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SI.com college football writer Stewart Mandel shares his commentary, analysis and random tidbits on the latest developments around the country.
10/11/2006 01:33:00 PM

U Don't Want to Mess Around at UConn

Oakland Arena
When it comes to team discipline, UConn coach Randy Edsall is as tough as they come.
College football players get in trouble sometimes. It's unfortunate, but it happens. We know that. What we're often disgusted by, however, is the double-standard held by many coaches and administrators who stress their commitment to doing things the right way, then let an offending player off with little more than a slap on the wrist. Just last week, Florida defensive standout Marcus Thomas, who reportedly failed two drug tests last summer, had his suspension abruptly lifted by an appeals committee the week of the Gators' game against LSU. Former Virginia Tech QB Marcus Vick did everything but show up on "America's Most Wanted" before the Hokies finally parted ways with him.

This week, however, we found out there's at least one major-conference coach who doesn't mess around when it comes to discipline. On Sunday, UConn's Randy Edsall dismissed five players -- sophomore receiver Nollis Dewar, freshman receiver Todd Dorcelus, junior safety Ricky McCollum, junior defensive end Harold Stanback and freshman Carl Teague -- for violating team rules. Their offense? Buying and bringing beer back to their hotel the night before the Huskies' game at South Florida, which they lost 38-16. (Various media outlets have reported that the players purchased two six-packs, but a source at the school said it was a larger quantity).

In Husky land today, there is much debate over whether the punishment fit the crime. Kicked off the team for buying beer? No one was harmed. No one was arrested. Their ex-teammates, however, are supportive of Edsall's decision. As senior running back Terry Caulley explained: "Prior to training camp, we had to sign the team policy manual that says there's no alcohol [allowed] in season." Said senior defensive end Rhema Fuller: "This is the night before a game. To do something selfish like that is just a slap in the face to everybody."

The NCAA manual of bylaws may be thicker than a phone book, but there are no guidelines regarding player discipline. Such decisions are left to the discretion of coaches and athletic departments, whose standards vary drastically from school to school. Edsall was under no obligation to do what he did. Because there was no police involvement, it's likely the incident never even would have become public. He could have made them run some steps when they got back to campus. Apparently that's not the way he does things.

And lest you think the decision was made easier for him by the fact none of the five players were significant contributors, take a look at his track record. Last month, starting safety Marvin Taylor, one of UConn's best defensive players, was kicked off the team six days after his arrest for using another person's credit card number. In May 2005, current starter Donta Moore was charged with shooting out a car window with a pellet gun. Four other players were in the car with him. All five were immediately suspended. The four accomplices were reinstated about a month later, but Moore was suspended for the 2005 season and taken off scholarship for the first semester of '06.

It's worth noting that Edsall works at the same school as basketball coach Jim Calhoun, who took no shortage of criticism last year when he allowed star point guard Marcus Williams to return to the team following his arrest in the theft of four laptops from student dorm rooms. I find it amusing that some of the same local writers who ripped Calhoun for being too lenient are now questioning Edsall for being too harsh. If anything, Edsall deserves praise for being the rare coach in today's age who practices what he preaches.
posted by Stewart Mandel | View comments |


Posted: 2:34 PM   by Bobak
Kicked off the team, lose their scholarships, probably be unable to attend UConn, and then what? Go home? Get into a JC and work their way back up? All over a few cases (or more) of beer? Goodness. Imagine if those students attending college on academic scholarships had their lives wrecked over a simple beer purchase.
Just for Devil's Advocate's sake...with all the dumbass crap we hear about big-time athletes doing, if every major college football power program tossed guys off the team the way Edsall does, would there be enough guys left on the field to play?
Posted: 3:01 PM   by Anonymous
If more coaches to Edsal's stance, I bet we would have a lot less of that dumbass crap going on.
Posted: 3:22 PM   by Anonymous
It's also worth noting that none of the players mentioned are seniors. So that implies 18, 19, and 20 year olds. Who aren't old enough to buy alcohol anyhow. Not only were they violating team rules, they were also violating state laws.

I agree with Edsall's call. If you want the University to let you play football and pay for your education, you have to do it by their rules.
Posted: 3:29 PM   by Anonymous
Underage college kids drinking beer? Never heard of that before. The kids should be suspended and have a chance to learn from their mistakes. The punishment doesn't fit the crime.
Posted: 3:30 PM   by Kevin (Clearwater, FL)

Plenty of students on academic scholarship(s) have wrecked their lives over a little beer.

Either way, these players (apparently) signed a no-alcohol pledge. If getting kicked off the team was the punishment that was discussed when they signed, I'm all for the UConn staff taking these measures and actually following through on disciplinary measures. Otherwise, what player will follow any of the rules?
Posted: 4:05 PM   by Dave (USF Bulls)
These guys shouldn't have broken team policy. As a USF student, I am well aware that although Jim Leavitt is known as a disciplinarian, he is very lenient when it comes to good players- see Josh Julmiste- stealing laptops his first week, and two drug infractions, yet he was listed as a starter, and was only suspended 6 games this year. He should be thrown off the team for the way he has embarrassed USF. Kudos to Coach Edsall for having the guts to follow team policy!
Posted: 4:10 PM   by Anonymous
Good for Edsal. It is a privilage to play sports at a university such as UCONN and if you have had experience with college athletics, you know they dont offer you a 4 year scholarship. its year by year.
and if you sign an agreement saying you are going to control your actions, then be a man of your word. Trust me, as a college student, its really not to hard to decide not to drink. no one puts a gun to your head and makes you do stupid things.
Posted: 4:34 PM   by Don Y
I love it. More coaches should hold their players to the highest of standards. Maybe we need to start looking at the players they BRING INTO the system. The "thug" factories would soon stop.
Posted: 6:02 PM   by JW
Many players start down the wrong road with simple mistakes. Too many times kids break the rules once and get away with it, only to screw up again later in a more severe fashion. Hopefully these players will think about the consequences of their actions for many years to come. Let coaches that lower the boom be praised for not tolerating even the minor infractions.
Posted: 6:45 PM   by Anonymous
Props to the Coach.

Those players signed an agreement. If they didn't want to live by it, they should have played for another school.

Goodness, indeed, Bobak.
Posted: 4:35 PM   by Anonymous
Stewart, I get the feeling you might hear a bit too much from Penn State fans. But I'd like to add that Joepa did something pretty much the same two years ago. During the offseason, a few defensive linemen got drunk and shot an arrow into their wall, and he kicked them off the team. Not even during the season.
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