The Sun Belt Sends a Good Message…and a Really Bad One – From the Bird’s Nest
On Monday, the Sun Belt Conference issued a statement of its findings and rulings in the case of the Louisiana-Arkansas State game the previous Tuesday night. Admittedly, that night was not the league's finest hour.
After the game, I wrote a piece critical of a lot of things, especially the officiating in that contest. I'm still not sure how or why that officiating crew was allowed to come to Cajun Field after doing such a poor job a few weeks earlier that they were publicly reprimanded. But there they were. And, again, they showed they really don't belong in Division I football.
My biggest criticism of the officials was they never had control of the game at any time. And, as a result, there were eight unsportsmanlike conduct penalties called (and perhaps twice as many that weren't) and their failure to have control could have resulted in a full scale brawl had it not been for the security on the field after the game.
Monday the league announced they were suspending the entire crew for one game and may not consider them for post-season assignments. The penalty was certainly called for.
Steve Shaw is the supervisor of officials for the Southeastern Conference. He is also the supervisor of officials for the Sun Belt. He took on the dual role after SBC supervisor Don Lucas retired.
In retrospect, I have to wonder if that was the right move.
Shaw has his hands full handling the officials for the most powerful football conference in collegiate sports. I can't believe he has the time, or puts in the time necessary to be thorough in his attention to the Sun Belt. It's something the league and the CEO's must address in the off season.
In addition to the officials' suspension, seven reprimands were handed out for incidences during and after the game. Two Cajuns' coaches (OL line coach Mitch Rodrigue and Strength coach Rusty Whitt) and one player (DB Corey Trim) were reprimanded for their actions, as were four players from ASU.
Let me digress for a minute. I'm a benefit of the doubt kind of guy. I try never to overreact when it comes to athletes and their missteps, whether they are professional or amateur. And, I've had more than a week to think about this and make sure my emotions don't enter into what I'm about to say.
My first reaction about the UL coaches being reprimanded was, while I knew the reason they were totally going off on the officials (and probably would have done the same thing myself), the bottom line is..you just can't do stuff like that. They deserved to be reprimanded.
My first reaction about Corey Trim was that he should be suspended for throwing a punch. However, Arkansas State WR Tres Houston was reprimanded as well. Trim was covering him most of the night. Sources tell me there were multiple incidents of unsportsmanlike conduct (including contact) that were instigated by Houston and, amazingly (well maybe not amazingly) unnoticed by officials. I think Trim just finally had enough.
Andrew Tryon was ejected during the game for two unsportsmanlike conduct fouls. Xavier Woodson was ejected for spitting on a player during the extra point following the Cajuns' last touchdown. (It should be noted the officials identified a player as the guilty party who didn't even play in the game.) Both were reprimanded, as is pretty much the case whenever there is an ejection, especially for an unsportsmanlike act.
Then there's the case of Frankie Jackson.
Jackson, a Baton Rouge native and high school teammate of Louisiana quarterback Terrance Broadway, went right at the knees of Louisiana offensive lineman Mykhael Quave during an extra point attempt following the Cajuns' final touchdown. There is no questioning what happened. The video is obvious. Jackson went at Quave. He went at his knees, knowing full well a serious, perhaps career-ending injury could have resulted.
Think about that. A blatant attempt to injure, an opposing player whose season, or perhaps even career may have been cut short as the result of the player's actions.
I had a week to think about it. My conclusion never changed. No emotion on my part (not after the first couple of days, anyway). A simple, analytical look at what happened and what could have happened. My conclusion was, and is that Frankie Jackson should not be allowed to play football the remainder of the 2014 season.
He was reprimanded. Given a letter saying next time we'll get the paddle out.
I can't begin to say how wrong this decision is on so many fronts.
The Conference office has decided trying to injure a player on purpose is equal to a coach getting on an official for not doing his job.
The Conference office has decided trying to injure a player on purpose is equal to spitting (now, spitting is gross, but you can wipe it off).
The Conference office has decided trying to injure a player on purpose is equal to talking smack twice.
The Conference office has decided trying to injure a player on purpose is equal to going back and forth with an opposing player to the point where a punch is thrown.(With helmets and all that padding, it would be pretty hard to hurt someone, with exception of the puncher's hand.)
The fact that Mykhael Quave's MRI was negative and he is likely to play this weekend against South Alabama is totally immaterial to this case. Frankie Jackson went at his knees. On purpose. It could have ended Quave's career. The fact it didn't is more due to the grace of God than it is Jackson's aim.
The Sun Belt Conference has decided if you purposely try to injure another player, you'll get another opportunity to do it again.
Since the league chose not to suspend Jackson for even a single game, let alone the rest of the season, it falls on Arkansas State AD Terry Mohajir and head coach Blake Anderson to do the right thing and send the message that Arkansas State University does not tolerate those kind of actions by a student-athlete. It shouldn't have come to this, but it has. I know what Mark Hudspeth and Scott Farmer would do.
In the meantime, the Sun Belt has to live with a ridiculous response that cannot be explained...cannot be justified...cannot be spun.
The Sun Belt Conference: Together We Rise????