Thursday, June 23, 2011
Hoke's First True Test Awaits
So far, Brady Hoke is winning. He's out-recruiting the rest of the Midwest and is in good position to pluck two of Ohio State's top recruits. This has helped him to unite a disjointed fan base who's spirit is higher than it has been for quite some time. Combine the aforementioned recruiting streak with Ohio State's much publicized transgressions and there is a true belief that the Big Ten is Michigan's to gain in the next few seasons.
The belief may come to fruition on the field, and the fans would obviously be satisfied with that. However, what will the price be to accomplish this? I say this in light of the situation with Darryl Stonum, who was recently charged with a second DUI and whose status with the team is in limbo. A lot of fans are calling for his dismissal, but based on the initial response by the coaching staff, it does look like he's going to get a second (third?) chance.
To me, this begs the question of where the line is drawn as far as disciplinary measures are concerned. If anything, Michigan fans have learned that stretching the rules can help you win on the field. Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio has developed a reputation as one of college football's most lenient coaches in regards to discipline, and as a result the Spartans are enjoying their best success in quite some time. Ohio State has won seven straight Big Ten Championships on the backs of players who for all intents and purposes were breaking multiple rules.
Look at it this way: Michigan State is known for drug-addicted NFL busts Tony Mandarich and Charles Rogers along with jailbird Plaxico Burress. Ohio State is known for guys like Maurice Clarett, David Boston and Troy Smith.
Michigan is known for Tom Brady. They are known for Steve Hutchinson and Charles Woodson. LaMarr Woodley. Players who not only continue to excel, but do it without making negative news off the field.
This is why Stonum needs to go.
There's always the concern that abandoning a kid who obviously has alcohol issues will do nothing but harm him in the future. Kicking him off of the football team does not mean you are abandoning him. Instead, it reinforces the idea that you can continue to break the rules while facing little to no discipline. Suspending him still allows him to keep his scholarship and to work out with his teammates. More importantly, it sets a bad initial example for players coming into the program. There is plenty of talk with Hoke regarding accountability and doing the right things on and off the field. He would be best served to use Stonum as an example of what will happen when you break the rules. Semantics aside, allowing Stonum to continue to be a member of the team will only tarnish the school's mostly sterling reputation when it comes to disciplinary measures.
*Photo courtesy of the Michigan Daily