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October 29, 2010

What the world needs now...

...is more opinions on Chris L. Rucker. I don't think there are nearly enough out here.

    To review, Rucker is reinstated, and Mark Dantonio had a long statement about it (which he delivered in front of an unsuspecting, extremely light media crowd that did not include local TV or two major papers that cover MSU [because Thursdays usually consist of two assistants taking a few questions about the upcoming game, and man has that game taken a back seat this week, but at least it isn't a very big one]) and more to say on his radio show.

    So here are two more cents to add to the copper mountain. I've believed all along, since his latest transgression was revealed, that Chris L. Rucker should return to Michigan State this season. I just don't think he should return until next week. Because holding him out for this game, in my mind, says more than any statement could.

    It says that Dantonio is making this move for Rucker in the long term, not for this season in the short term. It says he's willing to lose a big game to prove that there truly are consequences in this program.

    Those two things may yet be true, but this move will cast doubt in a lot of minds. And if that doesn't matter, why is this all anyone is talking about with MSU less than 48 hours from what might be its biggest football game in 23 years?

    Rip the media for overblowing it if you will. But the way MSU handled things this week only served to make this a bigger story. If this is the call, make it Tuesday and it's an afterthought by now. If the decision wasn't made by then, give something other than no comment and I don't think there's as much focus on Rucker.

    Of course, I thought there was no way Rucker would go jail-practice field-Iowa City this week. And I don't totally understand letting him make the decision on traveling with the team Friday.

    Speaking of things I don't understand, for all the people out there calling for Rucker's deportation -- please give it a rest. A guy actually called the paper this week and predicted Rucker would be in prison in 10 years. Nice, thanks for calling. I've heard a lot of people who know very little about the situation giving very strong opinions.

    There's a racial component here that bothers me. Some people sure get worked up when young black men get in trouble. Some people sure like to use the word "thug." Some people have their minds made up when they look at the mug shot.

    But then, let's not let Rucker off the hook. On the stupidity scale of 1 to 10, he hit his jersey number here. The fact that Rucker willingly violated his probation and put himself in this position, after Dantonio gave him this precious second chance, is cause for outrage and disgust.

    Rucker needed to pay a price. So let’s check out the tab. He has missed two games. He has been publicly humiliated, again, and remains a hot topic on sports talk and in the papers and blogs. He spent eight days in jail. He’s an NFL prospect who will field endless questions about his character this spring. I’d say he’s paid.

    No one should minimize drunken driving. It's very serious. But if that's cause for dismissal, Iowa is light on defense this week, both sides of the Penn State-Michigan game get hit, and if you wanted to scour the country, you could probably build a heck of a DUI all-star team (and yes, before you yell at me, I'm aware that Rucker's charge was knocked down to reckless driving).

    No, this is about blowing a second chance, and it is about Dantonio's "zero tolerance" statement in December. It was given in response to a question about the dismissals of Glenn Winston and Roderick Jenrette, so it came off as a declaration that all of the Rather offenders would get the same treatment if they erred again.

    Dantonio said Thursday that "zero tolerance" simply means MSU won't tolerate it. Not that every second-chance violator is gone on contact. It sounds like a lot of thought went into that one. Personally, I would have just said that I shouldn't have made that statement, it was made at an emotional time, and every case is judged on an individual basis.

    Either way, Rucker is not Glenn Winston. In circumstance or personality. That's from what I've seen and encountered myself and from what people inside the program say. The players say they went to Dantonio and asked for Rucker to be reinstated. This is like a flip side of the Chris Allen situation -- who had no legal issues and no such internal advocates, and is gone.

    If I’m Mark Dantonio in this situation, and I answer not only to Mark Hollis and Lou Anna Simon and the donors and the general public, but to the parents of the kids I recruit, I’m bringing him back. I’m letting him have his senior day with his parents and his grandparents. I agree that dismissing Rucker in this situation is the easy way out, a way to show everyone how tough you are and avoid the attacks of those who sit in judgment with microphones and barrels of ink at their disposal.

    I agree that reinstating Rucker is the right call. But timing, as they say, is everything. Or is it image that's everything?  Well, if image matters at all to MSU, this timing couldn't really be worse.

 

 

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Joe Rexrode
MSU Sports Reporter
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