Last Modified: Tuesday, August 14, 2012 7:45 PM
Honey Badgers turn out to be as elusive and hard to track down as they are famously tenacious.
There was no real news on Tyrann Mathieu’s future plans Monday, but that didn’t keep the rumor mill from cranking up about last season’s Heisman Trophy finalist, eventually escalating into a battle over semantics.
A report late Monday by Nola.com indicated Mathieu would make his decision Wednesday about where he will transfer, citing a source close to Mathieu.
McNeese State coach Matt Viator, who met with the estranged former LSU cornerback Friday night just hours after he was dismissed from the Tigers’ team, stayed busy Monday preparing his own team for the upcoming season while waiting to hear if Mathieu would be a part of it.
Viator would not comment Monday.
Instead the plot thickened about the player who earned his Honey Badger nickname for his pesky knack for playmaking.
A source-based report that Mathieu was still hoping to one day rejoin the Tigers seemed to have been shot down by one LSU official, but later in the day others at the school appeared to be at least leaving a small crack in the door for his return.
ESPN.com reported early Monday that Mathieu, distraught over being booted from the Tigers, was considering returning to LSU to remain a student and sit out this season as a football player while hoping to be reinstated to play football next year.
“If Tyrann chooses to return to LSU as a student he can do that,” LSU head coach Les Miles said. “We are not speculating on anything beyond that.”
However, LSU’s senior associate athletic director for compliance, Bo Bahnsen, told Gannett Louisiana that “he’s permanently ineligible to play football at LSU. That’s definite. That’s what was said Friday.”
Bahnsen also said, regarding Mathieu’s reported desire to one day return to the team, that “he’s not accurate if he thinks that.”
But LSU officials later said that Bahnsen’s quotes were taken out of context and that “LSU did NOT announce this (that Mathieu was permanently ineligible).”
Senior associate athletic director Herb Vincent said on his Twitter account that: “To clarify: Tyrann Mathieu has the option to go to LSU as a student. LSU is not speculating on his football future.”
Meanwhile, The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss., reported that Jackson State was interested in talking to Mathieu but was denied permission to talk to him by LSU.
Even though Mathieu is no longer with the Tigers, other schools still have to request permission from LSU before personally contacting him.
TigerSportsDigest.com reported that McNeese and Nicholls State are the only two schools Mathieu now has interest in, and that Mathieu asked LSU not to grant permission to any others.
As for returning to LSU, neither Miles nor LSU athletic director Joe Alleva appeared to leave much wiggle room for Mathieu when his dismissal was announced at a hastily arranged news conference at noon Friday.
Both said at the time Mathieu’s dismissal was permanent, which seemed to reflect the wording of LSU’s official drug policy for athletes.
Mathieu was suspended for last year’s Auburn game, reportedly for testing positive for synthetic marijuana. LSU’s written policy says that a second failed drug test results in suspension of up to 15 percent of his team’s games.
A third positive test would result in “up to one-year suspension from all athletic-related activities.”
But the policy also states that a player may appeal the decision and goes on to state that if an appeal is successful and the athlete is reinstated, “If institutional drug testing reveals the existence of drugs at any time an automatic positive test will be issued and Permanent Ineligibility to participate at LSU will result.”
While talking with reporters after Friday’s news conference, Alleva said, “the policy is a written policy, so it’s like the speed limit. If you go over the speed limit, you’re breaking the law. He’s been over the speed limit.”
The closest Alleva came to saying the dismissal might not be permanent came later in Friday’s session with reporters when he said, “for right now, at LSU, his opportunity is taken away.”
But stay tuned.