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Arrested development rampant in Texas Aggie football program

In the past 48 hours, Bleacher Report’s Barrett Sallee has shared the latest double header of bad news for the Texas Aggie football team via the happy, little blue bird messenger, Twitter. But happy days are far from here in Aggieland. Let’s start with the Jul. 21 tweet by Sallee, “Texas A&M also confirmed the arrest of DB Victor Davis for shoplifting. He is suspended, per school policy.”

For those preserving status quo in not vetting prospects for Aggie football, here's your sign.
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Shades of the Seminoles’ Heisman Trophy winner “allegedly” wanting a seafood lunch where you “see food and then take it.” Now the Ags have another wannabe in the alleged making? That’s “one.”

On Jul. 22, Sallee tweeted, “Gavin Stansbury’s departure means it’s panic time for Texas A&M,” his second tweet in two days. That latest bombshell that Aggie Head football coach Kevin Sumlin noted Stansbury left for personal reasons was “two.” And it’s only Tuesday, people.

Bill Engvall has a line about that. What’s the problem here in Aggieland? Well, it’s complicated, just like the Facebook relationship posts offer. Who, what, how, and when to start placing some blame around here?

Aggie Head football Coach Kevin Sumlin has to be one of the best, brightest, and most remarkable people in the sport, and one to be admired, because he still shows up to work every day, rather than running for USC where there’s sunshine, beaches, and not a lot of “this” to have to contend with.

Or it’s a different kind of “this” but paid better to deal with. And it seems that, frequently now, Sumlin is having to suspend another member of the Aggie defense or bid farewell to one, or see a recruit change his mind about wanting to declare intention to show up here in fall, 2015. That’s not good.

It’s a dicey road to walk down to say anything negative about the Aggies, for any reason at any time. Even if you hold four degrees from the place and you report on a negative, especially if it has to do with Aggie football, they load up the trucks and spin you as a “hater,” the juvenile word for someone who shares the obvious truth. Then they pull out the “boys will be boys” salvo, and these are the alumni we’re talking about, not the administration.

It’s official. Texas Aggie football defense has now reached an all new level of being offensive, to Aggie fans, Aggie former students, current students, and the school whose reputation for upholding the Aggie code of honor seems to go through some technical difficulties from time to time, depending on how much it costs to do the right thing.

As an example, seems like when the Texas Aggie 2012 Heisman trophy winner proudly voted for the Seminoles’ guy as the 2013 trophy winner, mum was the word. Remember that? Despite the “controversy” surrounding FSU guy’s off-field actions and before Larry the lobster found a new home, our Heisman Trophy winner voted for that guy to win. And he won. And everyone nodded that was good, real good that he did that. And that was just one example.

There’s only so many times even the best public relations people can spin a positive outlook on what is a disaster in the making. If you work in PR at Texas A&M your job is a lock because, seemingly, every day brings a new opportunity to redirect attention and play “hide the ball,” because seemingly things are going you-know-where in a handbasket.

What is the official Aggie response, you ask? The inculcation of “win at all costs and speak no evil” is in the new Kool-aid being consumed over at Kyle Field. For every truthful story printed by veteran sports journalists of trouble in “(Brazos) River City,” you get the Aggie response. “Yeah, but look, look, look over here”; misdirect is always the upbeat acclamation of what Aggies do best, right, and please forget the other—fast! And we fired some guy because of an Alabama flag or something. Kyle Field. Aggies. Whoop! What were we talking about again?

Read that “5-Star OL Hudson Flips from A&M to Baylor,” and then Bleacher Report follows with “…No. 2 Leads NFL in Jersey Sales” and “…Signs Endorsement Deal with Snickers,” and see the kneejerk reaction to bury the bad news “deep, deep, deep,” quoting Eddie Murphy in “Beverly Hills Cop.”

Speaking of police officers, as reported in April, you had the “Spring Edition” of the local police blotter:

Three Texas Aggie football players arrested for outstanding warrants (Gavin Stansbury, Howard Matthews, and Edwin Pope). Remember the name of the fourth player who was just in the car and wasn’t arrested? No, you don’t. See how good a job they did, spinning, spinning?

Earlier that month, Ricky Seals-Jones was arrested on disorderly conduct outside a College Station bar. A lot of people around Aggieland really piled on the College Station Police unnecessarily.

Going back to March, Kenny Hill was arrested on a public intoxication charge outside a College Station bar. “Those dang police. Shame on them” was the battle cry of many maroon-suede attired Aggies who were offended that this happened. “Did they “know” what a strong throwing arm Hill has? The kid’s our future!” Buzz, buzz, buzz.

Moving on, going further back to February, Darian Claiborne was arrested for a noise violation. And last November 2013, the Ags had a freshman defensive back, Kenneth Marshall, arrested on “possession of marijuana and prescription pills.”

