Is it just me or do others, outside of Auburn I presume, get a little queasy when you read about Gus Malzahn and his shiny new sports car?
A story about this, written by our own recruiting reporter Jeff Sentell, appeared on my timeline over the weekend. Jeff detailed how Jacoby Stevens, “a “priority target” for Georgia (and everybody else apparently) had been given a lift by Malzahn in his silver BMWi8 during Auburn’s “Big Cat Weekend.” This is news, apparently.
Stop the presses. Right?
— Brandon Marcello (@bmarcello) March 4, 2016
Turns out, Malzahn and his $140,000 roadster have been the subject of quite a few stories over the last few months. He bought it for himself on the occasion of his 50th birthday and giving special recruits rides in his fancy car apparently is now part of the recruiting routine on Auburn’s campus. So it’s been written about on SECCountry.com and AL.com and the SEC Network has even done a cute little feature on it.
But I’m not here draw more attention to Malzahn’s midlife crisis. I actually think Jeff’s story on Steven’s exciting adventures on his Auburn camp visit beautifully encapsulates everything that’s wrong with college football and the SEC in one silly act.
The fact that Malzahn offers rides for “special” recruits is key here. Malzahn’s new ride is a two-seat roadster with “scissor doors” that open vertically. So it’s not like you can pile all your recruits in there at once and give them a ride. And I’m assuming here that Malzahn’s not having Auburn’s campers line up on the curb outside of Jordan-Hare to take turns like some kind of carnival ride.
No, it was only the No. 1-rated athlete in the country that got to hop into car with the head coach. Only Stevens got this special treatment. Meanwhile, the rest of the campers were schlepped to the next destination on a bus.
To me, that just sends an icky message. It’s just another gallon of entitlement fuel that these schools are pouring all over these elite prospects every day during the recruiting process. And it takes all that fuel a long time to burn off. In my opinion, entitlement is a primary factor for all these misdeeds that are being committed by major college football players after they get on campus.
Do you know why official visits and football camps were instituted at universities in the first place? They did it so that prospective student-athletes – a misnomer they still use – could get an idea what life would be like if they decided to attend these respective schools. They did it so they might get an idea what it’s like to play for a certain coach.
At least that was the initial concept. Now it’s something way beyond that. Now it has become just another tune in the over-the-top song-and-dance routine that recruiting has become. And Georgia’s not immune. They line up black SUVs to shuttle recruits around like a presidential motorcade these days when a golf cart would do the job just fine.
It’s just another reason this sport is up to its neck in hypocrisy.
Seth Emerson touched on the ridiculousness that went on in Destin this past week. During the same spring meetings in which the SEC climbed up on its soapbox to trumpet its bolstered stance on not admitting transfers with a history of “serious misconduct,” Mississippi State actually enrolled a 5-star freshman signee who was arrested for an act of serious misconduct. Jeffery Simmons was charged with simple assault after being videotaped striking a woman several times along with his sisters. But transfers, we were told, are different than incoming freshmen.
And not only did MSU admit Simmons, it’s going to suspend him only one game. That’s the same as a public-drunkenness arrest will get you at UGA. Conveniently, Mississippi State’s announcement didn’t come until football coach Dan Mullen had split town.
That’s why I have to side on occasion with those outside the SEC who roll their eyes at some of the rhetoric coming out of this league. Like this past Thursday when Jim Harbaugh scoffed at Nick Saban’s criticism of satellite camps for the “potential compliance issues.”
“Somebody who has recently broken rules and has that in their history is lecturing us other coaches on potentially violating rules?” Harbaugh asked incredulously. “I just thought it was hypocritical. I thought it was a hypocritical act.”
I agree. You can’t say one thing and then do another. And there seems to be a lot of that going around.
Listen, I’m an SEC guy all the way. Love the league, love covering the league, best football anywhere. But that’s precisely why I believe they should be leaders on issues like this.
It’s because they’re the leader in college football that the SEC should step up and say they won’t allow any of their institutions to admit somebody who is guilty of committing a violent crime. That’s why all 14 members should have the same disciplinary standards regarding smoking pot or getting DUIs or getting arrested for punching somebody. They can afford to be choosy about who they let in or how they police themselves. The lavish locker facilities, 90,000-seat stadiums and multi-million dollar academic assistance programs should suffice as far as continuing to attract the best football players.
As for giving a kid a ride in your $140,000 sports car, that’s fine to own such a vehicle. With Auburn choosing to pay Malzahn $5 million a year to coach its football team, he certainly can afford it and can do whatever he wants with his money. Drive it to the country club or take it on a trip to your lake house or to your high school reunion.
But to flaunt it publicly like that, to try to wow recruits with it, that’s just lowbrow.