OPINION: Curry Should Be Suspended From Team

If my colleague Bill Wagner's reporting is correct and sophomore slot back Marcus Curry tested positive for marijuana use, Navy head football coach Ken Niumatalolo should immediately suspend him from the team until further notice. There are several reasons to do this, but the most important one is based on something Niumatalolo has repeatedly said during his tenure.

Last March, Niumatalolo was asked what happened to make him conduct a brutal and very physical practice. I was not at that particular session, but I got the sense from the transcript released afterwards that there was probably a lot of running and conditioning involved. This is what Niumatalolo said about his decision to work the Navy players harder:


"Guys not taking care of business in Bancroft Hall and doing things they aren't supposed to do. All that stuff is tied in. This is the Naval Academy. You have to be more than just a football player here. There are rules here and guys know that when they come to school here.  They have to be a midshipman too."


He continued:


"We are a team. When the left guard doesn't do what he's supposed to do, everybody pays. If the corner doesn't cover the wide receiver, everybody pays. Football is the ultimate team sport. When one guy screws up it messes up the whole team. When somebody gets in trouble here it isn't so and so the midshipmen got in trouble, it's so and so the football player got in trouble and that is rightfully so. I'm OK with that, because it is a great privilege to be a Naval Academy football player and I want our players to understand that. Some of our young guys don't understand that yet. I want them to know that it's more than just football here.  They have to do what's right in Bancroft Hall.  If they can't handle it they should go do something else. Intramural basketball might be looking for some guys."


Being a midshipman first and a football player second is a mantra I have heard Niumatalolo preach throughout his two seasons as head coach.


According to this story by Wagner, which I believe entirely and you should too, Curry, in less than 18 months at the Naval Academy, has accumulated over 300 demerits and has violated the honor code. Whether or not this total number of demerits includes the 100 demerits and 21 days of restriction that were handed down after he was retained by the Superintendent is unclear. What is clear is that Curry is not doing what's right in Bancroft Hall. There is an obvious pattern of misconduct and Curry's future at the Naval Academy is tenuous at best. Could he turn it around? Could he become a model midshipman? Sure, it's possible; and because of that possibility, Niumatalolo needs to give him every opportunity to do what he came to the Naval Academy to do – graduate and become a naval officer. His best chance to accomplish this is to be able to put all of his energy into proving he still wants to be in Annapolis. In my opinion any moment that Curry spends with the football team in the weight room or on the practice field is wasted time for the young man.


Regardless of the circumstances surrounding this case, including the Superintendent's inexplicable decision to retain Curry, Niumatalolo said himself that it is a privilege to be a Naval Academy football player. To me, this means that he holds his players to a higher standard than the general population in the Brigade. Whether or not Curry knowingly smoked marijuana is irrelevant, the circumstances surrounding the incident and Curry's pattern of behavior is enough for Niumatalolo to take quick and decisive action.


And with national signing day next week, Niumatalolo needs to suspend him now. He needs to send a strong signal directly to every recruit (and indirectly to their parents) that they are making the right choice in attending the Naval Academy, and that influences like Curry will not be around their 18-year-old kids…at least not until he straightens himself out.


If Niumatalolo or anyone associated with the football program says that Curry was not found guilty of anything due to his retention by the Superintendent, and therefore no suspension is warranted, I'm sorry that is just poor leadership and bad judgment. He obviously did something seriously wrong because he got another 100 demerits and several weeks of restriction. I don't think running a few sprints will make him understand the seriousness of his infraction and the potential harm it could have on his future, not to mention the football program as well.


Curry's situation in one sense is no different than any student-athlete who is struggling in the classroom. His coaching staff needs to give him every opportunity to succeed as a midshipman. As far as I am concerned his football career should be over until he can go at least a semester without getting into any conduct trouble. And then, if he is able to accomplish that, he should have to apologize to the entire team and ask for permission to rejoin them in 2011.


Personally, I hope Niumatalolo goes a step further and kicks him off the team for good. It would mean that the head football coach at the Naval Academy does not care how many yards you run for or how fast you are. If you are at gatherings during the season where illegal drugs are being passed around, regardless of the circumstances, then you have lost the privilege to wear a Navy football uniform.





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