Safety Demetruce McNeal was arrested for misdemeanor marijuana possession. His first-year head coach dismissed him from the team.
There was little pause. Malzahn announced his decision within 24 hours of the arrest.
Apparently, Malzahn had all the information he needed to dismiss the top-returning tackler from a defense that needed McNeal to make 90 tackles on the back end in 2012.
Malzahn sent a message. That “new day” stuff is more than a slogan on a poster.
The dismissal of McNeal comes on the tail end of an offseason that saw Auburn suffer negative headlines about synthetic marijuana use in the program. Athletics Director Jay Jacobs responded with facts that put the fairness of those headlines into question, but perceptions can be hard to shake.
There was already a sense off-field issues had hit a critical mass under former head coach Gene Chizik, who was fired in December. Malzahn, faced with a drug-related player arrest before his first game as Auburn’s head coach, sent a message.
It was the call he had to make, and he didn’t flinch at the chance to send a “new day” chill through the roster.
Contact Sports Columnist Joe Medley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @joemedley_star.