Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Ole Miss Meltdown and the Complicit NFL/Media

It's going to take someone much more dedicated and talented to uncover this story fully, but what transpired tonight for Ole Miss players during the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft deserves inspection.  The reality is it didn't start tonight.  It began in 2013 when Ole Miss captured the #1 ranked recruiting class in NCAA Football.

At the time it happened Sports Illustrated's Andy Staples wrote this:

Since the possibility emerged that (Huge) Freeze and the Rebels might sign a recruiting haul that included's top-ranked receiver (Laquon Treadwell), top-ranked offensive lineman (Laremy Tunsil) and top-ranked overall player (defensive end Robert Nkemdiche), one question has nagged Freeze. Not even the question, truly, but the way everyone outside Oxford automatically fills in the answer without even considering another possibility.
How are they doing that?
Well, tonight we found out some of the reasons "how."

The rumblings about the type of players Freeze was bringing in didn't just begin this past week, as questions lingered for years about Tunsil, Nkemdiche, and many others, including Nkemdiche's brother.  Except tonight Tunsil decided to admit to the world that his coach, possibly Freeze, gave him money.  Tunsil was also suspended 7 games earlier in the season for "impermissible benefits", and was involved in other issues, including beating his Step-Dad's ass (which I loved).

Nkemdiche's had/has own behavioral issues which most fans of the draft already know about.

Treadwell didn't have any off-field issues, but was brutally injured trying to make an amazing play.  Thankfully, for his sake, he returned.  I remember watching the game with my wife and praying he would make it back so he could achieve what he did this evening.

All 3 of these players were at one point, or another, projected to be top 10 picks, with 2 of them often considered the #1 player overall.  Instead, they were selected 13, 23 & 30.

I'm not of the mind that if one guy is doing something fishy then every guy on the team is.  You have situations like what happened in Miami, where Luther Campbell was paying people off, and then what happened with some Ohio State players during the Maurice Clarett era, where boosters were involved.  And there are countless other stories.

But when a player claims he's getting money from COACHES, then you have to assume nearly every player recruited by those very coaches at least KNOWS something about it, at least the stars.  Whether they choose to partake, or not, isn't really relevant because they have opted to play for people of questionable character.

And that's insane.

Coach Freeze took over Ole Miss in 2011, an SEC team which was clearly not one of the best in the conference, let alone the country.  Within 2 seasons he somehow snagged the #1 recruiting class in the country, and they became part of the national conversation.  In 2017 they're projected to be in the Top 25.  Any wonder how he did it?

For years I've heard people say, "It's different in the SEC", as it relates to players, payments, recruiting, gifts, girls, school work, you name it.  I've always believed it.  After tonight?  I think it's official.  At least for some teams.  In some respects, it's the reason Urban Meyer left Florida, where he was certainly a part of it.


I don't blame any of these kids for taking money, or whatever someone offers them.  So many of them come from poor backgrounds, bad schools, and are dealing with situations the likes of which I will never have to experience.  Watching Treadwell at the draft with his 3 year old daughter, I feel great this day has come from him.  He was 18 when he had a child, and expected to be a football player and student at Ole Miss.  If I were him I'd take whatever I could get.  Sure, it's a risk, but at 18 years of age I certainly wasn't making great decisions.

Ole Miss had the #1 recruiting class, and there were questions.  Tonight there were questions about the 3 stars from that class, and they suffered somewhat for it.  During the Tunsil press conference someone from the NFL ushered Tunsil off the stage, and then quieted him down.  The NCAA makes millions off these kids, and then the media destroys them for "poor decisions."  The NFL ushers them away behind closed doors and tells them how it is.

The optics of how things shook out for Ole Miss tonight were terrible.  The university is complicit, the coaches are complicit, the NFL is complicit, and the media as well

As far as I'm concerned, the least complicit?  The athletes who are made to be the villains.  Especially the one who began to tell the truth.

Hosts on ESPN and NFL Network are painting the players as the villains, but they're not saying a word about the system which makes them villains.  ESPN's Mark Dominik is falling all over himself trying to lay blame on Tunsil.  Maybe open your eyes for a second and ask yourself why these players are even in this situations to begin with.

Someone needs to look further into this, dissect it, rip it wide open.  Because it's just one more piece of evidence about how these "student athletes" are really just cattle for the football economy.

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