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Monday, October 25, 2010
Dantonio must learn from past with Rucker

By Adam Rittenberg

I can't imagine any Michigan State player wants another crack at Iowa more than cornerback Chris L. Rucker.

Rucker appeared to seal a Spartans win last year against the Hawkeyes when he picked off a Ricky Stanzi pass. But a defensive holding penalty on Rucker gave Iowa new life. Three plays later, Stanzi fired the game-winning touchdown pass to Marvin McNutt, who beat Rucker on a slant route with no time left on the clock.

Defensive backs are supposed to have short memories, but you can bet Rucker remembers what happened last year against the Hawkeyes.

He'd love a chance at redemption this week as No. 5 Michigan State visits No. 18 Iowa.

But he shouldn't get one.

Rucker is scheduled to be released from the Ingham County Jail on Thursday after serving eight days stemming from an Oct. 11 drunken-driving arrest that violated his probation. The jail term was part of a plea agreement where Rucker had an operating while intoxicated charge reduced to misdemeanor reckless driving. Rucker's arrest violated the probation he received from his role in the November residence hall assault that involved several Michigan State football players. His probation officer recommended a 21-day jail sentence, but he received 10 days with the plea agreement.

Michigan State indefinitely suspended Rucker following his arrest, and Rucker has missed the Spartans' last two games.

That brings us to this week. Rucker gets out of jail Thursday. When does he return to the field?

Spartans coach Mark Dantonio can learn from the past in making this decision.

Dantonio allowed running back Glenn Winston to return to practice the same day Winston was released from jail after serving four months for his role in an assault that seriously injured Michigan State hockey player A.J. Sturges.

I disagreed with the decision at the time, and it blew up in Dantonio's face when Winston was at the center of the residence hall assault that landed Rucker and other players in hot water. Dantonio has tried to clean up Michigan State's off-field reputation, but his handling of Winston was a disaster.

Rucker's situation is different, and let me make this clear: he deserves to play again this season.

But not Saturday.

Dantonio shouldn't immediately reinstate Rucker. The suspension should last at least another game, and maybe two or three. An immediate reinstatement would make Dantonio look incredibly soft on discipline. It would bring bad P.R. in a time of historic success for the program. It would make Michigan State look like the program of second chances -- for all the wrong reasons.

Dantonio has made so many good decisions this year, including "Little Giants" and "Mousetrap."

Here's hoping the coach makes the right call again.