Norman, Oklahoma isn't Denver, Colorado, but right now the Oklahoma football program is up in smoke.
An alarming rash of arrests of Sooner football players reportedly involving marijuana possession has put a damper on the holiday season.
Receiver Jalen Saunders and defensive back Cortez Johnson were arrested on December 2 when Saunders' car, driven by Johnson, was the subject of a traffic stop in Norman, according to Koco.com and other news outlets. The two were reportedly arrested and charged with suspicion of misdemeanor possession of a controlled substance, and have been released from the Cleveland County Jail.
The report also notes that Saunders, according to a deputy's affidavit, admitted to smoking marijuana earlier in the evening.
In an affidavit obtained by Koco.com, "The deputy said an inoperable driver's side rear turn signal prompted the stop. According to the affidavit, there was a strong odor of burnt marijuana coming from the vehicle."
Earlier in the fall, Sooner cornerback Joe Powell was arrested on a felony charge of unlawful possession of a controlled drug with intent to distribute.
According to The Norman Transcript, Powell reportedly was linked to a package delivery of "four pounds of a high-grade marijuana" and was arrested on October 8 after police surveillance reportedly witnessed Powell taking possession of the delivered package.
The story states that, "when confronted by police, Powell admitted he knew the package contained marijuana and showed police where he had put the package, according to the court document."
Obviously, Powell's legal problems are more serious than Saunders and Johnson's, but the very fact that this is happening before an important Cotton Bowl date with Texas A&M is alarming.
While Powell hasn't played all season, Saunders has—he was allowed to play starting on October 13 after the Fresno State transfer won his NCAA transfer waiver appeal. Johnson is also a transfer (Arizona) but he has had to sit out the 2012 season.
Of all the drug possessions to get arrested for, pot is probably considered the least serious. In fact, in Colorado, smoking a joint in your own home—as long as you are 21 years old as of December 10—is now legal. The state of Washington passed a similar referendum and, as of December 6, smoking pot is also legal for those who are at least 21 years old. Of course, buying it, selling it or smoking it in public is still verboten.
Somebody needs to get the message out to the Sooners that they are not above the law, since smoking the hippie lettuce is still a violation of their own state's laws. Moreover, an attorney needs to lecture the team on why it's almost NEVER a good idea to admit you did violate a law.
The only thing dumber than allegedly having four pounds of high-grade marijuana delivered to you—a felony, mind you—is allegedly admitting that you knew what was in the package to cops.
I'm not defending these players by any means, but I am a realist.
It wouldn't surprise me if at least half of most college football players under the age of 21 have smoked a joint or taken a swig of alcohol. That doesn't make it right—and allegedly receiving marijuana for the purpose of distribution is really inexcusable—but it's certainly not that surprising that kids smoke dope.
Oklahoma hasn't commented on the status of the players nor have they made an official announcement regarding who, if any, may suit up against the Texas A&M Aggies in the Cotton Bowl.
Then-Florida coach Urban Meyer had a similar problem with his teams and was criticized for his perceived soft hand when doling out players' punishments. How will Sooners head coach Bob Stoops handle the issue? Does Saunders play if his legal case hasn't been resolved by January 4? Saunders is the third-leading receiver on the team.
In the meantime, two Pac-12 schools that finished this season with losing records—Washington State and Colorado—are looking for a few good men. But hold your horses.
Despite the legalization of pot in Washington and Colorado, the NCAA prohibits student-athletes from using marijuana (and other drugs). The NFL still prohibits their players from possessing or using marijuana as well.
Washington State University and the University of Colorado also have student conduct codes that spell out possible expulsion for using marijuana on their campuses. Those schools, in an amazing twist of irony, will also receive revenue via state taxes as a result of the legalization of marijuana and its potential licensed marijuana growers.
Don't smoke dope, Mr. Student-athlete. Sooner or later—no pun intended—you'll regret it.