Petrino and Honey Badger ignite SEC football offseason - WSFA.com: News Weather and Sports for Montgomery, AL.

Controversy rules SEC offseason, sky still blue

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Former Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino was only one of the people involved in controversy during the SEC offseason. (Source: Ryan Miller/MGN) Former Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino was only one of the people involved in controversy during the SEC offseason. (Source: Ryan Miller/MGN)

(RNN) – Coach crashes on motorcycle with mistress! Star running back kicked off team, leaves with assistant, kicked off team again! Smoking ‘grass' not allowed at LSU, eating grass still OK!

SEC football: Keeping headlines interesting, year-round.

Controversy involving players and faculty in the offseason is nothing new, but this one got even more ink than usual. The incidents have ranged from tragedy (the Auburn shooting) to comedy (Bobby Petrino's botched cover-up) to a combination of the two (Isaiah Crowell and a police roadblock).

Among the fallout for the upcoming season were a head coach with a shot at a national title, a former BCS Championship MVP and a 2011 Heisman Trophy finalist.

The reigning national defensive player of the year, Tyrann "Honey Badger" Mathieu, is spending the weeks leading up to kickoff in rehab instead of practice. On Aug. 10, LSU head coach Les Miles announced Mathieu had been dismissed from the team for a rule violation.

An unnamed source said Mathieu had multiple substance abuse policy violations, according to ESPN. LSU had already suspended the star cornerback one game last season for the same thing.

If he wanted to play this season, he would need to go to a smaller, Division I-AA school because of NCAA transfer rules. In the week following Miles' announcement, there was a lot of speculation – from a lot of unnamed sources – where the Honey Badger would end up.

He (allegedly) had an announcement coming last Wednesday that never came, and he (allegedly) expressed interest in McNeese State, Jackson State, Nicholls State and Prairie View A&M, according to (alleged) news.

He also reportedly (which is kind of like allegedly) debated staying at LSU and waiting a year in the hopes of rejoining the team in 2013, but Miles advised him to move on. On Friday, Mathieu's father ended the mystery, when he said the 20-year-old had checked into a recovery center.

His dad did not rule out football this year, but it seems unlikely given the timing. Former NBA player John Lucas, who mentors people battling substance abuse, is working with Mathieu.

"Tyrann is working on discipline, maturity and character," Tyrone Mathieu told ESPN. "He's making life adjustments."

The younger Mathieu appears to be staying positive throughout the ordeal, based on posts to his Twitter account. On the day he was officially dismissed, he tweeted, "So grateful for LSU and its fans!! I wish those guys the best on their national title run ... I'll be you guys biggest fan. Jeremiah 29:11".

Running back Michael Dyer's path to become an Auburn great seemed to be well paved following his first season. He broke Bo Jackson's freshman rushing record, made the play of the game to seal the team's 2010 national title and was named the championship's MVP.

He followed that up with 1,200 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns as a sophomore. But head coach Gene Chizik suspended Dyer indefinitely before the Chick-fil-A Bowl on Dec. 31.

That's when Dyer left Auburn in favor of the Sun Belt Conference and Arkansas State. The new Red Wolf expected to join his former offensive coordinator, Gus Malzahn, who had taken the job as head coach in Jonesboro.

Malzahn's own move came as a surprise, after he had been courted for a top position at other major conference schools. Some credited his wife's – let's go with "enthusiastic" – performance at a Christian luncheon that gained a lot of internet attention.

[The video can be found on Deadspin; some of the website's content may be not safe for work.]

Dyer would not have been able to play for Arkansas State this year anyway, because of NCAA transfer rules. But he doesn't have to worry about that; he got dismissed from that team too.

These tales are cautionary ones for teen athletes, but immaturity is nothing new for college kids. If you're married with kids, a public figure and make a seven-figure salary, you should know better.

That's probably what went through Petrino's mind after he crashed his motorcycle with a girl half his age on the back.

The 51-year-old former Arkansas coach had been in the center of a controversy before. He secretly met with Auburn's president and athletic director in 2004 about a head coaching job without notifying the school he coached at, Louisville, and without Auburn notifying their coach, Tommy Tuberville.

In 2007, he took over as head coach of the NFL's Atlanta Falcons. With three games left in his first season, he suddenly left to take the Arkansas gig. He went 3-10 with the Falcons.

In April, the university fired Petrino after the crash and failed cover-up. It turned out Petrino was not only a liar and philanderer; he got his 25-year-old girlfriend a job in the athletic department she was unqualified for as well.

The Razorbacks return most of a team that went 11-2 last year, with their only losses coming against BCS champ Alabama and runner-up LSU. They also have one of the best offensive lineups in college football, with two potential Heisman candidates – quarterback Tyler Wilson and running back Knile Davis.

Had they not been sent scattering to find a last-minute replacement at coach, they would have been a top-5 team entering the season.

The USA Today Poll listed LSU No. 1, but that was before the team lost Mathieu. In the AP Top 25 released after his dismissal, they dropped to third.

The Tigers remain one of the favorites for the national championship even without Mathieu, but it's hard to quantify how much the loss of their defensive star will affect them. Strictly from a football perspective, they certainly would rather have him on the field than off it.

Auburn has a difficult road ahead if they plan to leapfrog the rest of the SEC and get into national title contention (hey, you never know). However, they could play a big role in determining who earns a top-2 spot in the rankings going into the bowl season – they play conference favorites Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia and LSU.

An experienced, talented player like Dyer in the backfield would not hurt the Tigers chances of playing spoiler.

Luckily, we won't have to wait much longer to see how everything plays out. Sure, it can be fun to ridicule fans of a rival team involved in scandal, but nothing beats the excitement of the team charging onto the field and feeling the buzz of the stadium turning into a roar at kickoff.

So enough with the reality-show drama. Let's play some football. 

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