CRAWFORD | With Dyer, Strong puts his principles on the line
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The Michael Dyer show is coming to Louisville, and in fact, already may be here.
There have been few re-entrances to college sports lately more carefully constructed and choreographed than Dyer's. He got a sympathetic piece from USA Today, which was his publication of choice when he decided on a school at which to resurface.
There was a long and mostly sympathetic piece on ESPN's website "Grantland.com."
The architect has been Arkansas Baptist College president Fitz Hill, who has been so polished that his school might be set up for others looking to do the same.
Even Dyer's own announcement, hours ago, was more polished than most, its spin steeped in the "all the right things" imagery.
Sent out on Arkansas Baptist letterhead, it makes clear several key points on Dyer's behalf. He left Auburn. "Under less than favorable conditions," the release acknowledges, but he left the school. He was dismissed from Arkansas State before ever playing a game. He was suspended from Auburn's Chick-Fil-A Bowl for drugs. He was pulled over in possession of synthetic marijuana (illegal) and a gun (legal) in Arkansas. The officer didn't arrest him. He was later dismissed.
The Arkansas Baptist release says, "He envisioned reshaping his personal priorities and refocusing his life as well as graduating from the Historically Black College to regain his college athletic eligibility and resume his football career."
In the release, Dyer says, "I was looking for something other than a great football program. I wanted a support system that would continue helping me develop socially, emotionally and spiritually. Most people know that I can play football and know I am very capable academically. But this decision is about more than just football. It is more about me as a person."
At U of L, and with Cardinals coach Charlie Strong, Dyer said, "I felt at home away from home. Sitting in Coach Strong's office and visiting with him about my collegiate career, I knew that this was the man that could continue helping me develop in all areas of my life, not just football. . . . I have learned from my past and feel that Louisville is the best place to play the second half of my collegiate football career. I thank God for Coach Strong's belief in me. I am not going to let him down."
Dyer, the release also said, has agreed to Strong's personal conditions (which were not listed), and has agreed not to possess a firearm while at Louisville, though the release goes out of its way to say that Dyer's weapons all have been owned legally and that he has never been arrested or charged with any criminal activity.
The cynical among us -- and that's all of us, except for the most die-hard fans -- have heard it all before. We know that sometimes these things work out, and sometimes they don't. We know there's Nate Harris, and there's Willie Williams.
The risk-reward is always a part of it. A guy's ability to run for 1,000 yards seems to be the main determining factor in whether he gets a second chance or, in Dyer's case, a third.
The thing we cannot do is sit across from Michael Dyer and look him in the eyes, at least not yet. This is what Charlie Strong did.
We can't even at this point look Charlie Strong in the eyes, because he's not allowed to talk about Dyer publicly until Dyer has enrolled in school and is officially a member of the team.
But even when we can, we can't look at it quite from Strong's perspective. Because Strong knows what it is to be a young football player from Arkansas, maybe who made a mistake or two. At the very least, it's difficult not to imagine some affinity or degree of empathy.
And of course, the guy did run for more than 2,000 yards in two years.
The closest Strong has come to explaining his position was at the Governor's Cup press conference a couple of weeks ago. Hypothetically speaking, Strong said, "You want to make sure that if you bring anyone into your program, he's going to become part of your program and you're not going to become him. That's what I always say," Strong said. "Any time we're looking to bring anyone into this program, it's all about us wanting to change that young man's future and give him a future where he has a chance to go be a productive citizen of society."
That, in the end, is going to determine the success of this Dyer experiment. He'll either conform to Strong's mold or he'll break it and be gone as quickly as he came.
Clearly, Strong and Dyer had an important meeting. What we've yet to hear is what it was in meeting Dyer that prompted Strong to make this move. Strong hasn't seemed like the kind of guy who would jump after any 1,000-yard rusher who came along. Those core principles, two of which are "no drugs" and "no weapons," hang there over the program for a reason. And to say, "they only apply to people in the program" is to sidestep the question. Fans don't like it, but the question is absolutely on the money. Strong may have an explanation that is just as on the money, but we haven't heard it yet.
Perhaps you've been watching the news lately. Perhaps you've seen the rash of murders in this city. Strong has taken on a larger audience in this city. His is an important voice. If he can take Dyer, help him, and set him on the right path, he actually picks up credibility to move forward with his message. He gains more of an audience on these core principles. If Dyer lets him down, he will have compromised those principles for a great running back with a history, and will have to deal with that fallout.
Either way, everyone will be watching.
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