Late last Friday night, as I sat on my couch watching an FS1 re-run of UFC 184, a familiar commercial came on in between Holly Holm’s decision win over Raquel Pennington and Ronda Rousey’s destruction of Cat Zingano.
“Cops are cracking down on drinking and driving. Drive sober, or get pulled over.”
I rolled my eyes, annoyed at the commercial; having seen it already numerous times throughout the night, not to mention almost ad nausea over the course of the past year or so. I support the crackdown upon drunk driving wholeheartedly, but still found myself rolling my eyes at the commercial.
Fast forward to Saturday morning at about 8:30, and I’m again on my couch, this time watching some early morning Barclay’s Premier League action. Across the bottom line of the screen comes a breaking news update.
Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett suspended 1 week for Friday night misdemeanor for operating a vehicle while impaired.
I rolled my eyes again, only this time in disappointment and a hint of sadness.
I’m not even a casual Ohio State supporter and I felt let down. I didn’t really care about the fact that Barrett wouldn’t be able to play in Ohio State’s next game on November 7th against Minnesota; but needless to say I was just disappointed in his decision.
Now, I’ve said in the past that I’m willing to give athletes the benefit of the doubt when it comes to certain mistakes because I try and recognize that their lives are not easy, contrary to popular belief, and everyone makes mistakes. And I honestly believe that this was a simple mistake by Barrett, as he was just 0.02 breathalyzer points over the legal limit. And while I will never condone driving while even remotely impaired, I think Barrett just underestimated himself and made an honest mistake.
But, coming out of this unfortunate incident, I don’t think Ohio State could handle this any better.
First off, the fact that Barrett was released by the police to his teammate Cardale Jones speaks to me. It shows the type of brotherhood that college football is supposed to be all about; the fact that Jones could be there for his fellow teammate in a time of need, to support him and help him, really points to the team culture that coach Urban Meyer has cultivated.
Secondly, Ohio State’s Athletic Director, Gene Smith, did not wait around to suspend Barrett for the upcoming game, despite the fact that because Barrett was only charged with a misdemeanor the university was not required to suspend him. Smith and Meyer could have wiggled their way around that rule in the name of keeping their starting quarterback on the field, but they didn’t, and that is commendable to me.
And thirdly, news was released today that Barrett will forfeit a full term of his scholarship after the arrest, which most people don’t interpret as good news, but I think is an absolutely right decision.
This whole thing is much, much bigger than just J.T. Barrett. Will Ohio State miss him on the field? Absolutely, but that should not play any part in a potential decision of whether or not to suspend/discipline him. In the past – particularly in the NFL – we’ve seen higher level players get a pass on awful things they’ve done simply because of their talent level, while lower level guys get suspended and cut quickly and easily because they aren’t as valuable to the team.
This should never be the case. No one is above the law, and your on-field stature should not have anything to do with whether or not you have to answer for your actions. While I do feel sorry for Barrett because I want to believe this was an honest mistake that he can move on from, Ohio State did what many universities and teams won’t do. They took a moral stand.
Meyer came out and said that it was a “coach’s choice” to suspend Barrett; and like I touched on earlier, a suspension was not required. Yet this sends a message that needs to be sent, and too often isn’t sent.
Off-field crimes will not, and absolutely should not, be tolerated; regardless of how good you are on the field, you are not above the law. So while this type of punishment may seem excessive and harsh, it’s absolutely necessary and Ohio State should be commended for taking a stand against the all too common culture of crimes and football in today’s world.
I wish J.T. Barrett all the best in coming back, and I hope he learns from this and moves forward, because he is a tremendous athlete on the field and, from what I hear, a tremendous young man off of it. But more coaches need to take notes on what Urban Meyer and Ohio State did here, because not enough teams and coaches have the balls to do it.
So thank you, Urban Meyer and Ohio State, for taking a potentially disastrous situation and turning it into a brilliant example of what should be happening much more often in our world today.
Thanks for reading…