Republished from the Jefferson City News Tribune
The Missouri football program has garnered more than its share of newspaper ink in the past week, and it hasn’t all been about the return of Phil Pitts.
Thursday night, former Tiger Aldon Smith was arrested on charges of driving under the influence, vandalism and hit-and-run. Friday, the news broke and Smith was released by the San Francisco 49ers. The incident was the latest in a long line of off-field troubles for Smith since being drafted seventh overall in 2011.
Smith’s release comes less than a month after Sheldon Richardson was in the news for resisting arrest. Richardson allegedly went street racing in O’Fallon with a loaded gun, some marijuana and a very-likely-scared-out-of-his-wits 12-year-old in the vehicle.
Instead of talking about the Tigers’ first week of fall camp — OK, we did plenty of talking about that, too; just flip through today’s sports section — the sound of confused and concerned fans in tiger stripes was swelling around the Twittersphere this weekend.
I won’t pretend to know what was going through Smith and Richardson’s heads. Maybe they both have serious issues that need dealing with. (Smith has already spent a short stint in rehab, and the word “depressed” seems to be thrown around a lot regarding Richardson.) Or maybe they’re just knuckleheads. I’ll leave the moralizing to the Twitter fingers.
Either way, it’s a bummer to see this week’s Missouri Tiger news be dominated by bond listings and radar gun readings instead of yards gained and tackles made. And it wasn’t just that Thursday marked the Tigers’ return to the field after an unlikely string of consecutive division titles. The very next day was Michael Sam’s historic debut with the Montreal Alouettes. Granted, Sam’s big day lost much of its luster because it happened north of the border and because he didn’t make a tackle — but still, it should have been a positive week for the football program.
Coach Gary Pinkel was defensive Saturday, staunchly denying this was any sort of program epidemic. To his credit, Smith and Richardson stayed out of trouble in Columbia — as far as we know — and the Missouri staff shouldn’t be held entirely responsible for incidents that didn’t happen under its watch.
But, I do know there can be only so many arrests before a problem must be acknowledged. As a hyperbolic hypothetical, bear with me here: If every player that ever came out of Missouri went on to rob a bank after college, Missouri would have to address something was going on, would they not? Some soul-searching would be required and something would have to be done to figure out why every former Tiger was putting on a Zorro mask and smuggling pillowcases of Benjamins out of their local Commerce Banks.
Like I said, that’s a ridiculous example, but it does establish the fact that at some point, a program would have to take action if its almuni kept getting into off-field trouble.
Now, where is that line drawn? How many arrests does it take for coincidence become something more? Is Missouri there?
I’ll let the Twitter fingers decide.