When Tyrann Mathieu was given the boot from LSU a couple of weeks ago, many Tiger-backers praised Les Miles for putting team discipline ahead of all else. Yesterday, Da’Rick Rogers was suspended at Tennessee and the pattern repeated. I personally received 12 emails from Vol fans all delivering some variation of the same message: “Let’s see you question Derek Dooley’s discipline now.”
In both cases — Mathieu’s and Rogers’ — athletic department policy dictated the action that was taken. Miles and Dooley didn’t punish their stars, their school drug policies did.
In Mathieu’s case we know this. Last season he was suspended for one game due to a positive drug test tied to synthetic marijuana. This year he was given a one-year suspension. LSU’s drug policy is as follows:
1st strike — No punishment
2nd strike — 15% of games missed
3rd strike — One-year suspension
Last year’s suspension of Mathieu for a single game was either a tough stance by Miles in handing out a suspension when one wasn’t required (after a first failed test) or a softening of the policy to allow Mathieu back for the Alabama game… after just one game off and not 15% of the season (which a second strike should have required). Either way, his third strike dictated a year away from the Tiger football team. And that’s what Mathieu got.
At Tennessee, same deal. Here’s the Vol drug policy as of 2011:
1st strike — No punishment
2nd strike — 10% of games
3rd strike — Dismissal from team
Multiple sources have reported that Rogers’ latest suspension was tied to multiple failed drug tests. That’s what this writer was told yesterday, too (among many other wild tails from athletic department personnel trying to sound in the know). A solid source at Tennessee told me this was not a university issue — meaning: academics — and that this was “Dooley and Dave Hart.” Hart being UT’s athletic director.
Jimmy Hyams of Knoxville radio station WNML-AM/FM has reported that Rogers was going to be suspended for the Vols’ opener anyway and that something additional happened this week to precipitate a longer suspension. It is believed that when informed of the longer suspension, Rogers — who hinted at a transfer this spring — simply bolted.
Whether Rogers was already suspended of not, it has been made clear to me that the drug policy was violated. First strikes bring no punishment. Third strikes call for a dismissal and Rogers was not dismissed. Do the math and it’s easy to see that this was Rogers’ second strike, regardless of any previous warnings or wrist slaps or suspensions for previous bonehead mistakes.
Also interesting is the fact that the Rogers’ news was delivered the day after Tennessee hosted a “Welcome Back” barbecue for fans to kick off the season. Go back one year and star safety Janzen Jackson was dismissed from the team — again it was UT’s drug policy, not Dooley that forced that move — one day after the 2011 kickoff dinner. Either UT likes to feed its fans before breaking bad news or the school schedules drug tests about the same time each year.
Sidenote — Considering Bruce Pearl’s basketball tenure began to unravel at a barbecue it might be time for folks in East Tennessee to stop barbecuing altogether.
This post isn’t written as a knock on Miles or Dooley. It’s just a reminder that praise shouldn’t be given where it isn’t warranted. According to sources/reports out of both schools, it was athletic department policy that dictated star players be penalized, not “tough guy” coaches who suddenly turned into Buford Pusser.
That said, at least the coaches didn’t cover-up or ignore internal drug policies as Syracuse reportedly did. As far as we know.
Look, it’s time for a uniform drug policy throughout the SEC, if not the NCAA. Perhaps given his new special powers, Mark Emmert can strong arm everyone into using one testing company, administering the same number and types of tests, and then sending him and his team the results. They would then handle the discipline.
Short of that, the SEC’s presidents need to create their own uniform policy, something Mike Slive has admitted to bringing up on multiple occasions. (We’ve been calling for such action for years on this website.) According to Slive, the presidents of the SEC’s schools have given the uniform policy idea a thumbs-down to date.
Time to flip those thumbs, fellas.
Doing so would create a level playing field for all member institutions, would prevent the possibility of a Syracuse-type embarrassment, and would kill off some of the cynicism from mean ol’ media guys like myself.
LSU and Tennessee handed down discipline because that’s what their drug policies demanded. Kudos to the schools for following through on their policies. If you want to praise the coaches for anything… you can praise them for not covering up, I suppose. Because all they did was follow protocol.
And in most cases, that’s the most any coach will do when a star athlete is involved. Follow protocol. Do the bare minimum. It’s still possible Mathieu can return to LSU next season as he was not given a permanent boot. Rogers wasn’t given a dismissal, either. But even Dooley admitted that he didn’t expect Rogers to return. That’s Rogers’ call.
The coaches in question did the bare minimum in both of these cases. So let’s hold off on the backslapping, shall we? And let’s create a uniform drug policy instead.