New Ole Miss football coach Hugh Freeze says his school is about to tweak its drug policy and it sounds like the goal is to make the plan tougher. After all, it’d be hard to make it much more lenient.
Currently, UM football players can test positive for drugs in their systems twice without facing so much as a single-game suspension. Only three other BCS-level schools are so easy on second-time offenders (Clemson, Purdue and UCLA). By comparison, Ole Miss’ SEC running mates Georgia and Kentucky are downright draconian in their policies… actually doling out suspensions to first-time offenders. Imagine.
Longtime readers of MrSEC.com know that we’ve been calling for a one-pee-cup-fits-all policy in the SEC for a while now. With the revenue now pouring into the SEC via two massive television contracts, there’s plenty enough cash for each school to a) hire the same outside company to handle testing, b) administer the same amount of tests, and c) administer the same types of tests (hair versus blood versus urine, etc).
Instead, each SEC school can currently create its own policy and hand out its own penalties. In a fair world — we know, there’s no such thing — one independent company would handle all athletic testing across the SEC and report its findings back to the commissioner’s office. The commissioner would then turn to a penalty chart that demanded a first offense carry X punishment, a second offense carry Y punishment, a third offense carry Z punishment, and so on. An appeals process could easily be set up as well.
Unfortunately, it does not appear that Mike Slive has any interest of getting into the blood sample collection business. Which leaves things right back in the hands of the schools. Some — like UK and UGA mentioned above — hand out tougher penalties than others. While UM doesn’t suspend for first or second offenses and tops out only at a three-game suspension for a third-time offender, LSU, for example, has no “that’s it, you’re outta here” line in the sand at all. Three positive tests in Baton Rouge — according to a Fanhouse report in 2010 — would result only in suspension for one year, not dismissal from the Tiger team. At Florida, an athlete can botch five tests before being booted from his or her team.
So kudos to Ole Miss for at least saying the right things regarding its policy. Double kudos for doing so without being prompted.
Freeze told The Jackson Clarion-Ledger that he doesn’t “know exactly what (the new policy) is going to be at this point, but we’re going to get that done.” And new athletic director Ross Bjork added:
“To me, I think we need to make sure our student-athlete understand we can’t tolerate drug use. That’s the message we have as educators first.”
Sounds good. And again we salute — saaaaa-lute — University of Mississippi officials for saying the right things. But the proverbial proof will eventually be in the pudding.
Or, in this case, in the literal pee cup.