A Renegade Theory – Is It In Peril?

U of L football has careened off its collision course.

It doesn’t make sense. If the Pakistani Graduate Student Theory (details below.) is correct, the Cards should be BCS perennials, not rebuilding.

That players are getting shot and arrested is not really the problem. If the hypothesis is legit, Cardinal prospects for the upcoming season should be a lot higher because of not despite turmoil and team turnover.

Some perspective is in order.

Bill Olsen hired Howard Schnellenberger in ’85 to upgrade a program on life support. The Football Messiah soon pontificated — all together now — “We’re on a collision course with the national championship, the only variable is time.”

The Savior privately lamented that the squad he inherited had too many players who were “too nice.”

Schnell surely ascribed to the renegade axiom known as the Pakistani Graduate Student Theory. Simply stated: For a school to compete at the highest BCS levels, many of its student football athletes will beat up a foreign exchange student simply because he or she is walking across campus in foreign garb.

Yes, it’s bracing. Truth makes even hard core fans cringe. But check the police logs in Tuscaloosa, Lincoln, Tallahassee, Norman, Baton Rouge.

Since Schnell’s proclamation the Cards have, except for the Ron Cooper era, clawed up the totem pole of tradition. Along the way, there have been as many criminal court arraignments as Top 25 appearances. It comes with the territory.

Schnell had four guys busted for shoplifting at Shillito’s, a gentle start. Another trio of pigskinners, according to their lawyer, “were always getting in fights.” Mark Sanders was stabbed not long before the Fiesta Bowl win over Alabama. Sure thing linebacking superstar Carlos Bean had a monster breakout game at Cardinal Stadium. That night he was busted for assaulting a woman. He never even lettered.

Cooper talked discipline. But didn’t walk it. Ace linebacker Tyrus McCloud was to sit out a half against Cincy for some transgression. After the Bearcats scored on their first possession and were first-and-goal on their second, McCloud was inserted into the lineup.

John L. Smith forgave Jonta’ Woodard over and over again, despite a criminal record which included a felony drug charge. An observer familiar with that affair compliments Smith for saving Woodard from a life of gangbanging in LA. Fans were less forgiving during a severely disappointing season. Woodard’s teammates played soft in protest of Smith’s perceived double standard.

The company line now lists Bobby Petrino as scapegoat du jour. He’s the guy who recruited bad apples. So they say. Players like Rod Council who was arrested for armed robbery in North Carolina. An insider with knowledge of that incident advises Council claims he needed ransom money to free a younger sister kidnapped by a rival gang.

The stories are many and manifest. Eleven time loser Willie Williams arrested for pot. Chris Vaughn and Scott Long busted for shooting a coed on campus with a paint ball gun. JaJuan Spillman following his wayward brother’s lead to infamy. Underaged Trent Guy — a legitimately good kid by all accounts — was shot in a bar incident at 2:30 a.m. U of L advises four teammates (who the school won’t identify) were with him. “Coach is aware of the situation and will deal with them individually,” says Rocco Gasparro, team spokesman.

Okay, college kids smoke pot. They hang in bars until the wee hours. Footballers are no different. The gun thing, assaults, now those are bothersome.

But here’s what vexes football philosophers, those believers in the Pakistani Graduate Student Theory. If U of L has mean guys who will pop somebody if they feel “disrespected,” guys packing heat, guys looking for trouble, how come the Cards were so bad last season? Why are predictions for the upcoming campaign so dire? A squad with bad boys ought to be Barry Switzer good, able to channel their inner Michael Vick. Right?

How did U of L football swerve so far off course? Is Gyro Gearloose behind the wheel?

Several insiders were asked for perspective. They spoke on condition of no attribution.

One former player, shaking his head, called the current situation “disappointing,” sarcastically adding “it must be Petrino’s fault.” “Kragthorpe is hands off. He’s treating them like pros or something. They’re not responding.”

Another mentioned a “disconnect” between the players and head coach, offering that the team “would find a way around the (recently imposed) curfew and ban on going to bars.”

Here’s a suggestion. Send an assistant to recruit Pakistan.