There’s a post up at The Wizard of Odds about Randy Shannon’s suspension of seven players for Miami’s opener with Charleston Southern. Jay is of a mind that this is pretty weak beer.
… If Shannon were serious about sending a message to his players, he would have suspended them for a meaningful game, not Charleston Southern, the Hurricanes’ opponent Thursday night in Dolphin Stadium.
My question in response to this is what message is Shannon supposed to be sending here? If it’s “you don’t follow the rules, you don’t play”, why does it matter what game a player sits out? If it’s “you don’t follow the rules, I’ll make the entire team suffer”, shouldn’t the team have some input into the suspension process?
What makes this particularly tricky for me is that Jay goes on to point fingers at several other coaches for the way they’ve handled suspensions, including Spurrier, Richt and Saban.
… Shannon is not alone. South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier announced that starting tailback Mike Davis is among a group of players who will sit one game for missing class, but that game won’t be Thursday night’s opener against North Carolina State.
“It’s a middle-of-the-year game,” Spurrier said. “They’re all missing that same game.”
That means the Gamecocks will be short-handed against either Wofford or Alabama Birmingham. A big whoop-de-do about nothing.
Georgia’s first two opponents are Georgia Southern and Central Michigan, and that’s a good thing because Mark Richt has suspended six players. Rest assured they’ll be back for trips to South Carolina and Arizona State because the Bulldogs are gunning for a national title.
But nobody has made a bigger mockery of a suspension than Nick Saban, who ordered that receiver DJ Hall sit for Alabama’s game against Louisiana Monroe last Nov 17. With the Crimson Tide and Warhawks tied in the third quarter, Hall’s suspension was magically lifted…
I hope it’s not the homer in me, but I’ve got a little problem lumping Richt’s approach in with the Spurrier and Saban examples. Richt doesn’t pick and choose which games will be utilized for suspensions based on the opponent; instead, they’re served from the season opener and on. Yes, Georgia Southern is a cupcake, but don’t forget that Richt suspended eight players in a road opener at Clemmins in 2003. Or that Georgia has opened with opponents like Boise State and Oklahoma State in the two previous years.
You can argue that if the purpose of suspensions is to punish the player solely, then Spurrier’s position is defensible, although it certainly risks the perception of making the coach look weak on enforcement. Saban’s decision to lift a suspension in mid-game, on the other hand, is hard to justify under any standard (other than, “I want to win the game no matter what”, of course).
To me, the most important factor in doling out this kind of punishment is consistency. Every kid should know where he stands with regard to unacceptable behavior and how it will impact himself and the team if it happens. And from the coach’s standpoint, the issue should be whether or not the established suspension policy is effective in curbing the bad actors.
UPDATE: Stewart Mandel justifies my faith in him by returning to stupid with this post critical of the Wiz’ argument. In justifying Shannon’s decision, Mandel writes
Mark Richt is one of the most morally upright humans on the planet — but he’s not stupid, either. There’s a reason his six players’ suspensions are conveniently ending just before the start of conference play. The entire Dawg Nation is looking to Richt to deliver them a national title this season. If Georgia were to inexplicably lose to South Carolina on a blown tackle by the backup to suspended linebacker Darius Dewberry, guess who’s going to get blamed? I’ll give you a hint: Not Dewberry.