Bad behavior cannot be tolerated

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Last season, when University of Alabama backup quarterback John Parker Wilson was stopped in Northport, arrested and charged with minor driving under the influence, head coach Mike Shula could have set an example.

Shula should have set an example.

He didn't set an example.

And for that mistake, the Tide is beginning to pay dearly.

After Wilson was punished one game last season, he was allowed to come in and participate in the Auburn game, leading the Tide on a late touchdown drive.

Maybe Shula was continuing his punishment of Wilson by simply throwing the Hoover native to the Tigers for one more sack, but I doubt it.

It tells a young quarterback nothing if you sit them in a game where they would not have played anyway, and then toss them into the most honored game a player can be a part of in the state of Alabama.

Although Shula did punish players earlier last season and has done so in a quiet, in-house manner, the repercussions of Shula's botched attempt of sending his team a message by sitting Wilson the rest of the season is starting to be felt.

Since Shula went on the defensive instead of the offensive regarding Wilson's punishment, the team has had three defensive players involved in disciplinary issues, including key player Juwan Simpson.

Simpson was arrested last month and charged with possession of marijuana and possession of a stolen weapon. The weapon charge was downgraded to a misdemeanor instead of a felony since the value of the gun was less than $500, but the punishment from Shula should not be downgraded.

Shula recently dismissed defensive players Chris Keyes and Travis Robinson for undisclosed reasons, and the coach should at least consider the same for Simpson.

No one will ever know all the facts about Wilson and Simpson's situations, but the fact remains that these players are public figures and should be treated accordingly.

The problem doesn't just exist in Tuscaloosa, either.

Auburn University head coach Tommy Tuberville did the same thing with Kevin Sears that Shula did with Wilson. Tuberville has also had to dismiss LeMarcus Rowell for a similar situation to Simpson's, while also recently having to deal with Tray Blackmon's public intoxication arrest.

In Tennessee, Phil Fulmer has been more of a baby-sitter/warden than a head coach in recent years, with athletes running wild in Knoxville.

Fulmer's backup quarterback last season and this season, Jim Bob Cooter, was recently arrested for drunken driving and has been suspended.

And to clarify, the above situation really happened and is not just a stereotypical joke about a Tennessean with a fictional name.

Whether it's Wilson, Simpson, Keyes, Robinson, Sears, Rowell, Blackmon or Cooter, these are young men who make mistakes, but they should have to pay for them as well.

When it comes to a football playoff system, the topic of players being students is always noted.

If that is so, then those kids should be treated like kids.

Football is a privilege, not a right.

Taking away the game they love sends the clearest message of all.

Austin Phillips is The Greenville Advocate sports editor.

You can contact him by e-mailing austin.phillips@greenvilleadvocate. com or by calling 382-3111 ext. 122.