By Richard Okelberry, November 30th 2010 - While most of the national sports media has been focusing on the controversies surrounding Cam Newton and the ever constant shadow of another BCS system breakdown, another controversy has been brewing through-out the sports blogosphere. This controversy involves one of the most powerful men in College Football, Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe.
If you have not been following this controversy, it began halfway through the season when Nebraska played Oklahoma State. During the game Eric Martin of Nebraska led with the top of his helmet (Note: this is how the Big 12 Commissioner discribed the infraction) when making an open field hit on Andrew Hudson of OSU.
“Mr. Martin committed a flagrant act of targeting an opponent with the crown of his helmet in violation of NCAA Football Rules,” Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe said in a news release. “This dangerous hit is one that we in the football community are trying to remove from the game.” – Husker Extra
The Big 12 Commissioner was then required to review the video of the hit under NCAA rules and properly suspended Eric Martin in the following Nebraska game for committing a Flagrant Foul.
When the larger controversy surrounding the Big 12 Commissioner really started gaining momentum was following the Nebraska vs. Iowa State contest two weeks later.
During this contest, A.J. Klein of Iowa State was clearly seen on video grabbing the helmet and facemask of Rex Burkhead and twisting his head in an obvious attempt to cause Burkhead a serious physical injury. In fact, Burkhead told the media that he did sustain a minor injury from the event. While the refs missed the call during the game and instead penalized a Nebraska player that came to Burkhead’s rescue, most Nebraskans fully believed that the incident would be taken up by the Big 12 Commissioner and a suspension similar to Eric Martin’s would be handed down. Of course a week passed and no suspension came.
Two weeks following the Iowa State game another similar event was caught on video when Nebraska played Texas A&M. During a fumble recovery in the 1st quarter, A&M player Tony Jerod-Eddie was clearly seen on video grabbing the inner thigh of Nebraska player Ben Cotton in a manner consistent with an attempt to damage the sciatic nerve of Ben Cotton. Again, Nebraska fans expected the Big 12 Commissioner to enforce NCAA regulations regarding Uncalled, Flagrant Fouls; but no suspension ever came.
Finally on November 26, Brian Rosenthal of Husker Extra (The Lincoln Journal Star, ) asked Commissioner Beebe about the Jerod-Eddie incident in an interview.
Mr. Rosenthal described the event to the commissioner as a player from A&M “jabbing the testicles” of a Nebraska player. He also asked if, “the play was reviewable, if any punishment was ever considered and whether the Big 12 condones such actions.” Beebe’s first response was,
“Well, first of all, I think if you look at it carefully, it wouldn’t be what you characterized.” – Big 12 Commissioner BeeBe
This first statement is very telling because it indicates that the Commissioner had not just seen the video but that he had looked at it “carefully.” This is important because it means that the Commissioner cannot now claim that he hasn’t seen the video the way that A&M Coach Sherman. Mr. Rosenthal then goes on to ask the Commissioner how he would describe the incident and Beebe responded,
“Well, if you think it was that (jabbing at testicles), we’ll just have to disagree. I don’t think it was in that manner. And didn’t the Nebraska player say he was just trying to get to the ball?” – Big 12 Commissioner BeeBe
Here, the Big 12 Commissioner seems to be referring to Ben Cotton’s description of events from a media conference as an accurate explanation of what happened. Of course anyone who actually watched the interview where Ben Cotton made the statement about Jerod-Eddie “trying to find his way to the football” knows that Cotton was making a joke. Even the media that was present understood instantly that Ben Cotton was being satirical as they all broke out in laughter.
What is most disturbing about the Big 12 Commissioner trying to use the statements of Ben Cotton in this press conference to clear Jerod-Eddie of all wrongdoing is the fact that the Big 12 Commissioner knows full well that Ben Cotton is under a Big 12 Gag Order that prohibits him from publically criticizing another player or the officials. Ultimately, even if Ben Cotton thought that Jerod Eddies actions were intolerable and that they were worthy of suspension, he was prohibited from say so and the Commissioner knew this.
BIG 12 Rules (GAG ORDER)
12.3.2 Comments about Officiating. Coaches, student-athletes, and members of the athletics department staff are prohibited from making any public comment regarding the game officials or the officiating at any contest. The public airing of officiating matters, whether directly or indirectly, during or after a game, verbally or by use of video, on or off the record, is prohibited.
12.3.3 Comments about Other Members. Coaches, student-athletes, and members of the athletics department staff are prohibited from making public comments that are negative about other member institutions, including, but not limited to, negative comments about the personnel, student-athletes, support groups and general matters related to the university, its location, etc.
While it is unclear why Dan Beebe would try to use Cotton’s “Gag Order” statement to clear Jerod-Eddie in this matter, we can speculate that perhaps the Commissioner is beginning to realize that he originally failed to perform his duties as Big 12 Commissioner in addressing this issue and is now trying to indicate that it was not reviewed because there simply was no foul to review. Of course if there was no foul at all then why did Coach Sherman of A&M feel compelled to “punish” Jerod-Eddie for his actions?
Under Big 12 rules, the Commissioner was REQUIRED to review the videos in both the A.J. Klein and Jerod-Eddie cases. This was not an “option” that he could perform at his leisure. The Big 12 rules under Section 12 “SPORTSMANSHIP AND ETHICAL CONDUCT” states in section 12.3 and 12.3.1,
12.3 Violations. Violations of this rule REQUIRING ACTIONS BY THE COMMISSIONER are:
12.3.1 Verbal or Physical Abuse. Prior to, during and after a contest, coaches, student athletes, and members of the athletics department staff and spirit squads are prohibited from committing verbal or PHYSICAL ABUSIVE ACTS TOWARD game officials or an OPPONENT”S TEAM MEMBERS, coaching staff, institutional personnel or fans. [emphasis added]
If attempting to twist another player’s neck/head or trying to cause serious damage to another player’s sciatic nerve doesn’t constitute “Physical Abuse” then I would like to hear from the Commissioner an explanation of what does.
As the Big 12 Commissioner is now trying to say that Jerod-Eddie’s physical assault on Ben Cotton was not an example of any foul at all, it has become obvious that either corruption or ineptitude in the Big 12 has come to dominate the Conference at the very highest level. If Dan Beebe is not willing to enforce NCAA and Big 12 rules then the member institutions should act immediately to remove him from his position!
By not handing down the most severe penalties to these two criminal players, the Commissioner is signaling to all players and coaches that such actions are tolerated. Nothing endangers players more than a failure to enforce the rules. This is especially true when the specific rules being ignored have the primary purpose of protecting the health and safety of the athletes.
In a year where college football has suffered a great example of tragedy when Rutgers’ player Eric LeGrand was paralyzed during play, the safety of the players should not be resting in the hands of a man who has absolutely refused in two separate cases to enforce the rules against flagrant fouls and abusive physical acts. From this point on, if even one player in the Big 12 is injured in a similar event while Dan Beebe holds the post of Commissioner, everyone including the family and friends of the player will know with all certainty at whom to point the finger of blame.
(Video of the two “incidents” can be found in the article: Illegal Procedure on the Big 12 )