Florida Turns Blind Eye to Eye-Gouge
Monday, however, that list apparently expanded with an announcement from the Florida Gators' football office that suggested it appeared to embrace the barbaric penalty.
What else can be drawn from Gators coach Urban Meyer's disciplining of his linebacker Brandon Spikes for gouging the eyes of Georgia running back Washaun Ealey in the third quarter of last Saturday's game?
Spikes wasn't caught acting so despicably until well after the fact by YouTube. Meyer wasn't aware of his player's dastardly deed at the bottom of a pile until Meyer's wife pointed it out to him.
So Meyer put his foot down. He ordered Spikes out of one half of the Gators' next game.
Are we to surmise that Spikes didn't get a full-game suspension because he tried to rip out only half of Ealey's eyes and not the whole set?
"I don't condone that," Meyer said. "I understand what goes on on the football [field], but there's no place for that. We're going to suspend Brandon for the first half of the Vanderbilt game. I spoke with him. That's not who he is. That's not who we are. He got caught up in emotion."
Meyer got caught up in mea culpa.
Oklahoma State wide receiver Dez Bryant lied to the NCAA recently about doing something that wasn't against its rules and got suspended by the NCAA for the rest of this season. Oregon running back LeGarrette Blount is still sidelined for knocking out a Boise State player who taunted him at the end of the season's opening game, and then having to be restrained from going after any other human in his midst.
Spikes only tried to blind an opponent for life, I guess. And for that, he will suffer just a two quarter bench-warming, unless something truly shocking happens: the people who really should be running the University of Florida -- the board of trustees, chancellor and president -- take their heads out of the pile of cash Meyer's program earns for them and use this as a teaching moment, which is what an institute of higher learning ostensibly is supposed to be all about.
Spikes certainly has learned one thing in the immediate wake of his horrific digression: he needn't do a thing because he's such an important piece in Florida's attempt to grab another national football crown and all the loot that comes in it. The athletic department took care of him so he could concentrate on next weekend's all-important game. It released a statement for Spikes in which he supposedly said: "I accept responsibility for my actions and I accept the consequences of my actions. I would like to apologize to my team and the coaching staff and Washaun Ealey. Football is a very physical and emotional game, but there is no excuse for my actions."
There is no hard penalty for his actions, either.
The Southeastern Conference could make it easy for all involved and drop an appropriate hammer on Spikes of a rest-of-the-season suspension. But teaching isn't its mission, either, despite its membership being comprised of universities. Its mission is winning championships, or more precisely, multi-million dollar national championship game checks. Florida is considered its best bet to do so as the top-ranked team in the country. The SEC is better off not biting one of the hands that feeds it. It issued its own statement:
"The Southeastern Conference has reviewed and accepted the disciplinary actions taken by the University of Florida regarding football student-athlete Brandon Spikes. The university suspended Spikes for the first half of its next game [vs. Vanderbilt, Nov. 7] for an unsportsmanlike act during the Gators' last game [vs. Georgia, Oct. 31]."
But let an officiating crew blow a couple of calls in consecutive games and it is forced to sit for an entire day, which is what the SEC just did to one of its officiating crews. Bad calls threaten the integrity of the game. Eye-gouging just threatens the health of a player on a depth chart.
It would be refreshing to hear SEC game broadcasters next weekend rail against the lack of a strong rebuke of what Spikes did, but they'll probably join the Florida and SEC chorus. After all, these are the folks who dismiss what may go on at the bottom of pile, like the one Spikes was in with Ealey, as mere football mischief. Can't you just hear them laughing off all the jostling at the bottom of a human mass?
If what Spikes did wasn't so dangerous we could dismiss this whole affair as at worst just another example of what a joke the teaching component is in college athletics. Few phrases make me laugh more than the phrase the SEC rolled out to describe Spikes: "student-athlete."
Eye-gouging, however, is even frowned upon in mixed martial arts, that so-called sport I still dismiss as nothing more skillful than what you find on Bourbon Street after hours. If MMA doesn't condone such a cowardly act as eye-gouging, how can Florida and the SEC tacitly condone it with a one-half-of-a-game benching?
In fact, eye-gouging is probably frowned upon on Bourbon Street after hours. It is pretty much a universally accepted affront to combat no matter the quarter.
The NHL issued a match penalty to Steve Ott last March for eye-gouging Travis Moen.
The English rugby league last month suspended the player Shane Jennings for 12 weeks for an attack on the eyes of opponent Nick Kennedy. That's three months if you add it up. That's more like it.
Eye-gouging isn't just dirty; it's dangerous and it needs to be treated as such.