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P.S.R. Op-Ed

The Big 12′s Double Standard

Two scenarios, equal results. In the first scenario, Nebraska linebacker Eric Martin delivers a vicious hit on Oklahoma State defensive lineman Andrew Hudson. The hit was vicious; it was also legal — it drew no flag — as Martin delivered the blow with his shoulder, not with the crown of his helmet. In the second scenario, Oklahoma State’s star receiver, Justin Blackmon, is arrested the following evening, last Sunday, for driving under the influence.

Each scenario drew a one-game suspension; the Big 12 issued Martin’s suspension, Oklahoma State levied its punishment on Blackmon. What kind of message does this send to the student-athletes of the Big 12, not to mention the high school-aged fans following their every move?

And I don’t want to hear any conspiracy theory-related banter from Nebraska; conference commissioner Dan Beebe might not like Bo Pelini — the feeling is mutual, believe me — and is assuredly upset about the university’s departure for the Big Ten, but there’s no vendetta against Nebraska coming out of Dallas.

Nevertheless, the rationale behind the conference’s decision to suspend Martin is questionable. To the Big 12, it’s about protecting the players; can’t argue with that, of course. However, the conference is looking in the wrong direction: don’t blame Martin for delivering a big hit — he didn’t land a scholarship at Nebraska for playing nice.

Take umbrage with your own guidelines designed for protecting players on special teams. Find fault with having no defined rule against a player like Martin blocking Hudson in such a fashion. Hudson, a redshirt freshman defensive end, was not ready to play; it’s not his fault — he’s a freshman, after all — though I do think the Oklahoma State coaching staff could have let him know, “Hey, this guy Martin looks for the big hit.”

And Martin does look to take guys out — again, this is why he’s at Nebraska. Even after his suspension, there remains no rule in place, no edict designed to aid players like Hudson from taking such a blow on special teams in the future. There’s Dan Beebe for you: oblivious, easily distracted and misinformed. We knew that in June, when the Big 12 nearly collapsed; we are reminded again this week of his incompetence.

My issue with the suspension goes beyond merely the hit; I could go either way on it, though that there was no rule in place beforehand has me siding with Martin and Nebraska. My issue with this situation is that a hard hit — again, one that didn’t draw a flag — lands the same length of suspension as a player arrested for driving under the influence. There’s a problem with this scenario. In what world — in what conference — could a vicious hit draw the same penalty as a D.U.I.?

If the Big 12 is going to dish out N.F.L.-like suspensions for blow to a defenseless player, such as it were, why not go a step further? Why not issue suspensions to players who, say, are arrested for speeding after drinking on a late-night drive from Dallas to Stillwater? Why is Blackmon’s suspension left up to Oklahoma State? The Cowboys might have very easily suspended Blackmon for a quarter, if not at all, and received no discipline from the conference.

I expect nothing less from Dan Beebe and the Big 12 brain trust. Only this bunch could shoot itself in the foot so terribly, all the while shaking hands, thanking each other for a job well done. It’s the gang that couldn’t shoot straight, pure and simple. You don’t want to play conspiracy theorist — put away the tin foil hats — but you have to wonder: is there something to Nebraska’s angst?

Maybe. Probably not. More likely, however, this week’s missteps is just another case of Dan Beebe missing the mark, as he’s done so many times in the past, as he’ll assuredly do again many times in the future.

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Comments

  1. John says:

    There’s no definitive evidence he was drunk. If you’re under 21, you only need a drop of alcohol to get a DUI in Texas. Considering his charge was dealt with via a $375 fine, it’s unfair to call what he did “drunk driving.” I’d bet 90% of Americans drive home after having a glass of wine. If a 20-year-old did it in Texas, he’d face a DUI charge.

    Paul: Good point. I’ll change that above, I didn’t think of the difference. Thanks.

  2. BFahey says:

    Agree wholeheartedly.

    I was appalled that Blackmon received only a one game suspension. A Nebraska player received a DUI during the summer of ’09 for which the punishment went undisclosed. Equally unacceptable.

    No, there is no conspiracy….nor have I seen too many NU fans suggesting such. Suffice it to say, no one staying in the Big XII was disappointed Nebraska drew the suspension.

