HOUSTON (CBS Houston) – The Southeastern Conference is more concerned about the success of its football programs than the integrity of its football programs. That’s not only the perception, but under the misguided leadership of commissioner Mike Slive, it’s the reality. Long has been the reputation, “if ya ain’t cheating, ya ain’t trying,” in the SEC. Slive not only justifies that reputation, he enforces it.
This Tuesday, Slive saw fit to suspend Ole Miss safety Trae Elston for what he deemed a “flagrant and dangerous act.” The video evidence [see below] shows Elston’s hit to be a textbook example of how to break-up a certain touchdown, in a violent game. And make no mistake, regardless of the intention to feign concern about making the game safer – whether in the SEC or NFL, football is a violent game.
To support his decision, Slive cited rule 9-1-4 of the NCAA rulebook which states, “No player shall target and initiate contact to the head or neck area of a defenseless opponent with the helmet, forearm, elbow or shoulder.” Slive also cited rule 9-1-3 which states, “No player shall target and initiate contact against an opponent with the crown (top) of his helmet.” Solid rules for trying to protect a defenseless, receiver against a head-hunting defensive player. Too bad they don’t apply on this particular play. Elston led with his shoulder (not helmet) and hit UTEP wide receiver Jordan Leslie in the chest – not head.
If Slive was looking to jump NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s bandwagon and make his own statement about player safety he could have – and should have suspended Vanderbilt’s Andre Hal for his helmet-to-helmet attack to defenseless South Carolina wide receiver Justice Cunningham. This play drew a fifteen yard penalty from the officials, but not a peep from Slive. Elston’s hit was a play Slive couldn’t pass up punishing, yet the officials found no problem with.
Does the fact that Ole Miss came into the season with a team everyone considered the worst in the conference – having only won a single conference game in the previous two seasons, while Vandy under second-year coach James Franklin was becoming a media darling play into the decision? Surely we’ve all heard the old axiom, “the SEC/NCAA is so mad at Alabama they’re going to punish Mississippi State.” Which, not surprisingly seems to be playing out right now as well.
The NCAA is currently investigating the Bulldog program for recruiting violations, while we still wait for a plausible explanation as to how and why Auburn was allowed to let Cam Newton lead them to a National Title after his father admitted to prostituting his son to the highest bidding school. (Shockingly, the bid to MSU was $200,000, yet we’re still to assume he played at Auburn for nothing more than love of the game.) That the admittance of the solicitation is an SEC violation and – according to the rules should have made Newton ineligible, doesn’t seem to bother Slive.
As we are now well aware, the Les Miles’ and Nick Saban’s aren’t the only people working diligently to ensure the crystal footballs continue to be delivered to SEC schools, the commissioner seems to be outworking them all.
If Ole Miss was ranked in the Top 10 as they prepare to host the 14th ranked Texas Longhorns, no doubt the Elston hit would have been highlighted on the conference website (oh wait, it already was considered one of the top five plays of the weekend). Apparently the only sin Elston committed was playing for a team not considered a title contender in the SEC, and there is no greater sin than that when earning Slive’s wrath.
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