UMass football coach criticized for using boxing and wrestling in practice


A number of NFL players have utilized MMA training in the off season to sharpen their skill set. Similarly, last year University of Massachusetts head football coach Charley Molnar had his players boxing and wrestling on the field.

However, since a video of the practice came to prominence on Youtube, Molnar has come under fire from a group of former University of Massachusetts football players. The group is circulating a petition demanding he "stop the improper treatment of the current players."

The NCAA has since banned the use what it called “combatives," but the practice was legal by NCAA standards when it occured in 2012.

Never the less, several former players spoke out.

Sean Higgins (tight end, 1999)
“It’s unfortunate what’s going on and how guys are being treated. It’s such an embarrassment to the university. I’ve heard how he’s treated former players and coaches. Since he’s been on campus, he’s turned away alumni with his attitude. No one wants to back a guy like that. If he didn’t come off so much like an arrogant politician, maybe we’d support him more. He doesn’t care. The video was just icing on the cake.”

Breon Parker (defensive back, class of 1994)
“So many of us worked so hard to get the program to this point and there is No way I can believe I am associated with the foolishness I saw on that video. That has nothing to do with football. Really obvious why we can’t play tough on the weekends. The kids are misguided. Time for change!”

Chris Hopkins (Offensive lineman, class of 2008)
“Far from any experience at UMass and is totally disgusting to see it coming from a place so rich in traditio. What type of staff has no appreciation for its history and upbringing! If it was not for the past men who have paved the way. It’s sad and infuriating.”

Molnar strenusouly defended the practice.

“We used a number of different training methods to measure and hopefully develop mental toughness and accountability with our guys," said the coach. "It’s hard for a guy to go out there and wrestle or box another man if he has self-doubt."

“We tried to get these guys to feel that fear, but go out there and do it anyway. We never had one guy not go out and box or wrestle. Some of them went out with a lot of trepidation, but by the end of the cycle were thoroughly enjoying the activity. We did all these activities with safety in mind. I’m a fanatic about player safety. I thought it aided in team-building. Guys faced the fear and fought through it. That was the objective.”

Molnar also has the backing of UMass athletic director John McCutcheon.

"In regards to the video that has been out there for over a year, those practices were conducted out in the open," said the AD. "Coaches checked with our compliance staff. We had other administrative staff present at all those sessions. The players never voiced an objection to it. They were done as ways to motivate and do some things in a little different way. You’re not allowed to do football activities, but they’re done as team-building activities as a way to build camaraderie and spirit. Are they out of the box? Yeah, but there were quite a few institutions doing those type of activities at that time.”

From the point of view of an MMA professional, the practice looked like a great idea, with uneven execution. Boxing while wearing a football helmet is safe for the player being hit. There are potentially hand injuries for the striker.

More critically, there is a reason wrestling wrestling has been practiced on a soft surface for at least 3,000 years - takedowns are the single greatest cause of injuries in the sport. Practicing takedowns on frozen ground with inexperienced athletes of different sizes is problematic.

Former quarterback Brandon Hill, who missed time in 2011 due to a shoulder injury, hoped to compete for the job in 2012. He said he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury during one of the wrestling matches.

Molnar “had me wrestling a linebacker in the snow,” Hill said. “He put me down and I dislocated my shoulder and completely tore my labrum in half. That kind of bummed me out. I had to go get surgery after that."

Hill, who is now the starting quarterback at Monmouth, in his home state of New Jersey, said the bouts were optional.

“I think it was to see who was tougher and to get us going and pump us up a little bit,” Hill said. “You’re not going to say no. Kids wanted to do it. The nature of football is kind of like wrestling and kind of like boxing. It’s not like it was forced upon us.

“For a quarterback, I don’t think I should have been doing it, but I’m not going to say no to something the head coach wants you to do, especially with a new coach. You want to try to impress him and you’re going to do anything you can to play.”

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Recent Comments »

BernardHopkins site profile image  

10/5/13 9:29 PM by BernardHopkins

the wrestling seems like a good idea imo. i dont think its any more dangerous than tackling each other the boxing is kinda weird though. those guys take enough damage as is, no sense in knocking each other out with fists

mynameisjonas site profile image  

10/4/13 2:48 PM by mynameisjonas

Like someone else said, good idea with poor execution.Wearing cleats during any of the activities is begging for injuries. Wrestling on frozen ground, ditto. Boxing with crap gloves with hard facemasks on, ditto. Letting your quarterback do these things then throwing a red no contact jersey on them in the fall? Jeez.

Aaron Becker site profile image  

10/4/13 2:33 PM by Aaron Becker

it's looks like quite a few of the players in the video know how to wrestle, they are doing trying moves as if they've wrestled before

nomad1974 site profile image  

10/4/13 2:11 PM by nomad1974

Based on UMass's on field results. Perhaps they should concentrate on tackling drills, running routes etc.

GreatCornholio site profile image  

10/4/13 1:21 PM by GreatCornholio

I wonder if there is another agenda here - perhaps everyone is jumping on this because they actively dislike the coach. Even still, I think adding concussions (from boxing) to a sport that has too many already is pretty dumb.Where I grew up most of the top big wrestlers played football in the Fall, but not necessarily the other direction. Outside of heavyweights, cutting weight all winter can be tough for someone trying to build enough size to be taken seriously by colleges. I'm curious if there are good stats on what % of top football players also wrestled.

JustPeed site profile image  

10/4/13 12:02 PM by JustPeed

My coach in high school football would have players who fought in, practice box in a closed door, very.few people in the room setting. We also had a drill where two players line up, he throws a ball 10 - 15 yards in front of him and one of the players must come back with the ball, you could do anything to get the ball or stop the other from fgetting the ball past the line. I loved that drill.

antifret site profile image  

10/4/13 12:00 PM by antifret

In other news, Greg Jackson is gonna start making his fighters play football games instead of training to fight.

Sprawl'n'Stall site profile image  

10/4/13 11:54 AM by Sprawl'n'Stall

Wrestling is surely useful for Football, no doubt, but if the coach is a douche, wants to "build men" while exposing them to injuries and too drastic training methods (while never training himself), it's just wrong, period.

SHOGUN250 site profile image  

10/4/13 10:35 AM by SHOGUN250

Boxing I dunno, but I know for a fact many football and rugby teams reap many benefits from applying wrestling skills on the field.....

asn site profile image  

10/4/13 10:19 AM by asn

The point of the guys complaining is that they hate him, if you're winning no one cares and umass isn't winning.Coach should spend less time letting them wrestle and more time learning to play football. Umass probably spent a ton of cash getting into Div 1 and it's been a complete failure.