SEC: “Dangerous Act” Earned Suspension
By Paul Myerberg // Sep 14, 2012
Watch the above video. UTEP is in white, Mississippi in red. The Miners’ quarterback, Nick Lamaison, throws a deep post to Jordan Leslie, the team’s second-leading receiver. The throw is high and outside – a receiver’s worst nightmare. Based on the video, Leslie knows the hit is coming: he tenses, pulling his arms back into his body, growing smaller as he peeks up towards Mississippi’s Trae Elston, covering the deep middle of the field. While the hit did not draw a flag, it did draw a response from the SEC: Elston has been suspended for the Rebels’ game against Texas on Saturday.
He’s suspended for the entire game, not just the first quarter or the first half. This designation is important, as in the recent past, hits like the one Elston delivered on Leslie typically accrued a fractured penalty – a half, for instance – rather than a one-game suspension.
With one significant exception: Arkansas’ Marquel Wade missed a game last year after delivering a vicious blow to Vanderbilt’s Jonathan Krause. Is there a difference between the two? We’re discussing various shades of gray, but it’s safe to say that Wade’s hit was “uglier” than Elston’s on Leslie.
The SEC found that Elston’s hit, which the league deemed a “flagrant and dangerous act,” violated two N.C.A.A. rules: “contact to the head or neck area of a defenseless opponent with the helmet, forearm, elbow or shoulder” and initiating ”contact against an opponent with the crown of his helmet.”
The rationale for a suspension comes from the SEC bylaws, which read as follows:
“This action is taken in accordance with Southeastern Conference Constitution, Article 4.4.2 (d) which states that a student-athlete may be suspended if it is determined that the student-athlete has committed a flagrant or unsportsmanlike act.”
Let’s take a quick trip into semantics. What does “defenseless” mean? Does it mean unprepared? If so, there’s no way you can view that video and deem that Leslie was not ready for impact. However, if “defenseless” means a player finished with his play, at a moment when one would not necessarily expect impact, then there’s no doubt that Elston violated the letter of the law.
Mississippi’s response was to stand up for a player athletic director Ross Bjork calls “our guy.” The university stated its case with the SEC but did not “discuss similar hits in other games,” reported Hugh Kellenberger, who covers the Rebels for The Clarion-Ledger.
The message here is that the SEC is taking a very proactive approach to player safety – and yes, that’s a fairly noteworthy takeaway. More than that, the SEC has now delivered a standard for future plays of this nature: Elston’s suspension now means that similar hits would warrant the same punishment. That’s big news once L.S.U. loses one of its elite defenders for a key SEC game.
And in terms of the suspension’s nationwide ripple effect, I’m curious as to whether other leagues will follow in the SEC’s footsteps. Could one league’s new standard become the F.B.S. standard? Yes, if that one league is the SEC.
Tags: Jordan Leslie, Mississippi, Nick Lamaison, SEC, Trae Elston, UTEP
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