  3. Jake says:

    I caught a dui when I was under 21, I got treated like everyone else who got one and I was under the legal limit, his punishment should be equal to any player who gets a dui no matter the b.a.c. Dan beebe will destroy whats left of the big 12, just give him time…

  4. Ryan says:

    Two things. First, whether he ‘lead with the shoulder’ or not, the fact is that his helmet hit squarely in the other guy’s facemask AND the play happened so far away from the ball that it was clear Martin wasn’t looking to throw a block for his team as much as he was looking to lay someone out. Watching the replay it looks as though the OSU guy saw him but just didn’t think there was any danger since the play wasn’t anywhere near him.

    Second, if the Big 12 had it out for Nebraska you’d think they would target someone other than a backup linebacker who might have been on the field for a dozen plays on Saturday.

    Paul: Good point on the second. But I do think that once a guy comes down field on a special teams play, he’s a potential tackler. I don’t have an issue with Martin treating him as such; if Hudson wasn’t paying attention, then the fault lies with him and his coaches. Could Martin have pulled up? Without question. He should have, in fact. My big issue is that we’re treating his play on an equal field as the D.U.I., which seems a bit skewed.

  5. Levi says:

    As a Nebraska fan I actually agree with most of what’s being said here. Our Niles Paul hasn’t had DUI, but did get MIP and public intoxication charges in the offseason. I couldn’t believe Bo didn’t punish him with some kind of suspension. Bo has dismissed players for unspecified players, Cody Glenn (a starting LB) in 2008 and Quentin Castille a week before the 2009 season started. Considering Paul and Blackmon were both underage I think their punishments should reflect the gravity of their deeds.

    As far as Martin goes, I’ve seen 2 replays, one from the OSU endzone that makes the hit look very clean, and the one ESPN showed that does show some helmet-to-facemask contact, i. Say what you will about the hit. I know when I played I loved both kickoff and kickoff return because I was dumb enough to run straight at somebody full speed and hit them as hard as I could. I don’t feel like I was a dirty player, or that I hit people with an intent to injure them. I did have an intent to intimidate, and I did knock a few people out of games though.

    My real beef is with how it was handled 3-4 days after the game, and how everybody is calling the kid defenseless and away from the play. Does Beebe have it out for Nebraska? Maybe. If he does, is he dumb enough to act one said sentiment? Sure. Is he a little excited that Eric Martin gave him a reason to suspend a Nebraska player leading into the game that might keep them from winning the North? You bet your ass he is.

    And finally, calling the kid defenseless and away from the play shows that you haven’t thought about block in the context of the play. Niles Paul is catching the ball a yard deep in the endzone about 10 yards outside of the near-hash as the block is happening. The block happens at the 35 yard line on top of that same hash. This guy is one of the 5 OSU players that could have actually stopped Paul at the 20. A guy running down field to cover a kick is the least defenseless player in the game of football.

  6. Burnt Orange says:

    I think the Martin hit, though vicious, was legal. I don’t see how you can legislate hard hits out of the game. Martin hovering over the player and flexing after the hit could have been flagged but we rarely see that called.

    On the Blackmon suspension, as I indicated in another post, Gundy started a player who was charged ( and later convicted ) with raping a 12 year old so driving 92 in a 60 with beer on your breath is so much small potatoes.

    Mack Brown has way too much experience dealing with criminal charges against players but he eventually settled on a policy of a felony charge results in immediate removal from team, DUI charges result in 3 game suspension, etc. and I think that is about right.

    What none of us want to talk about too much is that most all of the teams to which we devote our allegiance are populated with numerous characters who really have no business being in college. In a perfect world, they would be in Afghanistan, hovering and flexing over some terrorist whose throat they just slashed.

    I’ll be the first to admit that I was very impressed when John Mackovic had graduation rates of over 90% and made a real effort to recruit only high character kids – at least until UCLA beat Texas 66-3 and his teams started losing to Oklahoma State and Baylor. At that point, it was time for John to go.

  7. Steve says:

    Gundy said the hit was legal, and the OSU player said he should have been more aware when running down the field. Has the Big 12 put itself in a position where it now has to review all the tapes from all the games to hand out suspensions on plays that weren’t deemed penalized during the games?

  8. Nathan says:

    Beebe will have to dish out more suspensions, like the one that cost Tyler Hansen his season, or everybody wearing red will be all over this conspiracy theory. Seriously. If if wasn’t on a kickoff, I would understand more. The player knew he could get hit. Hell, it was a kickoff.
    Whether Beebe did this “to” the University of Nebraska or not will be a moot point unless he suspends other players.

