Effort to free White targets wrong group
OK, got to admit the billboards are pretty cute.
You probably heard about them.
They’re all over Birmingham right now, paid for by a go-fund-me account from an LSU fan.
"#Free Devin White" (hashtag added for emphasis, I suppose).
Supposedly, they’re all strategically located where the SEC office’s staff members might catch a glimpse of them.
Pretty sure those people were already aware that LSU fans weren’t really happy with them over the whole sordid affair — the egregious "targeting" call against White that will force him to miss the first half of a fairly important game against Alabama next week.
But it’s the thought that counts.
Being a college football fan means never having to say you overreacted enough.
The whole thing is probably hurting Assumption College more than anything, as that pipeline of ecstatic cash that was flowing from Louisiana to Worcester, Massachusetts, every time LSU’s Cole Tracy made a field goal — he’s the tiny Division II school’s most famous graduate transfer — has at least temporarily slowed to a trickle due to more pressing issues.
Social activism at its best.
Of course, if this peaceful rebellion is really directed at meaningful change, the billboards should have been unveiled in Indianapolis, at NCAA headquarters.
Changing the rule, it turns out, is above the SEC’s pay grade.
It will have to be the NCAA that changes this rule, a rule with such draconian consequences. In today’s football you can justify any unintended outcome with two magic words — "player safety" — never mind that Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald looked little the worse for his encounter with White.
The SEC already had its chance to right this particular wrong. The mechanisms were in place with video replay at the scene of the crime and at the SEC’s command post in Birmingham.
And I wouldn’t blame it on the referee who made the call. Things happen fast down there. And their marching orders are to err on the side of "player safety."
That’s why they have video replay in play, just to sort these things out and protect against the really absurd calls.
But the SEC blew it by letting the call stand, and from that point on it had plausible deniability on what it was able to do to make it right (nothing).
Most everybody agrees it was a bad call, even a lot of Alabama people.
But, no, I don’t believe there’s a vast Alabama conspiracy within SEC Central.
I can’t explain why this would never have happened if LSU was playing Rice in the next game.
I have no idea what the difference was in White’s excuse-me shove of Fitzgerald and the unpenalized (even after replay review) hit that Alabama’s Mack Wilson put on a defenseless Tennessee quarterback the same day (but, by the way, though he didn’t contribute to the billboards, Wilson has come out publicly saying he thinks White got a raw deal).
But premeditated conspiracy?
Sorry, can’t connect those dots.
Bad call, yes.
But, theoretically, it would be better for the SEC if LSU were to pull off the upset of Bama. Right now that would be the best way for the conference to get two teams in the College Football Playoff.
Still, maybe some good will come out of turning White into a martyr.
This was just the kind of high-profile incident that can lead to meaningful change.
I would be surprised if there’s not some recourse added to the rule to at least differentiate between a truly vicious hit and the kind of incidental contact White was "guilty" of. Something along the lines of "roughing the kicker" and "running into the kicker."
They can call it the "White Amendment" and he will not have been ejected in vain.
But it won’t help LSU get White back for the first half of the Alabama game.
It’s not going to happen.
And that’s that.
LSU fans can harp on it and never dare forget it from now until the end of tackle football.
And that’s fine. That’s what fans do so well.
But if that bitterness trickles into the LSU locker room, the Tigers are beaten before they take the field.
Orgeron has the right idea, which he also relayed in his talk in New Orleans.
"We’ve got to let it go," he said.
Fans can ignore him. Conspiracy theories are a great bonding agent among the tailgaters.
But no team ever got inspired by feeling sorry for itself.
<em>Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at <a href="mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org" target="_blank"><strong>email@example.com</strong></a></em>