As baseball was winding down in the College World Series last week, the police blotter was filling up with the names of four LSU football players arrested for a variety of transgressions.
The biggest name, of course, belongs to starting quarterback Anthony Jennings. He, cornerback Dwayne Thomas and defensive lineman Maquedius Bain were arrested for unauthorized entry into a dwelling Thursday, and Thomas also was booked on simple burglary. That followed by hours the arrest of defensive tackle Trey Lealaimatafao for simple battery and simple robbery.
There’s nothing simple about how to come down on these issues.
The folks at LSU will implore us to wait for the legal process to run its course while the players are suspended from the team, not immediately dismissed. It’s standard operating procedure, and really they have no other choice but to say that. Everyone deserves his day in court, no matter how obvious the evidence appears to be stacked against them.
But we can all decry yet another incident of young men, highly decorated and pampered and beloved and privileged student-athletes, for being the umpteenth cases of such young men using deplorable judgment when it comes to their off-field conduct.
“Are you kidding me?!!” former LSU and NFL star Kevin Mawae asked plaintively on Twitter. “Guilty or not, when will publicly known athletes STOP putting themselves in these situations!”
It’s not as though they aren’t told, again and again, from the moment they step on LSU’s campus, or any campus you care to name around the country, to make good choices. To stop putting themselves in these situations.
“I want our fans to know that we’re constantly talking to our players about being accountable (and) about being responsible for what they do,” LSU Athletic Director Joe Alleva said Monday during the “Culotta & The Prince” show on ESPN radio in Baton Rouge. “Putting themselves in a position to be arrested is very disappointing.”
And yet …
Alleva went on to caution his listeners — and the media — not to rush to judgment.
“In this country, people are innocent until proven guilty,” he said.
Certainly as it should be. One can only look at the recent connection between La’el Collins and his murdered ex-girlfriend Brittany Mills, a connection that cost Collins millions as he slipped through the NFL draft unselected, for evidence of that.
Still, we are free to speculate on what will happen to the football four in terms of their future with the LSU program.
Lealaimatafao’s previous transgressions — he was arrested for stealing a bicycle outside LSU’s main library and also severely injured himself punching through a window in the team weight room — should make it easy for coach Les Miles to eventually push his ejector button if he’s found guilty this time. Especially if he’s found guilty of punching a young woman. Don’t hit the glass door on the way out, Trey.
The other three I would expect will be back on the team at some point after doing some sort of penance/community service, possibly even serving a one-game suspension. Not that two wrongs make a right, but there is a suggestion that Jennings, Bain and Thomas were there to retrieve items that they believed had been stolen from Jennings. It’s likely that Miles will look on such transgressions as foolish in the extreme, but not fatal to their prospects for remaining on the team.
In Jennings’ case, the prospect of a suspension certainly raises an interesting question. Were he to be suspended for LSU’s Sept. 5 season opener against McNeese State, it would present a tantalizing opportunity for Brandon Harris to shine if thrust into the starting quarterback role.
No offense to McNeese, but it would be McNeese, not the Tigers’ Southeastern Conference opener the following week at Mississippi State. LSU could start Jack Wholestaff (or at least Jared Foster) and beat the Cowboys. The talent gap is too great. But it would be an open door, a chance for Harris to at least state his case for more playing time in the weeks to come, a case he was unable to make stick in his freshman season.
In case you’re wondering, incoming transfer quarterback Danny Etling from Purdue will only be eligible to practice this fall, not compete. But his arrival does create a more complex situation with commitment Feleipe Franks also slated to arrive in 2016. It’s a strong possibility that, if things don’t work out to Harris’ liking this fall, he won’t be around the next — barring the unlikely event that Jennings is sent packing.