LSU dismissed cornerback and punt returner Tyrann Mathieu from the team for what has been described generally as “repeated violations of team rules.” Sources close to the situation claim that he failed multiple drug tests, and that is what prompted head coach Les Miles to show him the door.
Regardless of why he was dismissed, the consequences of this are clear: it will have an impact on LSU Tiger football squad, and although the backup players could play as well as Mathieu, you do not dismiss a Heisman trophy candidate and expect the level of play to automatically remain the same. The dismissal will have a substantial and deep impact on their play in the coming season.
It will also have a good effect on the perceptions surrounding Les Miles.
In the aftermath of the Penn State scandal, it is refreshing to see a coach take action sooner rather than later regarding problems in the football program. For a coach on a national championship contender, who lost the big game the previous season, to voluntarily remove a key component of that squad is a huge deal, and needs to be commended. It takes a lot of guts to do that at a university where administrators, boosters, and fans all want to win, and where they are doubtless questioning that decision as we discuss it.
I recognize that our overly rosy reaction to Les Miles may be a direct consequence of the inaction of Joe Paterno in the Penn State scandal, but rather than using that to diminish my reaction, I chose to cite that as why it is deserving of praise. It shows that someone read the writing on the wall, and is not going to let his players get away from trouble, nor is he going to shield them from punishment. It provides a bright example for when the next coach pulls a Paterno and tries to conceal problems in the program.
As for Tyrann Mathieu, he needs to pull himself together. Some analyst pointed out that Les Miles did this for Mathieu’s own good, and although I am not fond of that particular phrase, I believe the intent behind that was sincere. Look at Cris Carter, who was cut by Buddy Ryan in Philadelphia because of drug problems: Carter cleaned himself up and resurrected himself at Minnesota, and has since reconciled with Buddy Ryan, realizing that Buddy Ryan’s intent was to show him how bad his situation had become. Mathieu is in that boat now.
Mathieu cannot transfer to an FBS school and play next season, but any level lower than that and he can play right away. If he drops to FCS and pulls himself together, cleans himself up, and wins a national championship at the FCS level, you know that no one will be cheering for him more than Les Miles. Mathieu has cost himself a lot of money out of the gate at the NFL level, but he can work to make himself look good for the NFL as he works at it. Things like that take time.
As for LSU, if you are a booster or a fan, I strongly recommend that you look at the Southern Methodist University cheating scandals of the 1980s, and more recently at the Penn State scandal. Look at what a few people ignoring obvious problems and wrongs lead to. I’m not saying that LSU would have suffered something that bad, but if it came out that one player had violated the drug policy multiple times and had been allowed to remain on the squad, it would lead to the inevitable question of “what else have they been covering up?” Next thing you know the media is invading the campus, and then even worse, the NCAA starts investigating, and that’s never good.
Even though it may take time for Mathieu to realize it, this move by Les Miles, and whoever else was involved, is really good for everyone involved. It shows integrity on behalf of not only the football program, but also the university itself. It shows that even a mighty team in the SEC can put character above ability, and if a championship contender, preseason #1 can do that, then a team working its way up to become a contender certainly has no excuse.