Letting Marquis Spruill Play in Pinstripe Bowl is The Right Move by Marrone

ESPN.com

Update: Saturday, 12:12p. SU released this statement Friday.  ”Syracuse University football coach Doug Marrone today announced that following a completed assessment of the facts regarding the December incident involving juniors Marquis Spruill and Steven Rene, he has taken team disciplinary action, including that Spruill will not play a significant portion of the upcoming bowl game, and Rene will not play a significant portion of the next game in which is he medically cleared to participate.”

Interesting series of events. Spruill gets into trouble, we assume he won’t be able to play in bowl game. Wednesday Marrone says he will be active for the Pinstripe. He faces some heat from critics who call him a hypocrite. Two days later the school announced he won’t be able to play for a large portion of it. Did Marrone try to play both sides of the fence by still punishing Spruill but allowing him to play? Did he realize he looked inconsistent in the face of criticism and trying to reassert the punitive measures?

It’s hard to say. In reality, maybe Marrone has been consistent all along. On Wednesday he never said how much Spruill will play, just that he would. And Friday we learn he’ll be active, but only play in a portion of the game. Honestly, it’s all semantics. The main point is that in allowing Spruill to play at all means he’s softened his stance from years past.

-D.A.

* * *

On Wednesday, Doug Marrone hopped on the local ESPN Radio affiliate and said linebacker Marquis Spruill will play in the Pinstripe Bowl.

Spruill and (notoriously terrible punt returner) Steve Rene both found themselves in some trouble earlier in December. The police report filed on December 2nd stated:

“Rene, 21, was booked and lodged for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. Spruill, 21, was booked and lodged for disorderly conduct and second-degree harassment, according to the reports.”

According to the authorities, a drunk Rene was obnoxiously dancing around on Euclid Avenue, then got in a tussle with officers who told him to settle down. Spruill (also intoxicated) attempted to stick up for his teammate. Police say Spruill tried to pull an officer away from Rene, and later aggressively kicked the inside of a police car.

Rene won’t play in the bowl game because he’s already out with a season-ending injury (plus he surrendered his returning duties midway through the season due to abysmal performance).

But in letting Spruill play less than a month after his involvement in such a messy incident (that also became public), Marrone is showing that his days as an old school disciplinarian have ended. There were previous reasons to believe Marrone had changed his ways, but this clinches it. Some critics have said Marrone is the ultimate hypocrite, but The Fizz is absolutely supportive of this change.

Delone Carter was let back onto the team after the snowball incident. Marcus Sales was reinstated after possession-of-drugs-and-drug-paraphernalia. But in those instances the players had to serve lengthy suspensions before returning to the program. Carter was out for several months during the spring and summer of ’10, Sales for the entire ’11 season.

Not the case for Spruill. Earlier this month we heard about him forcefully grabbing a police officer. Less than three weeks later we hear he’s good to go for SU’s bowl game.

You can also contrast Marrone’s current leniency with his actions before the ’10 Pinstripe Bowl. Andrew Lewis and Brice Hawkes were both suspended for the game. The suspension knocked Lewis (a two-year starter at defensive tackle) out of his final game as an Orange. It wasn’t known why Marrone suspended them – publicly he said it was for a violation of team rules. Could there be as flagrant a violation of team rules as the alleged actions of Spruill?

Marrone began at SU with a reputation for taking a hard line stance on almost every misdeed. And that was back when he knew doing so would ravage rosters that were already starving for more depth.

Now, on a team that pretty much has five starting-caliber linebackers, one of them reportedly acts violently toward a cop and a cop car, and he’s playing in the bowl game. Quite the about-face from Marrone.

“Coach Marrone also says the Marquis Spruill situation was handled internally…”

While the fourth-year coach’s transformation may come as a surprise, The Fizz has been hoping for this day. Here’s what I wrote two years ago following the suspensions of Lewis and Hawkes before the ’10 Pinstripe Bowl:

“All the players that have been sent packing over the last two years, has been meant to change the culture surrounding Syracuse football. Marrone’s not shooting for a quick fix. He wants long-term stability. To achieve that, he needs the malcontents out of the way.

I’m just wondering how many rotten apples need to be tossed aside before only the good ones remain. My expectation is that next year, the suspensions, the dismissals, and the silliness stops.”

The discipline was nice for a while, but eventually every coach has to make some concessions in order to win. Like it or not, that’s just the way college athletics work these days.

Marrone has proven he’s a man of character and genuine goodwill. Perhaps he’s learning that the best way to support your players is to understand that they may make mistakes.

He’s now dealing with his own recruits – student athletes he’s built a relationship with since they were in high school. This is now a roster of players who he’s selected, traveled to their houses, asked their families to trust him. These are all players with high school coaches he has developed bonds with. Those are important relationships for a guy like Marrone.

Players appreciate discipline, but they also appreciate a coach who can be a human. Marrone learned to adjust to his players needs when he became more emotional on the sidelines during the season. Now he’s learning to adapt off the field.

Within reason, Marrone will do whatever he can do build a winning program. And while his treatment of the Spruill/Rene incident may be unprecedented for him, it was a reasonable course of action.

Posted: Andrew Kanell


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  1. Terry says:

    I agree with DA on this!! We’ll see after the Pin(snow)Stripe Bowl if anything changes!! GO SU!! Beat WV!!

  2. Fabian Insley says:

    Very sad news. Carol was always a joy to work with. She was one of the highlights of my career at LBNL…

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