It must be sweeps weeks for the local TV stations or else why would we have had to endure the silly attempt at sensationalism that took place at UCF a few days ago?
With the Knights getting ready to play SEC powerhouse South Carolina in a game that is arguably the biggest in school history, one crack TV news team showed up at UCF with the idea of interrogating coach George O'Leary for supposedly trying to cover up the suspension of starting linebacker Willie Mitchell.
One problem with this fine piece of investigative journalism: There was nothing even close to a cover-up. In fact, it was the complete opposite of a cover-up. O'Leary suspended Mitchell immediately after the player was arrested and charged with driving under the influence on Sept. 7. O'Leary announced the suspension nearly two weeks ago following the monumental road victory over Penn State – a game in which Mitchell didn't travel to or participate in.
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It seems the words of the old Don Henley song "Dirty Laundry" still ring true:
"I make my living off the evening news
Just give me something -- something I can use
People love it when you lose,
They love dirty laundry."
Presumably, O'Leary being one of the few college football coaches who actually takes a tough stand on player discipline wasn't a juicy enough storyline for some of the Johnny-Come-Lately TV talking heads who have just discovered UCF has a football team. Instead of commending O'Leary for acting swiftly and decisively in suspending a key member of this team, the TV boys tried to conjure up some sort of contrived cover-up.
O'Leary has been blasted and blamed for many things over the years, but even his harshest critics can't deny his steadfast stand on discipline. For anyone to even hint that O'Leary is trying to cover up a player's suspension is laughable and ludicrous.
"I don't have a lot of rules," O'Leary says, "but the ones we do have we enforce. Whether it's a first-team guy or a fifth-guy, we treat them all the same."
Who will ever forget when star UCF running back Kevin Smith broke curfew a few years ago and was suspended for the biggest game of the year against the University of South Florida? O'Leary's decision probably robbed the Knights of a chance to defeat their hated rival for the first time. When I asked O'Leary once if he ever thought about relaxing his rule and letting Smith play, he replied without hesitation, "That was never a consideration."
His quick response was the same with Mitchell, a starting linebacker who certainly would be beneficial Saturday against a Steve Spurrier-coached offense that is averaging nearly 500 yards per game this season. O'Leary has already suspended Mitchell for the two biggest games of the year – Penn State and South Carolina. Many coaches would have simply suspended him for the bye week and had him suited up and in the starting lineup against the Gamecocks on Saturday.
Or, a more common practice among coaches, is to allow an arrested player to keep playing until "the judicial process has run its course." O'Leary is just the opposite. He is not allowing Mitchell to play while the judicial process runs its course and until the university's own student conduct committee rules on Mitchell. There is a good possibility, O'Leary says, Mitchell could miss the rest of the season.
Juxtapose O'Leary's stance with that of LSU coach Les Miles, who actually let his players vote a few weeks ago to reinstate star running back Jeremy Hill. During the offseason, Hill was arrested for sucker-punching someone in a bar parking lot after already being on probation for a sexual encounter with a 14-year-old girl. According to police, Hill and a friend pressured the girl into performing oral sex in a locker room.
Last week, Hill ran for 184 yards and three touchdowns in a 35-21 victory over Auburn.
At UCF, Jeremy Hill wouldn't even be on the field.
He'd be on the sideline in street clothes beside Mitchell, who has learned the hard way what those three letters — "DUI" — stand for under O'Leary:
Discipline Unflappably Inevitable.
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