own golf program, a heap of unwarranted negative publicity that will take years to reverse. I urge the five to apologize publically for damaging our athletics programs’ national image, and for recklously damaging a program that was truly on the rise.

To the five golf team members who made these allegations: apologize publically -as coach Fisher has – for anything you have done or said to damage the institution that is our University, or get out of a Utah uniform. Demonstrate that you have compassion and respect for those who make your tee-times at The Country Club and pay for your expensive trips to play private courses. Deal with your concerns privately and with class. Grow up, and take down your ugly, dirty laundry in the same dramatic manner you aired it.

I had the priviledge of playing golf for the Utes 15 years ago and now live in Dallas, Texas. I first learned of the (yet unfounded) allegations against coach Fisher by reading USA Today. I smelled a fish immediately. That’s not coach Fisher, who’s nickname is ‘Fish’.

Subsequent searches on the internet regarding the subject have revealed nothing but negative press coverage for our golf program and give the impression that our own athletics department is powerless in controlling the actions of both our student-athletes and coaches. Perception is reality in the all-important arenas of fund-raising and recruiting. This hurts us all.

It is unacceptable to me that these privileged University athletes purposely and publically sabotaged their coach’s character while delivering the golf program that generously arranged for their tuition, travel, books, priority class registration and even their balls – golf balls yes – the equivalent of a five-iron to the side of the head.

Courageous, the Chronicle has opined, it was for them to write the letter and invite an athletics department investigation.

Cowardly, I counter, it was that they couldn’t wait even 10 days for U. administrators to investigate their very serious allegations. Like spoiled brats, likely encouraged to action by their country-clubbing spoiled rich parents (perhaps the real authors of the letter), they enlisted the local media’s assistance until the gut-wrenching headlines took down the head coach. It is obvious to me that a public humiliation of our part-time coach was the only intent of the letter. The only possible reason one would seek media attention like this is for destructive purposes.

So now we have a headless golf program with a national reputation for drunk driving and we are led to believe that five 19-22 year olds collaborated to draft a perfectly-written, made for TV accusation against their head coach and came up with the brilliant idea of releasing it to the media in their college dorm rooms.

A constructive effort to help our golf program? No way. There’s a coward behind this whole thing, why won’t you come forward?

After reading the text of the infamous letter, I have serious doubts that the letter was even written by the student-athletes who signed it. It was too polished, too pointed, and all too made for publication to have been drafted by priviledged, scholarshiped golfers who would later say publically that they ‘think Coach is a great guy’, and, ‘we had no idea what the athletics department would do when this all started’. Oh come on guys, this was a personal attack on a professional golfer – our former head coach -who effectively donated his time to a part-time coaching job out of pride for the university he loves. That coach Fisher may have used alcohol on a competitive trip is immaterial to the overall consequences of this media scandal – and our programs will continue to sour in this negative light until people stand up for what is right and just.

I note that there is no credible evidence of Wayne Fisher having injured, neglected, or abused any Utah golfer due to alcohol or any other reason during his 9-year tenure as head coach. History will record his teams’ accomplishments both academically and athletically as better than all of his predecessors. There are the opinions of the five players, who by their own admissions did not agree on a course of action at first, somehow made to seem unanimous by the stroke of someone’s masterful penmanship.

In the court of public opinion, all that has been aired are headlines with the words ‘drunk’ and ‘Utah Golf’ in the same sentence. I do not accept the media image of our golf program, for I know truthfully it is not correct. I urge the U. administration to focus on building a team, give it a permanent home, a permanent coach, and a permanent make-over. Golf’s popularity is exploding world-wide, and we should be on board. Right now, it looks from afar like we can’t stand to ride in the same van together. Clearly, there are traitors among us. Get out.

Finally, I write to defend the character of a good man, Wayne Fisher, and wish him luck and recovery. His resignation was all class. His time as coach is over, and his legacy will be the accomplishments of those who currently critize him.

Jeff ThalmanBA ’90, Political ScienceFormer Ute Golfer