Gazzolo Column: How much are Tiger fans willing to take

By By Jim Gazzolo / American Press

It is starting to get a little embarrassing around Baton Rouge.

Current and former LSU Tigers are finding themselves in trouble with the law at a growlingly alarming rate.

This is not the first program in the nation to have this happen, nor will it be the last.

The landscape of college football is littered with just stories, especially at successful schools. Trouble seems to go with

winning far too often and LSU is no different.

But what can be done about it is the question.

Must a school really give up its moral soul just to win a championship, or even compete for one?

LSU is the university of the state, a national power and a football program that has elevated itself in the last decade into

one of the leaders in college sports.

At no point does that mean it claims the moral high ground, nor should it ever be considered a role model for the state’s


However, it should not become an embarrassment either.

It was interesting how the school

handled the first big mess two summers ago when then starting

quarterback Jordan Jefferson

got into a brawl outside a Baton Rouge nightclub. He was arrested,

suspended from the team and ultimately came back to help

the Tigers to the national title game, starting in place of a guy

who had done pretty well while Jefferson was, um … occupied.

Remember Jarrett Lee?

For not getting into trouble off the field he was rewarded by losing his job despite not losing a game on it.

There were other issues and suspensions that year, but it was all glossed over by a 13-1 record and trip to the BCS title


Winning cures a lot of ills on all levels, and apparently it also masks more than a few black eyes.

Then came the Tyrann Mathieu affair. Booted off the team for reportedly failing a few drugs tests — he told an NFL assistant

coach it was 10 when he stopped counting but said that should never have been made public. However, he never once said the

report was wrong.

Tigers head coach Les Miles showed some needed tough love when he kicked Mathieu off the team but not to the curb, keeping

the door open if he did the right things while making it clear his best move was to move on.

Mathieu didn’t and instead stayed in

Baton Rouge, where he later got arrested on drug charges killing all

chances of a Tiger

comeback for the Honey Badger. Not so ironically, arrested with

Mathieu was none other than Jefferson, who seems to also have

trouble moving on after college.

Of course, Mathieu was recently rewarded by being drafted into the NFL and all its riches.

No question, the NFL isn’t the moral police either.

Since last fall the Tigers have had to

suffer through a punter who also reportedly flunked a drug test or two,

the brother

of Jefferson, Rickey Jefferson, a recruit headed to LSU in the

fall, getting arrested in February for tangling with a policeman,

and last weekend’s double whammy.

Ex-Tiger Tharold Simon, who was looking forward to the draft after leaving school early, was arrested a week ago Thursday

night and charged with public intimidation — whatever that is — resisting arrest and unnecessary noise.

Seems like most noise these days is unnecessary, but this must have been loud as well.

Making matters worse Simon was arrested

just hours before his hometown of Eunice was set to throw their hero a

day. Tharold

Simon Day was ultimately canceled, saving all from the

embarrassment of throwing a party for a guy who had just been released

from jail. How proud Eunice would have been.

Simon and his people say the charges are unwarranted. Maybe, but embarrassing nonetheless to him and his school.

Good news is, Simon was drafted by Seattle.

Again, the NFL is not your moral police.

Then came the news last Saturday that earlier that morning starting running back Jeremy Hill was a arrested for allegedly

punching another man in the side of the head outside a bar near campus.

Hill, who is under age, was on probation for a 2011 arrest.

Of course, all parties are innocent in the eyes of the law until proven guilty. But, in the real world of public opinion that

is hardly the case. In fact, it is usually the other way around.

Where there is smoke, the public believes there is fire.

Hill’s lawyer came out Thursday and told the world her client was provoked into punching that man. She never really addressed

why a 20-year-old already on probation was outside a bar he legally could not drink in at 2 a.m. Seems that isn’t her job,

but it is a good question as to what Hill was thinking and what kind of person he is.

At the very least Hill was suffering from an extreme case of bad judgment.

Hill was expected to be the main back for the Tigers, who were hoping to open up the offense this year. History tells us that

even if proven guilty, Hill’s days at LSU are probably not done.

Remember, starting quarterback Zach Mettenberger was welcomed with open arms after getting into legal trouble while at Georgia.

Since hitting town Mettenberger has stayed clear of more trouble, proving not all causes are lost.

Hill was suspended indefinitely from

the LSU team by Miles, who in a statement said the university will let

the legal process

take its course before making a final decision on Hill. When

talking about the subject last week in Lake Charles, Miles seemed

embarrassed. That is a good thing.

Otherwise, the sounds coming out of Baton Rouge sound a lot like what was said about Jefferson and we saw how that has come

back to bite the school.

This is not to say all football players

at LSU are bad people. Hardly. For every Mathieu there are three or

four Patrick Petersons

on campus, for every Jefferson there are many more Lees. But a few

bad apples can spoil the whole bunch and guilt by association

comes with the territory.

And let us also be clear: the rest of the SEC has had the same type of troubles. Heisman trophy winner Johnny Manziel has

been in trouble and done some questionable things before and after winning the top award last year for Texas A&M.

While he is in charge, this is also not up to Miles to fix alone. He needs help.

Really it comes down to LSU officials and fans. Are they willing, like so many others, to forget such transgressions as long

as the club is winning?

It was back in the early 1990s when then Colorado head football coach Bill McCartney was asked to explain how he turned the

Buffaloes into a national power. This on the heels of a few off field troubles as well.

McCartney didn’t miss a beat.

He told a room full of reporters he used to recruit choir boys and no longer does. The point was clear: if you want to win

you have to take some bad with the good.

McCartney’s Buffaloes went on to win the national title that year but were soon after put on NCAA probation.

LSU isn’t Colorado or Miami, but it isn’t church either. And coaches aren’t about to give up million-dollar contracts if the

administration doesn’t have their backs. Nor should they.

The question now is, how much are Tiger fans willing to take?

Are a few public relations black eyes worth a shot at the national title?

If so, Hill won’t be the last Tiger to run into trouble, just the latest.

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Jim Gazzolo is managing sports editor. Email him at