Auburn Football: Nick Marshall's Citation Tests Gus Malzahn's No Tolerance Policy

By Brad Stephens

Auburn Tigers head coach Gus Malzahn has a “no tolerance” policy on drugs, and now that policy will be put to the test.

Nick Marshall, the star quarterback who led the Tigers to the BCS National Championship Game, has been cited for marijuana possession in Reynolds, Ga. After being pulled over for a window tint violation, the police officer detected an odor of marijuana and upon a search of the vehicle less than an ounce was found. The city ordinance of Reynolds required only a citation, so Marshall did not land behind bars. He will likely pay the fines for each violation and the legal aspect of this situation will be over.

As a result of the incident, Marshall was removed from Auburn’s SEC Media Days list. Now for the questions: What will Malzahn do? Will Marshall fall under the purview of no tolerance?

Marshall is already under the microscope as a second-chance player who was dismissed from Georgia‘s team in early 2012. Malzahn’s hard-line approach appears to give no leeway and many eyebrows will raise if Marshall is not punished. Although he was not arrested, this citation will be part of a criminal record and payment of the fine is admission of guilt. The definition of “no tolerance” gets murky in this instance, which could be good for Marshall as far as punishment goes. However, it could also lead to egg on the head coach’s face after all is said and done.

That is the trouble with ultimatums and 85-90 males between the ages of 18-22; it is almost impossible to maintain uniform rules of conduct. Auburn is still smarting over its run-in with synthetic marijuana known as “spice,” a drug epidemic that tore the team apart after 2010. Maybe that is the reason behind Malzahn’s stance, but it has placed him in an unenviable position. If he does nothing, the outcry will be heard. What if this was a walk-on player and not a Heisman Trophy candidate?

Then there is Auburn’s drug policy. The athletic department does not require a suspension for Marshall because it is his first offense, only weekly counseling. So clearly, tolerance is the school’s policy here. The ball is squarely in Malzahn’s court now. The biggest name and biggest piece of his championship puzzle made a mistake; will he face the fire or be let off the hook? If he does face consequences, what will they be?

Malzahn’s time at the lectern at Media Days should be interesting, to say the least.

Brad Stephens is an SEC football writer for Feel free to follow on Twitter @bradstephens320 or add him to your Google network.

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