Alabama head coach Nick Saban and University of Alabama administrators took a risk admitting defensive tackle Jonathan Taylor after he was dismissed from Georgia following a domestic violence arrest. Taylor almost immediately threw that risk back in their faces when he was arrested Saturday for domestic violence and criminal mischief.
Now, Saban and Alabama brass — especially Saban — are not responsible for Jonathan Taylor’s alleged actions.
However, there was an obvious precedent for Taylor, which is why he was at Alabama and not Georgia to begin with.
You’ll see a lot of talk of “second chances” about Jonathan Taylor in the coming days, a lot of it from Alabama supporters trying to quell the tide of sentiment against Nick Saban. Saban’s supporters aren’t inherently wrong, either.
I believe in second chances in general, and can point to football players turning their lives around as a result of getting a second chance. An example I often point to, because I wrote a feature on it a few years ago, is former LSU quarterback Ryan Perrilloux.
Perrilloux was bounced from the Tigers’ football and LSU in 2008 and landed at Jacksonville State, where then-Gamecocks head coach Jack Crowe told me Perrilloux was admitted with a clearly spelled out code of personal conduct. Crowe also said Perrilloux was expected to hold up a higher standard than any of his other players, and JSU president Bill Meehan said conditions for Perrilloux were more stringent than the general student body.
I cite this example because it’s a clear demonstration of a player who squandered his first chance earning his second chance through rigorous demands. Second chances should be earned.
Taylor’s second chance at playing SEC football may have been granted on similar grounds as Perrilloux’s second chance to quarterback a team. When Jonathan Taylor joined Alabama’s roster, Saban issued the below statement:
Here’s Alabama coach Nick Saban on Jonathan Taylor from National Signing Day (February) pic.twitter.com/StEIhOntGM
— Marq Burnett (@Marq_Burnett) March 29, 2015
But when a player’s problem is domestic violence, an even higher standard should be the benchmark for earning a second chance. Moreover, the shell game in which players arrested for and dismissed from lineups for domestic violence charges needs to be addressed with universal regulation.
Domestic violence is an all-too-prevalent problem in the sport; enough so that the NFL’s marketing machine was compelled to put together a PR campaign last season.
For all the lip service the NFL paid to ending domestic violence, this offseason has been a lucrative one for players charged with domestic violence crimes. Greg Hardy is joining a Super Bowl contender, and the Bears added Ray McDonald to bolster their defense.
In the collegiate ranks, Jonathan Taylor joined one of the best teams in the nation. Dismissed TCU standout Devonte Fields was granted an opportunity to play at Louisville — it’s probably no coincidence that Fields is now under the guidance of head coach Bobby Petrino, the poster child for second (and third) chances given under arguably dubious circumstances.
College sports embraced another anti-domestic violence PR campaign, which has been aired in heavy rotation during the NCAA Tournament and spawned many a empty-gesture Twitter profile picture.
If the NFL, NCAA and conferences like the SEC want to truly take a stand against the domestic violence problem, implementing universal guidelines for players charged with domestic violence being granted second chances is a must.
Lay out clearly defined milestones players meet off the field before they can rejoin rosters — milestones like contributions to domestic violence charities (monetary for professionals, volunteer man-hours from collegiates).
By establishing universal guidelines, the governing bodies are not just putting their rhetoric into action, but also take the onus of responsibility sometimes placed on coaches, like in Saban’s case, and put accountability back on the players.