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The SEC Should Create Uniform Drug, Rules Violations Policies

gfx - honest opinionIn recent years Mike Slive has used his curtain-raising speech at the start of SEC Media Days to push for change in the practice of oversigning, to steer college athletics toward a rule book reform, and to discuss the need for college football players to receive larger scholarships.

There are two topics that the commish could bring up today that would a) show that the SEC is serious about creating a level playing field for all the league’s teams and b) prove the conference’s desire to clean up its image.

Trouble is, there’s no way in Hell either idea would be accepted by league presidents or mentioned by the commissioner today.

The schools of the SEC have shown time and again that they prefer autonomy.  Unlike the franchises of a professional league, conference schools are free to adopt and enforce many of their own rules.  Examples: entrance requirements, drug policies, etc.  In some cases there are league-wide minimums — in terms of drug policies that minimum is simply to have one — but schools can decide for themselves how far they want to take their own rules.

That sounds fine and dandy, but we’d prefer to see the SEC commissioner — currently Slive — receive more power.  Certainly, there are many fans who believe he already has too much power.  But when it comes to creating a level playing field and improving the league’s reputation as an anything-goes, renegade conference, it’s going to take someone with Kennesaw Mountain Landis-type powers.

For that reason, we believe the SEC should yield in a couple of big areas, lead the nation once more, and give its commissioner the power to…

 

1.  Enforce a league-wide, uniform drug policy

Crossing sports and eras, the differences between SEC institutions’ drug policies continue to be a talking point among fans and media.  Whether it’s former Florida football player Aaron Hernandez, former LSU football player Tyrann Mathieu, or current Ole Miss basketball player Marshall Henderson, as long as there are differing drug policies, there will always be questions about which schools tend to look the other way on drug usage.

The time has come for that to change.

With one company performing the same number and the same types of tests at all 14 institutions — and with those results going to the league office — there would for the first time be a level playing field all across the SEC in football, basketball or other non-revenue sports.  At MrSEC.com, we believe the majority of fans would actually be in favor of such a uniform policy, despite the fact that most league presidents have failed to back such a plan at least three times.

As it stands, Georgia and Kentucky will continue to get praise for having stiff anti-drug sanctions.  And all the other schools will continue to walk in the grey area — some with tougher policies than others — giving some schools a competitive advantage over others.

 

2.  Enforce a league-wide cheating policy

When Slive took over as league commissioner in 2002, he made it a priority that all 12 of the league’s schools comply with NCAA rules.  No league will ever be perfect, but the SEC had developed a reputation for being a league filled with scoundrels.  Fair or not.  And so Slive set out to change that perception and he came darn close.  With the exception of an Arkansas track team on probation, just a few years into Slive’s reign the SEC had for the most part dodged major sanctions and major violations.

But then came a textbook scandal at Alabama.  The Cam Newton mess at Auburn and Mississippi State followed.  There was a high-profile string of secondary violations by Lane Kiffin at Tennessee.  Bruce Pearl’s cover-up of an infraction can next, also at Tennessee.  John Calipari brought his sketchy reputation — again, fair or not — into the SEC.  On and on.  And today the league is right back where it was when Slive started… it’s the conference most often cited when the subject of cheating in collegiate athletics is brought up.

If Slive and the league’s presidents are serious about cleaning up their home, a league-wide “death penalty” for head coaches and assistants found guilty of multiple major NCAA violations should be put in place.

Under such a no-nonsense plan, if the NCAA found an SEC coach guilty of multiple major NCAA infractions, that coach would lose his job and not be allowed to return to coaching inside the league at any school.  Ever.  You can be sure that penalties of that sort would grab the attention of any coach considering an under-the-table payment to an athlete.

There would be an argument made that hiring coaches would become tougher for SEC schools, but the money the league’s institutions throw at coaches would still turn heads and still lure in top talent.  It just wouldn’t be coaches who considered cheating.  And note we didn’t say coaches presiding over a program caught cheating.  There must be a direct tie back to the head coach or assistant for the penalty to kick in, lest one unscrupulous booster might take down an entire coaching staff.

