You probably remember that Marquette -- both the university in general and the athletics department specifically -- had something of a public relations catastrophe over the summer. I'm not about to rehash the particulars of that catastrophe (and I'm not going to get anywhere near the allegations that set it off in the first place), but suffice it to say that, at almost every turn and with almost every public statement, MU didn't put its best foot forward.
Why do I bring this up again? Because I think the recent one-game suspensions of Junior Cadougan (two weeks ago) and Darius Johnson-Odom (this past Saturday) and, more importantly, the refusal to explain what merited their punishments -- other than "they violated team rules" -- shows that Marquette still doesn't quite get it.
Let me be clear: I don't have a problem, necessarily, with the suspensions themselves. Even if many of them appear somewhat absurd to me, team rules are still team rules, and if those rules aren't followed, I'm not going to object too strenuously to the consequences that follow. Coach Buzz is the captain of this ship, and it's not my place to tell him how to handle disciplinary issues. That said: in meting out that discipline, I think the program as a whole and Coach Buzz in particular would be well-served to offer something approaching an explanation for what happened to merit the punishment.
To say it another way: the problem with these kind of suspensions is that when "unspecified violation of team rules" is the only reason offered for the sanction, nobody's satisfied.
People who are looking to tear down the program will conclude that the suspensions show that (1) just as they've always suspected, you are running a program full of bad seeds; and/or (2) you're trying to cover up serious problems behind a smokescreen of undisclosed violations of team rules.
People who want to defend the program are hard-pressed to offer any argument in response, because (1) they have no idea what happened to cause the suspensions; and (2) based on what we've seen thus far, we can divide the Things That Don't Result in Suspension and Things That Merit a Suspension into the following categories:
Things That Don't Result in Suspension: getting a municipal citation for battery -- later amended to disorderly conduct -- after a fight at an on-campus restaurant.
Things That Merit a Suspension: ????, but presumably something worse than the situation immediately above.
(And then you've got a third class of people, like me, who think Coach is overcompensating after what transpired this summer, suspending players for minimal transgressions in an attempt to make clear that he has control of the program. But that's really neither here nor there.)
The point is: I don't need an exhaustive explanation, I don't need a press conference devoted exclusively to the topic, but I need more than Buzz's standard-issue, homespun coachspeak:
Williams was asked how concerned he was with the suspensions.
"None," he said. "We won both and we played pretty well. Do you have children? Do you have to discipline them? That's what you're supposed to do."
Given all the nonsense that transpired this summer, if there was ever a need for up-front transparency, that time is now. I don't think that's too much to ask.