LSU Athletic Director Joe Alleva used the word heart-breaking Friday as he fielded questions about Tyrann Mathieu's sudden dismissal from the Tigers' football program.
Les Miles didn't have to use the word because it was scrawled all over his face as he delivered the news and then answered questions.
Just like that, the enigmatic and often spectacular LSU career of Mathieu is finished for violation of team policy.
"It is difficult times," Miles said at a hastily called press conference. Miles said he told Mathieu he was done Friday morning. The Tigers practiced after that meeting without Mathieu and Miles told the other players of the news at a team meeting. "Sometimes you have to deliver bad news.
"We have simple policy here for behavior. The consequences are pretty spelled out and defined. We did what we could do, but Tyrann Mathieu is no longer on the team. He violated team policy. This is an opportunity for him to redirect. I think he has, still, a bright future. I think he can accomplish all the goals he has set for himself. It's not going to be easy, but it's going to be doable.
"We lost a quality person. We enjoyed going to work with him. He's a great teammate and contributor in his play. We will miss the guy. But like with an injury, this football team has to go on. We have to fill the void. I called on the leadership of this team to understand that these things happen, and that we have to go on. They certainly understand it. They are ready to take positive steps. We will miss him, but we have to go on."
Asked moments later if the suspension was permanent, Miles flatly said "Permanent. He will not be back."
There was also no doubt that Miles was on board with the decision.
It was a longstanding rule set that was adhered to very fully here and very comfortably administered," Miles said. "I comply and agree that that's right."
Neither Miles nor Alleva would specify why Mathieu was dismissed from the program, but three sources close to the program say Friday's actions were the result of at least a third failed drug test.
Mathieu, a 5-foot-9, 175-pound cornerback/punt returner was suspended for the Auburn game last October for allegedly failing a drug test. After he returned, he resumed a spot as one of the most dominant and game-changing defensive players in LSU history and racked up postseason awards, including the SEC Defensive Player of the Year award, and earned a trip the 2011 Heisman Trophy presentation.
Now, it's over, at least in an LSU uniform. Alleva said Mathieu no longer has a scholarship at LSU, which ties into the drug violation policy in place for the athletic department and university.
For a third violation, the policy states: "One-year suspension from competition. Scholarship during this period of time is at the discretion of the Athletic Director and head coach and dependent upon a negative drug screen and compliance with program."
While Miles and Alleva worded their answers carefully, it was clear from several comments that Mathieu had used up every possible chance before the final decision was made.
"We extended ourselves personally and professionally to him," Miles said.
"We extended ourselves to the full length of the policy."
Added Alleva, "It was a policy. We were following the rules."
When asked when a final breaking point arrived, Alleva paused before answering.
"It's been an ongoing issue," he said. "It's like the speed limit. If you go over the speed limit, you're breaking the law."
Pointedly asked when Mathieu went over the speed limit, Alleva wanly smiled and said "He's been over the speed limit."
The options for Mathieu now are to either transfer to another FBS team and sit out a year or drop down a level and be immediately available.
The most likely path will be a transfer to a FCS school, with Mathieu likely to enter the 2013 NFL Draft.
"I can't imagine he will be here and not want to transfer and go play football," Miles said. "With as talented as he is and as capable, I would think that would be a natural direction for him.
"I can tell you this: We will help in every way we can. He's much improved as a person, and he is very capable. We want to help."
And the end of Mathieu's tenure at LSU won't sever his connection to the Tigers or their coach.
From the time Mathieu was a freshman, he and Miles shared a bond that was obvious to anybody who paid attention. That clearly made Friday's turn of events difficult for LSU's eighth-year coach.
"He came to life in this room and he enjoyed Tiger Stadium," Miles said. "His teammates (will) miss him. It was difficult. I can't imagine that we won't care for him very deeply, but from a distance.
"I think he is a really unique strength. I really think that this can be a redirect that will benefit him greatly. It will be like me to see that this is an opportunity for him to improve and put himself in an even better position. Am I worried about him being emotional about this time? Yeah, I am."
That was an emotion that seemed evident with the other LSU officials on hand for the announcement.
But the clearly made message was that no player is above the rules.
"Being an athlete is a privilege and you have to follow the rules to take advantage of that privilege," Alleva said. "Unfortunately he doesn't have that privilege here anymore.
"He's a good kid. He really is a good kid. It's a shame. I told him this morning he still has the rest of his life ahead of him and still has a tremendous opportunity to do good things and I encouraged him to do those good things. I think he will."
Just not in the purple-and-gold of LSU.
Pre-season jolt: Mathieu dismissed
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