By Greg DeVries
Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin has not had an easy first few months.
During the summer, a number of players, including linebacker Steven Jenkins and safety Howard Matthews, were suspended for violating team rules.
Sumlin originally stated that the players would miss the first game of the season, but that’s where things get tricky.
The Aggies were originally scheduled to play Louisiana Tech first, but that game was moved to October 13 because of Hurricane Isaac.
Texas A&M will now open its season against No. 23 Florida.
It would be safe to assume that the suspended players would still have to sit out of the first game of the season.
However, the Aggies announced that the players named in the original suspension are cleared to play against Florida.
They, instead, will miss the game against Louisiana Tech in October.
Does this sound fishy to anyone else?
If a player gets suspended, it shouldn’t matter if his team is playing the University of California—Santa Cruz Banana Slugs or the New York Giants.
Benching these players against Florida is the right thing to do because they violated team rules, but the Aggies are sending a message that winning conference football games is more important than having their players do the right thing.
If their upcoming game were against a lesser opponent, Texas A&M would have had an easier decision.
The fact that their game is against a ranked conference foe weighed into this decision, but the opponent should be irrelevant in the case of suspensions.
It sounds like Texas A&M is guilty of having a bad football culture that supersedes their moral obligation to do the right thing.
When the Freeh Report was released, Judge Louis Freeh blamed Penn State’s cover-up partly on the fact that the school had valued winning football games over the safety of innocent children.
I am not accusing Texas A&M of any crimes, and their recent actions are light-years away from the horrific tragedies that happened in Happy Valley, but the principle remains the same.
Texas A&M placed winning football games above doing the right thing.
In the players’ defense, we don’t know which team rules that they violated.
If their actions weren’t severe enough to warrant a true suspension, then the Aggies should change the rules to make punishments fit the crime.
If breaking a rule is severe enough to warrant a suspension against Louisiana Tech, then the same should be true against Florida.
Perhaps I am overreacting.
If you think that many programs would have delayed the suspension, then that might speak to the severity of the problem across college athletics.
But a better question would be this: Are we above this here at Baylor?