It’s always amusing when a college football program’s attempt to be noble almost always ends up being disingenuous, with misguided principles almost always being the culprit.
That’s where Ole Miss is standing right now.
You know, there was a rule in the Thomaselli household growing up, one that I still employ to this day with my own children.
No Books, No Ball.
It was pretty straight-forward. If my brothers and I didn’t do well in the classroom, we couldn’t play sports, whether it was CYO basketball when we were young or high school football when we were older. My parents were strict, but cool, about it – of course they wanted us to excel academically and that was always the priority, but the rule was that our average grade in each subject had to be closer to 100 than to 70 during the season in which we played. To this day, 84 is my least favorite number.
The one thing my parents didn’t do was waffle or prioritize or, worse, be disingenuous about their rule. And I tell you that short story to emphasize why Ole Miss is being exactly that with star defensive end Robert Nkemdiche.
According to Pat Forde of Yahoo, Ole Miss is withholding Nkemdiche from postseason award consideration, specifically the Lott Trophy, because he apparently isn’t cutting in the classroom. Forde noted that when he received his quarterfinalists ballot, there was a footnote at the bottom to explain Nkemdiche’s absence: “ROBERT NKEMDICHE, DE, Ole Miss – School does not feel he meets academic standards.”
Forde wrote that ‘Ole Miss simply felt he wasn’t doing the job in the classroom in order to push him for an award that takes (academics) into consideration.’
One question – if Ole Miss feels Nkemdiche is doing so poorly academically, why doesn’t the school also withhold him from playing football?
The school is splitting hairs here and setting a bad precedent. It is picking and choosing how to, allegedly, discipline Nkemdiche for his academic shortcomings. God forbid it took a real stand and sat him down Saturday against Auburn.
Forde wrote that he inquired about Nkemdiche’s status with both Lott Trophy officials and Ole Miss. He was forwarded an email chain from Lott Trophy executives that said the following; “After several attempts, I finally connected w/ my guys at Ole Miss re; Robert Nkemdiche. They were very apologetic for not getting back to me sooner, however they stated that unfortunately they don’t feel that Robert is suitable for consideration. While stellar on the field, they don’t believe that he has the academics nor the community service that would be suitable for consideration.”
Later, Forde received this email from Ole Miss spokesman Kyle Campbell: “I am not allowed to discuss a student-athlete’s eligibility, but I can confirm he is not at risk. Obviously there are many awards that our media relations team has nominated Robert for. This particular award has subjective criteria, and due to student-athlete privacy concerns, I am not able to share the specifics of the decision-making process.”
So, let’s review. Robert Nkemdiche is stellar on the field, which is why he is still putting on an Ole Miss uniform, but suspect in the classroom and community, which is why the school feels he is a poor fit to be considered for the Lott Trophy.
Uh, has anybody at Ole Miss even once thought about holding itself to the same standard?
Wow, what a self-indictment. Hey Rob, we don’t feel you’re well-rounded enough to be considered for national postseason awards ….. but go get ‘em on Saturday buddy!!
Bottom line is, Ole Miss cares enough that Robert Nkemdiche isn’t cutting it in the classroom and therefore doesn’t meet Lott Trophy standards, but apparently doesn’t care that he’s just scraping by academically as long as he is healthy and fit and ready to go.
As usual, that says something about college football.