Athletics: After death, Cajuns could consider physicals for coaches
Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, Aug. 21, 2019
Some — including the Ragin’ Cajuns football, volleyball, women’s soccer and cross-country teams — already have begun their preseason work.
As they do, of course, one UL team will be without its head coach from the past 25 seasons.
Longtime UL baseball coach Tony Robichaux died in July, 10 days after suffering a heart attack.
With that in mind, UL athletic director Bryan Maggard was asked if he has considered mandating physical exams for Cajun coaches, just like student-athletes are required to take.
“I have thought about that,” Maggard said while in New Orleans for last month’s Sun Belt Conference football Media Day, “and I’ve had some people inquire about that as well.”
Reasons for that are obvious, and Maggard is quick to reel off just a few of them.
Stress of the job.
A grueling schedule that leaves coaches susceptible to poor diet.
Not nearly enough time for proper exercise, even while working hand-in-hand with high-level athletes.
“So … don’t be surprised if you hear about us having discussions about that,” Maggard said.
“I don’t know if ‘mandatory’ is the right word, but certainly make the opportunity available. All things aside, it’s just a great wellness practice.”
It also is something that at least one Cajun head coach grew accustomed to while working elsewhere.
Football coach Billy Napier’s club opens its 2019 season — his second in charge at UL — against Mississippi State on Aug. 31 at the Superdome in New Orleans.
Napier spent five seasons on staff at Alabama, one as an offensive analyst in 2011 and five as receivers coach under Nick Saban from 2013-17.
“Every year (at Alabama) we had an executive physical that we had to go do,” said Napier, who called the plan there “exceptional.”
“Coach Saban made arrangements for that. I think financially he may have been behind that — him and the university. And it was an annual deal that we did every summer, before training camp.”
Napier — who also was speaking about the subject while in New Orleans for the Sun Belt Media Day in July, just a few weeks after Robichaux had died — underwent a physical of his own in Lafayette earlier this year.
It remains to be seen what such a program might look like at UL, and who among head coaches, assistant coaches, team support personnel and department staffers would be included.
Personal insurance plans perhaps could play a role for some, as could utilizing the athlete department’s own sports medicine staff members who typically focus their efforts on current student-athletes.
At the time he addressed the issue, Maggard was not yet sure precisely how UL could implement such an initiative and all of what it might entail.
But there was no doubt that possibilities were on his mind, especially in light of the loss of Robichaux.
“That thought,” the Cajuns athletic director said, “has not been foreign to me of late.”