Is Arkansas a program spiraling out of control? Or is what’s going on in Fayetteville right now just par for the course in major college football? Those are the questions that all Razorbacks fans are asking themselves this morning, as another major off the field distraction has hit at Arkansas.
First, the news:
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported yesterday that three players- wide receivers Marquel Wade and Maudrecus Humphrey and tight end Andrew Peterson- were charged with felony residential burglary; one count for Wade, nine for Humphrey and Peterson each. The trio swiped over $4,800 worth of cash, DVD’s, textbooks and other assorted items from university dorm rooms, starting on May 1, and concluding with their arrest yesterday.
After the news broke, the three were suspended indefinitely by interim head coach John L. Smith who released a statement, which said:
Marquel Wade, Maudrecus Humphrey and Andrew Peterson have been suspended indefinitely. We have high standards for our student-athletes and I expect them to conduct themselves appropriately. Poor conduct and misbehavior will not be tolerated and is not what we expect from the University of Arkansas football program.
Hmm… so to go back to the beginning, is this a program spinning violently out of control, or is this an isolated incident that happens everywhere? In this one writer’s opinion, it’s the former, not the latter, and if anything, we could be watching the implosion of a major college football power as we speak.
Now look, I do understand that it’s the off-season, and that arrests happen everywhere. They happen at your favorite school and they happen at my favorite school, and when you get 85-100 18-22-year-old kids together on one college campus, a few of them are going to make some dumb mistakes. Believe me, I’m sympathetic to that.
The problem is, this isn’t just “a dumb mistake.” This isn’t Sammy Watkins getting arrested for pot or Montee Ball getting cited at a party… this a Class B Felony, and we could be talking about jail time here.
More importantly, this stuff has been happening a little bit too often at Arkansas this off-season.
Forget all the Bobby Petrino non-sense for a second, and just look at the overall arrest record of Arkansas football players over the last few months: simply put, it’s astounding. In addition to Saturday’s news, we’ve also seen starting lineman Jason Peacock arrested for felony theft of property (he’s been suspended indefinitely), linebacker Tyler Gilbert arrested with aggravated burglary and theft of property, and Michael Whitehurst with possession of a controlled substance and drug paraphernalia. And oh by the way, it’s only the middle of May. While there’s no guarantee more bad stuff will happen, there is still a lot of time between now and Week 1.
As for John L. Smith, well, the college football world seems to be quick to credit him, and to a degree I understand their thinking. In his first major decision as Arkansas’ head coach, he acted quickly and decisively, in a less than ideal situation.
At the same time, let’s not go overboard here either.
The truth is that as more details emerge from the police report, the more it’s apparent that suspending the players was the only choice he had to make. According to those reports, surveillance cameras caught all three red-handed on camera, and a school bookstore employee identified the three as having been in the store “multiple times” selling textbooks. Yes, everyone is innocent until proven guilty, but with the circumstantial evidence against them, that innocence is going to be hard to prove.
Of course none of this will matter once the games are played, and Arkansas starts putting up big numbers on the scoreboard and not just the police blotter. If Arkansas wins a few games, this will all just be a blip on the radar.
But in the meantime? Well, there’ve been better days to be a Razorbacks fan.
It’s amazing how fast the mighty can fall, huh?
For all his insight, analysis and opinion on college football, be sure to follow Aaron Torres on Twitter @Aaron_Torres.