July 13, 2014

The right call


AUBURN | Media Days may be a zoo and an overwrought production from top to bottom, but it's a privilege for the players who attend.

And that's exactly how Gus Malzahn sees it.

The Auburn coach on Sunday night elected to remove quarterback Nick Marshall from the team's traveling party and replaced him with effervescent tight end C.J. Uzomah. Marshall, of course, made headlines Friday after being cited for misdemeanor possession of marijuana during a traffic stop in Reynolds, Ga.

It was a major misstep for Marshall, his first at Auburn, but not because of legal ramifications. Though he certainly faces a four-figure fine and at least the possibility of a court appearance and community service, Marshall's most pressing concern may be his relationship with Malzahn.

The Auburn coach expects much from his quarterbacks. All coaches do, sure, but this particular situation is even more profound. Malzahn first met Marshall during the quarterbacks' exile at a Kansas junior college -- a result of being dismissed while at University of Georgia -- and made it clear that the behavioral expectations at Auburn would be even higher.

Marshall's first year on the Plains passed without a single incident.

Then Friday happened.

Malzahn soon pondered how to handle Marshall's inclusion (or exclusion) from the Media Days event. He was torn. On one hand, requiring Marshall to face dozens of questions regarding his citation before the biggest media throng this side of the Super Bowl could be a memorable teaching moment.

On the other hand, Marshall isn't the program's best ambassador right now. His actions have brought negative publicity to a program, and to a head coach, who despises it.

The privilege argument won.

Some will argue that Malzahn took the easy way out by simply expunging Marshall from the Media Days record. The truth, however, is that replacing Marshall is both more difficult and makes more sense.

It reinforces the notion that bad decisions carry with them unpleasant consequences. Marshall has forfeited an ideal chance to showcase his personality on a big stage -- his viability as a Heisman Trophy candidate still would have been the theme Monday -- and looks even worse now that his coach felt compelled to drop him from the event.

You may think players don't care about stuff like that, but they do. Malzahn has lost trust in his senior quarterback. Even if Marshall won't miss the bright lights Monday, he'll surely feel the sting of Malzahn's rebuke.

That will hurt.

It should hurt.

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