May 18, 2012
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Ole Miss made official Friday what's been rumored _ if not known _ for months: Nick Brassell won't be eligible to play in 2012.
Further, the former South Panola High School star is leaving Ole Miss. He'll transfer somewhere, presumably, and perhaps one day he'll play football at a high level again.
That has prompted one Ole Miss fan after another to email me or tweet at me today, asking if Brassell will one day return to the Rebels.
My response: Why would Ole Miss want him back?
Sure, Brassell is talented. He's a future NFL cornerback if he ever decides he wants to be. He has elite speed and he's dangerous in the open field, though his hands are a bit too inconsistent to ever be a great wide receiver. He's from Batesville and has a cute _ albeit remarkably overused _ nickname.
However, he spent the better part of the last year insulting higher education. Getting Brassell eligible was work enough, per multiple sources. Given his apparent lack of effort in the classroom and towards academics in general, all of that effort was a waste of time and energy.
Brassell apparently believed he didn't need to attend class. Perhaps he thought he was intelligent enough to pass 24 hours of credit without putting much time into his studies. Perhaps he believed grades would be given to him. After all, he'd been coddled for years due to his athletic talents. Whatever the case may be, Brassell knew he had to have a very strong spring semester to maintain his eligibility. Obviously, his performance fell short.
Fans shouldn't, at least in my opinion, worry about getting Brassell back to Oxford. Instead, they should acknowledge this reality: Not everyone has any business in an institution of higher learning. Brassell's lack of effort and poor attitude is an insult to every student who fought to get into college in the first place.
His sense of entitlement is an affront to every student everywhere who took on student loan debt or worked a demanding job or whose parents made sacrifices to pay for an opportunity at a college education.
As fun as it would be to blame former Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt and some members of his former staff for Brassell's failures, it wouldn't be right. The blame here is all on Brassell. Here's a tip: Set an alarm clock, get up, go to class, pay attention, pretend to actually give a damn.
Don't give me the sob story about Brassell's upbringing, either. Sure, he comes from an underprivileged background, but college athletes are given every conceivable opportunity _ tutors, academic advisors, etc. _ to succeed. They deserve the extra help, sure, but some degree of effort is required.
There is concern among some Ole Miss fans regarding how Brassell's departure will impact the Rebels' recruiting of South Panola stars Antonio Conner and Deon Mix. It won't help, certainly, but in the event Conner and Mix are told by other schools that what happened to Brassell at Ole Miss won't happen to them, they should ask some questions. Does that mean other programs would have physically forced Brassell to classes? If so, fair enough, though I'd argue that's pathetic beyond words. Does that mean class attendance and academic effort isn't necessary at those schools? If so, that's even worse.
When Hugh Freeze sits down with Conner, Mix and prospects of their ilk, he shouldn't shy away from talking about Brassell. The new Ole Miss coach showed this spring that he had standards. It had to be difficult, at least in some regard, to do the right thing and ultimately dismiss one of the more talented players on a team lacking in talent, but Freeze did just that.
For that, he deserves kudos. Brassell deserves… well, he got what he deserved.
KID K SAYS GOODBYE: Kerry Wood's wife, Sarah, posted this on her Facebook page this morning: "Every story has an end but in life every ending is just a new beginning.''
The news didn't surprise me. I always believed Wood would walk away with something left in the tank. This afternoon, after he stuck out the one hitter he faced in the eighth inning at Wrigley Field, Wood walked off the field to a standing ovation and into the arms of his little boy, Justin. I'm man enough to admit that got me.
Wood has always been one of my favorites. The hard-throwing Texan struck out 20 Houston Astros in 1998 then fought through arm injuries to have a fabulous 2003 season. Wood provided me with one of my fondest memories of fandom in October 2003. I was in Charlotte, N.C., having covered the Saints and Panthers earlier that day. I found a bar in my hotel and settled in for Game 5 of the NLDS between the Cubs and Braves, fully prepared for disappointment.
Wood sawed through the Braves, allowing one run on five hits while striking out seven in eight innings of work.
Two weeks later, Wood was the losing pitcher in Game 7 of the NLCS. I remember being more sad for Wood than I was for myself. That next spring, I was in Arizona working on a story on then-Cubs GM Jim Hendry. Wood was generous with his time when he didn't have to be. I appreciated it. Years later, Wood returned to Chicago, leaving money on the table to finish his career as a Cub. I wasn't surprised. It had become obvious over the years that he was a humble, classy star.
Today marked the end of an era. Many will remember Wood for what could have been had his right arm held up to his across-the-body delivery. I understand that, but I'm going to remember the memories Wood provided. Thanks for those, Kid K.