  9. Confused says:

    Paul…I agree wholeheartedly with the poor message sent by the similarity in punishments.

    As for the hit… Maybe some folks here can weigh in on the rule (or lack thereof) regarding illegal hits. My understanding was that such rulings were intended to protect so-called defenseless players. How in the world can a player ON DEFENSE be a defenseless player??? He was not an outstretched receiver or a stood-up running back. He was, I’ll reiterate, ON DEFENSE.

    To be fair, helmet-to-helmet hits should receive attention rule-wise, especially given recent studies showing connections between such hits and Alzheimer’s (or related conditions). And I certainly sympathize with Hudson, who got his bell rung pretty well. But if a defensive player has this happen, I have to assign some non-trivial fraction of the responsibility to him and/or his lack of focus. While he was not immediately attempting to make the tackle, the play had not passed him, and he was on the same side of the field. An unfortunate situation all around…

  10. Davidtoo says:

    I’ve seen this hit from several angles, and while it is a hard hit it is totally clean and legal. Folks, this is called football. ANY player running downfield on kickoff coverage KNOWS FULL WELL that there are head hunters on the opposing team. Calling the player “defensless” is pathetic. He is in full equipment and is running down the field to try and tackle somebody. HE IS THE AGGRESSOR.

    That Martin was suspended for a legal hit, 3 or 4 days after the fact, is the real attrocity and crime.

    Coach Stoops from OU makes a good point when asked about this – “what do I tell my guys?”

  11. Aaron says:

    As a Husker fan I understand that reasonable minds can disagree about the whether the hit should have drawn a suspension. What I have a problem with is the capriciousness with which the Big 12 is enforcing their suspension powers. Taylor Martinez was hit in the face in the very same game, illegally, and nothing was made of it. Nor were other, similar plays met with suspensions in the time since 2009 when the Big 12 adopted this policy.

    I am not normally the conspiratorial type, but heck, if Dan Beebe wanted to stoke that fire, he sure found a great way to do it.

  12. Ben says:

    I agree with most everyones comments above. He was not a defensless player.

    Furthermore, he saw the hit coming. If you watch the replay he begins to go into the fetal position right before he gets thumped. He actually caused the helmet-to-helmet.

    The suspension is absurd and suspicious to say the least. This is the first time this “rule” has ever been used. You can’t tell me this is the first hit that was worthy of a suspension from the commissioner. It’s just not possible.

  13. Josh says:

    …I tend to think Beebe is starting to panic, seeing visions of Pelini and Nebraska walking out of the Big 12 as the champs…why else does he make an unprecedented decision to suspend a player on a big LEGAL hit and lie and say he led with the crown of his helmet?, it has NEVER happened. Also where are the suspensions for the ILLEGAL helmet to helmet hit on Taylor Martinez by the OSU player, it was actually flagged, where is his suspension? Where is the suspension for the Kansas State player who punched Taylor Martinez on top of the head 3 games ago? Where are the suspensions for the players with nasty hits in the Mizzou and Sooner game? No where to be seen, only the Nebraska player who didn’t break the rules. This is an obvious show of favortism and is sickening to me. At the end of the season I hope the NCAA takes a look at not only this decision by Beebe, but also the performance of the Big 12 referees in every Nebraska game this year…most notably the ball spots.

  14. Carol says:

    Burnt Orange, I agreed with most of what you said in your comment but my son just returned from Afghanistan. He is not of low character. He did not join the Marines because he had nothing else to do.

  15. AustinHusker says:

    Paul,

    As a Husker fan I am sure we dont have many friends reading your website, but I want to commend you an a great article. Not just because you seem to side with Huskers on this one but because you laid it out logically and fact based. Quite refreshing in a day and age when you can post all kinds of factless crap on an internet page and call it an article.

    I will have to stop by more often and see what you guys are up to.

