How tough does the love need to be?

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.


Filed under College Football, Crime and Punishment, The Blogosphere

12 responses to “How tough does the love need to be?

  1. NebraskaDawg

    There is clearly a difference between Richt & Shannon vs. Spurrier & Saban. Richt & Shannon suspended players for the NEXT game on the schedule. Spurrier is picking and choosing games later in the year. It’s like your son getting in trouble and telling him ” Your grounded, but since your dating a hot girl now I’ll wait until you start dating a uglier girl and then your punished.”


  2. peacedog

    Also, we had people suspended for South Carolina games in the past. And didn’t someone sit out Oklahoma State last year?

    The only reason everyone didn’t sit against Clemson in 2003 was because we had so many kids suspended that Richt staggered them for depth reasons. But everyone who missed 2 games missed them consecutively, and the “better” players didn’t all get to make the opener either.

    This seems like the “miles traveled” thing the Wiz likes to harp on. There’s a good point that’s ultimately lost in the rest message.


  3. kckd

    He didn’t stagger anybody for that Clemson game piece. Some had one game suspensions and some had two game suspensions. They all sat out that one.


  4. kckd

    One more thing. I’ve seen this written at least five times by someone about Richt and how they’re sitting out these easy games and not the tougher ones.

    I’ve emailed a couple of them back and asked two questions:

    First, like the Senator says, if Richt’s punishment is based on the opponent, why did we sit so many out against Clemson in 2003?

    Second, can you name me one coach who plays guys in easy games, and has them wait to serve a suspension later.

    The way these things are written up, the writers act as if the really strict disciplinarians out there suspend only for tough opponents. I wish they’d show the examples of this kind of punishment.


  5. Frank

    Y’all are giving Clemson WAAAY too much credit !!


  6. Ally

    My issue with Shannon is not just about the game he chose, but about the timing as well.

    The incident that garnered the suspension for his QB happened in October of last year. Why is he choosing to discipline him now?

    Also, anyone that does an ounce of research can tell that CMR’s suspensions are immediate. He doesn’t pick and choose games and doesn’t wait until an easy opponent arrives on the schedule a la Urban Meyer.

    Apparently Jay hasn’t heard about what happened with Jeff Henson. He was arrested on a DUI charge last November and immediately given his suspension – he missed the Sugar Bowl. There are several other examples just like the Henson case that further proves the point that CMR does not use selective discipline.

    At Clemson, on the other hand, Courtney Vincent gets popped for a DUI in December of last year, yet Tommy Bowden played him in his bowl against Auburn (which they lost). That was Courtney’s third arrest, btw.

    I have a lot of respect for the Wiz, but he should’ve done his homework before mischaracterizing CMR.


  7. dean

    We all follow UGA religiously so we’re all aware that Richt doesn’t play favorites. As Ally said had the Wiz done a little more footwork he would have seen this as well. I remember Odell Thurman being suspended for the first 3 games of the ’04 season (I think). That stretch included So. Car. and Marshall. Neither of those are powerhouses but they’re not cupcakes either.At the time Odell was one of the best linebackers in the conference and country.

    I have to say that I don’t necessarily agree with waiting to suspend players in the middle of the season for infractions that occurred in the offseason or before. However I do agree with allowing time for the facts to surface before making a knee jerk decision. All kids whether they’re athletes or not should be held accountable for their actions. Period.


  8. Hobnail_Boot

    …and Saban still lost to UL-M. Which is all sorts of awesome.


  9. Sam

    Agree, to include Richt in that comparison is just embarrassingly ignorant on The Wiz’s part. Surely it was just sloppy work on his part and not an attempt to lump them together.

    I also wish he would look at how UGA mandates punishment for drinking related incidents versus other schools, or why our admissions group refused to admit two recruits in the past 3 years when they immediately were accepted into two SEC schools. Some standardiation is needed.

    BTW, I like Shannon and what he has tried to do with the chaos he inherited. I am not a UM fan and don’t care for their athletic teams or fanbase, but I hope he does well soon. He seems to be attempting to establish standards of behavior that have not been there in a long time. He has faced the pain now he deserves some success, imo.


  10. kckd

    Again thought guys, one of the things these guys like the Wiz and others do, is they criticize a coach for suspending his players for the next game they play, as if there is some coach out there who waits to suspend them later for a tougher opponent. The opposite of what the OBC is doing.

    Again I ask, who does that? Can they provide examples, because I’ve never seen it. Even at a school like ND that is suppose to be very tough on it’s athletes.


  11. Greg

    We’ll have 6 or 7 guys out at OK State next year and, of course, that will hurt more than at home vs Ga Southern, but Richt has proven over the course of time that he’s not picking and choosing games like these other chumps. It’ll be game 1 and possibly game 2 no matter who the opponents might be.


  12. Sam

    kckd, I believe Urban Crier selected the games he wanted two years ago when their DT (?) was suspended, re-instated for two games, then kicked off the team. Unfortunately it worked as he blocked a FG and saved their SEC championship season. I have forgotten the name, but I remember how he manipulated the appeal process while it suited him, then the kid was gone. I put him, along with Phat Phil at the bottom of the sleeze pile for CFb coaches.