Arkansas’ Marquel Wade was ejected from last weekend’s game between the Razorbacks and the Commodores for hitting a defenseless Johnathan Krause on a punt return during their win 31-28 win.
Many people, including John Pennington of this fine site, MrSEC.com, believe Wade should serve a one game suspension in addition to his ejection from Saturday’s game. I will respectfully disagree.
Not with the ejection, which has been heavily criticized in the Natural State, but with the idea Wade should serve an additional suspension for the hit.
Violence is a part of the game. But that isn’t my argument. Hits that injure and endanger people on the field are also a part of the game. But the result of the play has no factor in my argument either.
My argument is based solely on intent.
Not to get too Boston Legal on you, but Wade’s recklessness, while unfortunate and certainly punishable was not intentional, nor was it a play that exposed Wade as a player intent on hurting his opponent. It was a part of the game, and a part of what football is poorly attempting to remove from the sport.
Concussions, can be limited, but they are not entirely avoidable. Krause didn’t sustain a concussion. But he was defenseless. There is no excusing Wade’s actions on the play. He was punished for doing what he was coached to do: seek and destroy.
When the NCAA set out to copy their older brother the NFL in taking a hard line against “egregious hits” in the game, they have done so without truly understanding what or how they will enforce.
Wade’s hit was an unfortunate cavalcade of errors by both himself and those surrounding him. His coaches, and all others in football are faced with attempting to coach aggression without injury. Not an easy thing to do. So most coaches choose to simply coach aggression, and when it gets out of hand, fein ignorance and let the players take the fall.
A quickly running gag around Arkansas’ fan base is to say Wade should get a tryout on defense, because at least he is willing to hit someone.
That idea brings out the best and worst of sports.
Fans want their players to be aggressive, and wether they will admit it or not, so do the big wigs in college football in charge of defining the hard stance against “egregious hits” in the game.
It makes the sport more entertaining. (Stop me when I write something untrue.)
The outcry for justice in this case is both false and pathetic. Appeal to your sense of defense of the helpless if you want, the fact remains, what Wade did was a play that has happened before in football, with little more than a 15 yard penalty if any at all.
Cry Krause waved for a fair catch, he didn’t.
Say what he did was classless, he couldn’t have known Krause was hurt on the play.
Say his petulance after the ejection was proof of his bad attitude and further justification of his ejection, he was appealing to his coaches who trained him to play with aggression.
Wade’s play was reckless. It was deserving of an ejection. But suspensions are about more than just reckless behavior and unintended consequences. They are about intention.
College football has suspended players for hits before. In fact, twice this season players have been suspended for hits in a game. However, in both cases the player showed an expressed premeditated intention to hurt the player they were suspended for hitting.
Wade made a mistake, perhaps as simple as timing a hit. A mistiming of milliseconds.
Sending a message saying, “protect yourself and everyone on else on the field should always be a priority” is important. College football, the Arkansas Razorbacks, Vanderbilt Commodores, and the media covering it all have received the message.
Don’t hit defenseless players, or accidentally hit defenseless players, or if you do, make sure the visiting stadium, play-by-play crew, and adrenaline junky opposing coach, don’t turn it into a soap opera. (Concussions of our Lives, Guiding Hit, etc)
The officials made the right call, but if that were a hit in Razorback stadium, it’s a 15 yard penalty, first and ten. I reiterate, the ejection was valid.
But media, fans and the league itself need to know when the punishment fits the crime. An ejection sends the message, and Wade should play against South Carolina.
Wade understands what he did, apologized, his coaches agree with the actions taken by the officials as do Vanderbilt and their head coach James Franklin.
If you want to put blame on someone, put it one the coaches and league, who are the two bodies in charge of coordinating the rules and enforcement of the game. Two bodies miles apart on how to approach a legitimately serious problem. Coaches want to win, and will stop at nothing to do it. The league wants to look good and make money, and will do whatever the can and throw whoever inhibits that goal under the bus.
Ask yourself, is your problem with this play really with Wade as a player or with a problem in the sport no one has a solution to.
TJ Carpenter is host of The TJ Carpenter Show on The Hog Sports Radio Network from 1-4pm (listen live at www.hogsportsradio.com) TJ Carpenter contributes to www.mrsec.com www.arkansassports360.com and www.collegefootballnews.com.