Last Thursday, Eastern Michigan University football coach Ron English made a bold move by suspending five players for “violating team rules.”
The move looked even more bold when names were released and included key players like starting running back Dwayne Priest, leading tackler and linebacker Tim Fort and Louisville transfer corner Lattarius Thomas.
It is unknown what team rules the players broke to earn their indefinite suspension, but whatever they did, maybe English made the right call.
The decision to suspend four seniors could not have been an easy one for English. He basically sacrifices being able to put his best team on the field in order to send the message that violating team rules will not be tolerated. This is an especially hard decision to make when you’re a coach with one victory in almost two full seasons, and the players you are replacing the suspended with are not quite ready for starting roles.
The suspensions highlight an issue the Eagles appear to have had since before English got here, a lack of leadership.
The Eagles are a young, inexperienced team that seems to lack leadership in the locker room. The players, four of whom were seniors, would traditionally have been looked to also because of their solid play on the field. Clearly this was not the case.
Before the incident, you could always tell the Eagles might have had leadership issues. The team is infamous for its second-half collapses.
English suspending these players sends a couple of very strong messages to the team, and possible recruits for seasons to come.
It sends the message you will be held accountable.
The EMU program is trying to turn over a team that is thin on talent, but if your talent comes at the cost of the team’s rules it appears you will not be playing football at Eastern Michigan.
This is a good way to plant the seed of leadership. If you have players going off doing their own thing, not worried about their effects on the rest of the team, then you have a problem. The players have to know being on a team is just as important as how many tackles they make, or how many yards they rush for. The most obvious way to do this is to hold them accountable for moves counterproductive to that creed.
Not to say these suspended players were the only type of leadership the Eagles had, but sitting them out indefinitely opens up opportunity for some of the other guys in the locker room to step up, guys who might have been lacking the respect and playing time to really come forward.
Just as important as the guys who are currently in your locker room, are the guys who will be new to the team next season. Now guys coming into the locker room as recruits can look at a precedent set by English, and see they need to do the right things to be on the field, or not play in games.
The suspended players are not expected to see the field the remainder of the season.