I t always seems to happen in twos. Like the gods of football make sure there is balance between the biggest rivals on the planet. An Auburn player gets in trouble with the law, then a Bama player does the same. You had the felony four in Auburn, all dismissed and now serving jail time. Then you had the felony three and a half in Tuscaloosa, all dismissed with fates yet to be determined.
Over the weekend, Auburn defensive back Demetruce McNeal was busted early Saturday morning on drug charges for possession of marijuana. Auburn’s senior leading tackler (90) from last season, Auburn head coach Gus Bus Malzahn dismissed McNeal from the team later that day.
“After visiting with Demetruce, I made the decision to dismiss him from our team,” said Gus Bus Saturday. “We have high expectations both on and off the field for our players.”
McNeal had missed 16 practices going back to the spring, though he was expected to start at safety for the Tigers this season.
Across the state, Bama’s Geno Smith had some trouble to get into later that night. Following Saturday’s scrimmage, the second of the fall for the Tide, the defensive back was arrested and booked on a DUI by the Tuscaloosa County Sheriff’s Office.
“This is obviously not the kind of behavior we expect from our players,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said Sunday in a university statement. “I don’t have all of the details at this point and will handle it appropriately once I’ve had a chance to review the information.”
Smith, who shares the same name as the former West Virginia and now New York Jet quarterback (which has been terribly confusing for me for some reason), was a regular contributor last season in the Tide’s nickel defensive situations recording nine tackles, two pass break-ups and two passes defended.
Two players, two schools, two arrests on one day, and possibly two outcomes. McNeal was dismissed. Smith’s fate is, again, yet to be determined…though honest to goodness dismissal from the team may be the easier outcome for him over facing Nick Saban on such a misstep just 14 days from the beginning of the 2013 campaign.
Still, marijuana is a drug, an illegal substance. Alcohol is not an illegal substance. You buy marijuana out of the back of somebody’s car in an alley. You buy alcohol in broad daylight or at almost any restaurant.
The bigger issue for Smith may be that he was under age. As a true sophomore, he likely isn’t of age, able to buy alcohol legally, which is possibly why Saban is getting “all the details to handle it appropriately.”
The typical fan knee-jerk reaction…opposing fans, I mean…is when a player gets in trouble, he should be kicked off the team immediately. Of course it is, because in the fan’s mind that makes beating the team you hate that much easier.
But the job of a coach is more difficult than that. The job of the coach in these situations is to do what is in the best interest of your team, while at the same time doing what is in the best interest of the young man who, to his parents, you swore you would lead and take care of.
Geno Smith is barely a sophomore. Demetruce McNeal would have been a senior. One is still learning, the other a seasoned veteran.
Both should know better, and with the opportunity to don a jersey and play a game in front of thousands, with the possibility of taking their craft to the next level for a big pay day, the typical fan can’t understand why young men such as these would make such stupid decisions and put that opportunity at risk.
Still, Gus Bus did the right thing with McNeal, who from all appearances didn’t seem to be a constructive member of the Auburn team. Nick Saban will do the same, though dismissal may not be the appropriate outcome. But if not, expect the usual blather from opposing fans who want all crimes to be equal when it means an advantage for their team on the game day they share with yours. However, they are not all equal, and neither sometimes are the outcomes.