Arkansas head football coach Bret Bielema has a pretty simple rule when it comes to his players and marijuana: Don't smoke it. Across the nation, marijuana has become a serious problem for college coaches. A number of schools in the Southeastern Conference take marijuana violations revealed by drug tests less seriously than violations involving stronger drugs. The sheer number of athletes now smoking pot necessitates, it would seem, a tiered system that results in lesser penalties for pot violations.
But don't tell that to Bielema. With Dorial Green-Beckham's surprising move to Oklahoma's team -- after being booted from Missouri's team following multiple marijuana issues -- weed is a hot topic. But Bielema told an Arkansas radio show last week that he's serious about the types of baggage incoming Arkansas transfers can bring with them as well as the use of marijuana by his players:
"Everybody adds players to the program. Especially at Arkansas, when we go after a transfer, we're going after the highest quality of people. I'm not trying to get a rebound off any law enforcement or drug issues or anything else. We look for high quality...
I'll be honest, just a couple of weeks ago, there was a Baylor wide receiver that got into a little trouble. The thing he had gone through, we could be his greatest asset, with a strict no use of marijuana, no use of drugs (policy). That's something I really enforced when I got here, something I firmly believe in.
Across the nation, there's a whole new process about legalizing marijuana. If I allow it to happen here, I'm allowing bad behavior to continue that will cost them their career. We're pretty adherent to that policy."
Anyone who believes there are no weed smokers or pot tokers on the Razorback football team, raise your hand. Thought so. But that fact doesn't mean Bielema's anti-marijuana efforts are any less noble. Once players reach the NFL, it's no longer up to the team to suspend a player or to look the other way after a failed drug test. The NFL office hands down the punishment and the NFL office has been quite strict in recent years under commissioner Roger Goodell. So best that players nip their marijuana use in the bud now (pun intended), than develop a habit that could cost them games, dollars and possibly a career at the next level.
Bielema's vocal stance is so strong, however, that any arrest of a player in a marijuana-related incident will require him to stand tough on the disciplinary front. If he doesn't, his words will ring rather hollow. For now, we have no choice but to take him at those words. And he says he's looking for "high quality" players at Arkansas... not players looking for a quality high.