It was roughly 10 months ago that Allen Pinkett infamously offered his opinion that Notre Dame’s football program needed a few “criminals” in order to be successful.
To be exact, he said: “I’ve always felt like, to have a successful team, you gotta have a few bad citizens on the team,” Pinkett said during a radio interview. “I mean, that’s how Ohio State used to win all the time. They would have two or three guys that were criminals. That just adds to the chemistry of the team. I think Notre Dame is growing because maybe they have some guys that are doing something worthy of a suspension, which creates edge on the football team. You can’t have a football team full of choirboys. You get your butt kicked if you have a team full of choirboys.”
That he said it out loud was enough to get the former Notre Dame running back suspended without pay for three games from his job as a member of the school’s radio broadcast team.
It also was enough to make one wonder how many folks at Vanderbilt thought the same sort of thing to themselves over the years. Or at Rice. Or at Duke. Or a number of other places, for that matter, where winning football games is much harder than at Notre Dame.
In light of the Metro Nashville Police Department investigation, which began a week ago, of four Vanderbilt football players, among others, for their role in an alleged sex crime, the Commodore faithful now face more serious questions.
Is this what winning football includes? If so, is it worth it?
These, after all, are the good old days for Vanderbilt football. Three bowl games in five years, including back-to-back appearances in 2011 and 2012. Two victories in those three games. Nine wins overall last fall.
Those things don’t happen all the time — or ever — for the black and gold. Those who have waited so long for it to happen have every reason to revel in the sudden success. They also have every reason to be revolted by the current allegations.
No one can deny that the team now plays with more of an edge than it has at any time in recent memories, and last year that was a winning edge.
The four players immediately were suspended and shortly thereafter dismissed from the program and the university. High-profile school employees such as athletics director David Williams and football coach James Franklin clammed up completely in stark contrast to their typical willingness to engage the media in all things Vanderbilt. Absent any sort of meaningful official response, everyone has been left to make up their own minds about the state of affairs on West End.
Pinkett’s comments were deemed worthy of punishment because no one at Notre Dame or anywhere else wanted to believe they were true.
Then again, anyone who recalls Tom Osborne’s time at Nebraska and some of the incidents he dealt with there, namely the Lawrence Phillips affair, can’t help but wonder. Ohio State has, in fact, had its share of off-field issues. The current Aaron Hernandez situation has led many to wonder about Urban Meyer’s tenure at Florida, which included a pair of national championships. Folks in Knoxville, who have enjoyed way more football seasons than those who support the local team, also have seen their share of action on the police blotter.
It would be so easy to just accept this latest incident and conclude that success on the football field comes with a cost beyond what it takes to upgrade facilities, to expand recruiting budgets and to attract a quality staff.
The question Vanderbilt really needs to be asking, though, is this: What can we do to make sure that is not actually the case?