  16. JimmyD says:

    How about, instead of comparing the consequences of Martin’s hit and Blackmon’s actions, we instead compare the hit to Brandon Spikes’ eye gouge last year against Georgia. While Martin’s hit was during a play with no obvious intent (didn’t even blindside the kid as he was in his field of view), Brandon’s intent was very obviously intentional and he only earned a half game suspension that was dished out by his biased coach. Although I know we’re talking about the Big 12 in this article, there seems to be some major imbalance here. Also, there were many other hits this year in football that have been just as bad and garnered no penalty, such as this one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bcu6TCZ0HMM&feature=player_embedded

  17. Paul says:

    This is the most ridiculous suspension I have ever heard of. When has a player ever been suspended for being too aggressive when blocking on a kickoff return? As for those of you that claim that the hit was away from the play, there’s no way that Martin could know that. He is focusing up field on the OSU players that are running at him. He has no idea of where Paul is at. Martin’s hit was totally clean. You can find similar hits on kick returns on every single Saturday of football.

    For anyone who thinks that Martin took a cheap shot, the kid from OSU should have been paying attention. It’s not like Martin hit him from behind. On a kickoff, a player should be alert regarding what is going on around him. Being inattentive is what leads to injures, not aggressive play. Had the kid been paying attention, he would have absorbed the hit appropriately and not been knocked down. Watch every other guy on the field. The opposing players run into each other and neither falls because they are both playing aggressively, rather than spacing out (or whatever he was doing).

    I don’t like conspiracy theories at all, but it is difficult to ignore this, considering the following quote for an Oklahoma newspaper:

    “OU safety Quinton Carter was called for a personal foul in the second half for “targeting above the head” on a tackle. But the Big 12 office took no action.”

    “Stoops also said OU fullback Trey Millard was hit in a similar manner by a Missouri player the second time OU kicked off last Saturday.”

    Considering that Carter was actually caught in the act, during a game, how can he not be suspended for committing the same alleged offence as Martin?!?! Stoops said that Missouri’s players hit one of his guys in the helmet on a kick return during their game, but nothing came of it. The decision by the Big 12 to suspend Martin was driven by politics and not by logic or rules. They hid behind a rule that is meant to protect defenseless receivers and somehow found a way to apply it to a guy blocking on a kickoff. If the suspension was due to a legitimate concern, then Oklahoma’s and Missouri’s players also would have been suspended for the same thing. But they were not…

    The Big 12 “leadership” is a joke, which will ultimately doom the league.

  18. Burnt Orange says:

    Carol- my profuse apologies- thoughtless on my part.

  19. DMK says:

    @ JimmyD

    Your link to Milliner’s (Bama’s DB) hit on the Tennessee guy has no place in this conversation. He’s coming off a block, looking to hit the guy around the waist and when the ball carrier’s feet slip out from under him, neither player can readjust before the big collision.

    With guys flying around the field like that, you’re going to get some scary hits that have to do neither with ill intent nor with poor/negligent technique.

    About the bigger debate here:
    I’ve never been entirely comfortable with players getting suspended or kicked off the team for stuff that would not (1) get a normal student in trouble with the university, (2) get someone fired from a real job, (3) cause someone to be in jail or miss practice/game time because of legal proceedings.

    Every case is different, of course, but BurntOrange is right when he hints that there’s something flimsy about bringing in mercenaries who, apart from ball, have no business being around a university, and then holding them to *an even higher* standard than regular students.

    This is no new development, though. Yale, Harvard, Princeton were essentially hiring non-student semi-pro ringers from the very dawn of the sport. And now that their players are actually literate, the level of play is atrocious.

  20. Burnt Orange says:

    Carol- I also wanted to say how much I appreciate your son’s service. One of mine was an infantryman in the 101st Airborne in 2006-2008. I should know better.

  21. Patrick says:

    As a Nebraska fan, I just want:
    1. To know what the rules are before the game starts;
    2. To have the rules applied to everyone the same.

    There are hits like Martin’s in almost every game, by almost every team. If we’re going to suspend the hitter in those cases, that’s fine with me. But tell me what’s suspendable BEFORE the game, and apply those rules to all teams.

  22. Vince says:

    A mizzou player leveled NE DT #90 at end of 1st Quarter last saturday on a play where the UM QB had scrambled and the NE DT was giving chase. UM WR blindisded the DT who was 10 yards behind play as QB was running out of bounds.

    On replay, there was some helmet to helmet contact. My vote, it was a legal, although relatively unncessary hit (think Warren Sapp on Chad Clifton).

    Was it illegal, probably not although it you watch the replay it looks very similar to Martin’s hit with some helmet to helmet contact.. NE player didn’t get hurt though, so nobody (including Ed “holier than thou” Cunningham who was calling the game) said a word.

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