Bill Stewart wants to be very clear about this, so listen up because it’s important.
He has no idea how long Brandon Hogan’s suspension will last, but he gave indications a day after his replacement, Pat Miller, was burned for touchdown passes of 60 and 80 yards in a 31-17 victory over Maryland that Hogan may be back this week against LSU.
The only certain thing is that Hogan is being treated with kid gloves compared to some other players who have been suspended by Stewart, and while that might have benefitted the team, it may not be benefitting the player who needs strong discipline in Hogan.
This latest chapter in a book that is approaching the size of Stieg Larsson’s “Millennium Trilogy” was written a week ago when Hogan was stopped for driving the wrong way down Spruce Street while under the influence. It was not his first run-in with the police, having already had a public urination citation on his record, nor was it his first or second run-in with Stewart.
Stewart spoke softly but carried more of a wet noodle than a big stick when it came to punishment. Hogan, he said, would be suspended indefinitely, yet on Saturday there he was on the sidelines, slapping high fives on teammates, offering counsel, huddling with special teams.
He seemed almost more involved, even though not dressed for the game, than his replacement, Miller.
This was out of character for Stewart, who in February 2009, slapped an indefinite suspension on Jock Sanders for what at first glance seems to be a similar violation, driving under the influence. Like Hogan, Sanders also had a prior run-in with authorities, a bit more serious than public urination in that a fight was involved, but it didn’t rise to Pac-Man Jones trying to separate someone from his teeth with a pool cue.
Stewart, at that time, cleaned out Sanders locker, banned him from practice and made him miss all of spring drills while he worked on rehabilitation.
Considering the positive way Sanders responded, such a harsh penalty seemed to turn the pilot light on in Sanders’ head and he has become not only one of the team’s most respected players but opted to return for a senior season when he could have tried the NFL waters.
Hogan, obviously, has been handled far differently.
“There is a difference because the situations are different,” Stewart said. “Different case, different scenario. Different offenses.”
Certainly a different scenario. Sanders was suspended for the spring. He was allowed to return before the first game.
Hogan, on the other hand, is suspended in mid-season with the LSU game on the horizon and gaping hole left in the secondary by his absence.
As of Sunday, Stewart seemed to have no idea of what to do.
“Brandon is still the same status as he was,” Stewart said. “I will determine if that changes this week or the next or the next or the next. I just don’t know the timetable on that. To be honest, I want to see how he continues to work. He’s been very responsible lately and if he isn’t, he won’t be with us.”
The problem with that thinking is that Hogan surely will be responsible for six days, especially since his irresponsibility comes not while he’s under observation by coaches but in the wee, wee hours of the morning when he believes the cover of darkness will conceal his indiscretions.
This is Stewart’s team, of course, and certainly beating LSU is the most important thing in the world to 130 or so other players, but is it worth winning that one game if your leniency only keeps the offending player from learning the lesson that Sanders learned?
Especially if that player is one who certainly wasn’t thinking much about the LSU game or his teammates when he was tooling around Morgantown at 3:17 a.m. on a Sunday morning.
E-mail Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org.