It’s time for Jaamal Berry to leave the Ohio State football program. Not for a couple days, games, or weeks.
He needs to go.
After being charged for assault, battery and disorderly conduct Wednesday, based on an Oct. 21 incident in Columbus, Berry was suspended from the team. But head coach Luke Fickell needs to set a precedent for the post-Jim Tressel era of football at OSU and kick Berry off the team.
This isn’t Berry’s first run-in with the law.
He was allegedly involved in another assault as recently as Sept. 28 and was arrested for marijuana possession before even enrolling at OSU. The bottom line is he can’t stay out of trouble.
I’m all for second chances. Young adults are going to make mistakes, but at some point somebody needs to draw the line. And the line at OSU should be a little stricter than at other schools because of everything the program has been through.
With Tat-gate and all the ensuing insanity it caused for the program, OSU has had enough negative headlines for a lifetime. Berry and any other distractions just add fuel to the already negative image OSU has attached itself to.
OSU has always portrayed itself as a program of integrity. Ever since Woody Hayes, OSU football was at least perceived as a program that won and won the right way. The mentality has been a core facet in OSU’s success ever since. It brought in talented recruits and created a product people wanted to cheer for. Tressel carried on the image, but with his tumultuous exit, that image was destroyed.
Now the program is in a transition period. It’s up to Fickell to rebuild the image and restore the luster of the program. By kicking Berry off the team, Fickell takes the first step in the rebuilding process. He tells the rest of the college football world that OSU will not stand for bad behavior and actions that embarrass the program and compromise what it represents.
But more important than telling everyone else, Fickell would be sending a message to his team.
The sturdiest structures are solid at their foundation and the foundation of a football team will always be the football players. If Fickell can send a message to the most fundamental level of the program, the larger and more complicated matters will take care of themselves.
I’m sure it’s difficult to look a kid in the eye and tell him he’s no longer wanted. You’re about to change the player’s entire life, but playing football for the Buckeyes is a privilege. It sounds cliché, but there are hundreds of other athletes who would love the opportunity to run out of the scarlet tunnel into Ohio Stadium on a fall Saturday afternoon. If someone compromises their opportunity, not just once, but multiple times, that player obviously doesn’t value it and should be dismissed.
Suspending Berry from the team was a good first step and makes sense legally, but Fickell needs to finish the job and show Berry out.