Sport in Grip: Violence is once again tearing down the barriers between collegiate athletics and the “real” world

SPORT AT HAND • As hard as we try, it’s impossible to keep the real world and real world issues out of our sports bubble. And that’s sad.

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• There are college campuses today that are mourning. One of them is less than 100 miles from our location. Senseless violence has taken seven young people from us. And yet it’s not so extraordinary that it resonates far and near.

Let’s take proximity first.

Four University of Idaho students were found dead over the weekend. Authorities confirm murder. Moscow rolls. The university closes. The waves of violence overwhelm everything else, including football.

First-year UI coach Jason Eck, who has done a spectacular job in almost every way this season, faced another challenge. He answered them with grace and sensitivity.

Eck always uses the Monday meetings to broaden his players’ horizons by engaging with real-world issues from almost anywhere. Little did he know that this week had to be used to help players deal with a terrible situation near their home.

“We have to be compassionate,” Eck told SR’s Peter Harriman. “(We) have to understand that the guys’ focus isn’t going to be that sharp because they have a lot of things on their minds.

“Football players should be tough and not show emotions. It’s not the best for mental health. It’s okay to have feelings about it, to be upset about it and not block it out because of football.”

It’s sad, but Eck is right. Football must be a secondary priority for some of the Vandal players this week, even if the game has playoff ramifications with Idaho State.

We sometimes forget that the kids we watch and cheer on on Saturdays are just that, kids. At most young adults who are still finding their way in the world. Then their world suffers an unimaginable blow. No matter what happens on Saturday, Eck has already shown that he gets it, he understands the importance of his role and what the really important responsibilities of his job are.

Thousands of miles to the east, the University of Virginia also deals with murder. And the soccer team is right in the middle. A former player is said to have shot and killed three current players over the weekend.

The shots cost lives. And found an echo in Salt Lake City, where the University of Utah looked at two players recently shot and killed in back-to-back years, and tore at the very substance of what team means.

Since then, the Utes have done everything to honor the memories of Aaron Lowe and Ty Jordan, from painting the yardlines to decals on helmets to doing whatever it takes to help their teammates grieve.

put in the past? That’s not possible, brought home a point again this week. The violence in Virginia only brings back memories. Rip open wounds that have tried to heal. Deprives young people of the bubble they have tried to build around the real world and its problems.

The college years are meant to teach life lessons. Provide each student with a foundation on which to build for the rest of their lives. Tools to build a successful career and family for the next 60, 70 years.

Too often these tools have to be crafted to deal with grief. At a loss. Pains. It’s a tough question for young men and women under 25. Hell, it’s a tough question for everyone. But those who watch as dreams, hopes and, yes, life, are violently torn from their peers have an even heavier burden.

If the past few years have taught us anything, there is no bladder strong enough to fully protect college athletes from this horrific pain. All anyone can do is offer a plan to deal with it.

And that’s sad.

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WSU: Let’s get back to sports. The Cougars head to Tucson this week, bowl eligibility in hand, in a bid to defeat Arizona and former Washington State quarterback Jayden de Laura. Colton Clark has his first look at the game. … oops, more real stuff. Fired WSU coach Nick Rolovich eventually filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the school, Pat Chun, and others. Emry Dinman has this story. … Back to Colton, who has this news about a basketball engagement. The Cougars appear to be doing a great job under Kyle Smith at attracting Bigs from Africa to the school. … Elsewhere in Pac-12 and college football, Jon Wilner looks at this week’s point spreads on the Mercury News and shares his college basketball poll. … There are some exciting quarterbacks in the Pac-12, including Washington’s Michael Penix Jr. Where does he and Bo Nix stand in the eyes of the NFL? … Speaking of huskies, the win over Oregon came with a bit of controversy. … The Ducks need to recover from what’s happening with Utah in the city. Dan Lanning regrets not taking a time-out before the crucial quarter-down game. … The Utes have a lot of experience with exiting at the end of the season. … Oregon State is grappling with injuries, but the immediate future is bright. Mainly because Arizona State is next on the list. … Colorado is trying to focus on the present. … The rivalry game of the weekend is between UCLA and USC. The hatred is real in this case. And the stakes are high. … the state of Arizona needs a soccer coach. Does he have to have Arizona ties? … Arizona, like WSU, lost a key offensive lineman for the season. … In basketball news, the women’s No. 2 from Stanford meets the No. 1 from South Carolina again. … Washington is 3-0 after beating Utah Tech at home last night. … The state of Oregon has banked on its defense. … Utah struggled but got beyond the visit to the state of Idaho. … UCLA’s youth showed in a home win over Norfolk State.

gonzaga: After scoring 37 points against Texas last season, Drew Timme expects the Longhorns to do whatever it takes to slow him down when they meet in Austin on Wednesday. Jim Meehan has more to this story. … Jim also reports on the latest AP Basketball Poll. The Zags are still in second place. … The Gonzaga women are in Wyoming to take on the cowgirls. Jim Allen has a preview. … He also has this story about Yvonne Ejim, who won her first WCC award for player of the week. … Around the WCC, Santa Clara was beaten up by the state of Utah.

EMU: The men and women won basketball games yesterday. … Former Eagles star Cooper Kupp will miss some time with an ankle injury. … Elsewhere in the big sky, the former Portland State athletic director is now in Oregon. … The Brawl of the Wild has a rich history for Montana and the state of Montana. … Idaho State’s last game could also be its former starting quarterback’s first return game. … On the basketball news, Weber State struggled offensively and lost easily at Colorado State. … Former Gonzaga Prep player Liam Lloyd plays a lot for Northern Arizona. … Baylor hammered Northern Colorado 95-62. … We also mentioned above the heavy defeat of the state of Idaho in Utah.

Idaho: We linked Peter’s story about the Vandal football team above and here. It’s worth reading.

Whitworth: Madelyn Buckley (Lakeside High) again led the Pirate Wives in their final cross country race of the season. This news tops the SR’s latest column with local briefs.

Sailors: Julio Rodriguez is American League Rookie of the Year. And he was one vote away from a unanimous vote.

Seahawks: The defeat in Germany – on a field Bruce Irvin described as “terrible” – was not to define the remainder of the season. No question.

Octopus: No matter what, at least one goalie is happy to be Kraken Pads every night.

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• South Carolina basketball coach Dawn Staley had a really wise statement a while back. She was shown talking about how we tend to believe that if we just get through the current difficult time, life will get easier. Sorry, it doesn’t work that way. Difficult is relative. Just grab what life gives you every day and it’s a lot easier to deal with. See you later …

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