EL PASO, Texas — In football, every day is third-and-one. Every day, coaches push players, seeking their limit. It’s a military mentality; break them down to build them up. "Football’s an intense game,” said Oklahoma defensive coordinator Brent Venables. "Every day’s intense. Energy and intensity is part of the game. I don’t think it’s a cerebral sport.” Not cerebral, but a fine line. Anyone who believes coaches never cross that line has their head in the Astroturf. So is the head of anyone who believes players are the same as they used to be. Mark Mangino is out of a job at Kansas and Mike Leach is suspended at Texas Tech, both for alleged mistreatment of players. Both were Oklahoma assistants on Bob Stoops’ original 1999 staff, as was Venables. Venables is like the rest of us. He doesn’t know what happened in Lawrence or Lubbock. Doesn’t know what happened with Leach and Tech’s Adam James, the player who says he was forced to stand at attention in a dark shed, because a concussion kept him from participating. "It’d be inappropriate for me to comment on those situations,” Venables said, "but I know those are two great men and terrific football coaches, good friends. The extreme nature of some of the reporting, accurate or not, would totally surprise me.” Mangino was hard on players in Norman and no doubt in Lawrence, too. Leach is quirky. The truth is almost always in the middle, so who knows? But this we know: Coaches push players, and the wonder is not that these allegations have surfaced. The wonder is that allegations like these don’t surface more often. "This is a tough, combative, competitive game,” said OU offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson, who coached with neither Mangino nor Leach. "You’re trying to teach guys how to play hard every day. That’s a foreign language in our world, to come to work and do your best every day.” Call it a clash of cultures. Coaches haven’t changed much over the decades; homes have. Discipline is less, respect for authority is less, accountability is less. Then Coach Drill Sergeant starts yelling, and the field’s on fire. "More than anything we live in a society where kids aren’t challenged as much,” Wilson said. "Moms and dads are at school complaining to principal because there’s an issue with the teacher. Most of us grew up where your dad would wear you out if you came home with a bad report card. Now we question authority. As a coach in an authority position, you get questioned.” Plus, there’s more media. What Bear Bryant got away with in Junction, Texas, in 1954, Howard Schnellenberger didn’t get away with in Norman in 1995, and media has only exploded since. "There’s a lot more scrutiny,” Venables said. "A lot more eyes and ears that are constantly over you and your profession. And again, kids are just a little bit different. Doesn’t mean it’s worse, so to speak, it’s just we’re in a different era. "There’s a delicate balance you have to have in teaching and challenging and motivating.” Sometimes, scrutiny is needed. Of particular interest in the Tech case is the age-old notion that injured players have to be motivated to return, sometimes by ostracization. That’s ridiculous, of course, but that’s exactly what is displayed in the Adam James allegation. The new-age element is the media, which ironically reaches a boil with Adam James. Would Leach have been suspended had the allegation not come from the son of ESPN’s Craig James? Lots of questions, few answers, for a setting in which players are trained to say excuse me and sorry for the slightest bump, encouraged to be genteel, then on come the shoulder pads and violence is demanded. "There’s a unique balance that we’re trying to find,” Wilson said. "You have to play physical. We have to train that way. We can’t develop that mindset if we don’t practice that way.” But also, Wilson said, "you have to treat people with respect and you’ve gotta treat people right.” It’s a delicate balance in an arena void of delicacy. Sometimes, the balance is toppled, and teaching barbaric behavior can turn barbaric itself. Berry Tramel: 405-760-8080; Berry Tramel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1.