Imagine being sick and not even knowing it. A malignancy festers inside you, infecting everything within proximity, but you still mostly function normally. The only signs of trouble are assorted symptoms that come and go, but nothing is definite or tell-tale. Eventually the CAT scan reveals how deep the tumor goes and everything is clear. Last week’s robbery trial of Antonio Goodwin, punctuated by former teammate Michael Dyer’s testimony, was an x-ray view into the cancer growing inside the Auburn Tigers football team that went unnoticed by most for almost a year. Only now that the growth has been cut out can the healing really begin.
Dyer, in his statements, exposed himself as a deviant for all the Auburn family to see. His reasons for being so candid are probably self-serving–to prevent any formal charges being filed for providing someone threatening to commit a crime with a weapon, and to also show cooperation with authorities, something that would go a long way in redeeming his character once he takes the field at Arkansas State. What he had to say about himself wasn’t pretty. It was shocking to most, and something foreign to fans who knew him only for his little-boy smile and break-away runs.
As it turns out, the arrest of four players last March for armed robbery was but a symptom that spurned an even larger illness–a player who thought himself above the rules. Although such serious charges weren’t something Auburn fans were accustomed to, we thought the issue had been put behind us with the expulsion of the culprits. We were wrong.
Little did we realize that a star player had played a large role in the formation of this gang and was leading a double life as a thug wannabe. Star football players don’t do drugs or carry guns, we tell ourselves. We can’t understand why the stardom isn’t enough for them. It’s unimaginable they would want to risk everything they have for some petty gangster action. Many of these kids come from backgrounds like that. Sometimes it doesn’t get filtered out. The truth is that most of us really don’t care as long as they win on Saturdays. Trouble is something that happens at other schools, like at Florida under Urban Meyer. Better guess again.
We’ll never hear out of Gene Chizik (or Gus Malzahn) exactly when they learned the extent of Dyer’s involvement. I’m guessing it came out during the investigation into the robbery and hopefully only after the regular season and before the bowl game, like the time line we’ve already been presented. I’m not even remotely suggesting this idea, but if Chizik played Dyer while knowing what he had done, he could have easily been canned. At the very least he could have lost respect and confidence from the Auburn nation. And it’s possible that Dyer could have been a hot potato that quickly got passed to the next guy.
But what the public knows and what the team knows are usually two entirely different truths. While the coaches and public presumably found out in December, there’s little doubt that many players knew what had happened the whole time. A code of silence would have existed that prevented them from exposing anything other than to each other. And nothing could be worse to a young team than having a star player walking around feeling invincible and above the law, unless it’s the same player constantly looking over his shoulder, worrying about an impending investigation or being ratted out by one of his teammates.
Star players are supposed to provide leadership, and it’s pretty apparent now that Dyer was severely lacking in that department. He could have split the teams into camps, directly opposed to each other. Regardless, any lack of cohesion during the season is a recipe for disaster and something that cannot be tolerated. While I would never totally blame all of our failings from 2011 on Dyer, we’ll also never know to what extent his problems infested the team.
Jay mentioned yesterday that a change was coming to the Plains–for the better. There’s a fresh breeze in the air. I see it as the winds of change healing the severe dysfunction that Michael Dyer cast on the program with his duplicitous and selfish behavior. The cancer has been cut out. The medicine has been taken. We never even knew we were sick until last week when we got the doctor’s bill. Something like that is big enough to scare you into becoming a hypochondriac.