Character Issues Are Part of the Game
By Jay Coulter (email@example.com) on August 27, 2012
Birmingham News columnist Kevin Scarbinsky’s scathing article on Auburn football yesterday is getting a lot of attention as Gene Chizik prepares for his fourth season on the Plains.
Scarbinsky brings into question the rash of off-field incidents that have plagued Auburn over the last year or so. With the weekend suspension of Auburn starting center Reese Dismukes, Scarbinsky points to a pattern of trouble dating back to the armed robbery involving four former Auburn players in March 2011.
Is the story fair or just another hatchet job by an Alabama-leaning state media?
Unlike his Birmingham counterpart Paul Finebaum, who’s more circus promoter than journalist, I’ve always found Scarbinsky to be fair. Sure he’s controversial, that’s what sells newspaper; but he doesn’t seem to have a vendetta against Auburn like Finebaum.
Is Auburn’s off-field problems typical of a program that now annually bring in Top 10 recruiting classes? The answer is yes. Like it or not, football is a violent game played by kids who were not chauffeured around to tennis camp in there mama’s Mercedes.
“It’s one thing to lose five games on either side of a national championship season, with another handful of defeats a distinct possibility this season,” writes Scarbinsky. “It’s far more suspect in a head coach’s fourth year on the job to lose player after player to suspension or dismissal.
Is that really true?
Former Florida coach Urban Meyer saw close to 30 players arrested on the way to two national championships in three years while in Gainesville.
South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier famously mocked Georgia last month by saying he was disappointed the Gamecocks would not be playing Mark Richt’s team in early September anymore, because they were always good for a couple of player suspensions.
Just yesterday, Notre Dame announced the suspension of
starting running back Cierre Wood and defensive end Justin Utupo for its opener
against Navy. And what about the Honey Badger at LSU? Are the same questions being asked about Les Miles?
Show me a successful program and I’ll show you off-field issues – even at Alabama where the state media does everything it can to protect the Alabama brand.
When you look at the rap sheets of some of these former players, it’s understandably disturbing. Armed robbery, drugs, public intoxication – that’s not exactly the kind of people you’d want your daughter or son hanging around.
You can’t defend their actions.
At the same time, you can’t blame Gene Chizik. In a business where a national title two seasons ago guarantees you nothing today, coaches must recruit the best athletes. Like it or not, that’s reality.
Almost every school in the conference offered scholarships to the Auburn players involved in these high profile incidents. Suggesting Auburn coaches do a better job of weeding these recruits out is pie-in-the-sky wishful thinking. Find me a coach that’s figured that dilemma out.
College football will always have a dark side. Big business always has a dark side. We may not like it, but there’s a cost to winning.
If it makes you uneasy, then I suggest taking up tennis.