Ten years ago in college football, the biggest concern for coaches was keeping players away from the bars and using fake ID’s. Players who went out, especially with teammates, had a tendency to get overly intoxicated and in to trouble, even risking their health and the team’s livelihood by getting into fights.
With some of the better players, you had to worry about talent scouts and NFL agents who were salivating at the mouth to be the first to sign a young and talented player. And while both of these problems still exist in today’s game, their frequency has gone down. Many colleges have instituted “dry campuses” for alcohol, and enough penalties have trickled down to where even the agents realize they’re being counter-productive by talking to a player too early.
But today, the problem has focused on one area, and it’s unknown if there’s even an answer. Marijuana has become a menace to the modern college football game, mainly because the culture its athletes are exposed to have said that the drug is acceptable.
Across the country, laws and penalties for possessing and having used the drug have become relaxed. The message to people is that marijuana is okay, and that is will eventually become legalized. Its “natural” aspect is pushed as an alternative to alcohol that is much more safe, giving many the idea that it’s just not a big deal.
This year alone has yielded bad results. After spring break, Georgia Bulldogs defenders Branden Smith and Bacarri Rambo both came back and tested positive for marijuana use, even after being warned about the dangers of the drug in a meeting by Georgia’s athletic director Greg McGarity.
Perhaps the worst aspect of the whole marijuana epidemic, is that no one wants to confront the issue head-on. Players who want to smoke, but are afraid of being caught, have moved to something that is extremely dangerous in synthetic alternatives, mainly “K-2” and “K-3”. These alternatives don’t show marijuana’s active ingredient in a traditional drug test, but instead used chemicals that are extremely harmful and unnatural in order to replicate the euphoric effect the user feels.
Former Auburn Tigers running back Michael Dyer testified back in April that he used one of these synthetic alternatives while he played for Auburn. Dyer has since transferred to play for the Arkansas State Indians.
The culture of teams and in locker rooms has come to resemble that of the street and in gangs; don’t say anything about it, and don’t be a snitch. People in general have become obsessed with the concept of not wanting to be known as a “tattle tale,” and in such, have created an environment where taboo is what rules.
Just in the past month alone, two major incidents have hit the college football world. Last year’s No. 1 overall high school recruit Dorial Green-Beckham was caught along with four other teammates smoking marijuana in a vehicle in the south parking lot of the Missouri Tigers‘ football stadium. The fact that five players all agreed to this, without anyone so much as giving it a second thought, let alone saying something to a coach, should be an absolute red flag as to the culture of that football team.
But it’s not just Missouri, in fact pick your team. Unless coaches and administrators have made an effort to confront the issue head on, this is the culture at every single FBS institution.
One of the people on the forefront against players who smoke marijuana, is Alabama Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban. Saban is one of the few coaches out there that not only gets it, but understands what needs to be done to combat the issue.
“If marijuana infiltrates your program, then everyone is going to do it and you’ve got a huge problem. If you don’t test and do it right, that’s what’s going to happen, because it’s everywhere on college campuses,” Saban said.
Not testing and being involved can yield terrible results. Former LSU Tigers star Tyrann Mathieu was once in the debate to win the Heisman trophy as a defender. Now, simply because of his inability to get away from marijuana and the culture that goes along with it, he’s viewed as a risk to an NFL team, and his draft stock has tumbled.
The bottom line is that marijuana is dangerous. It without question causes emphysema, just as smoking anything else does. It’s widely believed to cause testicular cancer, schizophrenia and it’s well documented that it can lead to depression. Caring about players by boasting academics and graduation rates is fine, but the next chapter in helping today’s student athlete has to start in who will confront the marijuana issue head on.