- Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
- Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has put up astounding numbers in a season that many expect to culminate in a Heisman Trophy.
- In a widely-criticized interview with reporter Tom Rinaldi that aired on ESPN’s “College Gameday,” Tagovailoa detailed his father’s influence in making him into the dominant athlete he is today.
- Tagovailoa’s father, Galu, forced his eldest son to throw left-handed, beat him with a belt when he threw interceptions, and chose where Tua would play in college.
- Many college football fans and insiders took to social media to express their disapproval of both Galu’s punishments and ESPN’s positive reporting of such behavior.
Tua Tagovailoa has taken the world of college football by storm, putting up astounding numbers in a season that many expect to culminate in a Heisman Trophy.
But the Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback seemingly walked a long road en route to Tuscaloosa.
In a widely-criticized interview with reporter Tom Rinaldi that aired on ESPN’s “College Gameday” this week, Tagovailoa detailed his father’s influence in making him into the dominant athlete he is today. Some of Galu Tagovailoa’s behavior, however, came across less as motivational than it did abusive.
The feature began with Tua explaining that his natural instinct is to use his right hand. He continues to write and eat with his right hand to this day. But when Galu began football training with Tua at the ripe age of two years old, Galu forced his eldest son – who is famous for throwing left-handed – to switch to his non-dominant hand.
“Because I’m the only lefty in the family, I felt like ‘okay, I’m gonna make my son a lefty,” Galu said.
As Tua got older and began playing football at Saint Louis School in Oahu, the pressure his father placed on him to perform seemingly increased.
“If I don’t perform well or I don’t perform the way I’m supposed to, I’m gonna get it after,” Tua said.
Rinaldi – who simply described Galu as a “demanding audience” during the feature – asked Tua for clarification.
“Just know that the belt was involved and other things were involved as well,” Tua said. “And it’s almost the same with school. If I don’t get this grade… I’m gonna have to suffer the consequences.”
Galu described running a no-nonsense household, which includes him, his wife, Diane, and their five children. He said the two most important things to the family are faith and discipline.
“He means the bible and the belt,” Diane clarified.
Galu acknowledged he is tough on his son.
“He could go 15-for-15 with four touchdowns, but when he throws a pick, it’s the worst game,” Galu said. “It’s the worst game.”
Tua envisioned himself playing in the Pac-12, but when it came time to make his college decision, he did as he was taught to do and deferred to his father.
“My father is the decision maker within the family,” Tua said. “Whether I wanted to go to other schools or not, my dad had the final say with where I was going.”
After the segment reached its conclusion, ESPN’s Desmond Howard joking compared Galu to Joe Jackson, the father of Michael Jackson and the rest of the Jackson 5 who was notorious for physically and emotionally abusing his children while managing their music careers.
Many college football fans and insiders took to social media to express their disapproval of both Galu’s abusive tendencies and ESPN’s positive reporting of such behavior.
Is this ESPN piece on Tua really telling me that Tua's dad hit his kid with a belt after not great HS games and playing it off like it's no big deal?
— Tony Gerdeman (@TonyGerdeman) December 1, 2018
Very heartwarming story about Tua Tagovailoa and his family on @CollegeGameDay. It was a story of totalitarianism and an autocratic father beating his son with a belt for throwing interceptions. #ohana
— Tennessee Williams (@TN_Williams) December 1, 2018
So to recap, Tua Tagovailoa’s dad:
– forced him to be a lefty
– beat him after he had a bad game
– chose his school
Tua is an incredible talent and somehow seems to have a good head on his shoulders, but that is the absolutely worst type of youth sports parent.
— Alex Wilcox (@AlexWilcoxWNDU) December 1, 2018
Was that GameDay story about Tua’s dad threatening to beat his son with a belt if he played bad supposed to be heartwarming?
— Bill Landis (@BillLandis25) December 1, 2018
Spanking your kid because they did something wrong I can live with. I was spanked growing up.
Using the belt on your kid because threw an interception or had a bad game?
That Tua interview, oof.
— Benjamin Allbright (@AllbrightNFL) December 1, 2018
One person, at least, did not seem to take issue with Galu’s comments:
“There’s a respect there that is almost uncommon,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban said. “‘My father knows best, he wants what’s best for me, and I’m always going to respect and listen to what he has to say.'”
You can check out the full ESPN feature below: