After opening 2013 SEC Media Days with a “Brag Bag,” Mike Slive’s gimmick for self-congratulations, the conference commissioner dove into a less prideful topic.
Off-season incidents are the scourge of college football, and the SEC has had its share. The conference has also had the most high profile.
• LSU Tigers leading rusher Jeremy Hill was arrested and suspended indefinitely in April, after he punched a man outside a Baton Rouge bar. Hill was serving probation at the time, and the Baton Rouge District Attorney sought revocation that would have resulted in as many as six months in jail. Hill’s status with the team remains in doubt.
• Four members of the Alabama Crimson Tide were dismissed following February arrests for robbery and fraudulent credit card use.
• Vanderbilt released the names of four players suspended in June in conjunction with an ongoing investigation into an alleged sex crime. Brandon Banks, Cory Batey, Jaborian McKenzie and Brandon Vanderburg were all dismissed for the 2013 season.
• A litany of arrests in the Florida Gators program during Urban Meyer’s tenure as head coach became a front-and-center issue again when former UF tight end Aaron Hernandez was arrested last month on five charges, including murder.
• Two Texas A&M defensive backs were arrested earlier this month, including one of the heroes of the Aggies’ upset of Alabama last November, Deshazor Everett.
Curtailing bad, off-field behavior is an admirable goal, though Slive is correct when saying that not all trouble is avoidable.
Mike Slive: We are not naive enough to think we can put an end to all unacceptable (student-athlete) behavior
— Joe Schad (@schadjoe) July 16, 2013
Florida head coach Will Muschamp took a rigid stance, per ESPN.com’s Brett McMurphy:
Muschamp said head coaches "100 percent responsible" for off-field actions. "Can't stick your head in sand & act like nothing is happening"
— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) July 16, 2013
Still, players must take personal responsibility and accountability, a particularly meaningful sentiment in light of Hernandez’s arrest. Hernandez last suited up in the SEC during the 2009 season, almost an entire recruiting cycle ago.
SEC programs, like all teams throughout college football, have the avenue to promote the right decisions from its athletes. Vanderbilt’s James Franklin addressed this point in a statement released along with the four names removed from the Commodore roster earlier this week:
For student athletes at Vanderbilt, it is a privilege, not a right, to be a part of the program. My coaching staff and I make sure every member of our team understands that. We insist on high standards of personal responsibility and integrity, and there are consequences when those standards are not met.
Arrests are not exclusively behind the negative public perception, either. Reigning Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel — one of the shout-outs in Slive’s Brag Bag — is perhaps the most controversial figure in the conference.
Unsubstantiated rumors of Manziel being booted from the Manning Passing Academy surfaced. Manziel’s father said his son was suffering from dehydration, and fellow SEC quarterback legend Peyton Manning defended the A&M sophomore-to-be.
Nevertheless, Manziel reportedly apologized to coaches.
Stories of his off-field antics have created an unceasing dialogue between supporters and detractors, and been immortalized in Taiwanese animation. The mark of true national recognition is Taiwanese animation.
Manziel has not run afoul of the law since a summer 2012 arrest, for which he pled guilty of a misdemeanor on Monday.
The SEC’s level of play speaks for itself, and it’s understand that Mike Slive would prefer on-field victories guide the narrative.