- Alex Scarborough, ESPN Staff Writer
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Alabama freshmen Brent Calloway, Tyler Hayes, D.J. Pettway and Eddie Williams were suspended indefinitely Tuesday by coach Nick Saban for the actions that led to their arrest early Tuesday morning. The chances that the four players return to the football field are slim. In fact, one Class of 2013 signee told TideNation that a UA assistant coach spoke with him on the day of the arrests and said all the implicated players would be kicked off the team.
What a shame.
It's easy to call the four players over-privileged brats. Scoff at their wasted opportunity. Call them fools. Say it was their own bone-headed actions that led to their suspensions. It wouldn't be wrong.
The blame for what happened is on the players and no one else. No one forced Williams to beat a student and steal his credit card, as he admitted to police. No one kept Hayes and Pettway from stepping in and stopping the violence, as they're alleged to have done. Calloway knowingly used the stolen card; he should have known better.
Say that their arrest forced Saban's hand. He had to suspend them. Immediate action was required and he did as most any coach would have done. Applaud him for acting swiftly and putting the team above the individual.
Now take it a step further and say that Saban should kick all of the accused players off the team. No more second chances. No leniency. Say that Saban needs to send a message and protect what he has built -- a three-time champion team with an image that had been clean as a whistle and sharp as a razor's edge. Don't let four knuckleheads tear down a dynasty.
Say it because it's the easy thing to do. Say it because it makes sense. Say it because many already have, and many more will cheer Saban if he agrees and dismisses the charged freshmen.
But since when does what's easy equate to what's right?
It was a short-sighted decision that got the players into this mess. Is it really smart to make the same mistake twice? Would it not be wise to take a step back, examine all the options and find a solution that would benefit both the player and the program?
Can't the two coexist? For once, can't the value of a young adult's future equate to the value of national championships? Dismissing the suspended players would be nothing more than an attempt to save face by the university. It would serve the image and not the individual.
A bad apple can spoil the bunch, but who decided a person is capable of rotting beyond repair? Only in college football would such sanctimonious logic be tolerated.
The Baltimore Ravens never backed away from Ray Lewis when he was implicated in a murder investigation. He went on to become the face of the franchise, winning two Super Bowls while developing into a spiritual mentor to countless professional athletes.
America loves its comeback stories. Hold off six months or a year, let the dust settle. Once the memory fades, we're back with open arms. Many want to see redemption. They hope for it.
Why cut the cord entirely before allowing the wounds to heal? Is it really better to cast someone off and simply hope they find their way? Must every punishment be so harsh?
Sometimes help can come from within the home. Former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden prayed for a misdemeanor for Peter Warrick, and got one, and helped the receiver turn in a second All-American season and eventually become the No. 4 overall pick in the NFL draft. Bowden argued that Warrick was better off under his supervision than on an island by himself.
The same is true for Brent Calloway, Tyler Hayes, D.J. Pettway and Eddie Williams. It's hard to argue that they would be better served by transferring to lower division schools with less than half the resources that are at Alabama's disposal. Would the teachers be better? The counselors? The coaching staff? Would another athletic department be better equipped to get a group of young men back on the straight and narrow?
No one is saying it would be an easy task. And no one is saying an immediate return to the football field is what's right. The players' choices hurt two of their fellow students, themselves and their team. They should pay for their actions and earn their way back into the fold.
The possibility of regaining the trust of their teammates and coaches is up for debate. Some might say it's not likely -- but isn't it worth trying?
Why not see what the next few months hold?
What if just one player got his life back in order? Wouldn't that be a great story?
2dKevin Van Valkenburg