As we approach the upcoming NFL Draft, USA Today has an interesting report on former LSU standout Tyran Mathieu. It's not so much interesting because of what it says about the Honey Badger's draft stock (which I frankly couldn't care less about), but about his former school. USA Today quoted an NFL assistant coach who said that Mathieu, when asked how many drug tests he'd failed at LSU, answered that he couldn't remember and "stopped counting at 10."
Mathieu has registered shock and outrage at the release of this personal medical information. I presume that Tyran Mathieu has no experience with NFL personnel folk. Remember, we're talking about the same consummate professionals who have been known to ask if a player's mother is, in fact, "a professional."
I also have to leave open the possibility that some nefarious NFL personnel guy from a squad that wants to draft Mathieu may be trying to scare off other teams. But while Mathieu stated that the report "does not accurately reflect" the substance of his discussions with NFL people, he appears to have stopped short of categorically denying the numbers in the report. It is also worth noting that Mathieu's statement was released through the LSU athletic department, which is somewhat curious given that Mathieu no longer attends LSU, nor is he an alumnus. Why the "official" statement?
Because LSU realizes how this looks for the school. For his part, LSU Athletic Director Joe Alleva notes in the above ESPN piece that "LSU has a strong substance abuse program that tries to identify and assist in the treatment and long term recovery process of drug use and abuse." Keeping Mathieu around long enough to fail 10 separate tests certainly qualifies as taking the long term approach.
It also makes one wonder how serious LSU is about enforcing their published drug testing and discipline program (notably among the more forgiving in the league). And because everything comes back to recruiting, I imagine that whether the number is accurate or not rival recruiters will use this report to show that LSU doesn't have a great support structure in place for student athletes. And while no parent sends their kid to college for inpatient drug rehab, they do worry about what kind of young men they're sending their sons to play with. As with the Auburn armed robbery debacle that just keeps going and going, this doesn't paint the picture of a program whose leadership is in firm control.
It also paints a picture of a place where star players get a lot of room to run. Because it's hard to imagine a second string right guard getting nine second chances.These sorts of issues don't become a factor in every recruitment, but they do become a factor in enough to be worth noting. Remember Jordan Jenkins' mother's concerns about Tuscaloosa?
To be clear the fact that Tyran Mathieu may have failed double digit drug tests before getting the boot doesn't in any way mean that Les Miles has lost control of his program (clearly, Mark Richt has instead lost control of it). But the possibility does raise some red flags for me. Until later . . .