LSU head coach Les Miles pauses while speaking at a news conference on Friday. Heisman Trophy finalist Tyrann Mathieu was kicked off LSU's football team for breaking an athletic department rule, a blow to the Tigers' national championship hopes three weeks before their season opener. (Associated Press)
Last Modified: Friday, August 10, 2012 6:58 PM
BATON ROUGE — LSU just couldn’t take any more from the Honey Badger.
“We did what we could do,” LSU head coach Les Miles said in announcing that Heisman Trophy finalist cornerback Tyrann Mathieu had been kicked of the Tigers team for violating undisclosed team policies.
“We extended ourselves to the full length of the policy,” Miles said. “He was a quality guy, but he had behavior issues.”
The Tigers, ranked No. 1 in the preseason coaches’ poll, thus lose a dynamic playmaker on defense who also jump-started two late-season victories last year with punt return touchdowns.
He was in New York last December as a finalist for the Heisman Trophy, finishing fifth in the voting after winning the Bednarik award as the national defensive player of the year.
He was also a huge fan favorite with his pesky knack for making big plays despite his diminutive 5-foot-9, 175-pound frame — to say nothing of the whole Honey Badger phenomena following a humorous YouTube video that went viral last season.
“We’re going to miss the guy, but just like an injury, the football team has to go on,” Miles said. “We have to fill the void.
“I called on the leadership of the team. These things happen. We’ve got to go on. They understand it. They’re ready to take positive steps.”
Mathieu, who has not redshirted and has two years of eligibility remaining, would have to sit out a year if he transferred to another Football Bowl Subdivision school but would be immediately eligible to play for a Football Championship Subdivision team.
“I think he would be interested first in playing this year, and that would mean a step down (to an FCS school),” Miles said. “I can’t imagine that he would not want to transfer and go play football as talented as he is. That would be a natural direction for him.
“We will help in any way we can.”
It just won’t be at LSU.
“It’s an opportunity for him to redirect,” Miles said. “I think he still has a bright future. He can really accomplish all the goals that he set for himself. It’s not going to be easy, but it’s going to be doable.”
There were some subtle hints in recent months that something was up with Mathieu.
LSU officials kept Mathieu off-limits from the media all summer except for Tuesday’s media day, when Mathieu was smiling and cutting up with reporters.
Privacy laws prevent LSU from naming the specific violation of team rules.
But Mathieu was suspended for last year’s Auburn game for a violation of team policy that, although never confirmed by LSU, was widely reported to be failed drug test for synthetic marijuana.
LSU’s drug policy states that it takes a second failed drug test warrant a game suspension.
The policy also states that a third failed test would result in a one-year suspension from the team.
But the policy also states that a student-athlete has the right to appeal the decision. It goes on to say, if an appeal is successful and the student-athlete is reinstated, any subsequent positive drug test will result in “permanent ineligibility to participate at LSU.”
“We have a simple policy here for behavior,” Miles said. “The consequences are pretty well spelled out and definitive. We did what we could do (for him).”
LSU Athletic Director Joe Alleva said the decision about Mathieu was made Thursday night.
Mathieu was informed by Miles on Friday morning and his teammates learned of his dismissal after Friday morning’s practice just before Miles made the announcement at a noon news conference. Mathieu had participated at every LSU practice until Friday morning.