Football’s bad month became worse this week as the sport made headlines linked to violence, bullying, and health concerns.
On Friday, five Virginia State University football players assaulted Winston-Salem State University quarterback Rudy Johnson in a restroom at a Central Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (CIAA) luncheon in Winston-Salem. Johnson, who was scheduled to lead his team on the field against Virginia State the next day in the CIAA championship game in Charlotte, went to the hospital with injuries, and the conference canceled the game.
Police arrested Virginia State running back Lamont Daniel Britt and charged him with misdemeanor assault inflicting serious injury. According to the arrest warrant, Johnson suffered head lacerations and a swollen eye. Police are still trying to identify other Virginia State student-athletes who may have been involved. As a result of the incident, the CIAA declared Virginia State ineligible for the NCAA Division II playoffs.
Meanwhile, NJ.com reported on Friday that 19-year-old freshman Jevon Tyree left the Rutgers University football program this month and accused the team’s defensive coordinator Dave Cohen of verbal abuse. Tyree claimed the assistant coach used vulgarities and made a physical threat.
“He got in my face, threatened to head-butt me, called me soft, and said I’m a [Division III] player with a [Division I] scholarship,” Tyree said. “I don’t know if he was trying to make me feel low or if that was truly how he felt.”
The school said in a statement that Cohen apologized for his actions and the situation had been “dealt with immediately.”
Professional football also took part in the bad publicity when retired star quarterback Brett Favre told the Today Show’s Matt Lauer that if he had a son, he “would be leery” of letting him play football. “I’m almost glad I don’t have a son because of the pressures he would face,” Favre said. “Also the physical toll that it could possibly take on him, not to mention if he never made it, he’s gonna be a failure in everyone’s eyes. But more the physical toll that it could take.” Additionally, Favre told reporters last month that he has suffered from “scary” memory loss that is likely connected to his 20-year career in the NFL.
On a positive note, the Auburn Tigers’ (10-1) miracle win over the Georgia Bulldogs (6-4) Saturday took some focus away from the sport’s off-the-field issues. After wasting a 20-point lead in the fourth quarter, the Tigers trailed 38-37 with 25 seconds remaining to play. Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall on fourth down threw a desperation “Hail Mary” pass down field where the ball bounced off a Bulldogs safety and directly into the hands of Tigers receiver Ricardo Louis, who took it the rest of the way for a 73-yard touchdown.
The sensational 43-38 victory continues Auburn’s remarkable season. After going 3-9 last year, the Tigers are ranked No. 6 in the nation and on Nov. 30 will face the currently undefeated, No. 1-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide, the Tigers’ chief in-state rival and the odds-on favorite to the win a third-straight national championship and their fourth in the last five years.