 

As noted above, neither of these ideas will adopted by the SEC anytime soon and probably not ever.  School presidents have already shown that they prefer controlling their atheltes’ drug-use issues on their own.  And you can be certain that schools wouldn’t want to give up the power to decide for themselves whether to retain or dismiss a coach found guilty of multiple major NCAA violations.

But if the league is serious about creating a level-playing field for all its schools and cleansing its reputation as a cheater’s paradise, these two unprecedented steps would help greatly in doing the trick.

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New SEC Drug Policy Push: “Do It For The Athletes”

Urine SampleWe already linked you to this story in today’s headlines, but since we’ve been banging the very same drum for several years now, we thought we’d give it an extra push.

Kevin Scarbinsky of Al.com writes today that former Florida tight end Aaron Hernandez — who’s looking more and more like a troubled youth who never had anyone yank him in line — is the poster boy for league-wide drug testing in the SEC.

The same could be said for ex-LSU star Tyrann Mathieu and many others, but Hernandez is certainly a person in the national spotlight at the moment.  Scarbinsky uses his many drug-related issues at Florida to hammer home the point that without a league-wide drug testing policy off the field, some teams are able to improve their chances of winning games on the field:

 

“Two more words for any SEC coach, administrator or fan who thinks the SEC doesn’t need a league-wide drug policy: competitive advantage.

If one school in the league has a three-strikes-and-you’re-out drug policy, and another requires four failed tests before dismissal, that can give the second school an edge in keeping its best players on the field.”

 

Of course it can.  But that hasn’t led the SEC’s presidents to OK a league-wide drug policy, despite the fact that the topic keeps coming up at the SEC meetings in Destin each year.  Perhaps if commissioner Mike Slive really wants to push such a plan through he should go the “welfare of the student-athlete” route.

The league’s presidents took a small step toward protecting student-athletes when they went against the league’s football coaches and voted to place a soft cap on the number of signees an SEC program can bring in in a given year.  The league has also pushed for student-athletes to receive full-cost-of-tuition scholarships.

Slive and ADs like Georgia’s Greg McGarity might want to tap into the presidents’ altruism by pointing out that a young man like Hernandez might have been better off if his school or his coach or — with a league-wide plan — the conference office had actually held him more accountable for his actions and delivered a bit more discipline.  If he’d actually learned that his bad actions would carry serious consequences, maybe he would be in a better spot today.

Ask yourself this: Did Urban Meyer’s decision to look the other way time and again with Hernandez help the coach or the player?

Well, Meyer’s making millions and will be spending his fall with yet another potential national championship team.  Hernandez may lose millions in civil suits and he could very well spend some of his fall behind bars.  You do the math.

Yes, the SEC needs a league-wide drug policy as Scarbinsky states today and as we have written once or twice per year since launching this site in 2008.  But if the presidents won’t agree to such a plan for their own sakes, just maybe they would do it for the good of the athletes.  As pollyannaish as that approach sounds, it has actually worked on them once or twice already.

Plus, the league’s presidents would have yet another opportunity to point out just how much they care for their student-athletes… enough to hurt their own sports teams if it means teaching players the difference between right and wrong.  (Please re-read that last line while softly humming the “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”)

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Honey Badger Welcomed To Phoenix… By Head Shop

Former LSU defensive back Tyrann Mathieu saw his career end due to marijuana and synthetic marijuana.  According to one story making the rounds before the NFL draft, Mathieu allegedly told one pro team that he’d failed double-digit drug tests while a Tiger, but he later denied making that statement.

Well, tell that to Bud’s Glass joint, a head shop that sells drug paraphernalia in Phoenix.  The store placed an ad in The Phoenix New Times welcoming the Arizona Cardinals’ newest player to the area.

 

badger-ad

 

“Honey Badger.  Welcome to Phoenix!  We have what you’re looking for.”

