Remember a Vandy player making a "suplex" tackle in the 90's. The size of the 2 players was a major factor in both situations. It looked much worse than it was in reality. Suspending a player that excited to be in a big national TV game does nothing to prevent future incidents.
Before the crazies start screaming that the Southeastern Conference is protecting Alabama, let’s remember that freshman defensive lineman LaMichael Fanning has played in four games and has a grand total of four tackles on the season (though one of them has certainly gotten a lot of attention). The league is hardly protecting a star player in this case (as some would suggest it did in the Cam Newton affair).
That said, SEC associate commissioner, PR guru, and all-around good guy Charles Bloom just sent us the following comment regarding Fanning’s wrestling-style tackle of Missouri tailback Russell Hansbrough:
“The NCAA Football playing rules call for mandatory conference review following specific fouls. The SEC has been diligent in reviewing plays that by rule involve the initiation of contact and targeting defenseless opponents to the head and neck area. The conference maintains constant communication with head coaches on matters of penalty violations during the season. In the first instance discipline for violations involving non-NCAA-required automatic conference review are to be handled by the institution subject to the approval of the league office.”
In other words — as we suggested yesterday — the dangerous tackle by Fanning does not fall into one of the NCAA’s “point of emphasis” categories. We tried earlier today to find anything that the SEC might use as a means to suspend Fanning if it really, really wanted to, but it seems the league will stick to letting Alabama handle this one internally — pending “approval of the league office.”
If Saban sits Fanning against Tennessee on Saturday that will probably satisfy the league office. Perhaps the letters of apology Fanning was forced to send Hansbrough and Mizzou coach Gary Pinkel have already satisfied the conference office.
But two pretty big points arise from this decision by the SEC office…
First, the SEC had better not go finding a way/reason to suspend any other player from an SEC team not named Alabama for any rule violation outside the current NCAA/SEC rule book and “point of emphasis” reminder sheet. If that happens, then the league will have to hear from a lot of conspiracy theorists and at that point I’ll be putting on my tin foil hat right alongside them.
Again, we thought it would be tough to suspend Fanning for an “unnecessary roughness” call that isn’t a point of emphasis for the NCAA. But a lot of people will view this on much simpler terms: “SEC not penalize Bama.” (To be read in Mongo-talk in honor of the recently departed Alex Karras.)
Second, I believe the SEC — along with the NCAA — needs to either get serious about player safety or just forget the baby steps they’re now taking. Either suspend every defender who hits a defenseless player in the neck/head region or don’t. It’s the targeting that’s the issue and whether a receiver moves his head at the last second to create a glancing effect rather than a crown-to-face blow should not matter.
Likewise, if player safety is really a concern, then the SEC/NCAA need to start handing out suspensions for any dangerous licks, takedowns, or body slams regardless of whether or not there’s a specific push to wipe out those specific types of plays or not. Will the NCAA have to make “no body-slamming someone and tossing them on their head” a point of emphasis before the SEC or another conference can or will act on it?
I truly believe that if Hansbrough had been seriously injured by Fanning — and thank goodness he wasn’t — the league would have suspended the Alabama lineman. In that case there would have been a public outcry and public outcries lead to action. So if that’s really the case — and I really believe it is — then the SEC/NCAA have instituted what appears to be a “no harm, no foul” policy.
I understand why the SEC isn’t acting on this one. I initially explained why it probably wouldn’t act, even though I think it should have.
If a player unnecessarily puts another player’s health at risk via rule violation or just over-the-top roughness, then that player should spend a week on the bench. And Fanning unnecessarily put Hansbrough’s health at risk with what was clearly an over-the-top type tackle that you simply don’t see more than once or twice per season across all of college football.