It turned out to be little more than a summertime squall. A little potboiler of an offseason drama that galvanized the attention of the LSU fan base and once again drew into question the discipline (or lack of it) of LSU football players, and whether justice is ever properly served when they are involved.
East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore announced Friday that his office will not be pressing charges against three LSU players — quarterback Anthony Jennings, defensive end Maquedius Bain and defensive back Dwayne Thomas — accused of breaking into an apartment in June.
President Nixon’s press secretary characterized the Watergate break-in back in the day as a third-rate burglary. This petty larceny wouldn’t rank nearly that high. Maybe somewhere around 25th-rate, just in the poll, or in the receiving votes category.
The three were supposedly out to retrieve items that Jennings claimed had been stolen from his apartment at the same time Jennings claimed former LSU teammate Rashard Robinson (you can’t make these things up) was illegally in his apartment. Moore said there was no violence involved in the case, none of the football players apparently had any priors and the alleged victim declined to press charges.
Within an hour of Moore’s decision, or close to it, LSU coach Les Miles announced all three would be reinstated to the team, where they would be subject to “in-house discipline” and report for camp Wednesday with the rest of the team.
It is, to a large extent, like the whole matter never existed. But it did and, like a summer sunburn, it leaves a mark.
The timing of the resolution of the case, coming as it does less than a week before preseason camp begins, gives the impression of preferential treatment. Then again, what could Moore do if the alleged victim declined to press charges and testimony in the case included, as Moore said, “inconsistent and contradictory statements”?
Conspiracy theorists will have their run, but speculation can run rampant in any number of directions, including that the facts are as they have been presented to the public. Unless we learn differently, this should be treated as what it was: a nuisance case that, had it not involved LSU football players, would never have seen daylight in a public sense.
But it does involve football players, student-athletes for whom as Moore said, “this situation is unacceptable.”
We tire in the media and certainly you tire as fans of year after year, summer after summer, having to judge these cases involving LSU football players misdeeds in the court of public opinion.
This isn’t the worst that we’ve seen from student-athletes. Unfortunately, in a sense, not by a long shot. Jennings, Bain and Thomas deserve a pass in this case. A do-over. A second chance.
But they also deserve something more than in-house discipline. Don’t throw them off the team, but Miles shouldn’t allow them to play in the season opener against McNeese State. If not for their crime, which isn’t egregious in the big scheme of things, then for their sheer boneheadedness. Anything less falls short.
The other reality in the wake of the dismissed suit is plenty of LSU fans won’t care whether justice was done in this case. They will want to know, most of all, how this affects the LSU quarterback duel that has played out all offseason between Jennings and Brandon Harris.
Because of his suspension, Jennings supposedly had to cede all the summer seven-on-seven workouts to Harris, arguably strengthening Harris’ case to be the starting quarterback.
Offseason work is supposed to be a big deal, so we’ll see if Harris takes the first snap against McNeese. Personally, I’ll believe it when I see it. I’ve maintained all along that Jennings would start because of his huge edge in real game experience. Now that he’s back on the team, that experience isn’t going to be superseded by six weeks of summertime ball slinging by Harris in informal practices.
For LSU football, this isn’t a crippling blow. Maybe not even a black eye. More like a bruise.
But it should leave a mark and a memory for those involved, to resolve to make better choices in the future.
Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter, @RabalaisAdv.