It is likely that no team spends more effort and more money on educating its players on things other than football than does Alabama, and yet troubles continue. Forget for the moment “innocent until proven guilty.” The Crimson Tide can ill afford such a stance when it comes to Geno Smith, charged for the second time in his Bama career with driving under the influence, and Jonathan Taylor, charged for the second time in his college football career with domestic violence (Taylor’s first transgression when he was a player at Georgia, and for which he was dismissed from the Bulldogs team).
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Shortly after this story was posted, the following was received from The University of Alabama Athletics Department.
A statement from Alabama Coach Nick Saban:
“Jonathan Taylor has been dismissed from the team and is no longer a part of our program.
“This will still need to go through the legal process, but when he was given an opportunity here, it was under strict guidelines and we made it clear there was a zero tolerance policy.”)
Both spent time in jail before being released on bond. Taylor’s jail time was mandatory 12 hours because of the charge of domestic violence. Smith was not seen in the media viewing period of the Tide’s Saturday practice.
There were limited responses from Alabama, one that Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban would address the issue at his next scheduled media presentation Monday night, another that Taylor’s situation was in the hands of The University’s judicial court.
One can only imagine the emotions of Saban. Anger? Betrayed? Vengeful? Contrite? Defensive? Gullible?
Saban has addressed the issue of second chances. Alabama gave a second chance to defensive lineman D.J. Pittway, who had been dismissed from The University following his 2012 freshman season for his part in a bullying incident. After a year in junior college he was allowed to return. Three other players connected to the situation were not given the opportunity to return.
In February, after Taylor had entered Alabama as an early enrollee, Saban gave a lecture on the importance of second chances, even though he firmly stressed that there were no circumstances where domestic violence could be condoned. But, he said, “There is some occasion to not condemn them (‘young people’) for life, but to give them another chance.
“It's up to them to prove that they deserve that chance. And when they get that opportunity they need to definitely do their very best to take advantage of it. This is the decision that we made. I know the sensitivity of the issue, and we're going to do what we can to help this young man have success here and not have issues anymore.”
Alabama followers had been somewhat smug in recent years with Auburn having success with quarterbacks who had been dismissed from other schools because they were thieves. That high ground has been washed away with the transgressions of Smith and Taylor — harm or potential harm against people.
One can be sure that Saban has far more information concerning these changes than anyone else, and he may be inclined to give a third chance to one or both. There is the potential for an extraordinary downside with leniency. Drunk drivers kill people. There is no place in civilized society for men who abuse women.
Saban has plenty of good football players and will have a good team with or without these two. The Tide coach probably suspects that he has others who bear watching. From that standpoint, he must consider the lesson — not just to Smith and Taylor, but to others on his squad.
And that, as is said, is why Saban makes the big bucks.