Such an ad is hardly fair to Mathieu, of course, and one wonders if his agent won’t try to take legal action of some sort against the shop for using his likeness in its ad.  But with so much smoke surrounding his college career — pun intended — it will be interesting to see if there are any more fires moving forward into the pro ranks.

The Cardinals have reportedly put provisions in Mathieu’s contract forcing him to submit to drug testing more often than his teammates.

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Wow Headlines 4/13/2013

SEC and ESPN will announce plans for new SEC television network on Tuesday…
New channel expected to launch in August of 2014
Security detail to monitor Auburn players curfew cost the University approximately $75,000 last fall
Ole Miss basketball coach Andy Kennedy getting a raise and contract extension…will be seventh-highest paid coach in SEC
Status of Tennessee running back Marlin Lane unclear…missed practice time dealing with family illness
LSU officials dispute story that former cornerback Tyrann Mathieu failed at least 10 drug tests before being suspended
Kentucky expects record crowd for spring game this weekend
Follow SEC news year round at MrSEC.com and on Twitter at Twitter.com/mrsec

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Wow Weekend Headlines 4/13/2013

SEC and ESPN will announce plans for new SEC television network on Tuesday…
New channel expected to launch in August of 2014
Status of Tennessee running back Marlin Lane unclear…missed practice time dealing with family illness
LSU officials dispute story that former cornerback Tyrann Mathieu failed at least 10 drug tests before being suspended
Kentucky expects record crowd for spring game this weekend
Follow SEC news year round at MrSEC.com and on Twitter at Twitter.com/mrsec

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Tyrann Mathieu On Drug Test Story: “It Is Irresponsible…”

tyrann-mathieu.p1“I quit counting at 10. I really don’t know.” That’s a quote attributed to Tyrann Mathieu in a USA Today column that was allegedly in reply to a question about the number of drug tests he failed at LSU before receiving a suspension.  

As you might imagine, that’s caused quote a stir today.  Enough so that LSU felt compelled to issue statements from both Mathieu and school A.D. Joe Alleva.

Mathieu, who received a one-game suspension from LSU in 2011, and was booted from the team in August of 2012, says LSU went to great lengths to help him.

 

“It is irresponsible and shows a lack of integrity for anyone to disclose medical information regardless of how it was gathered,” Mathieu said.   “I would expect that conversations regarding my drug testing history during the course of my medical treatment would be private.  LSU has a strong drug testing program and LSU went to great lengths to help me in my treatment and recovery.  I understand that many people enjoy reading about the negative side of sports, but to publish those second-hand comments without being given a chance to address that comment prior to the publication of the article is irresponsible.”

 

A coach was quoted anonymously in the USA Today story regarding Mathieu saying, If he flunked 10 tests before they suspended him, it shows that he got no kind of help.”

Regarding the drug testing at LSU, A.D. Joe Alleva says “it is a program we would put up against any in the country.”

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Miles Put The Right Spin On LSU’s 2013 Schedule

scheduleAppearing in an ESPN interview with Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit yesterday, LSU coach Les Miles sounded off on everything from Cam Cameron’s impact on the Tiger offense to Tyrann Mathieu’s pro potential.

But it’s what the coach didn’t say about LSU’s 2013 schedule — aside from an opening joke that drew laughs from Herbstreit — that should be noted:

 

“Certainly they’re putting us in a position to play in either division.  You know, we’ll play certainly the toughest schedule in the West and they’re picking the best teams that they can to give us out of the East. 

I have to be honest with you, we kind of accept that schedule.  We look forward to the competition.  We like to think that maybe there’s only one team in the country that could go through it and kind of look forward to it.”

 

Good answer.

The SEC once again cut a transitional schedule for 2013.  At some point in the near future the league is expected to create a new scheduling rotation of eight league games per team per year (though we still believe a nine-game slate is inevitable).  But the last two years have been hodge-podged together and that’s raised complaints from schools who’ve had to travel to the same opponent in back-to-back years, from schools who’ve been forced to play the best teams outside their division, and from schools who’ve felt their chief rivals did not have to play the best teams outside their division.

