The state of Alabama has something to talk about even before the college football season starts. Two players, Courtney Upshaw (LB) from Alabama and Eric Smith (RB) from Auburn, have been arrested for different disturbances. Upshaw was arrested on Wednesday night for a domestic violence dispute with Lynn Grzyb, his girlfriend, near the student recreation center. Eric Smith was arrested for disorderly conduct early Friday morning in front of the Lexington Hotel in Auburn.
The news of players getting arrested is unfortunately nothing new in this day and age of college athletics, but what got me was the responses from both coaches. Head coach Nick Saban commented on Upshaw the day after,
"This is as fine a young man as we have in the program. He's a really great person. He really works hard academically. You couldn't ask anybody to be a better representative of the university."
Saban also said, "He's on behavior probation. He'll learn from the mistake he made. Hopefully our entire team will learn something."
Upshaw was at practice the next day with the team.
Meanwhile, Auburn head coach Gene Chizik had this to say about his running back:
"In my opinion, it's a family matter between Eric, myself and our football team. We have certain expectations of an Auburn man and quite frankly he didn't live up to that. So we've addressed it and if you see him in an Auburn uniform again I can guarantee you that he's paid a price to be an Auburn man and he'll be a lot better one at that point than he is now.''
Eric Smith was not attend practice with the team today.
These two incidents, to me, shows how things are run with both squads. Nick Saban is handling it differently, approaching the media and basically shrugging the situation off. Sure Upshaw will serve a punishment, but the way it sounded, Saban will not do much to his player. He may let the justice system deal with it, in which that's all one can really expect.
If you want to go that route.
Gene Chizik is taking a more forward approach to his player. Again, Smith was not present at practice today, which signals to me that Chizik is serious with what he sets out to do with his program. One difference for Chizik is that being a first year head coach, he is making that the rules are set straight for the entire team. An example has to be made, no matter what the cost. You can make that argument, but in my belief, Chizik is doing what a head coach should do.
What bothers me more is that Saban is not showing much against Upshaw, who harmed a young woman. Smith was just acting like a fool in the middle of the night. With the way the coaches have reacted, I would think that the players would have committed each other's crimes.
Saban and Chizik can handle things their own way, and people will have different opinions on how to handle them. I was told never to harm a woman, and I guess that is what has got me riled up at how Saban has handled his situation. Smith was acting crazy at night, which I can say I have done several times here on the Plains. Regardless of what the situation, I applaud what Chizik is doing with Smith and the rest of the football team. He's backing up what he said he would do when he entered as Auburn's head coach.
Maybe that's also the difference between Auburn and Alabama.