Now, let’s fast forward to July 2014. Today’s Bleacher Report has used the words “Panic Time” for the Aggies to describe how things are, now that Stansbury has left the team “for personal matters.”

Exactly why is it on Jul. 22, 2014, that the Texas Aggies are in panic time? Arrests, suspensions, whether they are for two quarters in a game or a full game or two games or the season, are a new “norm” here at Texas A&M University. Stop, look, and think of other schools that TAMU plays. How many arrests are there in a season for other SEC schools? How many players are arrested at the Top Five football schools in the nation? Well, ask that question of the two most recent Heisman Trophy winners and you get your answer. But hey, how about that trophy? Nissan House. Come and get your picture made with it! Whoop!

There is “technically” little to no risk in behavior that does not fall under acceptable laws of the city, county, or state that can be broken to the point that a highly visible, highly talented football player will ever see real censure of being permanently removed from the Aggie football team.

The ones who are removed probably weren’t that key anyway, so they’re displayed as the scapegoats in inequitable treatment of others deemed more valuable. You’ll hear them whispered about as “troubled,” “troublemakers,” “didn’t fit in,” but the proper response is “and you didn’t know this already, why?”

Those decisions made by the “Bubba Big Ags” of the world, including some of our regents and upper echelon of the administration, not necessarily the coaching staff, become the nature of what is acceptable, lauded, applauded, rewarded, and awarded conduct for young men under the age of 22 to exhibit. But what about that apparently bothersome Aggie Code of Honor? Where does that fit in? “Tolerate those who do?”

Where and when does Kevin Sumlin have full reign to suspend and dismiss the players as he might actually wish to do, without getting a phone call, a text, a visit or a big ol’ smiling Aggie showing up in his office doorway (we presume) saying “Got a minute, Coach?” Do a Google search of Doug Bedell’s stories in the Dallas Morning News ca. 1980s and 1990s and see how this is “same story, second verse.”

Face it, if the general public knew one tenth of what goes on in NCAA football, the only folks who’d be playing a game on Saturday afternoons are the Pop Warner kids down at the park that doesn’t have a real lawn. There are millions (yes millions) of dollars at stake surrounding protecting the reputation of a football program within the NCAA, that are not devoted to A&M’s best interests.

Millions are spent, not keeping tuition low so kids can afford to go to school here, not to protecting the academic reputation and integrity of faculty, staff, researchers, and students at Texas A&M University, or the Aggie code of honor, now outdated, save for the Corps of Cadets and wide-eyed freshmen who cry when they hear about the legends of their school. It takes years to find out what the caveats and exceptions to the code are all about, and when they do, they are told to think it’s for the “greater good.”

How good is that greater good, really? Well, it’s football and this is Texas and there’s the governor who was a yell leader and he appoints the regents, one of whom want to rename Kyle Field and another of whom bought a bunch of billboards and…well, there’s Bill Engvall again, waiting to be called on.

If it’s a tossup between tossing the ball after being benched a little while for what the late Meshach Taylor, in his character, Anthony Bouvier, of television’s “Designing Women” would call his “unfortunate incarceration,” or what others might call an incidental or accidental arrest, if you’re on the football team, it takes a few times before really bad things happen to cause you to lose your place on the roster, your scholarship and tuition/books/fees for your degree, as if that’s going to happen, and your place among the beloved, because it’s the culture now at Texas A&M, like everywhere else in the state, in the SEC, and in the NCAA.

Is it panic time, though? No, not really. Watch the spin doctors have to go to work, maybe even have to subcontract a little more to the truly creative geniuses over at GSD&M in Austin if they have a little free time from working on some other really big and important things at A&M. It’s not panic time at all. We’ll put up another posting of the biggest video screens in the, in the, in the world, that’s right, and they’re here, at Texas A&M. “Ooh–rah.” “Whoop!” “Hullabaloo!” “Good bull, Army! Good bull!” Get ready for fall, because the Aggies are here to win!

Coach Kevin Sumlin is a great man. He’s a great coach. And he’s personally a gifted role model, better than the Aggies have had as a leader of young men in a long, long time. I know this without having ever met the man, because of what respectable and respectful people say of him. That’s a no-brainer.

And maybe if some of the most influential people in the state will leave him alone to do what they’re paying him to do, he can hire private investigative firms to vet prospective players before offering them a chance to play here, to not insist he look the other way if a kid is called “troubled.” Yeah, like that’s going to happen really soon.

For now, today, arrested development is rampant in the Aggie football program, and as long as status quo sits in their ivory towers and paneled offices and in cars filled with much better than rich Corinthian leather, it’s here to stay. For all those who maintain the status quo of “look the other way,” well, there’s a sign for that. Just ask Bill Engvall.

But for heaven’s sake, don’t ask the overarching leadership of A&M to change anything from how it’s going right now. It’s perfect, just the way it is. Right Anthony? And with apologies to Rod Serling, it’s real good that things stay this way, real good. Welcome to….The Twilight Zone.

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