With the disappointing news of the arrest of UK quarterback Curtis Pulley for a myriad of traffic violations in Hardin County, and the subsequent uncovering of a June 12th incident for possession of marijuana, UK fans have a legitimate reason for concern. Pulley is, or was, in a fight for the starting quarterback job, and is considered by many to be one of the very best, if not the best, athlete on Kentucky's football team. Distractions of this ilk are not needed or desired anytime of the year, much less a mere twelve days before the start of fall practice.
Just as UK fans got used to the idea of, at minimum, a suspension for Pulley, and therefore a promotion of Will Fidler to the #2 quarterback spot, the fans are on the receiving end of another bit of unfortunate news; the arrest of the aforementioned Fidler for disorderly conduct Friday night in Lexington. Apparently Mr. Fidler thought it wise to involve himself in an altercation outside of a pizza restaurant on Friday night/early Saturday morning .
By now most fans are aware of the particulars of Pulley's dilemma, but I'll recap; he was cited by Louisville police on June 12th of this year for possession of marijuana. He plead guilty and entered a diversion program. He completed his diversion program requirements on July 9th. Fast-forward to Tuesday night, and Pulley is arrested for having expired tags, expired registration, driving with a suspended license, and speeding.
In my opinion, Pulley managed to commit an even more egregious "crime" by not informing any of the coaching staff of either incident. That's right, Rich Brooks had no knowledge of either episode until Friday when WLEX broke the story. Did Pulley actually think that he could keep this information away from Brooks, as well as the rest of the coaching staff, the media, his teammates, and all of "blogosphere"?
What Pulley has managed to do is display an extreme lack of leadership, first by making poor choices regarding his drug use, and secondly by attempting to conceal his improper behavior from his head coach. A quarterback is charged with setting the example for his teammates with his decisions, both on and off the field of play. What Pulley has said through his actions is that he cares more about himself, than he does the team.
Fidler's run-in seems to be a bit less serious in nature. But his actions beg the question -- What were you thinking? Fidler learns of Pulley's scrapes with the law, and surely like the rest of us, knows a suspension of some type is headed Pulley's way, and yet he still puts himself in position to also be arrested.
Once again, questionable decision-making. As a collegiate athlete, one has to learn the lesson Charles Barkley never learned; sometimes one has to just walk away. Not knowing the particulars of why Fidler was involved in a fight, or altercation, makes it difficult to evaluate just how bad of a decision he has made. But in my mind, compelling evidence must exist ( i.e. someone punched him or possibly his girlfriend ) to even somewhat justify his involvement in such activity. Even if those are the circumstances surrounding his altercation, he should have backed away and dialed 911, not engage the person or persons responsible for offending him. Impulse control must be practiced.
Others have paved the way
Sadly, these recent examples of bad behavior are not new to UK. Just last year wide receiver Steve Johnson was arrested for four driving offenses and resisting arrest. Coach Brooks had this to say about Johnson's situation:
"We will deal with these issues internally. We will let the case resolve itself. Stevie Johnson has been nothing but an outstanding citizen since he has been here and I expect that will continue."
Johnson case was closed after the paid a $572 fine, as well as $189 from a previous traffic related case.
- Offensive Lineman Myron Pryor was suspended for the season opener versus Eastern Kentucky last year for a "violation of team rules" that occurred in the summer months of '07.
- Starting safety Bo Smith was dismissed from the team prior to the '05 season for a "violation of team rules". In '03 Smith had been involved in a major fight in Oldham county where he was struck in the head with a baseball bat. Smith transferred to Weber State and plays in the CFL.
- Dicky Lyons was suspended during his redshirt year in '05 for a "violation of team rules". He was later reinstated.
- Last year senior offensive guard Jason Leger was suspended for the Music City Bowl for a "violation of team rules", which ended his college career.
- In March of '07 safety Marcus McClinton faced disciplinary action after he was charged with 2nd degree disorderly conduct for allegedly setting off "homemade explosives". He is slated to start in the secondary this year.
- In November of '04 starting safety Mike Williams missed the final four games of his college career after being suspended for a "violation of team rules".
- This year highly touted running back Brandon Jackson was suspended indefinitely for a "violation of team rules" before ever playing a down for UK. He has since left the program.
Football players aren't the only ones who have made bad choices:
- Basketball player Jules Camara was forced to redshirt his sophomore year because of a DUI conviction in 2000.
- Antwain Barbour was suspended for two exhibition and one regular-season game after being arrested for possession of marijuana. The charge was later dropped.
- Desmond Allison was arrested for DUI and possession of marijuana in March of 2000. He was suspended for the rest of the season, which included the NCAA Tournament. He later transferred.
- In February of '02 Gerald Fitch and Erik Daniels were both suspended for two games for attempting to enter the Varsity Blue nightclub near campus. They used a fake South Carolina drivers license in the failed attempt ( Fitch had been suspended only days earlier for getting into a fight with Cory Sears on a team flight home from a game ).
I chose to list the various above offenses to illustrate a point; sometimes it's best for the program and the athlete for the player to move on, and sometimes it's best for the program and the athlete for the player to remain a part of the team. Rich Brooks knows Fidler and Pulley better than anyone reading this, and his decision on how to best deal with the two quarterbacks will be based on his vast experience, and what is best for the two young men and the Kentucky football program.
I do know one thing for certain, and that is I would hate to be judged on my decision-making abilities as a young man. Youth is a wonderful thing, but it is also a time when one thinks he/she is invincible. One of the by-products of that perceived invincibility is a feeling of being above the law, especially when one is an athlete who is on the receiving end of adulation, and hero worship.
The ability to set aside ones own impulses for the betterment of the team takes discipline and practice for most people. It's all about wanting to lead, wanting to win, and wanting to be a part of something bigger than any one person. It's about having respect for the coaching staff and ones teammates. It's about making decisions with others in mind, not ones own needs or wants -- Being a member of a team is NOT a narcissistic experience.
After being asked his feelings on the Gerald Fitch and Erik Daniels situation, Tubby Smith had this to say:
"I know where their hearts are -- they want to play basketball. But they want to have their cake and eat it too, and you can't do that. This shows the lack of respect that they have for their teammates, for me and for the program. That's what's so disappointing."
Does Coach Brooks know where Pulley's and Fidler's "hearts are"? I expect we'll know the answer to that question very soon.
Thanks for reading, and Go 'Cats!
UPDATE 07:53 PM: Well, you knew it was coming. EDSBS gives Kentucky 2 FC points for Pulley. I guess they didn't hear about Fidler.
UPDATE Tuesday, July 29 2008 01:54 PM: EDSBS finally gives us our due for Fidler's arrest. We seem to be well back in the pack, though.