Two Alabama players found in a parked car, after midnight, with the aroma of marijuana and in possession of firearms, one stolen. Yet they won’t face charges.
This from Ouachita Parish (La.) district attorney Jerry Jones on why they won’t face charges. “I want to emphasize once again that the main reason I’m doing this is that I refuse to ruin the lives of two young men who have spent their adolescence and their teenage years, working and sweating, while we were all home in the air conditioning,” Jones told KNOE-TV in Monroe, La.
I would try to unpack this statement, which is asinine in so many ways, but that is not the point of this column. What is the point is that with his refusal to punish Cam Robinson and Hootie Jones, Jones effectively has passed the buck to Nick Saban.
We know Saban already has begun the punishment process for both Robinson and Jones. That punishment includes community service, weekly urine tests, gun-safety courses, ride-alongs with Northport, Ala., police officers and a 21-day stay in a drug rehabilitation center for Jones.
“If we can change their behavior based on what we do, that would be the purpose of discipline,” Saban said May 18. “Discipline is not necessarily just punishment, which a lot of people view it that way. It’s how do you change somebody’s behavior so they have a better chance to be successful. That’s the way we’ve always done it. That’s the way we always try to do it. That’s the way I like to do it with my own children. I think that’s the way most parents like to do it with their own children.”
You’re off to a great start, coach. I applaud you for trying to change behaviors and educating, where previously there may have been no education or discipline in these players’ lives. But more must be done than counseling and ride-alongs; you know it and I know it.
So I will say this: Your move, coach. We are all waiting and watching. Many of us are silently (and not-so-silently) urging you to take a stand. At least most of us are; I know I am.
We want you to be the coach who values teaching life lessons over winning. You can’t compare the situation involving Robinson and Jones to the sexual assault cover-ups at Baylor or the videotaped beating that incoming Mississippi State freshman Jeffery Simmons gave a woman. But you are in the same position that Art Briles was, the same position that Dan Mullen was — and you can do far better than they did when it comes to discipline.
You can show your team — heck, the college football-watching nation — that you value what’s right and accountability over winning and the short-term.
I’ll spell it out for you: sit them. Sit them for the opener, even if just for a half. Show us that you are a coach with robust integrity. Remind us that such a thing exists in big-time college football.
I haven’t asked you, but I think if you were given a do-over with Jonathan Taylor, you’d take that decision back and not invite him into your program. You have that chance here — to take a stand for stern, yet compassionate, and proportional discipline. Don’t cherry-pick the game; let it be USC, the opener, a high-profile opponent, a nationally televised game.
All eyes are on you, coach. A whole generation of young student-athletes is watching. They are taking their cues from powerful men like yourself, who dictate what they will be allowed to get away with. You will shape their future behaviors through your punishment, or lack thereof.
Don’t let them down, coach. They need you. We need you.
(You can follow Rachel Baribeau on Twitter @RachelBaribeau)
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