This is the ironic, cynical side of College Football. The part where one fanbase mocks the other and where that same group will be mocking the other for the same situation a few months later.

This cycle goes back-and-forth and is an endless game of why your team, coaches or players are dirtier than my team. And it’s all a very fragile, hypocritical game that really makes no sense.  

Lately, it’s been the Louisville Cardinals Football team who has received the brunt of this criticism through a flurry of transfers. Some are troubled transfers, some just are seeking a change in scenery. Giving guys with questionable backgrounds second chances to expand their football career always breeds cynicism. 

There’s nothing wrong with that, but that’s not where the story ends. These are talented football players. Football players that can help teams win championships.

Lately it’s been guys like Josh Harvey-Clemons, the Junior Safety from Georgia who started in 11 games for the Bulldogs  recording 66 tackles, an interception and 2 forced fumbles.

Not just a good talent, a great talent. The only problem? Harvey-Clemons was dismissed from Georgia for one of the silliest phrases in sports: violation of undisclosed team rules. Though it was never proven to be true, the Atlanta Constitution newspaper reported the violation was a result multiple failed drug tests. We may never know for sure but what we do know is that Louisville took him anyway.

Another transfer: Shaq Williams. The Defensive Back also from Georgia who made a prompt exit from the football team earlier in the summer. Williams may have been the brightest spot of the Bulldogs defense. As a true freshman he led the team in interceptions, added 4 Pass-Break Ups and appeared in 12 games for UGA. 

Though much is rumored about what happened with Williams at Georgia, there is nothing concrete. The only definitive statement that can explain Williams reasoning to leave the Georgia football team was what the young man said himself – he was searching for a coach that would ‘embrace his personality’.

Another instance where Louisville Football didn’t know the full story and either didn’t care or decided that his talent outweighed any potential problems he would bring. I’m banking on the latter.

Harvey-Clemons and Wiggins are two instances of the many transfers that Louisville Football has brought in the past few years.  It’s also a trend that isn’t stopping, as Louisville is currently a favorite for a few other talents that are looking for a new school.  Conversations have begun,  conversations that mimicked the Louisville Football team and the culture it was building. Stories that usually started with talking about Louisville Head Coach Bobby Petrino and ended with talking about him.  If the national media can not mock the Cardinals’ schedule in 2014, they are going to find something to ridicule.  Their target?  Bobby Petrino & his transfers. 

There are many angles at play here. There are quite a few reasons why this type of banter is quite comical but mostly highly ironic.

The first thing to dive into? Nobody actually cares. The fans don’t care. The coaches don’t care. Even the sportswriters who try to tarnish the reputation of student athlete’s day-by-day don’t truly care.

College Football players are measured by success – nothing else. It’s the harsh reality of it and you can choose to be naïve and not believe it, either way, it’s there – staring you in the face.

Did people care about Jameis Winston stealing crab legs from your local grocery store? A third instance in which he had been cast in a less than colorful public spotlight. Nobody cared.

Jameis was suspended for two BASEBALL Games for the crab leg incident.  There hasn’t been a FSU sportswriter, Florida State fan, or a Florida State Coach that has taken his unacceptable behavior to task. There are very few out there, if they can exist at all. Why? You know why. The answer is found on his ring finger and his trophy case at home – the ultimate symbol of college football success.

Johnny Manziel was essentially celebrated for his antics in College. The public discussed it then shrugged it off and stated: ‘HE WINS’.

Has a college football fan ever cared about his school’s academic progress rate when their team had a winless season? No, they cared about finding a new football coach who could lead them to the one and only goal: winning. It always has and always will be about winning. If that’s not in forefront of every college football coach in America, then they are in the wrong profession.

That’s why I don’t blame the Louisville Football coaching staff for bringing in very talented players with sometimes past character issues. Because it’s exactly what any team in America would do given the opportunity.  The Al Davis philosophy in College Football is alive and well. “Just win, baby”. There are countless examples of coaches putting winning above all. I’d be happy if we just accepted that. There’s nothing wrong with that. That’s what they’re paid to do: to win games.

