Thursday, December 26, 2013

On the Max Bullough suspension

Max Bullough, literally the heart of Michigan State's vaunted defense as its middle linebacker, has been suspended for the Rose Bowl.
Bullough is a 3.5 student, and an exceptionally smart and instinctive player with underrated athleticism. It wouldn't surprise me if he stars in the NFL. He wasn't, but probably should have been,  a first-team All-American this season.
Stanford, the Spartans' opposition in the Rose Bowl, runs a power, run-first offense. This is a game MSU needs Bullough more than ever, and he won't be there.
That is the one side of the issue which has been widely commented upon. Here's the flipside:
It has not been reported what Bullough did. So we can't make any real determination until then whether the punishment fits the transgression.
But I'm not so sure it is the worst thing in the world as it it appears on the surface.
Max Bullough: Suspension shocking
Michigan State's Mark Dantonio has proven to be an outstanding coach, but the one area I felt he fell short was the handling of a couple incidents in the past.
I thought was too lenient with past players such as Glenn Winston and Chris L. Rucker.
State's program goes beyond this year. The Rose Bowl is a huge game, but not worth compromising principle.
Michigan State is an institution of academic higher learning. It's football program should not be bigger than the school, nor should any one player be bigger than the football program. Even Max Bullough on the cusp of the Rose Bowl.
These are tough calls for coaches. I've seen them legitimately struggle with these type of decisions many times in the past. They are damned if they do, and damned if they don't, and it isn't because of competitive balance. They feel responsible for the player, and don't want to abandon them just because they did something wrong, which they can often learn from. Yet, they need to maintain rules and discipline within their programs and the university they are representing.
We know little about what Bullough did, but his suspension isn't necessarily a bad thing.
There are lines that can't be crossed. Not moving the line to accommodate a player often contains ramifications that are painful in the short term, but necessary for the long run.


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