marcus dupree. his name was meant to echo through the ages, but that was a dream that never came to fruition. marcus dupree grew up in Philadelphia, Miss., and during the end of his high school football career in 1982, he was the most highly recruited football player ever.
Dupree was the focal point of ESPN’s episode of 30 for 30 titled: “The Best That Never Was”, which followed his path of bad decisions, coupled with poor advice which led his career to crumble. The media attention he received was unbearable for a simple country boy from a small town. Schools from all over the country were hot on his tail, and his team of advisors, ranging from his mother, to his uncle, to a family friend, were pulling him in all different directions. Following his visit to Texas, most people in the media speculated that The Longhorns were at the top of his list. However, many people close to Dupree wanted him to attend Southern Miss because it was close to home. Oklahoma’s coach had a strong reputation for developing players, and he always put a winning product on the field. Dupree was torn. Had he had more time to think by himself, without the whole world breathing down his neck, his decision would have been more informed, and may have led him to a happier career.
When Heisman Trophy winner Billy Sims showed up at Dupree’s high school in February of 1982, Dupree was blown away, and he chose to attend Sims’ former school, the University of Oklahoma, while forsaking schools like Texas and Southern Miss. Immediately following Dupree’s signature, he knew he had made a mistake.
At Oklahoma, Dupree’s personality immediately clashed with the hard-nosed, working environment led by coach Barry Switzer. Dupree struggled his freshman year, and even when he achieved success, he was undisciplined.
After his freshman season, word got out that Dupree and Coach Switzer were not seeing eye to eye. The media had taken a comment made by the coach after the team’s Fiesta Bowl loss to Arizona State about Dupree being out of shape. Dupree and Switzer confirmed that they had not spoken very much during the offseason, but that didn’t stop the media from turning the comment into a s***storm of massive proportions. Sports Illustrated even published an issue with Dupree on the cover, titled “Clash of Wills at Oklahoma.”
Dupree returned to Oklahoma for the beginning of his sophomore season, but soon disappeared. When he reemerged in Mississippi, he openly stated that he would not return to school. After further pressure from his family, he flirted with enrolling at Southern Miss, but eventually opted to play for a semi-professional team in the USFL. Dupree retired from football in 1992. He now works as a long haul truck driver.
I believe that the media has every right to speculate about the activities of athletes, especially when they are high profile players at a high profile football program. However, I have to ask whether it is ethical for media outlets to put such a massive amount of pressure on young kids who are struggling to find the best fit for themselves. We urge them to narrow down their lists, and place deadlines on them to decide. We also fail to stress to them the importance of contracts, how decisions need to be well thought out, and how decisions should be final.