Given an opportunity to open up on national television, Miles didn’t whine.  He didn’t moan.  He didn’t cry.

Granted, LSU athletic director Joe Alleva has done his share of bellyaching about the league’s need to do away with permanent cross-division rivalries, but Miles wouldn’t take the bait when Fowler and Herbstreit pointed out the Tigers’ drew Florida (home) and Georgia (away) from the East.

Instead he responded with what we assume is his message to his team: “We’re the only team that could pull this kind of thing off.”  Kudos.

A tough schedule isn’t always something to cry about.  Miles and LSU should know better than anyone that a rough slate of games can actually open the door to BCS glory.

It was just six Januarys ago that the Tigers were handed a slot in the BCS Championship Game despite having two losses on their ledger.  They took advantage of that opportunity, whipped Ohio State, and gave Miles his only crystal football to date.

With LSU’s schedule in 2013, a loss — maybe even two — might not close the door completely on the Tigers’ title hopes.

 

Les Miles Talks LSU Football

 

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Report: Tyrann Mathieu On Failed Drug Tests Before Suspension – “Quit Counting At 10″

Tyrann Mathieu

Tyrann Mathieu

With the NFL draft just a few weeks away, Former LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu is making the rounds of pro football teams.   He’s reportedly in Arizona today and will be in Cincinnati Monday, making his case to team officials in a suit and tie.

USA Today columnist Jarrett Bell notes that Mathieu has repeatedly stated he’s been clean since an arrest in October for marijuana possession and then adds these details…

 

During one visit, Mathieu was asked how many drug tests he failed before he was suspended in college.

According to an assistant coach for the team, Mathieu responded: “I quit counting at 10. I really don’t know.”

The coach, who spoke to USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to comment about the evaluation, doesn’t dump all of the blame on Mathieu. He points a finger at LSU.

“If he flunked 10 tests before they suspended him, it shows that he got no kind of help,” the coach said.

 

 

Mathieu was dismissed from the LSU team in August.  He received a one-game suspension back in 2011 after a drug test revealed synthetic marijuana in his system. He’s considered a likely third-round pick in the draft but could go in the second-round.

Update: LSU spokesman says the school denies the charge and will issue a statement later today.

 

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Wow Saturday Headlines

SEC Saturday Basketball…Early Finals…South Carolina 75, Arkansas 54…Tennessee 54, Alabama 53
…Kentucky 75, LSU 70…Missouri 81, Vanderbilt 59
Former LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu says he will attend NFL draft combine in February
A facelift of Missouri’s Memorial Stadium that will expand seating capacity by more than 6,000 seats is underway
Friends and family remember former Alabama coach Paul “Bear” Bryant who died 30 years ago on January 26, 1983
Get all your SEC news from MrSEC.com and twitter.com/mrsec

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Miles Not Worried About Underclassmen Departures At LSU

gfx - they said itJanuary has been a rough slog for LSU football fans.  One junior after another has announced his intentions to leave Baton Rouge early for a spot in the NFL draft.  The total has now reached 10 players from last year’s team, 11 if you count Tyrann Mathieu who drugged his way out of school prior to the season.

One person who’s not worried?  Les Miles.  At least that’s what he’s saying publicly:

 

“I like the state of the program.  I like the fact that we send guys to the NFL early and recruit guys with the potential to go to the NFL early…

I could go down every guy and I could tell you that the reasons are personally compelling.  Were they my decisions?  No, but frankly I understood them.

I think some guys are looking forward to having great and long pro careers and some guys are trying to optimize a lower position in a draft spot and maximize the number of years they get to be there…

Some guys think they may never be most optimally positioned for the NFL and this may be the best that they’ve got.  It may be bad, but they think it’s the best that they have.”

 

Miles also told The Baton Rouge Advocate that his staff “anticipated the departures, to a certain extent, and we recruited guys right along that we anticipate would come in and have a great opporunity to play very early and play big roles on next year’s team.

Sounds good.  But here’s guessing Miles is actually pretty frustrated by all the turnover.  How could he not be?

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