The college football world took a big blow Monday with three huge incidents that could reshape the landscape of the league. A familiar face stepped down, a head man was ousted for personal problems, and a fast-emerging young player won’t be suiting up again this season. Here’s a recap of the wild beginning to the week.
Steve Sarkisian was axed in Southern Cal
In hindsight, it’s probably safe to assume this one was coming eventually, but not for the usual reasons. For a coach to be fired in the middle of the season, it would usually be a direct result to the team’s play on the field; if they aren’t performing well, the coach gets the blame and is terminated. The Trojans have suffered two bad losses in games where they were considered double-digit favorites to win, including an ugly loss at home against the Washington Huskies. None of that was a factor in this decision, though. The former head coach was fired because of a drinking problem.
This was something that probably should’ve happened already. For those that remember, Sarkisian’s drinking was at the forefront of national discussion in August when a video surfaced of him while he was heavily intoxicated at Southern Cal’s annual “Salute the Trojan” event. He was so heavily influenced by alcohol that he was slurring his words, and he also used some foul language and proclaimed that a bunch of other teams “suck.” At the time the incident happened, essentially nothing was done, not even so much as a suspension. Sark decided to seek treatment himself (although he denied he had a drinking problem) and the football team made him do up-downs as punishment, but that was it.
The fact that Sark wasn’t suspended understandably rubbed some people the wrong way, because it’s no question had this been a player on the team it would’ve warranted some form of discipline. Maybe this firing, although several months late, was somewhat justified.
Will Grier suspended for the year
This news, unlike the Sarkisian story, was completely unexpected and came out of nowhere. Monday, the freshman quarterback who was just coming into his own and was responsible for the rejuvenation and revitalization of the Florida program learned that he would be suspended for the remainder of the season.
Grier apparently tested positive for PEDs after he took an over-the-counter supplement, but the university is planning to appeal the NCAA’s decision.
This is a tough blow for the Gators, who are currently ranked eighth in the nation. Grier has played so well this season, throwing for 1,204 yards, 10 touchdowns and only three interceptions. He’s also led his team to three impressive wins in a row over the Tennessee Volunteers, the Ole Miss Rebels and the Missouri Tigers. This is unfortunately bad timing for Gator Nation because their next two games are on the road against the undefeated Louisiana State Tigers, who have the best player in the nation in Leonard Fournette, and then they face the always talented Georgia Bulldogs at home.
Worse still, this suspension, if it stands, will last a full calendar year, so Grier won’t just miss the remainder of the 2015 season, but he’ll also miss seven games in 2016 as well. The SEC Est has suddenly become wide open again, with teams like Georgia and Missouri now in position to reclaim the East lead from the Gators.
The Old Ball Coach is hanging it up
Last season, Coach Spurrier “joked” that he would retire in “two or three years.” Apparently he wasn’t joking, and in fact, he has decided to hang it up a year and a half ahead of schedule. Spurrier made his team aware of his intentions Monday and he didn’t even want to wait until the season concluded.
To many people, it seems this was inevitable. The Gamecocks, after several years of success under the Old Ball Coach, slid into mediocrity a season ago with a 7-6 record, and this season they’ve gotten off to a 2-4 start.
Spurrier has had the Midas Touch when it comes to building programs into winners. He turned the Duke Blue Devils into an offensive juggernaut, then he led Florida to six SEC titles and a national championship between 1990 and 2001, then he went to the NFL and coached the Washington Redskins before returning to the NCAA and coaching at South Carolina in 2005, where he became the school’s winningest head coach.
Spurrier coached a grand total of 26 seasons in the professional and college levels, and is considered one of the great offensive minds the game’s ever seen.
Just a bizarre day in the world of college football.
Spark Sports NFL/NCAAF Analyst