By Stewart Mandel, SI.com
I'm going to have to respectfully disagree with my distinguished colleague from TheWizofOdds.com, who takes umbrage with Miami's Randy Shannon, among other coaches, for handing down player suspensions that happen to coincide with his team's cupcake opener against Charleston Southern.
My response: What do you propose Shannon do instead?
Coaches love to talk tough about discipline and character -- and their fans eat it up. But when push comes to shove, coaches know they're being paid to do one thing and one thing only: win. The fans aren't buying tickets to watch a properly punished football team. They're paying to watch a winner -- and guess who takes the heat when that doesn't happen?
Suppose Shannon heeded Jay's advice and saved starting QB Robert Marve's suspension for a more meaningful game -- like say, the following week's game against Florida. Beyond the incredibly awkward notion of basically telling Charleston Southern, "We don't care enough about our game against you guys to bother suspending our quarterback," think about the potential implications.
Suppose Miami loses to the Gators 27-24, with Mavre's backup, Jacory Harris, throwing a late-game interception that gets returned for a touchdown. What do you think the fans are going to be saying after the game? "Oh well -- at least Robert Mavre learned his lesson." Rrrright. They're going to be grilling Shannon for blowing the game.
And suppose that loss ultimately causes Miami to finish 6-6 instead of 7-5 and therefore miss a bowl game for the second straight year. Think the fans are going to remember that bold act of discipline Shannon displayed back when he suspended his quarterback for the big Florida game? No, they're going to spend the entire offseason calling for his head.
Let's not kid ourselves. While most coaches do genuinely care about molding their players' character, they're not going to do it at the possible expense of a win. Not when their $2 million salary is riding on it.
Mark Richt is one of the most morally upright humans on the planet -- but he's not stupid, either. There's a reason his six players' suspensions are conveniently ending just before the start of conference play. The entire Dawg Nation is looking to Richt to deliver them a national title this season. If Georgia were to inexplicably lose to South Carolina on a blown tackle by the backup to suspended linebacker Darius Dewberry, guess who's going to get blamed? I'll give you a hint: Not Dewberry.