In a strange season, idea of justice is drastically skewed
LeGarrette Blount, Brandon Spikes and Dez Bryant weren't punished correctly
In the age of YouTube and Twitter, everybody has info and an opinion instantly
In Bryant's case, his career ended prematurely because he lied to the NCAA
Instead of docking them games, perhaps we could put Oregon's LeGarrette Blount, Florida's Brandon Spikes and Oklahoma State's Dez Bryant in stocks on the set of this week's College Football GameDay. Would that make everyone feel better, satisfy everyone's craving for justice? It's a remedy that makes as much sense as any of the actual punishments handed down to the aforementioned players.
This is the season of the punishment failing to fit the crime. Blount, the Oregon running back who was expected to return this week, is still on the Ducks scout team; this week he gave the Oregon defense a taste of Stanford battering ram Toby Gerhart.
I'm not sure what the holdup is. Ducks coach Chip Kelly had targeted this week for Blount's return, providing that senior continued to meet a bunch of academic and off-field requirements. I guess the senior is still making his way up that ladder. Even after Kelly green-lights him, Blount's reinstatement will require the approval Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott, who may tack on an extra game for good measure. In a brief conversation about Blount earlier this season, I got a definite Elliot Ness vibe from the new commish.
The simple truth is that Blount is being punished for his bad timing as much as his bad judgment. If he doesn't slug Boise State's Byron Hout on national television on the first day of the season with the entire cosmos watching, we're talking about how he and LaMichael James both rushed for more than 100 yards against USC.
Then there is the unsettling case of Spikes, a team leader and heretofore stand-up guy whose attempted vitrectomy on Georgia's Washaun Easley went WAY over the line of acceptable dogpile skirmishing. That said, had the moment not been captured on CBS's cameras, the talk in Gainesville this week is all about the Gators' four picks against Georgia, and how this defense, touted in the preseason as one for the ages, might finally be starting to live up to that billing.
But Spikes lapse in judgment made its way onto YouTube, the vignette went viral. Urban Meyer's less-than-Solomonic verdict: a half-game suspension against Vandy. (Seriously, Urban, half a game? Why bother?)
Stunned by the blowback, Meyer met with Spikes and defensive coordinator Charlie Strong. The three of them decided to up the suspension to a full game. Well played, Mr. Spikes. Now do us all a favor and keep your hands out of people's facemasks for the rest of your career.
Sadly and quietly, beneath the Spikes hubbub, the college career of Bryant came to an ignominious end. I'm tempted to describe Bryant as one of the finest wideouts in recent NCAA history, but we don't really know, having been deprived of his artistry for all but four games this season.
In a release congratulating itself on its wisdom and mercy, the NCAA announced that Bryant, who has been suspended since Oct. 7, won't be eligible until next September -- a move which pushed him to jump to the NFL draft.
His crime? Bryant lied NCAA investigators who were probing his offseason visit to the home of Deion Sanders. Confused about what was and wasn't against the rules, Bryant "panicked," as his lawyer told the AP, and denied everything. While he did lie, allowed attorney Willie Baker, Bryant dissembled "about things that were nonevents and certainly were not violations. That comes from a situation where Dez was scared."
While such a decision allows the adults to pat themselves on the back for their probity and righteousness, it fails miserably at upholding what should be the NCAA's core mission: advocating for and doing right by student-athletes. As Baker told the AP, "I don't know that there's much about this type of decision that would help improve a person."
So let's make room in those stocks -- or build a few more -- for the members of the NCAA's Student Athlete Reinstatement Committee, for their tone deafness and hard-heartedness. And by all means, get Mike Golic up there. No one excoriated Spikes more harshly than the talking head -- the same blustering logorrheic who in 2006 admitted to USA Today that he was not above choking opponents in the pile.
In a season dominated by such questions as "Are there any truly great teams?" and "Does anyone actually want the Heisman?" I would add this:
Where is the justice?