There are many things that can derail a college football team. Poor to middling talent. Poor to middling coaching. Complacency. Inexperience. A lack of focus. Poor conditioning. A couple of bad apples in the locker room.
And knuckleheaded behavior.
That, of course, comes in many varieties, but a couple of Washington players allegedly have tried to win the "College Football Knuckleheads of the Year Award" before we're much more than a month into 2014.
According to police reports, two Huskies -- likely 2014 starters, in fact -- apparently were unhappy the Denver Broncos went rear end over tea-kettle in the Super Bowl against the Seattle Seahawks. So they, allegedly, beat up a Seattle Seahawks fan.
Yes, players from Seattle's major college football team allegedly beat up someone because he was a fan of Seattle's NFL team.
Further, the two players being investigated in connection to the incident are Washington quarterback Cyler Miles and wide receiver Damore'ea Stringfellow. We know this because both have been suspended indefinitely by new coach Chris Petersen. Neither player has been arrested or charged, at this point.
Let us first welcome Petersen back from his UW honeymoon, which ended upon his getting the phone call about this one.
Now before we delve too deeply into the meaning here, both for the team and in the bigger, societal picture, it's important to acknowledge that the story is incomplete. We have not heard Miles' and Stringfellow's side of things. Every time we engage the early reports of an incident such as this it's imperative we use two words to give us pause: Duke lacrosse.
That said, there's only one way this becomes a substantial issue for the Huskies in 2014: If Miles and Stringfellow are kicked off the team.
Washington is going to start the 2014 season 4-0 -- see the schedule here -- whether these two play or not. The only potential early pratfall is a visit from Illinois, a team the Huskies beat by 10 on the road last year and that finished 1-7 in Big Ten play.
So Petersen could suspend both for a third of the season, look tough on discipline, and then get his guys back in time for the rugged Pac-12 slate. He also could suspend them for three games and then play them against Georgia State, a glorified FCS team, in order to help them shake the rust off. Or, perhaps, Jeff Lindquist plays so well that Miles doesn't get his job back.
In any event, Husky fans probably don't need to panic yet about the prospects for 2014, though it now becomes more critical for talented receiver Kasen Williams to hasten a healthy return from a major leg injury.
Beyond practical matters, however, this story also combines two awful things, which makes it particularly notable: 1. Athletes behaving badly; 2. Fans behaving badly.
We start with the sense of entitlement many college athletes have -- "I can do whatever I want because I'm a star football player" -- and then move on to the irrationality of the most buffoonish fans -- "Those who root against my team should be punched in the face."
Sportswriters know all about this. We cover the entitled athletes and are constantly excoriated by the buffoonish fans, who will fill our inboxes with profane and garbled tirades because we didn't pick their team to win. Don't feel sorry for us, though. Without either, it would be more difficult to pay our bills.
From the Seattle Times:
According to a police report, a man told police he was assaulted around 8:30 p.m. Sunday on the 2300 block of NE 55th Street after the Seahawks’ Super Bowl victory over the Denver Broncos. The man said two suspects jumped out of a car and asked the man if he was a Seahawks fan. According to the police report, the man said “something like yeah of course, are you Broncos fans?”
The suspects then “came at” the man and “started punching (him) in the face,” according to the report. The man and a friend identified the two suspects by looking at the UW football roster online.
Again, if true, this is worse for Miles, who, yes, hails from just outside of Denver. He's supposed to take the keys to the offense and be a leader, replacing Keith Price as the Huskies quarterback. Price was rock-solid as a person and leader, just like the guy before him (Jake Locker) and the guy before him (Isaiah Stanback).
Miles would have a ways to go before anyone refers to him as "rock solid." He's got talent and has already hinted that he can be an A-list quarterback with limited play stepping in for an injured Price. But how many good quarterbacks have this sort of thing on their resume?
This figures to be the first test of Petersen as a disciplinarian. It will be interesting to see how he handles it.
As for this fall, it's way premature to start downgrading Washington's stock, which potentially was headed for a preseason ranking. But it's fair to say it won't regain a "buy" rating until this incident is resolved.