Republished from the Jefferson City News Tribune
COLUMBIA — Maty Mauk’s first two seasons as a quarterback at Missouri ended with division titles and bowl-game victories. His third hardly reached November.
Mauk was suspended for the remainder of the season, the team announced Sunday. Mauk had missed the last four games after being suspended Sept. 29 for an undisclosed violation of team policies, but was reinstated Oct. 25. Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel said Mauk’s status would be evaluated at the end of the season.
“There is no question quarterbacks are held to a whole different standard than anybody else on the team,” Pinkel said. “There is no question about that. There is a responsibility. You’re going to touch the ball 75 times a game. We’re going to hand you the keys to the car, and that responsibility is huge. There’s a lot of pressure, especially nowadays probably more than ever.”
Mauk participated in the team’s bye week practice Tuesday. The junior addressed his teammates upon being reinstated.
“He just apologized to the team,” center Evan Boehm said. “It was sincere, and you know that he meant everything about it, and just you believed him and you trust the kid, and I still believe and trust the kid. But we have to have his best interest in mind, and keep him healthy and keep him OK.”
Receiver J’Mon Moore said he speaks with Mauk daily, but the quarterback did not answer his phone calls Sunday.
“I don’t really know what happened,” Moore said. “I don’t know if he did something else or what. I’m clueless right now. But I was pretty shocked.”
Boehm also said he was unaware of what had changed to cause Mauk to be suspended again. He said he heard the news around the same time media did Sunday. Missouri announced the suspension 90 minutes prior to the team’s scheduled media day, which was moved up a day because of the Tigers’ upcoming game Thursday against Mississippi State.
“Coach Pinkel has Maty’s best interest in mind,” Boehm said. “People might not realize that right now, but maybe in the future they’ll realize that, and it’s not coach Pinkel going after Maty Mauk. It’s coach Pinkel trying to help Maty Mauk, and that’s what is so special about this program is we’re growing him as a man. We’re growing everybody here on the team as a man instead of just, ‘Oh, he’s a player, he’s done this, he’s done that, we’re kicking him off the team.’”
The team has gone 1-3 in Mauk’s absence, with true freshman Drew Lock starting in his place. The Tigers defeated South Carolina 24-10 in Lock’s first start, but have failed to score a touchdown since while losing to Florida, Georgia and Vanderbilt.
Pinkel refused to say whether he had planned to play Mauk before he was suspended again. Lock said he believed he was going to start his fifth straight game, though he expected there to be a competition. Moore expected Mauk to start Thursday, with the quarterbacks alternating drives.
Moore said there is a sense of concern for Mauk among the players. Mauk’s suspension came one day after he missed a media-day appearance because his father was undergoing surgery for cancer.
“It is pretty hard, because you wonder what’s going through his mind,” Moore said. “Especially with his dad, anything could be going through his head. You want to be there for him. You want him to be around. When you’ve got stuff going on outside of the football team, this team makes you feel better. So with him not being able to be there, it kind of makes you wonder what’s going on with him inside.
“… Me knowing Maty personally, I’m pretty sure it was really tough. I don’t even know if he watched the game. I don’t know if he could watch the game live, knowing Maty, knowing that he can’t be out there competing with us.”
Lock said he and Mauk split snaps with the first-team offense in Missouri’s practice Tuesday. Though Lock said the team was happy to have Mauk back, the uncertainty surrounding his status has been palpable.
“We hadn’t seen his face in a long time, and it’s just kind of weird,” Lock said. “Now that he’s (suspended again), it’s kind of weird again.”
Moore noted a nagging shoulder injury affected Mauk some during the practice.
Pinkel has refused to discuss specifics throughout Mauk’s suspension, and would not say what had changed since Sunday or if he was disappointed in having to suspend Mauk so soon after his return.
“I care about my players,” he said. “They’re like your kids, OK? If (you have) kids, you’re (not) going to go out and have a little meeting out in your front yard and … tell them all of the stuff that your kids did wrong. You protect your kids. They’re your family. We do the same thing here.”
He stood by his team’s handling of Mauk’s situation.
“What we did here is exactly like I’ve always done it,” he said. “And that’s what we do. That’s what we believe. We don’t overlook things. We don’t cover things up. We do what’s right. A lot of other places would find ways to get problems solved without doing what we do. But we don’t do that at Missouri. And I’ve never done that and I never will.”
Linebacker Michael Scherer backed the team’s decision to suspend Mauk.
“I think that Maty’s going to get the help he needs to be a better person,” Scherer said, “and I think the way coach Pinkel has handled this — he cares more about Maty as a person than he does about winning football games and having Maty out on the field.”
With Mauk suspended, just six members of Missouri’s 2012 recruiting class will be available to play the remainder of the season. Not counting Mauk, five players from the class were dismissed from the team. Three more transferred to other schools, and two are currently sidelined with season-ending injuries.
“We talked about that the other day,” Pinkel said. “It’s something that we’re going to look at, just go back and look, but we have a very extensive evaluation system, and we cover a lot of different things in the tough questions that we ask. Is (a recruit) dying to be a great player? Does he have great toughness? Has he had any personal problems that could affect a negative effect to a football team? Has he ever been arrested? Has he ever been involved with drugs?
“I mean, we go through a lot of things, a lot more than a lot of people do, in our evaluation system, and our evaluation system is very, very good. We always go back and evaluate everything, so we’ll probably go look at that.”