By Bobby Petrino taking talented players on his roster who may not have the greatest set of moral values, he’s simply fulfilling his job description. He’s putting his program in the best position to succeed.

There’s much more to it than that, though.

Louisville Football has experienced great success with transfers, even guys that didn’t exactly fit the preferred high character bill. Why stop now?

Let’s start with a guy who transferred in 2006 by the name of Nate Harris. He transferred from Miami to Louisville after being booted by the ‘U’ for off the field issues. Louisville took a chance him and received the rewards. Harris got a zero trouble at UofL and enjoyed a brief NFL career thereafter. Even better? A year after transferring to Louisville, the Cards and Canes met on the field. Nate Harris called out Miami about how they ‘weren’t the same Miami team’ anymore. He also backed it up on the field with 7 tackles, his second highest total in a game that season.

Forget about Eric Shelton?  Shelton came from FSU and as a senior rushed for 938 yards & 20 TDs for Bobby Petrino.  Eric had no off-the-field issues while at Louisville, played in the NFL and even had his wedding featured on “My Big Fat Fabulous Wedding” on WE (Women’s Entertainment Network).

How about Montrell Jones? Another Petrino coached transfer. Another player who received the boot at his formal school and enjoyed great success at the University of Louisville. Jones was dismissed from the University of Tennessee after a violation of team rules and an arrest for possession of marijuana. Once he got to Louisville, he got his act together and became a pretty good football player. After doing nothing at Tennessee, Jones came to Louisville for two years and finished with over 1100 yards receiving and 8 TDs. He was a weapon in the special teams and became and overall valuable asset to the Louisville Football team.

The latest example is Michael Dyer. The former BCS National Championship MVP was booted from the Auburn Football team after an array of issues. Mostly off the field issues with law enforcement that never actually led to Michael being charged with a crime. Dyer joined the Louisville Football team in the spring of last year and exhibited at times why he was he was such a coveted player. In a high-powered Petrino offense, he’s poised for a breakout year in 2014 following sports hernia surgery. By all accounts, Dyer has been a model citizen at Louisville. 

Sometimes it may not be the person itself, but the environment that person is placed in. ‘Getting away from it all’ may be the exact recipe for success an individual needs. For the four examples listed above, Louisville has been that beacon.

Louisville has truly only experienced trouble with two transfers in the last several years: Willie Williams and Zeke Pike. Williams came with a well-documented list of offenses that repeated here in Louisville and Pike’s troubles led to a quiet exit with the damage done to his football career and not at the public expense of the program. 

America is a place of second chances, second chance checking and second chances at High School diplomas. Second chances for people who have made mistakes and paid their debt to community. A place where someone can get arrested and become a CEO of a fortune 500 company. A place where someone can make a bad choice and get a second chance to do right. Especially if you’re good at what you do. I’m not sure why that can’t work for college football players if it worked for Bill Clinton, Marion Berry, Steve Jobs, Henry Ford, Richard Nixon and countless others. Second chances happened for them all, and if you don’t know the story of each it’s because they made the most of that second chance.  The players that have transferred to Louisville SHOULD understand the 2nd chance granted to them, they have had to sit out after weighing decisions following consequences that set them on the road to the Cards.  That reflection is valuable, but it isn’t guaranteed that success will follow. 

Bobby Petrino knows what he needs to win. Petrino knows what he needs to win in the ACC. That’s top level talent. These recent transfers are just that. They are five star, four star guys who have competed and won in the toughest conference in College Football. Petrino also knows that with winning sometimes risks have to be taken. Taking the risk is the hard part, the reward that comes with them makes them all worth it.

Transfers on Louisville’s Roster

Robert Clark: Florida
Gerald Christian: Florida
Michael Dyer: Auburn
Matt Milton: Tennessee
Josh Harvey-Clemons: Georgia
Shaq Wiggins: Georgia
Tyler Ferguson: Penn State
JaQuay Williams: Texas A&M

Stay Tuned there may be more to come.

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Chris Hatfield

Residing in Louisville, KY (via Bardstown, KY). I write things about Louisville Sports. Sometimes you'll like them. Follow me @_ChrisHatfield Email me at chatfield60@gmail.com

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