The world of college football seems to get more bizarre with each passing year. The increased media coverage and 24/7 world of technology clearly escalate the headlines that decades ago would largely go unnoticed outside of the small college towns around the country, but the stories seem to continue to get more strange.
Unfortunately for SEC fans (and college football fans as whole), it seems like the country’s top playmakers continue to get struck down by the allure of marijuana. Whether it’s Isaiah Crowell, Tyrann Mathieu or the latest, Da’Rick Rogers, substance abuse is killing the careers of many of the SEC’s top playmakers. Perhaps the top playmaker in the country, Clemson’s Sammy Watkins, also finds himself suspended to start the year due to breaking substance abuse policy.
While teams like LSU can withstand the loss of a guy like Tyrann Mathieu, it doesn’t bode well for continuing the SEC’s championship reign. The reality is that playmakers are often the difference between an undefeated season and a good season; a championship season and a nice bowl game. You can point to several situations last year where Mathieu truly flipped the momentum which led to LSU wins.
Tennessee wasn’t going to win the BCS this year, but the Rogers suspension is a glimpse into a disturbing trend where super talented athletes are choosing to break rules – even if these rules are overbearing – rather than keep their head down, excel on the field, and cash in on the NFL draft. You could argue that Mathieu and Rogers both lost millions in next year’s NFL Draft as a result of these suspensions.
The championship teams from the SEC in the last six years all had some significant playmakers. To beat a team like the USC Trojans which is full of playmakers, an SEC representative will be better suited to battle the men of Troy with guys like Mathieu on the field.
Interestingly, while the SEC dismisses NFL like talent from its rosters, the media is unusually quiet on the Ohio State front right now.
Back in early July, senior Buckeye linebacker Storm Klein was arrested for “violently and purpsefully” grabbing his ex-girlfriend and mother of his child and throwing her into a door in his apartment. Urban Meyer swiftly dismissed Klein from the team as Klein violated “the core values of the Ohio State football program.”
Recently, the victim recanted her story, and Klein pled guilty to a lesser misdemeanor charge. Urban then reinstated Klein – though he’ll miss the first two games of the season.
What I find interesting is how quiet the media is on this story.
If you recall, Matt Hayes’ column on how Urban “broke” the Florida football program made some big waves in the college football world. A key component of the story was the favoritism that Urban allegedly showed towards the “elite” athletes on the team:
Ironically, Florida’s downfall began at the height of Meyer’s success—the 2008 national championship season. Three seasons of enabling and pandering to elite players—what Meyer’s players called his “Circle of Trust”—began to tear away at what he’d put together.
“I’ve never heard of Circle of Trust before in my life,” Meyer said.
Former players, though, contend it was the foundation of Florida’s culture under Meyer. In the season opener against Hawaii, Meyer said a few elite players (including wideout Percy Harvin, linebacker Brandon Spikes and tight end Aaron Hernandez) would miss the game with injuries. According to multiple sources, the three players—all critical factors in Florida’s rise under Meyer—failed drug tests for marijuana and were sitting out as part of standard university punishment.
By publicly stating the three were injured and not being disciplined, former players say, Meyer was creating a divide between the haves and have-nots on the team.
Urban’s reign at Florida had its fair share of criticism whether it was the arrests that took place while he was in Gainesville or Matt Hayes’ column written over a year after his departure. Why isn’t the media more zeroed in on him now over the Klein story?
As I’ve discussed this with colleagues, lots of theories get thrown around, none backed by anything of substance. Perhaps Urban’s status with the media is in better shape after doing work at ESPN? Perhaps many in the national media simply like to jump on the SEC programs? But both theories don’t hold much water. Perhaps, the Klein incident really wasn’t a big deal and he should be reinstated.
My view is that perhaps we should lighten up on the kids smoking weed and look more into anything resembling domestic assault. Moreover, I don’t blame Urban Meyer for any of this either. He’s coaching his team within the rules to the best of his ability – something that will likely lead to more success at Ohio State. If you have a problem, you should probably blame the rules, not the coaches that navigate them.
Unfortunately, the media tends to direct its outrage toward arbitrarily chosen individuals and situations. The NCAA’s rules tend to punish athletes randomly. The schools and leadership attempting to enforce these random rules do so without any sense of consistency. The result is that some players win and others lose.
In recent weeks, the SEC and its fans have indeed lost.