It won’t be long now. Less than a month before Auburn starts preseason football practice. Just more than 50 days until Auburn plays its season-opener against Arkansas.
So now we come, in my view, to perhaps the first publicly delicate situation Gus Malzahn has faced in his 18-plus months as Auburn’s head football coach.
There may have been others, for all anyone knows. But if there were, those situations did not receive the public notice that the recent arrest of defensive back Jonathon Mincy has.
Now let’s not kid ourselves: What happened to Mincy is a familiar college story.
In the interest of full disclosure, I can recall spending a night in the parking lot of the Henry County Jail with some fellow Auburn students while we waited to bail out a friend who had been arrested for side-swiping an auxiliary sheriff’s car with his Camaro.
After 32 years, the details are a little unclear. But I can tell you we were on our way to Florida on U.S. 431 near Dothan, as Mincy apparently was.
No one, though, was interested in what happened to us, except for our family, friends and a few others. With Mincy, though, it’s much different.
His arrest on a second-degree marijuana possession charge became a state and regional story, including detailed comments from the Henry County sheriff.
So far, we’ve heard nothing from Malzahn about the matter, as is to be expected. My guess is that he’s waiting for the case to approach some sort of legal conclusion before making a ruling about Mincy’s future on the football team.
Mincy’s situation is more troubling because he’s a fifth-year senior. Fifth-year seniors who are starters, as Mincy is, are supposed to show a semblance of leadership.
Malzahn faced a similar predicament in the preseason last year with Demetruce McNeal, another senior defensive back. He kicked McNeal off the team with only weeks before the season-opener against Washington State.
It’s easy to say Malzahn dismissed McNeal because he had to make an early statement about discipline - and maybe that, in fact, was what Malzahn was doing.
Football is won with talent, coaching and team chemistry, among other things. Each of those things was an Auburn strength last season.
Perhaps the most incredible aspect of Malzahn’s first season was the speed in which Auburn found the proper team chemistry.
Among the last things Auburn wants before Malzahn’s second season is to tamper with that team chemistry.
Auburn is going to have a good football team again this season, whether Mincy is a starter in the season-opener against Arkansas or not. It also has a legitimate shot to win more championships this season, regardless if he’s a starting cornerback for the rest of the season.
What matters is that Auburn maintains the chemistry that helped make last season so remarkable.
Does Mincy’s arrest indicate that the chemistry is somehow changing?
It’s silly to think that it is.
But for Auburn’s sake, the rest of those 50-plus days before the season-opener need to be about what happens on the field.
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